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Lift Every Voice

An uplifting collaborative college concert

By Laura Traister
On February 23, 2014

Lift Every Voice, a collaborative concert featuring gospel choirs from ETSU, King University, Milligan College and Northeast State Community College, offered a unique performance at a beautiful venue.
The varied musical styles created an interesting performance that was indeed uplifting.
For the first time, local schools joined to create a mass gospel choir.
The concert, presented by the Northeast State music department, took place on the evening of Feb. 22 at the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Northeast State Community College.
The venue was gorgeous, spacious, and included a balcony for additional seating. An enthusiastic audience nearly filled the lower level.
Richly colored red panels and curtains adorning the space created a sophisticated atmosphere.
Admission was free, but attendees were asked to donate money or non-perishable food to the Second Harvest Food Bank.
To begin, each separate school's ensemble took the stage and performed one or two pieces.
Other than singers, some of the ensembles included a bass guitar player, pianist or percussionist.
Some songs featured soloists, which helped keep the program interesting.
A few of the songs sounded the same and were a bit lackluster, but in general each choir showed an impressive ability to perform a range of musical styles.
The choirs were able to sing an upbeat, jaunty piece and then just a few minutes later tone it down for a much slower, more solemn song.
The truly enjoyable part of the concert, and the real evidence for these groups' talent, occurred when the mass choir congregated.
Each school's choir crowded onto the stage and assembled according to section.  
The mass gospel choir performed four songs, each of which proved powerful with so many voices singing together.
 "Hosanna, Hosanna" was an upbeat, toe-tapping number.
Many singers could not hold back smiles or spontaneous movements while they sang.
Later they started clapping, and some audience members joined in.
Another song, "Ain't Judgin' No Man," sounded like an old spiritual in the vein of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
The most moving piece to me was "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," which was sung a capella.
The lyrics of the song, a humble prayer, were stunning.
The singers showed remarkable sensitivity and made the song sound like a gentle lullaby. The piece ended with beautiful, soft humming.
The mass choir closed the concert with "Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the Lord."
This song's marching, clipped sound and feel was a good note to end on as it allowed the performers to be loud and energetic and to have fun.
The best part of Lift Every Voice was the genuineness of many of the performers. It was obvious by looking at their faces that they found joy in singing, a joy that reached across the stage to touch the audience.
The concert lasted about an hour. As someone who has sat through not only bad, but hopelessly long, concerts, I appreciated the conciseness and the smooth flow of the performance.
Each choir offered something different to the audience, and the decision to have each school perform separately was a good one, but this was one case in which the true strength was found in the larger numbers of the mass choir.
Overall, Lift Every Voice was a unique event that showcased a wide range of musical styles, allowed performers to enjoy themselves, and left the audience wanting to lift their own voices in praise.

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