Singers heed the call

Choir: When 500 vocalists were needed for a performance at the NAACP convention, Nathan Carter simply "put the word out."

Naacp 2000

July 12, 2000|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Roughly 500 voices. Sixteen hours of rehearsal. A 60-minute performance before an audience of 5,000.

The logistics of creating and directing a huge gospel choir to perform at the 91st annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention in Baltimore would seem daunting to just about anyone.

Anyone except Nathan Carter.

Carter, director of the Morgan State University Choir, has traveled the world with the college group. Morgan's choir has performed gospel and the works of Philip Glass, sung with the New York Philharmonic and Stevie Wonder, appeared at the White House and the Kennedy Center.

Carter has directed choirs of 2,000.

Finding 500 people to lift every voice and sing in the Gospel Convention Choir was simple, he said.

He just "put the word out."

"You bring your choir," he told his brother, the Rev. Harold A. Carter, pastor of New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore.

"And you bring your choir," he said to the Rev. Walter Scott Thomas, pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church, also in West Baltimore.

They did.

So did others.

An unknown number of individual singers and about 30 church choirs from the Baltimore area are represented in the NAACP gospel choir.

Denominations include African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of God in Christ, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic.

Many of the choir members are Nathan Carter's former students.

Others responded to open calls for singers that aired on gospel radio station WCAO-AM as well as WEAA-FM at Morgan State University.

The group was scheduled to perform last night at the Baltimore Convention Center as part of a bill headlined by Yolanda Adams and the Choir Boyz.

Their set was to range from traditional to contemporary gospel and feature solos by Tommy Roberts of Gillis Memorial Christian Community Church in Northwest Baltimore and others.

Many of the participants knew one another.

"This is like a big family reunion. The fellowship has been really sweet," said Patrick Alston, the minister of music at Enon Baptist Church in West Baltimore, who worked with the gospel choir.

Nadiyah Melvin, 53, of Northeast Baltimore, said she heard about the choir from the minister of music at Bethel AME Church in West Baltimore, where she is a member.

"It's all about praising the Lord," she said.

"I enjoyed coming together from all different churches as one," she added. "I met new people."

Marvelle Welsh, 53, a member of New Shiloh Baptist, said, "To me, it's a historic moment that [NAACP members are] having their convention here. I wanted to be a part of it."

The choir's first and last concert was supposed to be yesterday. But Carter, Alston and others want to keep the group together long after the last NAACP conventioneer leaves.

"It's such a wonderful group of talent," Alston said. "It would be a beautiful thing to stay together in the spirit of the convention."

"We have, in effect, formed a Baltimore interdenominational choir," Carter added. "I want to keep it going."

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