• Gospel Music

    The Sweet Sound of Gospel: 2011 Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound

    Hsts Logo

    Even the rain couldn’t dampen the excitement for this year’s How Sweet the Sound Celebration.  Long lines formed around the Oracle O.co Arena for the last stop of Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound Nine City Tour. 

    An annual celebration of the best church choirs throughout the country – it has been in existence for 3 years, with both Marvin Sapp and Donald Lawrence from the very start.  “This event reminds me of a time that the church choir was the community choir,” says Lawrence.
    Once the doors opened, seats quickly filled with over 18,000 gospel music lovers from all over the Bay Area anticipating what would be a glory filled evening.

    With countless submissions, eight local choirs and ensembles made the cut to compete for the title of “America’s Best Church Choir”.  From start to finish, each choir gave their absolute best in giving God praise.  Although only one choir would be represented in the finale at the LA Staple Center – none of the choirs disappointed. With hosts for the evening, Donald Lawrence and Cece Winans the evening’s panel of judges included Award-winners Marvin Sapp, Erica & Tina Campbell of Mary Mary, and Isreal Houghton.

    When asked about the Bay Area’s influence on Gospel, Isreal Houghton said  “We have all been influenced by the West Coast sound.” Erica Campbell of Mary Mary also added, “Being from California, I hope the choirs come out and show what we have here, the Bay Area has a different approach to Gospel Music, unlike anywhere in the country. I love it!”

    When asked about making a way for the next generation of church choirs to represent the Kingdom, Cece Winans made a powerful statement:

    “You prepare the next generation by being an excellent example. Take the time to pour into the person or persons who ask for advice. If the standard is high because those who have done it have done it so well, all of the people that are in line to come they know that they have to be prepared. You can’t come in just to give people goosebumps. You have to represent excellence because we serve an excellent God.”  
    When the lights dimmed, the crowd erupted in praise, knowing that the best was yet to come.



    The small/medium choir category was well represented by Universal Church of Today’s Bay Area Community Praise Team (Castro Valley), Abundant Life Ministries’ The Voices of Victory (Hercules), Rescue Mission COGIC’s Rescue Mission Choir (Vallejo), and Hamilton Memorial’s Sanctuary Choir (San Francisco).
    The Bay Area Community Praise Team Choir set the evening off with “Hallelujah Anyhow”!  Congrats to the 2011 Small/Medium Category Winner – The Rescue Mission Choir! Their winning selection was “The Lord Is Blessing Me”.  Everyone that evening agreed they had a very strong sound and their band was hot!

    LARGE CHOIR CATEGORY…The Heavyweights of the Bay!!!!

    With Sacramento being represented in the lineup, Genesis Worship Center’s Mass Choir brought a capital sound and set the bar high with their fresh and contemporary arrangement of “It Is Well”!  Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was so well, the whole arena broke out in a praise break! “This is what we’ve been waiting on all night,” said Resident Tour Judge Marvin Sapp.

    After the 5 minute praise break, the next song was Kirk Franklin’s “Hosanna” performed by the Jubilee Christian Center Choir (San Jose,Ca) They came amped and ready to give God Praise. They have a great sound for the Kingdom.

    I must admit, The Covenant Voices of Covenant Worship Center (Berkeley, Ca.) stirred my soul. 

    Their sound took me back to my childhood years, sitting in the pews on a Sunday night during broadcast and the Voices of Evergreen had the choirstand to capacity!  Quality singers and a quality band…with anointing. Why they are not recording is a mystery to me! Their arrangement of “There Is No Way” shook the roof! Donald Lawrence said “This is the best arrangement of this song I have heard on the whole HSTS tour”!

    If you were there, you know as well as I do that it must have been VERY hard for the judges to decide…I’m just sayin’!  

    But it was the final choir of the evening; Christian Life Center Ministries’ Mass Choir (Stockton) with their arrangement of “The Presence Of The Lord Is Here”.  CLC had all of the elements the judges were looking for. Noted for their uniformity in both look and sound, the band was also amazing! The anointing could be seen in the faces of the choir members, and did I mention…..the band was amazing! CLC is excited about the fact that they sing for the Lord! CLC has a rich and powerful sound. Oh yeah…the band…one word…AMAZING

    They would later go on to win Overall Regional Winner and represent the Bay Area during the HSTS Finale completion alongside national winners:

    • DALLAS REGION: St. John Baptist Church (Grand Prairie, Texas)
    • ATLANTA REGION: All Nations Life and Praise Church (Atlanta, Georgia)
    • CHARLOTTE REGION: Salvation and Deliverance Church (Tarboro, North Carolina)
    • WASHINGTON, D.C. REGION: Refreshing Spring Church of God In Christ (Riverdale, Maryland)
    • CHICAGO REGION: The Lighthouse Church of All Nations (Alsip, IL)
    • DETROIT REGION: Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies (Columbus, Ohio)
    • ST LOUIS REGION: Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri)
    • LOS ANGELES REGION: Family Life Center Apostolic Church (Whittier, Ca)
    CLC also won People’s Choice, and received over $18,000 in prizes and awards for the evening.  With $3,000 awarded to each of the (8) choirs represented that evening – everyone went home a winner!

    The evening ended with a unified presentation of Donald Lawrences’ “Your Righteous Mind”.  His empowering words set to song served as the perfect end to a great evening.

    The Finale Celebration is set for October 28th in Los Angeles (click here for details and ticket info). With much prayer, CLC will have the sweet sound to be dubbed “The Best Church Choir in America”! Pray church!

    Barry Reed Jr., a replanted Bay Area native describes himself as contemporary traditionalist a.k.a the “Last of the Old-School”.  Reach him on twitter at @barrysreedjr or by email breed@faithinthebay.com

    Photos courtesy of Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound: http://howsweetthesound.com

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