By Kelline Linton, Staff Writer
Students are preparing to hear more gospel around campus and in Chapel from the Gospel ensemble.
Samuel Cook, associate professor of music and artist in residence, created the ensemble after he began to feel a need for its type a year after he came to ACU in 2000. “[This ensemble] will give ACU another face of diversity that will represent the diversity on campus,” Cook said.
In the past, African American students started their own ensembles with no mentor or guidance. Cook wanted to provide the professional help an official ensemble could offer. “There is a great interest in gospel music not just among the African American students, but among all of the students here on campus,” Cook said.
ACU already has two ensembles- the A Cappella Choral Ensemble and the university’s Singers Choral Ensemble.
“I thought it would be nice to introduce another ensemble to give students more diversity in their selection of ensembles to sing in; the Gospel ensemble offers that opportunity,” Cook said.
This semester is a trial period for the ensemble.
“This is sort of like research and development right now. I am researching to see what interest there is, and I am also trying to develop repertoire and see what repertoire is available,” Cook said.
The group will sing gospel, spirituals and traditional choral music, all with sacred themes. The group may use musical instruments.
“In traditional gospel music there is an organ, piano, drums – there’s a real band,” Cook said. “I would like to experiment with the instruments to see how that would work.”
The ensemble will rehearse once a week, and Cook already has two shows planned for this semester. The group will sing at Southern Hills Church of Christ for the Racial Reconciliation Seminar on Nov. 3 and will also perform in a Christmas benefit concert for Ghana missions on Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. in the Williams Performing Arts Center.
Dr. Jerry Taylor, Dr. Tanya Bryce and Cook developed this idea of a gospel fundraising concert.
“We thought this would be a good way to support the mission work in Ghana,” Cook said.
The Gospel Ensemble is working to become official by next year with possible class credit status. Membership will be selected through auditions and open to anyone at ACU.
“Our Church of Christ tradition is so strongly built upon singing, but we don’t have a community of singers here on campus,” Cook said.
He said he hopes a community- wide ensemble will change this.
Twenty students are already preparing to participate in the Gospel Ensemble this semester.
Cook himself has past ensemble experience and is currently the director of Alabanza, a conglomeration of ACU students, faculty, staff and former students. This group travels to South America every summer to sing for missions and to attract people to church services.