The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

GospelFest Uplifts Colgate Community

Rylee Hatch

Director Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago performed at Colgate University’s annual GospelFest on Friday, Sept. 29. The long-standing campus tradition marked the celebration of September as Gospel Heritage Month. The evening brought the Colgate and Hamilton communities together for a lively night of music in the Colgate Memorial Chapel followed by campfires and s’mores on the academic quad. The event was sponsored by the Office of the Chaplains and Sojourners Gospel Choir.

GospelFest brought spirited gospel music arrangements by the Soul Children, who were energetically directed by Dr. Walt Whitman. The group donned t-shirts that read, “Think big,” a nod to one of the many inspiring messages Walt Whitman shared with those in the Chapel. Students involved in Sojourners Gospel Choir also participated in the performance, joining the Soul Children of Chicago for the closing songs.

Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago is a Grammy Award-winning youth gospel choir based out of Chicago. This year’s Gospelfest was not their first time performing at Colgate, as the group has visited campus several times over the past few years. Chaplain and Protestant Campus Minister Corey MacPherson explained the decision to bring the well-loved group back to campus.

“Nobody does a better job of getting the whole crowd into it than Walt Whitman does,” MacPherson said. “For those that were there, they’ll know what I mean […]. As far as getting the crowd involved and [being] encouraging and exciting, no one does it better.”

This year, the musical group once again brought the energy to Colgate. Whitman remarked that in returning to campus, he hopes to bring encouragement to students each time.

“I’m honored because I know that Colgate doesn’t normally invite artists over and over and over again, but obviously whatever we give to [Colgate] they feel is something that is valuable to this university,” Whitman said. “It’s my prayer that when we come, we always leave a deposit […]. Sometimes the kids need so much encouragement because classes get hard, and sometimes the pressure is stressful, so hopefully what we do is relieve the stress.”

This year, the Soul Children performed alongside alumni of the group, and the experienced singers certainly brought their well-practiced vocal skills to the already-talented choir. In bringing together generations of Soul Children, Whitman created a musical dynamic that spanned generations. Whitman emphasized the value of support among generations.

“When you put the present group — the children — and the alumni together […], what happens is it’s not just the Soul Children, it’s a generation,” Whitman said. “And that’s what we have […] because a lot of times you don’t have generations that pour into the generation below them to make sure that they are able to grow and be successful […]. You have to be mentored.”

GospelFest indeed brought generations together on Friday. For older and younger students alike, the music welcomed them into an uplifting space. First-year Bea Corley shared her appreciation for the energetic event as a new member of the Colgate community.

“Gospelfest reminded me why music and worship belong together,” Corley said. “Since arriving on campus, I’ve yet to go to another community event which moved me like this one. The energy inside the Chapel that night was truly electric. I’ve never seen so many hands in the air or felt so much passion in faith.”

MacPherson also touched on why GospelFest remains such an important tradition on Colgate’s campus. According to the Chaplain, Sojourners Gospel Choir and GospelFest both work to help provide community and celebrate diverse traditions, especially for students whose traditions and cultures align with the historical gospel music tradition and the historically African American church.

“Gospel music is historically known to draw people of all denominations and religious traditions — so not just Christianity,” MacPherson said. “It [has] this uplifting, encouraging, inspiring message, and that’s really part of the root of gospel music. So that’s another reason why it’s such an important event […]. It’s rooted in the Black church, but it is for everyone, and everyone can come and be inspired and uplifted.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Rylee Hatch
Rylee Hatch, Arts & Features Editor
Rylee Hatch is a sophomore from East Fishkill, NY concentrating in English and environmental studies. She has previously served as a staff writer for the Commentary and News sections. On campus, Rylee is involved in Colgate Dance Initiative, the Dance Team, and the Ballet Company. 

Comments (0)

All The Colgate Maroon-News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *