BY NATHAN VALDES
Salisbury University students and community members filled in the seats of the Holloway Hall Auditorium as they awaited the tunes of various gospel artists from around the U.S. at Salisbury University Gospel Choir’s third annual “Coming Home to Jesus” Concert.
The concert concluded the events for SU’s Homecoming Week on Sunday, Oct. 14.
Several groups and artists were present to display their musical talents in praise and gospel genres. The lineup of groups included Bruce Murray and The Anointed, University of Maryland Eastern Shore Choir and Madison Copeland, in addition to the SUGC.
The concert kicked off with Bruce Murray and The Anointed, who performed several upbeat songs that moved the crowd to their feet.
Bruce Murray Jr., a South Carolina native, is a local artist who has performed in gospel music all his life, and formed the band in January 2018.
The work that went into this production was “extensive” and “pain-stakingly long,” according to the SUGC Chaplain and Assistant Director Annabelle Midley.
“As a general member, your responsibility is mostly just to learn the songs and show up for rehearsal,” Midley said. “As far as being on the e-board, as chaplain and assistant director, teaching the songs, making sure that everything is going the right way spiritually as far as what songs we choose.”
When it comes to the decision-making process in reaching out to the other gospel groups, Midley revealed that the homecoming concert often draws the attention of outside artists and they often reach out to Midley to be a part of it.
The UMES Gospel Choir, established for more than 30 years and known for performing with national artists like Kirk Franklin and Hezekiah Walker, was also a huge part of the concert, following up after Bruce Murray & The Anointed.
The SUGC, the host of the concert, was originally started in 1984 as a student ensemble devoted to gospel music for both the Salisbury University campus and the local community.
In 2003, the SUGC Liturgical Dance Ensemble was birthed under the leadership of Ashley Clayborne, then president of the SUGC.
The SUGC has performed at many venues and with a number of well-known artists across the East Coast over the years. The choir has performed with nationally recognized artists such as the late Rev. Timothy Wright, Darius Brooks and Douglas Miller, according to the concert’s handout.
With all the performances the SUGC has performed, this year was the first year they performed on the stage of the Holloway Hall Auditorium and this was seen as a large improvement compared to previous years.
“It’s a bigger venue and, in the Wicomico Room, because of the carpeted floor, a lot of our sound as the choir is eaten up and you don’t get a lot of the vocals no matter what sound system you use,” Midley said. “Versus in Holloway, where the sound is a lot better. It’s more of a concert hall setting, rather than chairs set up on the same plain.”
While the preparation was extensive, the outcome was described as excellent to those who attended, both gospel music fans and people new to the genre.
Gloria Rodriguez, an international exchange student from Spain, had never heard gospel music before going to the SUGC concert.
“I liked the concert!” Rodriguez said. “It was a new experience for me. It was cool.”
Rodriguez also stated that the SUGC was her favorite part of the concert.
“I really liked the SU Gospel Choir and Madison Copeland,” Rodriguez said.
Madison Copeland, a local rising artist with experience as a backup vocalist for Dee Daniels and Third Day, was the emcee for the night as well as the closing act.
As a local artist, Copeland has intertwined a contemporary mix of rock, pop, urban, hip-hop and gospel genres in his work.
“I liked the experience … it was very spiritual, and you could feel what others were saying,” Rodriguez said.
Featured image by Justin Williams