“Let Everything That Has Breath Praise The Lord…” – Psalm 150:6
Saturday May 14th and Sunday May 15th, the Napa Valley College Gospel Choir performed as part the college’s end-semester concert series. The event was held at the newly renovated Performing Arts Center on campus. Friends, family, and loved ones of students and faculty came out to participate. Notably diverse (20-30 students, varying per semester), the choir’s repertoire consisted of traditional-based and contemporary gospel sections.
Enthusiastic instructor/director of the choir and class, Myiia “Sunny” Hawkins (of the renowned gospel music pioneer family, the Hawkins family), has resided over the choir’s student-participants since 2008. Hawkins shares, “I love the diversity. Many of the students have sung classical music before but not Gospel. As a teacher, I get the opportunity to teach the techniques that gospel singing requires while using the language that classical singers understand. It’s a happy challenge every semester getting the group to sound like a traditional “gospel choir”. We sing all genres of gospel and talk about singing with conviction. I look at the class as a ministry. I’ve had students come visit my church and have even gained a new family and second church home in Napa through this class. The diversity of the group helps me to utilize my teaching skills in new and exciting ways.”
With passion and devotion, the choir soared through selections like “Let Everything That Has Breath: Psalm 150”, “Chasing After You”, the powerful and convicting “For Every Mountain”, and “Bless The Lord (Son Of Man)” The most heartfelt performance of the night came in association with “I Give Myself Away” led by student-participant Christopher Duncil, who just weeks before the event, was shot but survived with just a flesh wound. Duncil, who was seated in the back of the car, on the passenger’s side, described feeling “…a sharp, burning sensation…” after the bullet pierced his back. The bullet left holes in the car’s body (via its trunk), interior seat, Duncil’s sweater and shirt, and Duncil himself, but remarkably was never found. Hawkins shared this powerful story with audience saying, “God must have had bigger and better plans for Him…”
Closing with upbeat contemporary songs like “I Can’t Hold It” (Byron Cage) and “He Reigns” (Kirk Franklin & The Family), the audience stood to its feet in cheerful participation. Clearly Hawkins was successful at uniting those from different ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds through this age-old genre of music. She is all but too eager to share what is in the choir’s future when asked if there’s more to come, “We have concerts every fall and spring! I hope to some of you all out there!”
While some might view the evening’s event as an “alternative” worship experience, others might view it as a “true” one…people from all walks of life gathered together for one goal, purpose, and intent. It is often casually stated that “we were created in His image…,” with the topic of debate usually being what His [God’s] image is…the “we” is rarely examined. The NVC Gospel Choir proudly represents that “we” with conviction and joy, united in what is seemingly perfect harmony.
For more information about the Napa Valley College Gospel Choir or to find out how to register the course, please visit: http://napavalley.edu