by Amber Childs, Communications Intern
Singing is an important part of the human experience culture and carries a lot of meaning behind the music and the words. During slavery, songs were sung to express deep sorrow, to celebrate joys, to retain a sense of identity and culture, even to explain through song how to reach the north. In many cultures, songs tell stories, serve as oral history, and play intricate roles in the most sacred of celebrations and ceremonies. Today, when we listen to music, we are impacted by the beat of the song and by the lyrics and their meaning. Music has the power to make us feel, whether the feeling is joyous, sad, angry, or excited.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a newly-formed group at Lutheran East: The Lutheran East Faculty Choir. After listening to them sing, I felt nothing but pure joy. During the school’s Chapel service on March 31st, Lutheran East featured its first Faculty Choir under the direction of Mr. Jonathon Turner. Mr. Turner is the musical director of Lutheran East’s Gospel Choir and the Select Choir, both student groups, but he decided that there was another choir he wanted to add to the school’s roster. I was quite excited to hear that the faculty was coming together to sing, especially since my parents, Reverend Childs and Mrs. Childs, were also a part of this choir. I knew I had to see this for myself, and I’m so glad I did. During the late March Chapel service, the group sang four song: one from the Lutheran Church called Jesus Christ is Risen Today and three other songs that were considered to have originated from the Baptist church: Cross Medley (He Was Hung Up for My Hang Ups, He Decided), Total Praise and The Blood Still Works. The students and other faculty in attendance were also quite engaged – when the Faculty Choir sang the last song, everyone was either clapping their hands or stomping their feet. Overall, it was just a great time spent together in the Lord. After Chapel concluded, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Turner about how the Faculty Choir came to be and what his hopes are for the group in the future.
Amber Childs (AC): What made you want to start the Faculty Choir?
Jonathon Turner (JT): I love adult choirs; they give me “Sunday morning Beulah Baptist Church” vibes. In February, to celebrate Black History Month, we did a special presentation about the black church. Following that event, there were a lot of questions and interest from faculty and staff regarding what we did in the black church. Many expressed to me how much they enjoy that everyone sings along – the black church is very participatory. There is always a way for everyone to get involved. From that moment, I decided – let’s try to get the staff to sing together. Many of them have good singing backgrounds, having sung in church or in college or can read music or play an instrument. So I thought, let’s come together to see how this sounds.
AC: What are the differences you have in teaching the students versus the staff?
JT: There actually isn’t too much of a difference. In both choirs, there are people who can read music and understand music terminology versus people who are still developing their skills. There are some who have lots of experience versus those who aren’t as experienced. The Faculty Choir mirrors what we have with our students; there is a vast diversity of experience levels within both choruses.
AC: What are your expectations going forth with the choir?
JT: I’m not exactly sure! This was a pilot trial, but it ended up going super well and we all really enjoyed it. Maybe this will be something that happens on special occasions; maybe it’s something that will be implemented more consistently. Either way, we are having fun not only coming together to sing and worship together in music, but also to enhance our relationships with one another as colleagues!
AC: What was one of your favorite experiences while rehearsing with this choir?
JT: So we were learning The Blood Still Works, a really “drivey,” fast-paced, black gospel number, and while I was working with another section, the sopranos started this impromptu interpretive dance. It was tangible proof that this type of music does really move you, and it’s infectious, this gospel, this good news. People who may have never been in a black church setting start doing things that are idiosyncratic to the black church, which was great to see. There was never any intimidation, they were like, “Hey, this is new to me but I’m going to try it,” and they met and exceeded my expectations.