WYCB, AM radio's popular "inspirational" radio station, paid special attention last Saturday to the first anniversay of a special gospel group, the WYCB Community Choir. Radio host Debbie Tate took the pulpit of the Refreshing Spring Church of God in Christ in Riverdale, Md., to present the choir to an audience that packed the 3,000-seat sanctuary. Station personalties were sprinkled throughout the crowd.
It was obviously a big night for Washington's "music with a message" station, now only two years old. But this was a bigger night for the choir. More than 150 voices from almost as many churches and several denominations comprise this choir, which has captured the hearts of WYCB listeners as well as the hearts of the station that spawned it.
"The choir gives all of the members of the WYCB family something to be proud of. Like a football team to a high school, the . . . choir brings esprit de corps to the WYCB family and the city," cheered WYCB announcer Lou Hankins in a written salute to the choir.
The choir is a community outreach project of the station, a "unique" idea, according to station general manager Howard Sanders, who organized it as a way "to contribute to the local audience while drawing from, highlighting and utilizing" station resources. In a sense, the choir contributes a lot back to the station.
The choir's first performance was a live broadcast last January over WYCB, which is at 1340 on the AM dial. Since then the group has given six full concerts throughout the city. The anniversary concert last weekend marked the end of the first year as well as the quick fulfillment of one of the group's highest ambitions: to cut a record. The Saturday concert was a live recording session on Savoy Records, the popular gospel label that has put on wax the works of many local gospel musicians.
The concert was also a tribute to the range of musical styles within the gospel experience. Choir members, under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Theodore A. King, reached back to the traditional spiritual roots with "God Will Take Care of You" and "Jesus Is Near," and updated the same messages with contemporary songs such as "My Life With God" and "Unity." The latter was composed by choir member Johnny Burns and sung with great flair by Bernadette Swinson.
Two other local musical groups preceded the WYCB choir. The Gregory Ward Company and the Ernest Coles Ensemble began the program at about 9:15 p.m., an hour behind the scheduled starting time. The choir's processional began after 10 p.m. Members made their way down the aisles, clapping and marching with clear and strong voices and uplifted heads, oblivious to the late hour. To them, it seemed, a new day was just beginning.