The Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir has put in many hours of practice and dedication into its annual winter concert “Soulful Christmas,” and it’s set to pay off this Sunday from 4 to 6:15 p.m.

E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall will feature many different cultural styles of music as well as exhibit the traditional roots of gospel through music, dance and songs of praise. Student admission will be $8, while general admission is $10.

Audience members will witness acts influenced by Caribbean, traditional and contemporary gospel as well as “down-home” styles of music. Artistic Director of the PSUC Gospel Choir Dexter Criss said the show has a Dolly Parton, bluegrass feel.

The pre-show to “Soulful Christmas” will start just before 4 p.m. with a performance by Whiteface Methodist Bell Choir, who will help to set a wintery, Christmas atmosphere and transition smoothly to the gospel performance.

The Praise Dancers and the Praise Team, small sects of the PSUC Gospel Choir, will also be in attendance.

“Some of our dancers will walk in with flags to make a very majestic opening presentation, and the band has this big horn and string intro,” Criss said. “It’s just gonna rock the place.”

The Praise Dancers’ routines were choreographed by the gospel choir’s Associate Director Andrea Ogle.

Criss stated how much time and organization has gone into the show. There are three bands accompanying the choir’s soul-filled voices, and a section of the show will be performed by the Keene Central High School Chorus.

“It’s quite the set-up,” Criss said.

Criss hopes performing in “Soulful Christmas” will spark a lifelong interest in gospel music for the high school students and will get them used to performing on the big stage.

“As the artistic director, my job is to have the overall theme, choose selections to fit the theme, prepare the music, audition the choir in general and then audition people for different solos,” Criss said. “We have so many solos for this show.”

One soloist will be PSUC communications professor Gina Lindsey. Other soloists are general members of the community and PSUC students.
“I try to make sure it’s a mixed bag because we have community members as well as students in the group,” Criss said. “[The show] helps people who have nothing to do with Plattsburgh State have an affinity for the college, which is part of our initiative on campus to make sure there is a dialogue between campus and community.”

Gospel Choir President Dominique Burke, a sophomore from Mount Vernon, describes gospel choir as all-inclusive and non-discriminatory of creed or religion. Burke states the motto of Gospel Choir is, “unity through song and harmony through people.”

“I always knew I wanted to be part of this gospel choir before I got to the school,” Burke said. “I like gospel music. It’s my favorite genre of music personally, and I feel that my voice fits in the best with gospel.”

Burke described his role as president as advertising for shows and spreading the choir’s message.

“I feel like I’ve contributed by having an open voice and letting people know who we are and what we do,” Burke said.
Passion for gospel music is felt throughout the students in the choir.

“I don’t need to take a lot of time to practice,” sophomore Ciarah Richmond said. “I’ll listen to the songs as I’m doing homework or as I’m walking to class. It’s not really extra because I like the music itself.”

Christina Bastien, another PSUC sophomore, offers that the familial energy is strong amongst the soulful singers and dancers.
“They get involved in your life, so you don’t just feel like you come and then leave,” Bastien said. “After rehearsal [choir members] talk, and it’s a really great family aspect.”

Richmond and Bastien are also members of the Praise Team, for which Burke is the student director. Burke said he is most excited to perform “I Give You Praise” by the Chicago Mass Choir.

During intermission, the local Wickmoore Jazz Trio will perform. Throughout the show, audience members may here familiar songs such as “Joyful Joyful” from the movie “Sister Act” and “Joy to the World.”

“The community has an expectation,” Criss said. “They bring their friends and they bring their moms and dads. Ladies come for girls night out. We’re part of that tradition, and we really do value and appreciate that.”

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