Black Choir sets sights on future

By Jennifer McCabe

Closing in on their 25th anniversary next semester, the Black Choir is proud of its past and excited about its future.

When the choir was founded in 1968 by Kenneth Lennon, the choir sang not only gospel music, but also sang secular, or popular music. Then under the guidance of former choir director Steve Bland, they began singing gospel exclusively.

“African-Americans have a strong link to religion, which is why we started singing only gospel,” said Paula Thomas, the choir’s president for the past three years. Thomas said they are not a religious group, but they do make people feel better.

“Many students leave our concerts feeling good and they can then finish the semester successfully,” she said.

Under the direction of James Ivy, the choir holds three major concerts each year, on November 7, as well as in February and April. They also sing at smaller events when they are asked to, such as the upcoming Martin Luther King Dedication on September 17. All of the concerts are free to everyone.

“There is a very diverse audience and the joy for us is that we affect so many different people’s lives,” Thomas said.

The choir generally sings when they are asked, as long as the organization receives transportation, which is not in their budget. They also accept donations.

The choir is cosponsoring the upcoming “Hooked on Gospel Choir” competition. They have sent invitations to colleges in DeKalb, Aurora, Rockford and Chicago, and anyone may participate as long as they have completed an application and have twenty members. There are prizes of $500 and $250 for the first and second place winners.

Rev. Leroy Mitchell, the director of the Chance Program and the pastor of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church had only positive things to say about the Black Choir.

“They held a major benefit for the church and raised $1700. They also visit us each semester to sing. We have a very good relationship with them, and the whole church comes to their fall and spring concerts. We don’t schedule anything else for those days,” he said.

Mitchell also feels they are a very good influence on African-American children. “African-American children who grow up in this society don’t see too many African-American leaders. This way they can see them in a positive leader role, and also serving the church.”

The choir has a diverse membership and it is open to anyone who wants to join. “We try to make everyone feel comfortable when they are joining a mainly black organization,” she said.

The choir is holding auditions tonight and September 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Music Building, room 173. “Everyone who comes out is automatically in the choir, but we hold auditions to see what each individual can sing,” Thomas said.

There is a small membership fee of $5 to help cover the costs of the organization.