Sunday, September 09, 2012

Wall of sound

My parents spent the weekend here, and on Sunday my mother wanted to hear a big gospel choir, so we went to the Brooklyn Tabernacle. It was the 3 o'clock worship service (third of the day), and the famous choir was in street clothes. The choir, at least 180 strong, entirely filled the stage of this converted theater. This vast tableau took the place of an altar, and even of a sermon, a living picture of the broad community of Pentecostal Christianity, cutting across racial lines like no other American religious group.

Theirs was a mighty sound, but they were amplified by a small forest of microphones, and still had a hard time breaking through the synthesizer and rhythm sections at times! It was mainly banal Evangelical praise songs (You are mighty, Jesus is My Friend, etc.), except for one electrifying top-tempo gospel-style Glory Halleluia! Each song repeated often, ascending in volume, modulating chromatically upward and upward, plucking audience members one by one from their seats, their hands upraised or outstretched. Overpowering though it also is, the experience of this music speaks to people through people.

I was reminded of the international chorus assembled at Engage, the GLBTQ Asian conference I attended in Hong Kong (third picture down here), which drew from similar choirs singing similar praise music in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and providing a different but no less moving witness.

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