Music was my passion in high school, and, together with swimming, consumed most of my time. When I came to Penn State, I wanted to find one group to keep my love of music going, because I had decided that I didn’t want to make a career out of it. I ended up auditioning for an extremely unusual choir (for me) that I hadn’t had much experience with.
Essence of Joy is an African and African American Choir, and we perform music ranging from traditional to gospel. Being a part of the choir has been an incredible, eye-opening experience that has made me aware of so much. There are many things that I have discovered through Essence, one of the most unexpected was spirituality. I am Protestant, and am involved in my church at home and sometimes perform there, but my definition of spirituality was dashed from the first day of rehearsal.
Singing this kind of music for people unpacks a whole new definition of spirituality, for the audience and for the singers. For me, the best word to describe it is happiness, and a general uplifting feeling. This semester, Essence is traveling to a conference next week in Baltimore to perform, as well as periodic performances throughout the Spring. During Spring break, we are going on a tour of the south, starting in Maryland and working our way down to Orlando, Florida.
I plan to post about my experiences during those trips, as well as what happens at rehearsals and the ideas behind the group. Essence was featured on the PSU homepage this month (in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.) and there is a short video and article that place Essence in the context of the civil rights movement.
And yes, I am a very white person in an African-American Choir, but oddly (and in my opinion interestingly) there are quite a few of us. The choir is incredibly diverse; a bass from Nigeria, a handful of singers from the Bronx, and even a Jewish soprano, but we are all there for one reason: to share Joy.