By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Edgecombe County High School Gospel Choir, under the direction of founder Kristian Herring, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a live concert Sunday.
“You will hear some traditional choral music, energetic spirituals, traditional and contemporary gospel,” said Antonio Suggs, choir advisor.
The concert will be held at Salvation and Deliverance Church in Tarboro, located right behind Kentucky Fried Chicken on Western Boulevard. The concert will begin at 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Suggs’ favorite gospel choir song is “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood.
“The message is, ‘I lift my hands in total praise when I worship Him (God),” Suggs said. Another of Suggs’ favorites is “Do You Know Him?” an “energetic piece” asking the question, “Do you know my Jesus?” Choreography will accompany most of the songs.
The choir’s alumni will join the current gospel choir, comprised of students from all four county high schools, for Sunday’s concert.
“We’re expecting about 200 to 250 with the alumni,” Suggs said. “The weekend will be filled with camaraderie and getting the current choir members to see the shoulders that they’re standing on.”
The choir has received several awards through the years, including a first place win in the 2010 Pathmark Choir Competition in New York City. Sunday’s concert will include a time of recognition for individuals who have helped the gospel choir in its journey, which began as the Tarboro High School Gospel Choir, evolved into “Voices of Praise,” was revived after a short lapse in 1999 as “The Hip-Hop Club,” returned to its original name, and finally became the Edgecombe County High School Gospel Choir three years ago.
The choir asks alumni from Tarboro High School Gospel Choir, Voices Of Praise, U4C, and the Edgecombe County High School Gospel Choir to join them Saturday for a rehearsal from 2-5 p.m. at Salvation and Deliverance. While the singing voices of the alumni may be rusty at first, Suggs is confident the gospel music will come back to them after a short time of rehearsal
“Once you’re in, you’re in,” said Suggs. “You can take a break, but you’re still gospel choir. It’s a network.”
Suggs said the choir also brings the four high schools together, giving them a venue where they can set aside their rivalries as Turtles, Vikings, Warriors and Cougars and work in unity to create musical harmony.
The choir goes beyond creating music; it cultivates leadership skills in the students and pushes them to succeed academically, Suggs said.
“It’s a place where I’ve seen kids come in quiet as a church mouse and they get in the choir and see that there are other people like them. They just blossom and flourish,” the choir advisor said. He looks forward to seeing where some of the choir alumni are now and celebrate the successes in their chosen career fields.