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Gospel Choirs Team for WPA’s 50th Anniversary Fete

Though it may be hard to fathom that they have been a part of the community for so long, Washington Performing Arts (formerly Washington Performing Arts Society) will celebrate its Silver Jubilee with the Men, Women and Children of the Gospel Choirs in a rare combined concert Friday, June 2 at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda.

For their 25th anniversary, the choirs will present “Renew,” curated by WPA Gospel Choirs Artistic Director Stanley J. Thurston and Michele Fowlin, director of the Children of the Gospel Choir. The program will focus on four elements: Mind, Earth, Body and Spirit, each having its own musical selections intended to inspire hope and healing in trying times.

Children of the Gospel Choir (Courtesy of Washington Performing Arts)
Children of the Gospel Choir (Courtesy of Washington Performing Arts)

Narrated by Jacquie Gales Webb of WHUR-FM, a thread between each section is presented in a script written by Tony Award-winning lyricist/playwright Murray Horwitz that combines the traditional, the original, the contemporary and the reconstructed sounds of gospel music in a presentation that will also premiere two compositions — “DC Water” by renowned folk/blues musician Toshi Reagon and “Dwelling Place,” penned and arranged by Thurston.

The two new songs were commissioned by WPA. Other works by artists as diverse as Marvin Gaye, Hezekiah Walker, Richard Smallwood and late D.C. legend Chuck Brown will round out the program.

Numerous notable alumni from throughout the choirs’ 25-year legacy will return for guest performances, including Annisse Murillo and C. Anthony Bryant, both whom were once members of the Children of the Gospel Choir.

“In putting together this program for the Men, Women & Children of the Gospel Choirs’ Silver Jubilee, Michele Fowlin and I wanted to showcase the versatility of the choirs and the unique ability of music to renew and refresh the mind and the spirit,” Thurston said. “I’m thrilled that the choirs will be able to share some remarkable works with our local audience, including two brand new works and several pieces by local gospel luminaries Richard Smallwood, James Glover and Evelyn Simpson Curenton.”

The occasion will also mark the official release date for the Men, Women & Children of the Gospel Choirs’ debut album, “Why Do We Sing?” which will be available after the concert. There will also be an after-party to give the audience an opportunity to interact with the performers and reflect on the evening with the presenters.

Tickets are available via WashingtonPerformingArts.org.

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