The stirring anthems of gospel choir music are returning to Newark later this summer, when Verizon’s “How Sweet the Sound Gospel Celebration” will be staged once again at the Prudential Center.
The Sept. 13 event is part of a competition featuring church choirs being held in more than half a dozen cities, including Newark. The winning group in each venue will then head to Brooklyn for a final competition, the winner of which claims up to $50,000 in cash and prizes.
Last year, Salvation and Deliverance Church Choir of North Carolina won the grand prize and the title "Best Gospel Choir in America," using the prize money for a program designed to help people in their community make healthier lifestyle choices as well as “adopt” five local families during the Christmas holiday.
Events like “How Sweet the Sound” help keep a vibrant American musical style flourishing despite changes in the music business, said Bishop Hezekiah Walker, a Grammy-winning choirmaster with the Love Fellowship Choir who helped found the concert series and is one of the judges.
“The recording industry is trying to get away from choirs consisting of large numbers of people because today, everyone in a recording studio has to get paid, and paying 200 people is expensive,” said Walker, a Brooklyn native who discovered gospel music as a child. “‘How Sweet the Sound’ helps keep the tradition alive.”
Along with Walker, “How Sweet the Sound” also features gospel greats Donald Lawrence, Yolanda Adams, Erica Campbell of Mary Mary, Fred Hammond and CeCe Winans. Lawrence and Adams serve as hosts, while Hammond, Winans and Campbell join Walker at the judge’s table.
Walker, who described gospel as a versatile medium, with offerings appropriate for joyous celebration or mournful observance, said the music also has the power to change lives -- or even save them.
“One story that comes to mind was of a young lady who came to a concert who had left her family a suicide note. She was having problems, she thought this was what she had to do,” Walker recalled. “And after the concert she gave me the note and said she was not going to do it.”
Tickets are avalable through Ticketmaster. For tickets click here or by phone at 800-745-3000. Tickets are also available at the Prudential box office.
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