An adrenaline rush will penetrate members of the Voices of Peter Claver Choir May 5 as they step on the Gospel tent stage May 5 at 12:50 p.m. at Jazz and Heritage Festival. And once the 50-plus voices launch their 45-minute set, the tent will be rocking.
“It’s exhilarating,” said Nathaniel Brooks, a 30-year choir tenor about singing at Jazz Fest. “The people are so into what we are doing, considering all the things going on (at the fest). They are really into the praise. We make a connection with the people. They feel what we feel. The music transcends from us to the audience and back to us.
This is the fourth consecutive year the Voices of Peter Claver has been invited to perform, and several members, including music director Veronica Downs-Dorsey, have appeared many times previously with other groups.
Experience has taught Downs-Dorsey that an upbeat tempo of spiritual music fills the Gospel tent and keeps the crowd enthusiastic.
“We start off fast and end fast,” Downs-Dorsey said. “I try to do church songs – some old school – but with a contemporary flavor to them. We do a lot of movement for the crowd, and they love it. We also do a lot of call-and-answer to work the crowd in the tent.”
During this year’s set, Carlos Armstrong on keyboard, Jerrell Mayne on piano, Brian Quezergue on bass, Timothy Ray on organ, Veronique Dorsey on drums and Merlin Summers on bongos will accompany the group on “He’s All Over Me,” “Spirit,” “Let Everything that Has Breath,” “Fire,” “Swing Low, “All in His Hand,” “Jesus Promised” and “Raise Your Hand.” A few soloists will be spotlighted.
“One thing about this choir is they love to sing and they show it by the expressions on their faces,” Downs-Dorsey said.
It is said that music is praying twice, and choir member Emelda Paul certainly finds performing Gospel music at Jazz Fest spiritually uplifting.
“When I’m singing, I’m with the Holy Spirit,” Paul said. “If I can touch someone with my singing, then it means I am doing God’s work. … It’s about serving others and, in that, we serve God. Our ministry is to touch others. By the time we leave that tent, we have touched someone and made a difference.”
The music certainly resonates with the packed crowds that come every year to see the Voices of Peter Claver.
“Somebody may come into the tent with problems but when they see our facial expressions, they forget about those problems,” Downs-Dorsey said. “When we leave the tent, I hope that everybody is refreshed and has more of an appreciation of the Lord through our music. Our time singing is an experience of praise to God through song.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.