By Bridget Monaghan
Feb. 22, 2007
The Daily Collegian
The Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir will share the sounds of South Africa from its award-winning album Blessed and its new album, African Spirit, tonight in the Eisenhower Auditorium.
African Spirit features interpretations of songs written by Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.
Lucas Bok, assistant music director, lead singer and bassist for the choir, said winning a Grammy for Best Traditional World Music was a dream come true.
“The big thing now is we must continue to look forward, stay focused and remember our goal and vision,” he said.
Bok said although gospel music is not as popular as mainstream music in the U.S., he encourages people to experience the choir’s genre of music.
“Gospel music is a message of peace,” he said. “It’s music about things happening right now and things you can’t run away from.”
Bok said coming to perform at Penn State may be different from most venues the choir is used to, but he said it is always a challenge to perform and direct shows.
“We allow the words to come out and touch everyone in the auditorium,” he said.
“Although it is a challenge, we manage every night to get people going crazy about us.”
Beverly Bryer, executive producer and show director of the choir, said you do not have to be a believer or religious to enjoy a concert by Soweto.
“You just have to love music, beautiful voices and raw energy,” she said. “It doesn’t matter even whether or not you understand the language of the songs, it is the pure joy of singing that’s reason enough to come to this event.”
Bok said that besides its performing, the gospel choir also collects donations for its community in South Africa.
“We use the donations for things like books and medical expenses,” he said. “We get involved with our community and make a difference.”
Laura Sullivan, marketing and communications director for Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts, said she is happy to have the Soweto Gospel Choir here just 11 days after they won a Grammy Award.
“When we were in the early stages of booking performers for this season, arts presenters nationwide were talking about the quality of this group,” she said. “After watching video footage and listening to their recordings, we knew they were of the caliber of artists that we look for when building a season of events.”
Sullivan said the Soweto Gospel Choir performs traditional African works in its native language and familiar gospel pieces such as Oh Happy Day, and The Lion Sleeps Tonight.