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2014-02-12 / Family

Stayed tuned

By Joan Hughes
Contributing Writer You


The VSU Gospel Chorale put on a show Sunday at Third Street Bethel Church in Jackson Ward. The chorale is scheduled to perform Thursday at the Central Library in Chesterfield. 
James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer The VSU Gospel Chorale put on a show Sunday at Third Street Bethel Church in Jackson Ward. The chorale is scheduled to perform Thursday at the Central Library in Chesterfield. James Haskins/Chesterfield Observer VSU Gospel Chorale set to educate, entertain may have to put the spring in your step, but the Virginia State University Gospel Chorale can almost certainly put the song in your heart.

And that can happen as soon as Thursday, Feb. 13, when the chorale is scheduled to perform at the Central Library in Chesterfield.

The chorale usually opens its shows with its signature song of more than 20 years, “Walk in Jerusalem,” which is combined with choreographed movements, said Michael Rainey, the group’s business manager and a former chorale member.

He said people can also expect to hear “a singing segment that talks about the evolution of gospel music as well as some modern-day selections because it’s a Black History [Month] program.”

The chorale’s music is chosen by director Perry Evans II and musical director Mark Johnson, according to Rainey.

Known for eye-catching attire and skillful choreography, the chorale’s accomplishments include several European tours, one of which concluded in December, and last summer’s appearances on the TV show “America’s Got Talent.”

The chorale, whose mission is “to spread God’s message through song and dance,” was founded in 1971 by then-VSU students Jackie Ruffin and Larry Bland, Rainey said. Currently, it has approximately 100 members – it has had as many as 150 – but only about half are expected to perform at the library, Rainey said. “Sometimes we scale down if needed, based on the venue,” he said.

To become a member of the chorale, a Virginia State University student must audition. That audition consists of the student singing a song of choice plus certain notes and/or scales after hearing them played on a piano, Rainey said. During the school year, the group practices two to three hours every Tuesday and Thursday, he noted.

“A lot of people may assume that because we’re a choir, we’re full of music majors, when the actuality is that about 90 percent of the members are not music majors,” Rainey said. Rainey was a chorale member from 1999 to 2002 and has been the group’s business manager – helping to book engagements and coordinate travel arrangements and handling the day-to-day business operations – since 2008.

Funding, he said, is one challenge the chorale faces. It takes a lot to move 100 people when you take into consideration hotels, buses, meals and other such things, Rainey said. The group is funded through the university, honorariums from engagements, and donations, he added.

As for what’s next for the chorale, Rainey said it “is always working on new things and seeking out opportunities.”

But back to the current one: The hour-long library program is a family event and people can expect to “learn more about the history of gospel music as well as enjoy a night of song and dance,” Rainey said.

The VSU Gospel Chorale is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, at Central Library, 9501 Lori Road, Chesterfield. Admission is free. Details: 748-1603 or library.chesterfield.gov.

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