— from Meredith Griffith —
This March, islanders are invited to join a weekend to sing with the Orcas Island Community Gospel Choir, led by returning composer/conductor Dr. Stephen Newby of Seattle Pacific University.
“The last time Dr. Newby visited, it was an incredible weekend; he was very well received,” says Orcas Island Community Church associate pastor Brian Moss. “It was wonderful to see how music could bring together so many people from so many different backgrounds, to sing the same songs. He has such depth of experience as a composer and conductor.”
The weekend will showcase a hybrid of genres ranging from gospel to classical and jazz. Songs will include psalms, gospel songs and spirituals like “Calling My Name,” “Dwell in the House,” “My Lord, What a Mourning,” as well as original compositions by Newby like “I Shall Delight” and “Mercy.”
The event will be hosted by the community church. There will be two rehearsals on Saturday, March 4, culminating in a performance on Sunday morning, March 5, during the church’s 9:30 a.m. worship service.
“In my faith tradition, we say, ‘Come and sing unto the Lord, and sing until the power of the Lord comes down’,” says Newby, “and that’s pretty much what the power of black music does. It illumines the story of God; it brings a light to it. The bottom line is, the joy of the Lord is there, and God is in the midst. Being in community is beautiful; this music transcends all political affiliations; it brings reconciliation where racial tension is there; it is a signpost of hope, love and peace.”
Newby will be bringing along a few student vocalists and instrumentalists from SPU, as well as folks from Antioch Bible Church. He’s happy to say the group will be multicultural, including Irish, African and Chinese members. Newby said he sees this as a unique opportunity to extend February’s traditional Black History Month into March, saying, “We get to take a serious look at gospel music and spirituals in a different kind of way; instead of just lecturing, we get to sing the stories of black life and history.”
This winter, OICC will not be hosting the traditional WinterFest weekend, and so we are glad to offer this gospel choir opportunity with Dr. Newby for those who enjoyed his visit during SummerFest last July. Returning and new singers are equally welcome to come sing with us.
“It’s hard to argue and debate when you’re singing together,” says Newby. “The two greatest things you can do to combat words of tyranny are: we need to sing together, and we need to eat together. Those two things are critical. Everyone has a song, and everyone has an appetite, and I think singing is just as important as consuming food; it is a way that we are with each other deeply.” He adds, “Every people group has their tradition of eating together and singing together – it keeps them whole and it keeps them sane; it keeps them human.”
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