The Sheldon’s City of Music All-Star Chorus is looking forward to its first performance at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis later this month as part of the second-annual “Joyous Jubilee” concert series.
Formed in January 2018, the chorus draws together students from high schools across the greater St. Louis area and is directed by Maria A. Ellis. The group’s performance will include Gospel music and spirituals, including several classics that have been revamped by Kanye West’s Sunday Service Choir.
The chorus is part of the lineup of the Cathedral Concerts’ second annual series, “Joyous Jubilee: Music to Lift the Soul,” three evenings of sacred, spiritual and Gospel music, will take place in January and February at the cathedral basilica. The series bridges the two weeks between the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the beginning of Black History Month.
Ellis said the group will highlight those classic Gospel songs that have stood the test of time. She said the teens have a new-found appreciation for some of those songs, such as “Revelation 19:1” and “How Excellent,” both of which have been revamped by West’s Sunday Service Choir. “These are pieces that are coming back,” said Ellis. “To them, it was the music of my parents, but with Kanye coming back and doing this Gospel album, it’s now ‘cool.’”
Chorus member Johnathan Prichard said he’s looking forward to the performance, adding that this will be his first time singing Gospel music. Johnathan also is a member of the Varsity and Zero Hour Choruses at Saint Louis University High School, where he’s a senior.
“Gospel reaches into the soul and tries to pull out that good feeling that God is bringing to all of us,” said the member of Seven Holy Founders Parish in Affton. “The emphasis on the soul of a human is a huge part of being part of the Body of Christ.”
Ellis, who serves as community outreach director with the St. Louis Children’s Choirs and is involved in several church choirs, said the all-star chorus has been a great opportunity for teens with singing talent to come together and build community. “Music is a universal language,” Ellis said. “You can’t hate somebody and sing next to one another.”
The chorus performs a variety of genres, from Mozart to Moses Hogan, and has performed alongside major recording artists including Brian Owens and Michael McDonald. Other highlights include opening for The Kingdom Choir from London and a spot in a commercial for Burger King. “One of the things I pride the group in is that they are flexible and versatile in whatever is given to them,” Ellis said.
Ellis also noted that the chorus has given students opportunities they might not otherwise have been afforded. “It’s been my goal to expose them to everything possible and get them involved in all kinds of things,” she said. “Every student who has left (the chorus) has done so on some kind of scholarship.” Students receive mentoring and help with audition videos and sight readings.
Prichard said that Ellis has devoted “countless hours” not only with rehearsals but in being attentive to the needs of the chorus members. “She’s on top of what’s going on, and has been a very big help in every way for this choir,” he said.
The Jan. 31 performance at the cathedral basilica is “going to be a great night of music,” Ellis said. “I am in awe how beautiful the cathedral is, and I’m glad they’ll have the opportunity to sing here.”
Joyous Jubilee Concert Series
presents “Joyous Jubilee: Music to Lift the Soul,” three evenings of
sacred, spiritual and Gospel music. All performances are on Friday
evenings, beginning at 8 p.m., at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis,
Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue.
• Friday, Jan. 24: The North City Deanery Choir,
co-directed by Danny DuMaine, choir director at St. Alphonsus “Rock”
Parish in St. Louis, and Simeon Layne Jr., director of music at St.
Augustine Parish in St. Louis. The group was formed out of an effort of
the archdiocesan North City Deanery Interracial Relations Committee
several years ago, and includes members of several parishes in the North
City Deanery and others.
• Friday, Jan. 31: The Sheldon’s The City of Music All-Star Chorus,
directed by Maria A. Ellis. The choir formed in 2018 and includes young
singers in ninth through 12th grades and provides teaching and
mentoring, as well as performance opportunities at the Sheldon and
elsewhere in the community.
• Friday, Feb. 7: The New Sunny Mount Baptist Church Chancel Choir, directed by Anita Watkins-Stevens, and the Gospel Symphonic Choir,
directed by Dello Thedford. The Chancel Choir has performed across the
St. Louis area and has received numerous awards for its performances.
The Gospel Symphonic Choir was formed of a variety of people, including
choir members at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis,
Ill., and Jennings High School alumni.
For more information on the series, visit cathedralconcerts.org.