By David O’Keefe
From the foyer to the chapel, rich soaring vocals, humming bass lines and thumping drums filled the College’s Spiritual Center on the evening of Friday, April 29.
Gospel United Ministries hosted its 2016 Gospel Extravaganza, blending messages of Christian faith with the energy of a rock concert. Featured non-student performers included Ahmad Sanon, Will Morris, Alissia Neal and Fresh Fire. Many of the performers were also College alumni.
The congregation was nearly as loud as the performers as they offered a choir of voices singing along with the songs.
Freshman biology major Alexa Sanchez said that gospel wasn’t her preferred genre of music and that she had originally attended to offer moral support for a few of her friends who were performing that night. However, when she attended a rehearsal, she said, “It really spoke to me.”
The music resonated not only with Sanchez, but with the majority of the crowd who remained on their feet with hands held high in the air as the show continued deep into the night.
The Gospel Extravaganza began with an impassioned prayer. The solemn contrition that typifies a sermon or prayer was instead replaced with an energetic atmosphere that was displayed by the crowd. During breaks in between the musical acts, participants stood up to greet and hug their neighbors or to pass around a wicker collection basket in which people placed money. The environment was one of jovial celebration.
Faculty adviser Benjamin Akuma, when not performing with his band, Fresh Fire, walked around the chapel inviting people to raise their hands and feel the energy of the performances.
For others, the night was also extremely personal. Alumna Alissia Neal (’06) began her performance by speaking about her struggles while in school.
“It was a place of great darkness for me,” she said.
Neal said that she struggled with self-worth and academic pressure. According to Neal, she was able to eventually navigate those turbulent waters by leaning on the strength of her faith.
The night ended with a joint performance with all the College alumni who had performed earlier in the night. The energy was as palpable at the end of the three-hour show as when it began.