GCM showcases vibrant gospel

Translucent sweat drops took on vibrant colors and heavily defined shapes as makeup began to run under the heat of the lights at Gospel Choir Ministries’ (GCM) Extravaganza held in Forcina Hall on April 26.

The lecture hall that by day is filled with row upon row of orange chairs was turned into a lounge. Its six-inch stage was intimate, and cool dim lights drowned out the dull remnants of the classroom.

The purpose of Extravaganza, according to coordinator Craig Hargrove, sophomore sociology major, “is to introduce gospel music in a new way. To show (the College) that Christianity is not a boring religion to be celebrated because of a death that took place 2,000 years ago, but it is about a personal relationship, full of life and excitement,” Hargrove said.

“Extravaganza is for a generation that is tired of traditions,” Hargrove added.

This event was GCM’s attempt to show the progress made in gospel music in recent years. Stemming from a cultural history that dates back to colonial slavery, there are few genres of American popular music that have not been influenced by gospel music.

Daniel Steele, of Jersey City, N.J., performed gospel music in the hip-hop genre. Capturing the true essence of rap music, he highlighted the problems of politics, race relations and economic status. His proposed resolution to these problems was based on a search for a better understanding of truth. Steele’s solo act ended with a freestyle rap, in the style of gospel improvisation, accompanied by drums, keyboard and bass.

All sects of GCM were involved in Saturday’s Extravaganza. A 10-person ensemble opened the show, accompanied by dancers in both traditional robes and jeans paired with T-shirts. “For His Viewing,” their drama division, led by Eliana Reyes, senior communication studies major, and George DuBois, senior psychology major, performed an interpretive drama scene to the music of “Everything” by Lifehouse. The dance provided a spiritual outlet for issues ranging from body image to finances.

Recording artist Tia Pittman of Philadelphia was invited to perform and promote her upcoming album, “Just As I Am,” which debuts in early September. Her neo-soul/alternative sound grabbed the crowd’s attention. Her reoccurring message was openness, honesty and transparency.

“The misconception of the church is perfection,” Pittman said. “No one is perfect and it is when we look for perfection in people that we lose our focus. Let God be the focus.”

Ending the show was the Tye Tribbett-inspired Lonnie Smalls and Higher Ground.

The crowd was moved to dance, even those who were panting after their experience with Pittman. The most requested track was their newest single, “I Will Survive,” where choreography did not compromise the astronomical range of the sopranos.

For more information on GCM and any of their divisions visit their Web site at tcnj.edu/~gospel. Information on the other performers can be found at myspace.com/tiapittman and myspace.com/lonniesmallsnhigherground.