New Direction Choir takes on community and church choirs in regional competition
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The New Direction Choir from Tennessee State University took center stage Oct. 8 in Atlanta to compete against five other choirs to see who would walk away with bragging rights as the best gospel troupe in the region.
TSU’s choir took part in “How Sweet the Sound,” a nationwide search for the best gospel choir in the country. The New Direction Choir was the first HBCU choir to ever take part in the competition, and only the third university choir selected in the competition’s six years.
Competing against larger church and community choirs, New Direction captured the 1st Runner-Up award in the regional division.
“Hundreds of choirs applied for the competition, but only the very best were selected to take part,” said Deborah Chisom, director of Graduate Admission and the choir’s primary advisor. “The students were literally jumping for joy when they heard the good news. This was an opportunity to take our performance to another level.”
The choir submitted a video performance to the selection committee in early summer and found out in August that they were one of six choirs picked for the regionals in Atlanta. The choir had only a month to prepare, and, according to Chisom, the choir was given a list of approved songs that were cleared for the competition. They then had to select five songs from the list to sing, with the competition committee selecting the song they would eventually perform.
“It was very intense preparing for the competition,” added Chisom. “The other choirs we were competing against were larger and had more singing time together.”
None of that mattered when the choir took to the stage. Under the direction of TSU alumnus, Justin Butler, the 35-member choir belted out a creative rendition of the late Olanda Draper’s “My Soul Does Magnify The Lord.” The choir was judged on the creativity of the arrangement, their uniform, diction, choreography and audience participation.
Out of the six choirs performing, TSU captured the second spot and a $5,000 award. They also won the right to compete in the finale in Los Angeles if the winning choir is unable to make it or drops out.
“It is competitions like this that put TSU and the New Direction Choir on the map,” said Chisom. “We had numerous alumni from the Atlanta area watch the performance and they told us they had no idea that the University had such a wonderful and talented choir.”
“How Sweet the Sound,” which is sponsored by Verizon, is now in its sixth year of traversing the country for its best gospel choirs. This year’s competition launched in New Orleans Sept. 27, with stops in Dallas, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, and Detroit. Following the Atlanta show, the contest culminates with the finals in Los Angeles Nov. 2 where winners from each city compete for a $25,000 grand prize and a chance to record with eOne Music.