Mercyhurst’s newest music group, the Mercyhurst University Gospel Choir, has been meeting for two weeks.
The original idea was that of Brian Ripley, Ph.D., professor of Political Science. Ripley then approached Greg Baker, director of Campus Ministry, with the idea.
Ripley was inspired to create the group in light of incidents of racial violence that took place over the past summer, particularly the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The idea, according to Ripley, was to create “an inclusive group that has faculty, staff, students (and) crosses all kinds of boundaries.” The boundaries Ripley hopes to cross include those that are religious, racial, ethnic and gender, among others.
Gospel music seemed the correct venue for this kind of group, due to its origins in several communities across America and its role in the American civil rights movement.
So far, turnout for the group has included students, faculty and staff, which brings with it its own challenges and rewards. Finding a meeting time that works for both students and staff has proven difficult.
The choir has already served to bring members of the Mercyhurst community closer together.
“We have different relationships when we’re faculty and students in class, or faculty and staff working with each other than we do when we’re singing. A lot of the barriers are broken down,” Ripley said.
“The only way we’re separated is by our voice parts,” Baker said.
The hope for the group is to meet a few more times this semester before revitalizing in the spring semester.
In the meantime, an important part of the Gospel Choir is enjoyment.
“It’s a no-pressure kind of environment,” said Baker. “We’re not asking people to audition to become part of it. If you feel like you can carry a tune, and you’re interested in being around some good people, enjoy the experience of singing and letting loose a little bit. It’s just a good place to be.”
One student member is Aysayeh Murray, a junior Biology major. He has an extensive music background and has been singing for years. He has participated in multiple Gospel choirs before joining the one at Mercyhurst.
“It’s a fun time,” said Murray. “It’s a really comfortable, relaxed dynamic where everyone in the choir is comfortable with each other.”
Murray highly recommends the experience of participating in a Gospel choir to staff and fellow students.
While a background with music is not required, it is asked that participants have an interest and the ability to carry a tune.
The group is still establishing itself and its style, and much is still in flux, but participants are pleased with results so far and are hopeful for the future.
Anyone who is interested in participating may contact either Ripley or Baker for information. All are welcome.