The debut of Gospel at York

The York University Gospel Choir, directed by Karen Burke, will lift its voice with unabashed spirit in its debut concert at York on Nov. 29.

Accompanied by a live rhythm section, the choir will perform favourites from contemporary gospel artists such as Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary. The evening will also feature guest hip-hop dance troupe DFC, directed by third-year York music student Nathan Gerber.

Left: Karen Burke performing with the Toronto Mass Choir

Simple, yet profound, gospel music is compelling and the message is clear. This rich choral form, rooted in African-American culture, contains a lyrical theme of praise, hope and encouragement. Today’s contemporary gospel music has an urban feel to it, combining traditional gospel concepts with hip-hop rhythms, R & B ballads, reggae and Caribbean folk.

“Gospel music has such great energy,” said Burke. “It’s more than just singing. It’s inspirational music that makes you feel good.”

Burke joined the full-time faculty in York’s Music Department this summer to teach jazz vocals and lead the newly-established Gospel Choir. She brings to her position extensive experience as a music director, performer and composer. As an authority on the history and performance practices of Gospel music, she has worked with major choral ensembles and organizations including the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Youth Choir, Toronto Choral Society and Ontario Choral Federation, as well as numerous schools and church congregations.

In 1988, she co-founded the Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir (TMC) and continues to serve as their principal director, touring nationally and internationally. A prolific composer and arranger of Gospel repertoire, she has written many original songs, including some for TMC’s new CD, titled The Live Experience, slated for release Nov. 25.

Her work on the concert stage and in the recording studio includes collaborations with such leading musical lights as Alvin Slaughter, Jean Ashworth Bartle and Jackie Richardson. For 12 years, she performed and recorded with her own group, the Gospel quartet Sweet Sound.

The 19-member Gospel Choir is the latest addition to York’s rich jazz and vocal music programs, which also boast four jazz choirs, four choirs devoted to classical music, and a world music chorus.

The Gospel Choir takes the stage Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7:30pm in McLaughlin Performance Hall, 050 McLaughlin College, located on York’s Keele campus. Admission is $10 and $5 for students and seniors. For more information, call ext. 55186.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.