The Luhrs Center hosted the World-Famous Harlem Gospel Choir on Feb. 23 in the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center. The group has toured the world for over two decades and is one of the most known gospel choirs in the country today. The choir has its rootsin the black churches of Harlem. According to the group’s biography, “out of the hardship and trials of slavery, this unique musical tradition came to be, and forever changed music as we know it.” Blues, Soul and Rock and Roll all have roots from black gospel music.
The group truly transformed the Luhrs Center from a group of quiet, composed patrons at the beginning of the show to the room up on their feet, clapping, singing and dancing by the end. The group performed many of its well-known songs including “Let it Rise,” “I’ve been Looking for You” and “Precious Lord.” Their performance was filled with jokes, an “advertisement” for their partnership with Operation Smile and spotlight performances from each member of the choir.
The nine-member choir also performed “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood to a large acclaim. Towards the end of the show, the choir shared that they “could not go anywhere and not sing ‘Oh Happy Day!’” The audience was up on their feet, clapping, singing and praising God like nothing I have seen before. After what appeared to be the end of their performance, the choir broke out into “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
The Harlem Gospel Choir’s performance was truly remarkable and filled about two-thirds of the theater. The transformation from a stoic audience to a very interactive and energetic one by the end of the performance is a testament to their ability to touch each person, lift one’s spirit and bring joy to others. The choir’s high-energy performance included having the audience singing in rounds, dancing in the aisles and reaching their hands towards the ceiling. One member remarked, “I don’t know what you do in churches sitting upright and uptight, but in the Pentecostal and Baptist churches, we stand, sing, and praise the Lord regardless of who’s watching.” The show was truly interactive and engaging.
As a regular listener to Maverick City Music and having listened to our own on-campus gospel choir, Harmonic Voices of Truth, the style of music was not substantially different from what I had expected. However, looking around the room you could see the surprise, awe and wonder on the faces of individuals who had not heard or experienced black gospel choir music before.
As time went on, these same people started to “loosen up,” clap their hands and dance along. The show was a testament to the importance of diverse entertainment and the work that the Luhrs Center does to provide cultural experiences to south-central Pennsylvania. The show was powerful, transformative and insighted an infectious energy and in the words of many, “you could truly feel the presence of the Lord.” The group continues to travel and spread their joy, soul and praise to God around the world. More information about the choir can be found on their website at https://www.harlemgospelchoir.com/
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