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Young, Gifted, and Black Gospel Choir celebrates 45th anniversary

The Young Gifted and Black Gospel Choir at Grinnell in Seabring-Lewis for their 45th anniversary performance. Photo by Charun Upara

By Saiham Sharif

As a part of the Alumni Multicultural Reunion weekend, the Young, Gifted and Black Gospel Choir (YGB) celebrated their 45th anniversary with a concert in Sebring-Lewis Hall. Although some posters branded the event as YGB’s 50th anniversary, the concert was actually the group’s 45th anniversary. Founded in 1967, the group did not formally meet until 1972.

According to the Grinnell College website, the group’s name comes from a work titled “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” by the famous Black author Lorraine Hansberry. The same description on the website states the group organized around three basic goals: “cultural uniformity as a result of the Black Church experience; a strong desire to continue that same cultural heritage while pursuing higher education at Grinnell College; the choir’s expressed desire to act as an active agent in raising money for the Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund at Grinnell College.”

The group primarily sings Black gospel music, and often goes on tour to various cities.

“The choir does a plethora of songs ranging from hymns to newer, more contemporary gospel artists such as Travis Green and Casey J.,” wrote YGB member J’remi Barnes ’19 in an email to The S&B.

According to Barnes, although the group changes over time due to the four-year turnover at the College, they consistently maintain a positive musical energy.

“YGB has had its fluctuations of members each semester, but the energy that it provides people are still the same,” Barnes wrote. “YGB is a group that people join for many different reasons. Some people come to experience the community, music making, singing, to destress from the week and sometimes they come for an easy credit (which is okay also). For the most part we tend to be anywhere from 10-20 students each semester, but as previously mentioned, we tend to try to stick to the traditional values of the original YGB members.”

For their 45th anniversary concert, the group put on a unique performance. They began by singing choir songs, inviting the audience to sing and dance along with them, which can be difficult in the unwieldy auditorium, but many swayed and clapped their hands to the beat.

Surprisingly, YGB exited the stage and took seats. However, the same powerful energy they left was carried through as Created to Worship, a black choir group from New Orleans, stepped onto stage. The group wore light-up shoes, a relic of the past, and as they sung gospel music, they captured not only the audience’s ears, but also their eyes. They displayed the spirit of gospel music by wholeheartedly being themselves and having fun on stage. Even the most reserved audience members found themselves clapping their hands to the soulful rhythm.

Barnes’ experience with Created to Worship dates back before his time at Grinnell, having sung with the group during his youth. Barnes believed they would be a great addition to a celebration of YGB’s enduring time on campus.

“Forty-five years is a very amazing accomplishment, especially for a Christian group on this campus. Therefore, Michael [Sims, director of student activities] wanted to do something big for the anniversary,” Barnes said. “That’s when I mentioned my old choir from home. Created To Worship is a phenomenal group of singers and musicians that I’ve sang with for a few years now, and when Michael said that he was looking for groups and artists to come, they were the first people I thought of.”

The Young Gifted and Black Gospel Choir at Grinnell in Seabring-Lewis for their 45th anniversary performance.
Photo by Charun Upara
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