Wayne County State Court Judge Vi Bennett recently traveled to New York to become one voice in a choir of 160, as well as a full complement of orchestra, that performed at one of America’s most revered venues, Carnegie Hall for a production billed as The Great New York HymnSing and The 50th Anniversary Performance of Celebrate Life!, which was conducted by Dr. Tim Sharp, Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association and was the former Director of Choral Activities at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
The Great New York HYMNSING was performed with contemporary Christian artists Travis Cottrell and Selah. These artists arranged traditional hymns for themselves, the chorus, and orchestra. At times, the audience was also encouraged to sing the hymns. Judge Bennett said that her favorite hymn of the night was “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, which was Mr. Cottrell’s arrangement that predominantly featured him as a soloist but concluded with almost every instrument in the orchestra, as well as each voice part divided into multi-part harmonies. She stated that this work was also the most vocally challenging of the night as the last note of the piece required her to sing and sustain a high C for several measures.
After the conclusion of the HymnSing, the production proceeded immediately into the performance of Celebrate Life!. Written in the 1970s by lyrist Ragan Courtney (who travelled from California to this performance) and the late composer Buryl Red, Celebrate Life! reflects the gospel of Jesus Christ and was inspired by such Broadway shows as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. Celebrate Life! was performed throughout the country in the early 70’s and the members of the choir at the Carnegie Hall production were predominantly compiled of people, such as Judge Bennett, who had performed the work in their local churches when they were teenagers.