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Gospel Sunday celebrates with music and spirit

Gospel musician Moses Maina and Gospel Choir member Janet Irankunda (‘19) sing during Gospel Sunday.

Gospel musician Moses Maina and Gospel Choir member Janet Irankunda (‘19) sing during Gospel Sunday.

Emily Turner (‘19) | Photo Bureau

Emily Turner (‘19) | Photo Bureau

Gospel musician Moses Maina and Gospel Choir member Janet Irankunda (‘19) sing during Gospel Sunday.

Jorge Contreras, Staff Writer

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Gospel Sunday, a celebration of diversity through music, took place in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL) on Sunday, March 4. Over 60 people attended the music-centered church service.

Gospel Sunday is an annual College Ministries tradition that features the Gospel Choir and another Luther choir. This year it was Collegiate Chorale performing. The service was made even more special by a visit from Vicar Lenny Duncan, who delivered the sermon.

According to Pastor Mike Blair, Gospel Choir positively incorporates cultural traditions into the community.

“Gospel Choir brings a spirit of joyful community to those who sing and those who hear their music,” Blair said. “Directors Brendon Adams and Sam Simataa bring the gifts of South African and Namibian musical traditions as well. Gospel Choir blesses the community with a diverse offering of Gospel and African music.”

Current leader of the Gospel Choir Sthela Gun Holly Hanitrinirina (‘19) believes that the traditions of the Gospel Choir bring joy to its members and the church.

“The best part of Gospel Choir is the tradition and the spirituality in gospel singing,” Hanitrinirina said. “We come together on Saturday and start to learn everything the day before we sing at church. We start with not knowing anything to be able to sing and share the gift the next day.”

Member of Gospel Choir Janet Irankunda (‘19) commented on how the music was incorporated into the sermon.

“All of the music during the sermon was provided by our amazing band; they basically improvised all of the music during that time,” Irankunda said. “I wish I could say that there was planning but in a way that really wouldn’t be gospel. In the gospel tradition, improvisation is key, and the inspiration or continuation of song is part of its beauty.”

Hanitrinirina sees a connection between the music and the gospel message.

“Gospel music is in sermon itself; the content of gospel songs are prayers, messages, or celebration,” Hanitrinirina said. “It is the same with sermons, but it is just musical version.”

For Blair, the band successfully incorporated music into the sermon and made the community interact with it.

“Adams brings a stellar team of Gospel musicians for gospel Sunday, and the ensemble is well versed in the gospel tradition of call and response,” Blair said. “They used their music during the sermon to underscore the preaching of [Duncan] and invite the community to a more holistic way of listening and engaging in the sermon.”

Irankunda expressed her love for the choir and emphasized its differences from other college ensembles.

“I love being a part of Gospel Choir,” Irankunda said. “It is such a different style of singing than what we get in our traditional Luther College ensembles. It provides a space where structure isn’t the goal and there is freedom in all you do.”

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