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Community Gospel Choir invites public to annual concert
Turlock Community Gospel Choir
The Turlock Community Gospel Choir will be performing Saturday and Sunday night with special Guest Director Freddy Washington, Jr. (Photo contributed).

The Turlock Community Gospel Choir is in its final days of practice as it prepares for the annual Winter Gospel Choir performance.

Because of the popularity of the free concert, organizers have decided to expand it to two nights this year. Performances are set for 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday at Hope Church at 316 S. Laurel St., in Turlock. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. Joining the program will be Guest Director Freddy Washington, Jr.

The Turlock Community Gospel Choir was the creation of Turlock Covenant Church’s music director Thomas Simonsson, whose love of gospel music began in his home country of Sweden, where gospel music has been growing in popularity over the last 60 years, according to the website Gospel Around the World.

“He had this vision to create a community gospel choir that would bring together many different churches from the area,” said Lori Carlson, the chair of the TCGC’s leadership team.

The first show was in the fall of 2016 and was a ringing success.

“My husband and I went to the concert and I said, ‘I want to be a part of that,’” Carlson said. “I hadn’t sung since my freshmen year in high school because it wasn’t my favorite thing. But I definitely knew I wanted to be a part of that gospel choir.”

Simonsson has since moved out of state, but the choir has continued to grow in popularity. They are an open community choir that does not require auditions.

“All our welcome,” said TCGC leadership team member and chaplain Eunice Johnson. “If you love the music, then you’re welcome to join.”

The music selection the choir will be performing is largely from the African-American musical genre, Johnson explained. African American gospel music is rooted in call and response church singing and was a precursor to black Gospel music, according to the “Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America.” The music was primarily songs that were written by African American composers in the decades following emancipation that focused on biblical themes and spirituals.

Some of the songs that will be featured in the weekend shows are: “Total Praise,” “Pray,” “God is My Everything,” “I Give You Praise,” and “Worth.”

Johnson has made it a goal to make sure the choir reflects the diverse cultural history.

“Cultural richness can be vacant in the Valley,” said Johnson. “And this choir is really helping bring together a diverse group of people.”

The current choir features about 70 members from 20 different churches.