The National Building Museum felt more like a Pentecostal storefront Sunday as 30 teenagers sang at a performance sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Children of the Gospel choir program.
One would have thought that Ray Charles was performing his version of “America the Beautiful” after soloist Alexis Wilder led the choir in an up-tempo version of the song that had the audience clapping and swaying. The young singers have participated in a summer vocal camp run by the Children of Gospel, a choir program designed to showcase the talents of Washington area youth.
“Children of the Gospel has been a great outlet to not only teach me vocal techniques, but it also allowed my ministry to serve God,” Wilder said. “Being that [America the Beautiful] is not gospel, it still touches the inner part that God blessed all of us to be able to live in a country where freedom rings and we have freedom of speech and freedom of equality.”
Michele Fowlin and Theodore Thorpe co-directed the camp choir this summer. The Children of the Gospel Choir program has sponsored concerts and events for many of the top teenage singers in the region for two decades.
Jenny Bilfield, president and CEO of the Washington Performing Arts Society, said camp participants take classes and workshops, while rehearsing for their performances. “This shows the kids performing at their absolute peak,” Bilfield said. “They are so well trained. It is so inspirational.”
The choir’s singing was accompanied by its ensemble of dancers who performed under the watchful eye of choreographer Diedre L. Neal, who had the dancers and singers moving to the same rhythm of a series of songs. But the highlight of the day was Wilder’s performance.
“That song always touches me because it shows how great it is to live in America,” said Wilder, 17, who has been singing since she was 4. “Songs like that give a lot of people hope because when you see inequality happening in the world, devastation and natural disasters you are able to see that God still blesses us.”