by Debbonnaire Kovacs
by Debbonnaire Kovacs and Tim Allston
submitted March 26, 2014
April 19 Easter Eve Benefit Concert with legends Richard Smallwood and Angela Brown to raise funds for July Latvia trip
In October, 2012, Adventist Today reported that Oakwood University’s Aeolianshad won gold in the biennial World Choir Games. This July, they will be going to Riga, Latvia to defend their titles. Currently, the Aeolians are world-ranked #22 overall (of 1,000 competing international choirs), and world-ranked #2 in pop/jazz/gospel/spiritual category. https://www.interkultur.com/leftnavi/world-rankings/
This trip, as you might imagine, will not be inexpensive. The choir needs to raise some $70,000 (of the $220K) to go to Latvia. Therefore, they're presenting an Easter Eve benefit concert at Oakwood, featuring gospel music legend Richard Smallwood and Metropolitan Opera star/former Aeolian Angela Brown. Ms. Brown will conduct Masters classes at Oakwood on the Wednesday previous.
In order to prepare the choristers, including twenty new choir members this year, to compete in both the classical and gospel genre, director Jason Max Ferdinand is bringing in the tops in each field (Angela and Smallwood) to tune them up and push them to world-class excellence – both in terms of role modeling and stage presentation.
Former Oakwood publicity director, Tim Allston, reports, “Bernard Williams, longtime director of the Miles College (Birmingham) choir, asked me recently, quite sincerely: ‘What is it about your Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle that makes y'all sing so good?’” Allston adds, “Legendary Huntsville college choir director and minister Dr. Henry Bradford once remarked offhandedly, ‘It's that lack of nicotine in y'all's lungs!’”
Allston wonders whether there is, in fact, a distinct “Oakwood sound”. If so, could it be, “as some contend, due in part to the tobacco/alcohol-free diet and lifestyle (a biblically-mandated seventh-day of rest for 24 hours), etc.?" He points out that if you ask the choristers themselves, they would say “the sound” is created in the grueling sectional rehearsals.
It is true that Oakwood was touted as “the Juilliard of the south” on the Times Square marquee during the 2013 holiday season—an epithet attributed to WAAY TV. Speaking with obvious affection for his school, Allston suggests perhaps Oakwood is “the small school with the BIG MOUTH!”
As far as we know, the Aeolians will be the Huntsville's/Alabama's/historically Black colleges and universities'/Seventh-day Adventist’s lone representative in Latvia in 2014 — as was the case in 2012, its first-ever international competition.