An experimental gospel explosion at ONU

April 19, 2013

ADA — What happens when you mix an African-American church choir with a predominantly white gospel ensemble, and toss in a guest conductor of national ranking? It’s a concert for the ages, and it begins at 6 p.m. Sunday at Ohio Northern University.

Definitely a grand experiment, and one that Adriane Thompson-Bradshaw, director of the ONU Gospel Ensemble and a member of Lima’s Philippian Missionary Baptist Church choir, considered in joining the two groups. And, she topped the concert off with nationally known gospel minister Chris Byrd.

“This whole journey has gone in a direction I never really anticipated,” said Thompson-Bradshaw, who is also the vice president for student affairs and dean of students at ONU. “I first thought of doing this because I’m working on my dissertation, which is 'The Impact of Race on the Delivery and Reception of Gospel Music in the African American Tradition,'” she said.

She was surprised that the students were dedicated enough to learn the Gospel music, which she feared might not translate from race to race. “This music is different because it’s not necessarily notes on a page to learn and then sing. It’s words on a page, and the music is learned orally. And the learning is quick because you need your hands free. You can’t stand and sing and carry your music. It’s performance that’s fully engaged,” she said.

And teaching the concert class is the Philippian Missionary choir. “We have about 40 to 50 members who sing a mixture of traditional and contemporary gospel music most Sundays at church. The ages of the choir members range from 18 to 80 years. And that’s great, because this music is an outword expression of an inward faith, and there’s no age barrier on that.”

A win-win for both groups, Thompson-Bradshaw believes the real winners at the concert will be the audience. “It’s going to be a great time, and a very diversifying experience for the audience.”