This choir was nominated for a 2000 Grammy for their 1999 album “Send Up the Praise” under the category “Best Gospel Performance by a Duo or Group”, and they continue to deliver unforgettable performance experiences!
A funny moment in rehearsal
When we have a soprano and alto rivalry going on! In order to get a section to sing confidently, I’ll suggest that one section has outdone the other section. In response, the “lesser” section will stand boldly fanning away the other section and mouthing at them, eager to sing to prove that they are indeed the better section. It creates a very funny and effective way to get the choir to sing confidently!
What is something you do in rehearsals that surprises new members?
We do something that we call “UMGC Jingles!” This is where our Executive Board and Cabinet Members come up with a short musical jingle to encourage new members to join the choir. Not only do we post the jingles on social media, but we perform them for the choir as a fun way to introduce who we are and encourage the new members that came out to commit to join. See our recent jingle here!
A favorite inspirational quote
“Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That’s why it’s called ‘the present’!” -Eleanor Roosevelt. This particular quote speaks to me as a reminder to release any worries that keep the present from being the best it can be!
What was a very special performance and what made it special?
We performed during the memorial ceremony commemorating Elwood Higginbottom – the last African American to be lynched in the Mississippi county of Lafayette. As a predominantly black organization on the campus of the University of Mississippi, it is especially meaningful to be able to witness the long-overdue respect given to the late Elwood Higginbottom and his family. This is such an important and barrier-breaking event to witness as minority students.
A turning point in the life of your choir?
We’re so grateful for our new and fully dedicated Executive Board and Cabinet Members. They’ve helped take the group to another level. These fantastic individuals are consistent in their drive to gain exposure for the choir through media and bookings. They make sure choir members feel involved by creating fun bonding activities mixed in with the seriousness of rehearsing repertoire.
A juicy fact about a composer/arranger you love to tell your choir members.
I love to remind UMGC of how I am from Memphis, TN and how Memphis produces many gospel music artists including Vincent Tharpe and Kenosis (nominated for a Stellar Award, one of the highest received gospel awards ranking right below a Grammy). I feel honored to be from the same city as well as fellowship at the same church as Vincent Tharpe – and sing his music with UMGC.
An emotional moment you had in a rehearsal?
The nights we would rehearse “Grace” by artist Vincent Tharpe and Kenosis. The song is packed with plenty of emotion and expression to back up its powerful message that simply says “I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for God’s grace!” As a choir full of believers, we couldn’t help but to get extremely emotional during this particular song which ministered to us as a group and later to the audiences we performed it for. See our recording here!
A challenging performance and how you faced it.
Our performance of “Clap your Hands” by Brandon Mitchell S.W.A.P. Not only was the music challenging but we were also under the pressure of performing this particular song with the composer himself. However with plenty of practice, and a small coaching session with Brandon himself, we were able to execute and minister the message of the song effectively.
A favorite piece of repertoire & why
A favorite gospel piece of mine would have to be “Grateful” by JJ Hairston. It is the epitome of “when worshipers gather!” It is not a song where one sits and listen. It is a song that forces listeners to go forth in complete worship. From the beginning to the “ohhhhh” war cry during the middle of the song, to the ending, this selection shifts atmospheres.
Special thanks to the UM Gospel Choir president and cabinet members who made contributions to this article.
Darius Woodard is a senior Music Major at the University of Mississippi. Born in Memphis Tennessee, Darius was introduced to music at a young age. He currently resides as Minister of Music at Greater Mt. Calvary MBC located in Memphis. He is the 2018-2019 choir director of the Grammy Nominated University of Mississippi Gospel Choir and hopes to further a career in teaching/leading choirs and music students.