Joyful Voices:  Michele Fowlin-conductor of the Children of the Gospel drops in for an interview about the Silver Jubilee concert this Friday, June 2 at the Music Center at Strathmore, celebrating Washington Performing Arts’ storied 50 year legacy of bringing exceptional arts program to Washington!

by Patrick D. McCoy

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The program, carefully curated by Thurston and Children of the Gospel Choir Music Director Michele Fowlin, highlights four elements—Mind, Earth, Body, and Spirit—each comprising musical selections that speak to the idea of healing and finding hope in difficult times. The host for the evening, Jacquie Gales Webb of WHUR-FM, will provide a thread linking each section together with a narrative penned by playwright and lyricist Murray Horwitz, a Tony-winner for the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’. The 100+ singers of the Men & Women of the Gospel and Children of the Gospel Choirs—backed by an instrumental ensemble of piano, brass, strings, percussion, and more, led by Anthony Walker—will perform, both together and separately, gospel standards like “A Quiet Place” and “Matthew 28” (with choreography by Michele Fowlin and Megan Merchant). Other less traditional, but no less fitting, works on the program include “What’s Goin’ On” and, in homage to the Choir’s D.C. roots, a Chuck Brown medley. Alumni from the Children of the Gospel Choir, many of whom have launched successful careers in music after their time in the program, will join for this joyous occasion, including Annisse Murrillo, who will perform the solo for “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel, and C. Anthony Bryant, a gospel musician currently based in New York City.

“In putting together this program for the Men, Women & Children of the Gospel Choirs’ Silver Jubilee, (Children of the Gospel Choir Music Director) Michele Fowlin and I wanted to showcase the versatility of the choirs and the unique ability of music to renew and refresh the mind and spirit,” said Thurston. “I’m thrilled that the choirs will be able to share some remarkable works with our local audience, including two brand new works—one by the fantastic Toshi Reagon, and another that I composed for our Children of the Gospel Choir—and several pieces by local gospel luminaries, including Richard Smallwood, James Glover, andEvelyn Simpson Curenton.”

Following the performance, all patrons will be welcome to attend the “Linger Longer!” after-party, celebrating the choir’s Silver Jubilee and 50th Anniversary Season finale in the lobby with the artists and a cash bar. Hosted and sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Junior Board.

June 2 will also mark the official release date for the Men, Women & Children of the Gospel Choirs’ debut CD, Why Do We Sing?, which will be available for sale after the concert. The disc features studio recordings of the title track by Gale Jones Murphy, “Amazing” by Stephanie Oplacio and Hezekiah Walker, the traditional “Ol’ Ship of Zion,” arranged by Stanley J. Thurston, and more.