Spirited Singing: Gospel Fest Draws Large Crowd



On the evening of February 12, Colgate students, faculty and staff – as well as members of the Hamilton community and numerous visitors – crowded into the Memorial Chapel to listen and celebrate gospel music as part of Gospel Fest 2011. The event was sponsored by numerous groups, including the Budget Al­locations Committee, Center for Leadership and Student Involve­ment, Chaplaincy and African, Lat­in, Asian and Native American (AL­ANA) Cultural Center. It featured music from five college choirs, as well as a special guest appearance by the Grammy-award winning gospel musician, Reverend Kirk Franklin.

The event, which started half an hour later than scheduled at 7:30 p.m., began with an introduction by Reverend Putter Cox, Protestant chaplain at Colgate. Reverend Cox acknowledged the hard work of those who put on the event, including senior Medvis Jackson and sophomore Lorva Prophete. After a quick change to the program, the Colgate University Sojourners, directed by Diane McDowell, took stage to officially begin the event. Opening with a jazzy number, the Sojourners performed two songs, one of which featured a show-stop­ping solo by junior Chloe Nwangwu. After the Sojourners performed, Rev. Cox took the stage once again to lead the chapel in a prayer. Thomas Cruz-Soto, Assistant Dean of Multicultural Affairs and Di­rector of the ALANA Cultural Center, then made an announcement that all proceeds from the event were going to benefit “NJ for Haiti”, a non-profit organization aimed to provide better health care and im­prove the infrastructure of the battered island.

The four visiting school choirs all performed fantastic and crowd-pleas­ing sets of two songs each. The small but powerful Hamilton College choir featured an a capella and a piano number, with one of their members on the bunch. The large Cornell-Ithaca Choir, which is a joint group featur­ing students from Cornell University and Ithaca College, featured raucous foot-stomping and incredible vocals. The equally large SUNY Binghamton choir also featured a capella and soloists. The Syracuse Choir, which ended the choral performances, had a drum and piano accompaniment with a very powerful opener. The choir got everyone on-stage to their feet to celebrate.

Midway through the choral performances, Rev. Kirk Frank­lin arrived in the chapel. After the Syracuse Choir took their seats, Medvis Jackson took the stage to introduce the special guest. Franklin, who bounded enthusiastically on-stage, asked in a smooth, buttery voice to be called “Kirk.”

“That’s what I’ve been called all my life,” he joked.

Franklin’s appearance was a mixture of lighthearted jokes and spiritual wisdom. The Reverend explained his love of Colgate and eagerness to be back at the school.

“I traveled across the country to be here,” said the musical trendsetter. “I am always rocking my Colgate hoodie.”

Explaining how humbled he was to be invited back, Franklin joked that growing up, Colgate was just toothpaste.

“And it was toothpaste I couldn’t afford!” he laughed.

The Reverend, who was adopted by “a 64-year-old woman and grew up on food stamps,” but was provided piano lessons from an early age to spark his creativity. His love of music stayed with him throughout the turbulent times in his life and ultimately was his “saving grace.”

“One of the biggest calls I can ever get is to speak to students,” said Franklin. “I will travel through snow and blizzards to get to Colgate.”

After sharing his thoughts, Franklin engaged the mass choir in numerous spirituals, getting the entire crowd on their feet to dance and clap along. The music and celebration lasted well into the eve­ning, with Franklin and the choir never tiring to lift up their hearts and sing.