When you hear the song "O Happy Day" you don't just sit in your chair and tap your foot. This music awakens something inside us that yes, makes us happy, but also reaches our souls through music in ways that uplifts our spirits. This song and many other gospel songs were performed last Thursday night at the Iowa Western Arts Center by The Harlem Gospel Choir.
This group sang a variety of well-known gospel favorites as well as some contemporary songs. From well-known favorites as Holy, Holy, Holy and Amazing Grace to Total Praise by Richard Smallwood, the choir approached each song as an expression of their religious beliefs literally turning the songs in prayers of praise. Most of the selections featured one soloist with the other voices joining in the three-part harmonies.
The Harlem Gospel Choir was created in 1986 with many members from Harlem's Black Churches near the New York City area. The touring choir has nine members: three sopranos, three altos, three tenors, with a drummer and a keyboardist. These members are a part of the larger group located in their home of Harlem and weekly perform at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York.
Part of this groups mission is to give back to the community. The Harlem Gospel Choir did this in three distinct ways. First, they selected a child from the audience to give a bracelet to for the "Save the Children" foundation explaining their donation and requesting donations from the audience. Next, the seventh and eighth-grade choirs from Kirn Middle School sang one selection with the choir as backup singers coaching in their style of music. Especially noticeable were how quickly some of the choir members, especially those in blue were in understanding the style of the music and thoroughly enjoying the experience. Lastly, the Harlem Gospel Choir chose one audience member who was completely enthralled with their entire experience and rewarded this college student with an autographed CD.
The program concluded with "Celebrate" and audience members were invited onto the stage. After the standing ovation, the Harlem Gospel Choir concluded with a glorious arrangement of "Love Train" with their rich harmonies. The nine singers were all outstanding and their keyboard player and drummer were marvelous at never missing a beat and perfectly balancing and blending the various accompaniments. The lighting, sound, and stage crews perfectly matched the needs of the performers and IWCC Arts Center excelled in making this night enjoyable for all.