For three decades Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir (COTG) has brought young people together, not only to offer an outlet and showcase their talent, but spread hope.
Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel, under the direction of Michele Fowlin, is celebrating 30 years this year. (Courtesy photo)
“I think that the truth of lasting for so long is because the mission, the purpose of even starting, was pure and right, and it was speaking to so many of the young people who were in the D.C. community at a time where we didn’t have megachurches like that. There weren’t a great amount of outlets for these kids to be able to perform,” COTG Artistic Director Michele Fowlin told The Informer in a WIN-TV interview.
On December 12, 1993, COTG performed their first concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts under the direction of Richard Smallwood. As the organization is celebrating 30 years, Fowlin explained how Children of the Gospel has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving.
“Think about the Kennedy Center or Strathmore, the opportunities to be on these main stages, and on top of that, performing gospel music. On top of giving them an outlet where they’re not going to get in trouble on a Saturday. And on top of that, having some dynamic directors. We’re bringing in about 200 plus students to come into Shiloh Baptist, Alfred Street Baptist Church to praise and worship God– powerful. That kind of impact just keeps going on and on,” said Fowlin, who has led COTG for 18 of the choir’s 30-year history. “We have these generations of alumni who have children [in the choir]. Children, that’s crazy, too.”
This year, COTG is continuing their legacy of praising God and spreading light and love through performances.
The choir is collaborating with Baltimore native Joseph Parrish in his debut performance as a Young Concert Artist (YCA) “ at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre on Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
“This program is designed to create a communal space,” Parrish said in a statement. “I have programmed multiple genres of music; from German romantic to American songbook to gospel. There is something here for everybody, through the vessel of music.”
Working with Parrish has been a treat for COTG, Fowlin said.
“His rearing was in church, and he plays piano and he gets gospel music,” she said. “And doing this collaboration together, it’s been really good. He’s so personable. He’s so down-to-earth… with this incredible gift and talent. And to be able to share it with the young people, talk to them, and just pour into them too, we’re excited.”
Less than two weeks after their performance with Parrish, on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., COTG will take the Kennedy Center stage again, this time in the Concert Hall, for “Living the Dream… Singing the Dream,” in collaboration with The Choral Arts Society of Washington. This is a return for COTG in more ways than one, as Fowlin said the choir has performed as part of the annual concert celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy for a “long time.”
“It’s the celebration of Martin Luther King and all of his legacy and principles that we still are either attempting to or living by today. And it’s to celebrate this great man who had such a great impact for not only African Americans, but for the world in general,” she said, noting that King was also a young man during his fight for justice. “To me it’s just incredible the purpose and mission that he served coming to this world, so we’re celebrating him.”
Fowlin also explained that this year’s “Living the Dream… Singing the Dream,” will be a bit different than past performances.
“The concert is going to look a little different as we have changed it up a bit so that you feel and you hear music that is really, really related to this great man,” she said.
30 Years of Children of the Gospel
From the very first time Fowlin heard them perform in the 1990s, she knew COTG was something special.
“I saw them rehearsing and I thought, ‘What kind of thing am I listening to right now? This is absolutely incredible to watch– 200 plus young people just singing praises and sounding so good,’” Fowlin said. “I remember saying at that time, ‘One of these days, I’m going to direct this group. I didn’t know just at that moment how powerful words really are. And so, the kids know now that I’m always talking about being mindful of what you say into this sphere, because the universe is charged to bring it right back around.”
Planning to wow audiences with several performances this year, including the Washington Performing Arts gala on Friday, March 15, COTG is also gearing up for their 30th anniversary celebration on June 1.
“Still Woke: Celebrating 30 Years of Artistry, Advocacy, and Legacy,” will be a special celebratory concert showcasing current COTG members, alumni and former artistic directors. Under the artistic direction of Fowlin, the show features musical direction from Anthony Walker and choreography by Karon Johnson, and will be held at Lisner Auditorium in Northwest, D.C. on George Washington University’s Foggy Bottom campus.
Fowlin reflected on the choir’s three-decade history with pride and joy as they prepare to celebrate 30 years.
“Here we are, getting ready to celebrate and we’re going to have alumni coming in from all over the country and helping us to just build a day that says ‘Hey, we’ve made it 30 years. What an accomplishment. Let’s celebrate and make it another 30,’” Fowlin said.
Source: Washington Informer