Pop, rock, classical, country or gospel — music is a universal medium that brings people together. Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir is hosting its annual Gospel Fest with a few new changes and aims to bring its audience members together through music.

Every year, the Gospel Choir invites a local high school, junior high school or elementary school as a special guest to Gospel Fest. This year, they decided to put an emphasis on the high school kids and host the Adirondack High School Gospel Fest 2019, in conjunction with Gospel Fest, tonight and tomorrow in the Glitz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall. 

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this, but I’ve been a part of the Gospel Choir since fall of 2016,” Gospel Choir member Charlotte Arcuri said. “The first time I heard the choir [was] when I came up here to visit my brother who went to school. I went to rehearsal with him, and I knew I was going to join this choir when I get to college. So I’ve done Gospel Fest and Soulful Christmas every year since then.”

The Adirondack High School Gospel Fest is a two-day clinic where high school students from the Adirondacks will be exposed to gospel music and very intense rehearsals. 

The choir has artist, composer and educator Stan Spottswood coming to work with these students that will then perform during Gospel Fest.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the kids’ experiences with singing with college students, because I don’t know if it’s something they’ve done before or not,” sophomore criminal justice and sociology major and Gospel Choir President Dominique Burke said. “I’m excited to hear their views on how they think it went versus how we think it went, and I’m excited myself to be singing with the kids as well.”

The high schools that are participating in Adirondack High School Gospel Fest are Peru Central School, AuSable Central School, Crownpoint Central School, Saranac Central High School, Willsboro Central School and King Valley Central School. Fermata Nowhere, a Stafford  Middle School a capella group, will also be guest-performing.

“We have some really hard songs we’re doing, so my guys can really nail those,” Artistic Director of Gospel Choir Dexter Criss said. “What’s going to make this one so different is in most concerts I kind of hold soloists down. I don’t give them a lot of wiggle room. This concert, they’re going to have a little bit more freedom to really engage with the audience and really kind of show off a little bit, so I’m giving the green light on that.”

Another big difference coming to Gospel Fest this year is instead of the regular band that supports the choir, there will be an 18-piece orchestra. The orchestra will be made up of high school teachers and some PSUC faculty. 

To prepare for this event, the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir has two-hour practices on Friday and Saturday nights with four selections the Gospel Choir will sing by themselves and 12 selections in total. 

“We want to show off a little bit, show that we’re still the big boy on the block. We will sing the traditional gospel music that people may be accustomed to, the bluesy, jazzy feel that gospel has, and we’re going to do a choral piece called ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’”

This song is essential for the choir to sing because there is so much from the song that can be applied to for today. Criss said the song talks about struggling, unity and not forgetting who you are, and it’s going to start the concert off right. 

Criss said the Gospel Choir’s music is sacred music, meaning you do not have to be Christian to go. When attending, the choir wants the audience to enjoy the music, get inspired and have the opportunity to find themselves and connect with the other audience members. 

Tickets can be purchased at the information desk in the Angell College Center or at tickets.plattsburgh.edu.

“It’s a great time,” Criss said. “It’s something I think if you are a student here on SUNY Plattsburgh campus or even a faculty member, and you’ve never seen one of our shows, you really should do that once before you leave. I will say that to the students because many times people assume what’s going to happen, people are told what’s going to happen, it’s not until they get there that they realize ‘Wow.’” 

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<a href="https://cardinalpointsonline.com/byline/aja-landolfi/" rel="tag">Aja Landolfi</a>