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‘Bright light’: One New Mexico Gospel Concert aims to help build ‘shared identity’

Kelontae Gavin will be part of the One New Mexico Gospel Concert on Sunday, Feb. 16. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Black Leadership Council)

There is more to the One New Mexico Gospel concert than music.

The event was created to bring together people of all faiths, cultures and walks of life.

“We believe that when we’re together that we’re better and that it promotes that cross-cultural understanding, builds shared identity and special capital, and that’s what a choir really is,” said Cathryn McGill, founder and director of New Mexico Black Leadership Council. “It’s a shared identity, and we can bring these people together and to work together in this choir to literally and figuratively create harmony. And that will be a bright light shining in New Mexico for people to use as an example about how we begin to work on solving the issues that we find in our community that are so prevalent.”

Gospel music has a powerful message and a long history.

“We wanted to highlight and shine the light on what this music has done in terms of building our resilience and where the spirituals came from,” McGill said. “When people were escaping slavery they used some of the songs to help send messages, like in ‘Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home’ was a message about a real place. It was a coded message about escaping to freedom.”

This year’s concert will feature YouTube viral sensation Kelontae Gavin.

“He has the mind what my parents and grandparents would call an old soul,” Gavin said. “He’s a young man, but he is able to infuse such a powerful message in his voice, like, in some cases,with this traditional style of gospel that is uplifting and powerful and emotional and motivational and you can have this way of performing and bringing together audiences that has made him become this huge star. He is on his way up.”

The CityWide Interfaith Choir, under the direction of Dr. Stevie Springer, will perform a diverse repertoire along with special guest vocalists.

“We’re doing Linda Tillery’s version of ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ which is the negro national anthem,” McGill said. “We’re going to do an ensemble performance … from the movie ‘Harriet.’ We’re going to be doing ‘Stand Up.’ ”

Singer Toni Morgan will lead the song “Stand Up.” Morgan is an “amazing vocalist” who was on the road with Gladys Knight for about seven years. She now lives and works in Albuquerque. DeWitt Bolden will be singing some spirituals and the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Band will serve as the backup band for the concert. Other performers include Rosalind Sanders Jones who is an Internationally renowned gospel artist who lives and works in Albuquerque.

“It’s a really special time each year for this concert, and we know that when people come they’re both going to hear good music and they’re going to be a part of something that is greater than all of us, which is doing our part to putting our energy into this collective that is about promoting true multiculturalism and literal and figurative harmony in New Mexico,” McGill said.

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