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Gospel choirs rock Oracle Arena with big sweet music

on October 11, 2010

Vocal exercises sounded throughout the backstage dressing room hallways of the Oracle Arena Saturday evening. Singers swiftly maneuvered around choir robe racks and other singers as they hurried to join their groups for final prayers before taking the stage.

Their preparation was for this year’s 2010 “How Sweet the Sound” gospel choir competition. Eight Bay Area church choirs, including three from Oakland, performed before a sold-out crowd of 10,000 people during the regional event. North Oakland’s Harmony Baptist Church Unity Choir was there, along with choirs from East Oakland’s Center of Hope Community Church and the Faith Deliverance Center.

Following a multiple-choir opening performance, which included several singers from each choir, the Harmony Baptist singers rushed to put on their blue, white and gold-trimmed robes and take the stage to be the first group singing in the competition, with their rendition of There Is No Way. “As soon as we were up there, we said ‘We’ve got to just do this,’” said Sister Yvonne Cobbs-Bey, Harmony Baptist’s choir director. While performing, the group sings directly to God, she said.  “It’s like a prayer and talking to God and telling him we can’t live without him,” she said. “That he’s there for us all the time.”

Angelic Voices of Deliverance, the Faith Deliverance Center singers and winners of the 2009 regional competition, gave the contest’s closing performance with the song, Mighty God.

Grammy award-winning gospel artists CeCe Winans and Donald Lawrence hosted the event, sponsored by Verizon Wireless. A spirited audience–dancing, jumping, clapping and raising hands in the air– received impassioned performances by event judges Marvin Sapp, Hezekiah Walker and Byron Cage.

Winners of the evening included Pentecostals of the Bay Area, of Pittsburg, Calif. who received the V Cast People’s Choice Award and $5,000. Glad Tidings Mass Choir, of Hayward, received $10,000 with the award for best large choir. But it was the Apostolic Community Life Choir, of Salinas, who won both the medium choir category and best overall for the evening. The Salinas choir will have the opportunity to sing in the grand finale event on Nov. 13 in Washington D.C., where they will compete against 13 other choir groups from across the country

This year, no Oakland choirs won singing awards—but Harmony Baptist’s Yvonne Cobbs-Bey said the experience was a triumph. “I just think we’re all winners,” she said.

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