The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Nineteen years of following a dream of togetherness. That’s how co-chair and event coordinator Brenda Justice views the annual Gospel Meets Symphony concert by the Akron Symphony Orchestra, a Knight Arts grantee. On Saturday, Feb. 25, singers from 75 different area churches will coalesce into one powerful 200-voice choir to perform with the Akron Symphony at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron.
After weeks of rehearsals — including one where virtually everyone turned up despite a fierce snowstorm — the volunteer choir is ready to roll.
The LeGrair Brothers (a Christian music group from Akron) will be featured, as will a quartet of local ministers and pastors performing a medley of songs by the Clark Sisters. Chorus Master Jennifer Mekel Jones will be the featured soloist in a song from her 2011 CD release, backed by the choir and the Akron Symphony Orchestra.
Finding talented singers within the community and giving them an opportunity to shine on stage at the city’s largest performing arts venue has been one memorable aspect of the concert. But the event has broader value.
Gospel Meets Symphony has always been about valuing diversity, not only of religion and race, but also musical genres. This year, alongside the gospel selections, Music Director Christopher Wilkins will lead the orchestra in a work with another kind of American roots: “The Promise of Living,” from Aaron Copland’s opera "The Tender Land."
Justice notes, “We have people from different backgrounds, different religions and different nationalities. In their normal setting, some of them don’t have the opportunity to do gospel music or to do classical music. This is a way of bringing them together so they are exposed to both worlds.”
Nineteen years is a long time for one event to endure, but Gospel Meets Symphony inspires loyalty. A dozen members of the chorus have participated every single year. And the audience for this concert is one of the most visibly — and vocally — involved of any during the orchestra’s season. There’s no doubt, they’ll be back next year for more.
Gospel Meets Symphony: 7:30 p.m. Sat., Feb. 25, at the University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron; 330-535-8131, 330-972-7570 or akronsymphony.org.