The United Voices Gospel Choir at the University of West Georgia have been planning and rehearsing since January for their spring concert on April 5 and April 9 which is coordinated by the Choir President Sylvia Kiarie and Choir Director Justin Dukes in order to share their passion for music and spirituality with members, locals and students.
This year a few changes were made about the concert due to the fact that it has been decided it will be held on both performance dates at the Townsend Center. “ In the past only our Wednesday concert has been on campus and our Saturday concert was held at a nearby church location,” continued Kiarie. “This year we are anticipating a greater attendance from the student body and surrounding areas as a result of such a central location,” said Kiarie.
By having this done the large attendance that occurs every year can be handled much better and in a more productive way so that the audience is comfortable, and students can easily attend the concert on campus on more than just one night.
In order to plan and prepare for the concert, Dukes establishes weekly rehearsals so the songs can be learned and memorized by the performance date. “Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse some more. The choir rehearses every Thursday night at 8:00 p.m.,” continued Dukes. “Rehearsals are usually held in the Humanities Building Room 301. Of course we pray and fast as well but to make sure that everything sounds well and that we are well blended rehearsals are definitely a must,” said Dukes.
Twice a semester weekend workshops are scheduled so members can go over all the music that will be in the spring concert. This is an opportunity for the choir to learn new songs and catch up on songs that have already been rehearsed.
Ice breaker games are also done on the same day as workshops so members can get to know each other. By getting to know everyone in the choir each member can feel comfortable singing next to anyone in the event that voice parts or standing formations are changed.
Kiarie said that meditating and prayer also helped the choir perform for all other engagements in the past and the same techniques are regarded for this season’s concert. When the rehearsals start with a prayer prior to going over songs it allows the choir members to have a unified sound.
The selection of songs that are determined for the concert is another thinking process that Kiarie and Dukes have experienced.
“Well in order for me to decide which song to even teach to the choir it first has to minister to me,” continued Dukes. “If when I teach the song I don’t get a positive vibe or if the choir isn’t connecting well with the song then I move on to something else,” said Dukes.
When the set list is being discussed the aspect of the live band and other performing ministries that are a part of the program all need to flow in order for the concert to be orderly and successful.
“The flow of the songs as far as note and key changes as well plays a factor because good transitions make it easier for the choir to blend with one another. Also, the musicians to play so certain songs don’t work well with one being played right after another,” continued Kiarie. “Above all, before this entire decision making takes place, we ask the Lord to guide us and help us to make wise decisions that will reflect His glory and allow for the Holy Spirit to move freely,” said Kiarie.
On the dates leading up to their final performance in April the choir performs at different churches and venues in the local area. One of the establishments United Voices frequents is Mount Zion Baptist Church. “We have several engagements at churches around the community,” said Dukes. “One church in particular being The Mt. Zion Baptist Church were Bishop Samuel Mercer presides,” continued Dukes.
Kiare and Dukes said they are a part of United Voices because of their love of God and music above all things. “I knew about the choir way before I even thought about attending UWG because of my sister. She was a major part of it, serving as president as well, when she was here for her undergraduate and I attended a few concerts as a result,” continued Kiarie.
“I pursued the position because God allowed me to understand that He had given me everything I needed to succeed and I had the support and prayers of close friends and family,” said Kiarie.
“God has truly anointed me with the gift to be able to dissect songs. By dissect I mean separate the vocal parts that we have in the choir…soprano, alto, and tenor,” said Dukes.
“I thoroughly enjoy teaching and directing. It truly is a God given talent of mine. I have been directing since I was about twelve years of age and have been singing basically my whole life. I felt as though God could really use the gifting that he has placed inside of me to minister to those who sing in the choir, and as I am ministering to the choir the choir in return ministers to the audience or congregation,” continued Dukes.
Kiarie said she believed there are so many things that students have to gain from being a part of United Voices. It serves as another recreational activity that students can participate in while they are enrolled at UWG.
“There is a great sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing that you are a part of something bigger than yourself, something that impacts the lives of so many people while making memories, meeting like-minded people, and growing in your journey of salvation,” said Kiarie.
For United Voices Gospel Choir concert dates and events go to westga.edu.