On Friday, September 29, a large crowd gathered in the sanctuary in PMC for a Proximity Vespers featuring performances from three AU-based music groups. The vespers was called “We Care, AU Responds,” and promised the audience a musical service responding to the onslaught of natural disasters that have occurred in the last few months.
The audience grew quiet as the University Singers filed on stage, followed by their director, Stephen Zork, and the program was immediately underway. The Singers began with a serene rendition of “Requiem” by Eliza Gilkyson, a song originally written in response to the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. The choir sang about God’s grace and peace while scenes of wreckage in Houston, Mexico, and hurricane-ravaged Caribbean nations cycled above on the projectors. They continued with “This Little Light of Mine,” “Cornerstone,” which left the audience smiling at Professor Zork’s energetic conducting, and “Uncloudy Day,” by Myrna Summers, which moved directly into “How Great Thou Art” to end their portion of the program.
The musical theme of the night was briefly put on hold by Unlock Revelation’s Jose Bourget, who gave a short talk outlining the impending decline of our world and the increase in natural disasters from the perspective of God’s love and greater plan for us. Tying the program together, Bourget preached that despite the Earth’s sorry state, we will soon go to a place with no natural disasters, where our joy comes from constant communion with God.
After Pastor Bourget’s timely message, the musical segment of the program resumed. Journey, a music ministry lead by Marguerite Samuel, took the stage, beginning with “Falling in Love With Jesus,” by Kirk Franklin. Journey member Kenric Rimoni took the piano and captured the audience’s attention with his soulful vocals backed by the soft harmonies of the the choir. The song was an instant hit, with the audience cheering at Kenric’s powerful high notes and clapping at his runs. This act would be hard to follow, but Journey would not be upstaged, continuing with “Lord How I Love You” by Fred Hammond, featuring a solo by Nathon Hilton, and concluding with an a capella interpretation of verses from Matthew 11.
The audience began to buzz with anticipation as Journey filed off stage followed by lively applause. Next, the Deliverance Mass Choir (DMC) filed onstage. Having been to DMC concerts before, I knew the energy in the room was going to increase exponentially. Director Carl Cunningham started the choir off with “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, and built up the energy with “Oh, Give Thanks Unto the Lord” and “Why Do We Sing?”. People were standing up, clapping, and singing along during both of these songs, creating a very free atmosphere of uninhibited worship. Next came “Tears of Joy”, featuring solos by Phoebe Jean-Philippe and Esther Battle. The song fit in very well with the general direction of the service, painting joyful scenes of meeting lost loved ones in Heaven. Both choir and soloists transitioned easily into a medley of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “This Train”, ending with a verse of the classic hymn “When We All Get to Heaven”. The audience sang along for the last verse, enveloping the room with harmony-rich, meaningful lyrics and hope for a world with no natural disasters.
The room erupted into cheering after this concluding performance. The event was very successful, not only showcasing the talents of three choirs but breaking through a dense fog of sadness surrounding recent catastrophes to impart a feeling of hope.