The Indiana University South Bend Gospel Ensemble is part of the university's vocal music family.
Like any other sibling, the gospel ensemble has its own unique qualities, which was evident during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day concert held at the university auditorium on Monday.
Members of the gospel ensemble sang as part of a combined choir that included the IUSB Chamber Choir and the South Bend Symphonic Choir. Members of the gospel choir were easy to spot in their red and black choir robes in contrast to the tuxedos and gowns worn by members of the other two choirs.
The gowns are a nod to the gospel ensemble's connection to Christian religious tradition.
"It kind of sets them apart from everyone else," Raclin School of the Arts Dean Marvin Curtis says.The gospel ensemble will don the robes during a benefit concert held at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 53720 N. Ironwood Drive, at 4 p.m. Jan. 30.
Curtis says the gospel ensemble is connected to the university's fine arts programs in some very substantive ways.
"It's not like some other schools I've been at where the gospel choir is the renegade choir off to the side," Curtis says. "Here, we all work together."
That means that the gospel ensemble's fully integrated into IUSB's music program.
"We are supported by the School of the Arts," Curtis says. It's a class and not just an activity. "It's part of (the School of the Arts') budget and (gospel ensemble) students get credit."CreAnne Mwale, the gospel ensemble's director, says that support is a major factor in the choir's growth.
The ensemble had eight members when it was founded in 2008. That number has grown to 25 members.
The choir's members are a diverse group, Mwale says. About half are community members who do not attend IUSB.
The gospel ensemble members perform, practice and take classes with music students who perform with the other choirs. Those students also work with instructors such as Curtis and the directors of the other choirs, Mwale says.
"When we come together, they are taught vocal techniques," Mwale says. "They learn how to stand, how to project and pronounce words."Curtis says that is important because it counters a perception that vocalists who sing gospel don't need the same level of training as singers who perform other types of music.
The gospel ensemble was part of a mass choir that performed a spiritual, an anthem and a gospel song, Curtis says.
The group's work will allow it to add another title to its list of accomplishments -- touring ensemble, group president Edgar Midgitt says.
Midgitt says the ensemble will travel to Greenville, N.C., to participate in the 90th anniversary Celebration of Holy Trinity United Holy Church.
Midgitt attended the church before coming to IUSB."I chaired this event for the last five years that I was there," Midgitt says. "I still stay in contact with them, and I suggested that they invite our gospel choir to come and perform."
Midgitt says the gospel ensemble's Jan. 30 concert at St. Michael and All Angels is a way to raise funds for the trip.
He says that each choir member needs to have $350.
"We understand that some of our students don't have the funds," he says, "so this is our way to help."
Staff writer Howard Dukes: email@example.com