Gospel Choirs Achieve ‘Level Next’ in Season Finale Concert

Multi-Stellar Award winner Richard Smallwood served as the featured special guest at the Washington Performing Arts’ season finale concert, held June 7 at the Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda.

The program, titled, “Level Next: A Celebration of Gospel Choirs,” also featured WPA’s combined Men, Women & Children of the Gospel Choirs.

“Although gospel as a genre has flourished over the decades, the key role of the choir in gospel music isn’t always as appreciated as it should be,” said Theodore Thorpe III, artistic director of the Men and Women of the Gospel Choir.

Photo by Shannon Finney
Photo by Shannon Finney

“With the rise of praise teams and smaller ensembles leading worship services and concerts, the choir has somewhat been an afterthought,” he said. “We must remember that the choir is a direct physical, spiritual, and emotional representation of the people to whom they minister. For the congregation, parishioner, and audience member, it is a relationship with which they can tangibly and vocally identify. That powerful distinction cannot be overstated.”

With more than 50 years of D.C. gospel music history between them, the Combined Men, Women & Children of the Gospel Choirs — deemed the DMV’s finest choral groups – joined voices to celebrate their prominence as staples in the local gospel music scene.

In addition, DMV-based singer and choir director Monique Steele-Griffiths rendered a performance on the program that showcased the proud legacy of choral music in the gospel tradition and took a joyous look toward the music’s future with multiple generations of singers performing old-school hits, contemporary classics, and more.

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