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Emi Belciak teaches third grade in a tough part of suburban St. Louis, where she says her students are exposed to more violence than any child should be.
The school where Belciak teaches is just three miles from the site in Ferguson, Mo., where Michael Brown was killed. Five years have passed, but this part of north St. Louis County hasn’t completely healed.
Belciak - Something - Choir
Belciak wanted to do something to help — so she joined a choir.
The Community Gospel Choir of St. Louis is dedicated to bridging the black and white communities in a metropolitan area rarely associated with racial harmony. The diverse group aims to break down racial, cultural and economic barriers among its members and the community.
75-member - Choir - Monday - Night - Rehearsals
The 75-member choir opens its Monday night rehearsals with group prayer. Next, the choir preps for an upcoming performance or refines a new song. The idea is to get the lyrics and music memorized so the choir can improvise in front of an audience, just like a jazz or blues musician would.
At the core of the repertoire are message songs, about gathering inner strength in the face of adversity. Typical are the rousing “Call on the Lord” and “Now I’m on My Way.”
Choir - Percent - Percent - Choirs - Members
The choir is 40 percent black and 60 percent white, unlike many choirs that are either all white or all black. CGC members often socialize outside of official choir activities, say group members. They go out to eat and sometimes belt out a rock anthem together at a karaoke bar.
Most are Christian. For them, singing gospel music is a religious experience.
Choir - Endeavor - Races - Spirituals - Gospel
“What really attracted me was the choir’s endeavor to bring races together through African-American spirituals and gospel,” said Suzanne Palmer, the group’s musical director. “I thought, this is great, to try and bring the races together through the good news of Jesus. I...
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