Anyone who has seen the Voices of Unity choir performances know that there’s something very special about the sound created by that dedicated group of young talent.
Making it especially unique is an upcoming performance at the Purdue Fort Wayne Rhinehart Music Center which will put those glorious harmonies to good use at a the Praise Celebration 2019: A City on Fire.
The fire will burn brightly as the choir of worship singers — both members of the choir and guest artists — provide a special night of gospel celebration, an inspirational event for those of all denominations.
This kind of programming is nothing new for Voices of Unity, a choir which has not only made its voices heard in northeast Indiana but throughout the world, winning international acclaim and recognition.
Music is only one of the payoffs, however. Director Marshall White sees this performance as more than a gathering for spiritual worship. It also pays tribute to Fort Wayne itself.
on fire in prayer
“Our concerts have themes, and A City on Fire is one which goes beyond finding a theme for the concert and provides a message to those who attend,” White said. “This is a city that’s coming together, and it’s ‘on fire’ in prayer. But it’s also ‘on fire’ in terms of coming together to accomplish and achieve great improvements in our community. This is just one example of what a great city is about, the spiritual aspect of a city and a country and what makes Fort Wayne great.
“A program like this is centered on a city and a person improving themselves,” he added. “We are all blessed the same. All humans are the same. And we’re more beautiful when we come together in a loving way. It leads to the unity of all people.”
Those words don’t just apply to White’s approach to one concert or even to the entire Voices of Unity performance schedule. It’s at the very core of how he approaches the choir itself and its rehearsals. It’s in the way he selects members of his choir and how to treats the young people who comprise it.
“The kids in our choir range in age from seven to 19, though we have a couple of six-year-olds who can handle it,” he said. “It’s amazing to see a six-year-old sit for a three-hour rehearsal. One rehearsal we just had went four hours. These kids are so alert and so involved that they can handle the long rehearsals.”
White pointed out that the choir isn’t just about the singing but also about providing a means for the young people to grow personally.
“We give these kids power, and that empowerment leads to some great things,” he said. “We represent 19 zip codes in this area. We have five different racial groups and four different economic groups. Black, white, Hispanic, biracial — they become changed in this environment. They become a family. And that’s just a phenomenal thing to see.”
He also has seen how those transformations and the work being done contributes on a wider level, beyond just the contributions to the kids and families and even the audience who sees them perform. And with A City on Fire, he pays tribute to how much is going on in Fort Wayne at large.
“You look around at all the efforts in Fort Wayne and all of the economic development, and there are a lot of people behind the scenes building the strength and character of the city as well as the image of the city.”
Many changes, but much remains the same
While there has been much change and growth at the place Voices of Unity calls home, with the recent change from IPFW to Purdue Fort Wayne, those changes haven’t much affected the choir which still calls the Rhinehart Music Center their home after a decade.
“We’ve been performing there since 2008, and it’s become more and more a hot spot for concerts,” he said. “It has a great look and a great sound. It’s very professional looking. And being on the campus, it’s a very central place for people who attend from around the area. Our winter concert drew between 1,100 and 1,200 people.”
Beyond the Praise Celebration, White is also preparing Voices of Unity for their upcoming June concert which is typically when they host their secular performances. Last year the choir performed beloved Disney songs while June 2019 will feature “A Tribute to the Movies” which White promises will feature well-known songs from many blockbuster films.
The choir, which features around 65 singers, is equally adept at both sacred and secular and dedicated to the mission which White has set for the organization. And they hope to share it with the community at their upcoming performances.
“We just want everybody in the community to come, people from all backgrounds who make this city a great place to be. We want them to come and be part of it.”