Gospel Fest: Singing Spirit



Kate Preziosi

Colgate hosted Gospel Fest last weekend, kicking off a series of spiritual events with the 33rd Annual Sojourners Gospel Concert on Saturday night. Gospel Fest was built upon this long-standing tradition, along with the decision to invite back Andr?e Thornton, former Cleveland Indians slugger, to talk about his faith with Colgate students for a second year.

“Last year went over so well, we decided to do it again,” Reverend Mark Mann, Colgate professor and Protestant Chaplain, said. “As it turned out, [Thornton] is married to a gospel singer, and so we had the idea to combine the talk with the gospel concert, and there you have Gospel Fest.”

Despite setbacks involving the cancellations of several groups due to last week’s severe snowstorm, the Gospel Concert was held as scheduled in the Memorial Chapel.

The evening opened with junior Nzinga Job, who performed two songs of her own composition. The first was a ballad, which she accompanied on piano.

“It is a combination of 2 Chronicles 7.14 and Jeremiah 29.11. It has no name as it speaks for itself,” Job said, describing the tune’s influences.

Her second piece, “Love Maharajah,” was an Indian-folk song inspired by a trip she took to the country in the fall of 2005. It was what Job described as her “attempt at a cultural vibe.” She attributes inspiration for the song to that the trip, and to her father.

“My father is a self-publishing journalist,” Job said, “and he put some romantic lines from the Bhagavad-Gita in one of his short books in a section dealing with inter-ethnic love, which reminded me strongly of one of my favorite Bible books, Song of Solomon. Coming from a predominantly Afro and Indo populated Caribbean Island, I felt that it would be great to try to marry these two versions of sensual love from spiritual texts.”

The Colgate Christian Fellowship Worship Band, directed by sophomore Brian Haghighi, followed with three light tunes accompanied by the acoustic and base guitar.

“When I think about what worship is, it’s my escape,” Haghighi shared with the audience before performing their first piece, “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

Next came the Angelic Voices of Unity from Utica College, accompanied by Colgate’s Sojourners. Many members of Angelic Voices of Unity were children, who brought a youthful, fresh vibe to the traditional African American Gospel tunes, “How Excellent,” by Walt Whitman, and “Friend of God – Bless the Lord.”

Most High, from Cornell University, almost didn’t make the concert, shuffling in mid-way through the Angelic Voices of Unity. Director Evan Graham welcomed the audience, explaining that “Most High” was in fact an acronym for “men of spirit transcending height in God’s holiness.” They were amusing and upbeat, and their a capella performance was rich and original, with an innovative spin on Isaac Watt’s classic “Amazing Grace” and the traditional “Hush, Somebody’s Callin’ My Name.”

The evening concluded with Gail Davis Thornton, the final act responsible for bringing them all together. Thornton, a professional gospel singer, started with a group she formed with her sisters, appropriately named The Jones Sisters. She married Andr?e in 1978. The ladies put out several albums together, and she has since also released one solo album. Thornton performed her two pieces, “Lord, You’re Holy,” and “How Beautiful,” with incredible poise and grace.

Gospel Fest continued on Sunday with a luncheon with Andr?e and Gail, and a dinner later with Joe Castiglione, ’68, who has been a radio broadcaster with the Boston Red Sox since 1983.