Chico State celebrates black gospel for Black History Month

Angelic voices rang throughout the Performing Arts Center as a celebration of black gospel music took place Friday afternoon. 

The Rev. Robert Morton from the Celebration Gospel Choir of Chico, originating from Bethel AME Church, warmed up the audience with popular tunes such as the “Cheers” theme song and “The Sacred and Secular” by Gladys Knight. Morton encouraged the audience to sing unapologetically with his bellowing voice and set the tone for the rest of the service. 

“You don’t need a hymn book, all you need is the heart to sing,” Morton said.

This much proved true as dozens in the auditorium sang along to unbeknownst songs with the satin-clad choir.

The choir performed numerous songs ranging from “Psalm 8” by Richard Smallwood to Chance the Rapper’s “Sunday Candy.” By the end of the night, the audience was glowing and the choir’s creeping smiles had formed into full blown grins. 

Morton reminded the auditorium of the importance of togetherness and the perseverance of black lives growing from their formidable pasts through gospel music. 

Former journalism professor from Chico State, Lori Voorhees, participated in the choir alongside numerous students and other members of the church, sharing in their praise.

“I think gospel music is life changing for everyone,” Voorhees said. “I have health issues and when I’m singing I only focus on the message that I’m trying to send to the audience. It’s a blessing.”

Many members of the choir felt similarly, expressing their appreciation for the communal aspect of gospel music and the way it enveloped their lives. 

“I’m not religious myself, but it’s such a cool environment with a friendly community, so that’s my favorite part of this experience,” said pianist Webster Moore.

Whether a singer or part of the band, all of the members of the choir seem to share one thing: their love for music. The performance was a prime example of the way music draws people of all different backgrounds together, a trait Chico State has been yearning for in past years.

“It’s always important for us to help find ways for students to connect and music would be a fabulous way to create that connection,” President Gayle Hutchinson said following the performance. 

In honor of Black History Month, Chico State is hosting numerous inclusive and diverse events that can be found on the Chico State calendar and flyers around campus. 

Melissa Joseph can be reached at [email protected]