This past Sunday, the world renowned FAMU Gospel Choir celebrated their 65th anniversary with a concert.
The choir, dressed in their citrus orange and agricultural green robes, opened the concert with “Doxology,” a song that is close to the choir director, Darius Bolden Jr. ‘s, heart.
“‘Doxology’ was chosen as the first selection, because the ‘Doxology’ opening concerts were a signature for me during my time as director,” Bolden said. “The church I grew up in would officially open the service Sunday after Sunday by singing the ‘Doxology’ and this is just a tradition that has continued to resonate in my spirit.”
The FAMU Gospel Choir went on to sing more than six songs that incorporated choreography and handheld instruments, such as tambourines, the cowbell and washboards. Audience members with tambourines and washboards played along with the choir.
Since spring is a busy semester for the FAMU Gospel Choir, there was not much time to prepare for the concert. Bolden said the choir’s packed performance schedule limited their rehearsal time.
“During the month of March, the choir had three full concerts that took away preparation time for the spring concert,” Bolden said. “The choir only had five rehearsals to pull it off, but this was not a challenge they couldn’t handle.”
However, The FAMU Gospel Choir is no stranger to challenges.
When the choir first began in 1957, it did not have the support of the university. According to en-academic.com, the choir was initially denied use of the school’s pianos, organs as well as a place to practice and hold concerts. The school’s administration even threatened to revoke the scholarships of students caught participating in the choir on campus. They were told that singing gospel music would ruin their voices.
Mother Frances Stallworth, an early member of the choir, shared her experience as one of the first members of the concert with the audience at Sunday’s concert.
“Local churches came to our rescue and permitted us to practice in their edifices,” Stallworth said.
With the help of three local churches the choir went on to perform with Gospel music legends such as Rev. James Cleveland, the Clark Sisters and Shirley Caesar. The choir also had the opportunity to record an album with Twinkie Clark in 1996.
Today, the FAMU Gospel Choir is officially a part of the FAMU music department and holds academic credit.
The choir has one more engagement in Jacksonville on Sunday, April 24th. After that, they will take a summer break as they gear up for the upcoming fall semester.
If you were unable to make it to the concert, you can watch it here: https://www.facebook.com/JacobChapelBaptistChurch/videos/1165478790870145