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Gospel Choir Returns from Japanese Trip

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ Singing in Japan at Christmastime are now memories for the 28 members of the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir. The choir spent eight days at the end of December through New Year's participating in workshops and concerts in Tokyo.

"This trip clearly illustrated that no matter the language, gospel music has the power and authority to reach everyone," said Dr. Dexter Criss, assistant professor of chemistry and the choir's musical director. "I will never forget the tears shed and how the many crowds cheered as we sang, danced and shared."

The choir's journey to Japan was coordinated through Ron Rucker Gospel Ministries. Rucker is a gospel music legend in Japan and his daughter, Etsuko, is a member of the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir. Rucker produces these workshops to introduce and teach various elements of gospel music including voice, piano and dance. Criss taught an advanced gospel piano course, while accounting student Quinten Nichols, from Far Rockaway, N.Y., taught praise dance and junior biology/pre-med major Richard Elicier, from Jamaica, N.Y., taught step dance. The workshops were held in Tokyo and concluded with a concert on Dec. 30 at the Tokyo Central Church.

"During one of our step team workshops, a Japanese student told me that the workshop experience was the best memory she had in 2003," said Elicier. "Her comment touched my heart because I was able to feel her emotions, and I knew that what I taught her would be with her for the rest of her life. The best part of the trip was the whole entire trip. Getting off the plane was only the beginning of learning, experiencing and loving the Japanese culture."

The trip was funded primarily by the individual choir members, the choir and other funds from the Student Association, Plattsburgh State, City of Plattsburgh and other individuals. Fund raising was successful through the sales of their CD, performances, raffles, car washes and donations.

In addition to the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, the Toronto University Gospel Choir brought 36 of its members. The total number of Japanese participants was more than 300 people.

"The Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir performed in front of about 2,500 people in four separate concerts," said Criss. "The choir members truly enjoyed the trip, and, I, for one, was happy to be apart of this trip with the students. They represented Plattsburgh State in a positive way. With its song, the choir touched the spirit of the Japanese people."

International business major Rosite George, from the Commonwealth of Dominica and a member of the choir, said that it was a thrill for her to be with the choir, singing in Japan.

"The most memorable experience for me was the main concert at Tokyo Central Church," said George. "Toward the end of the concert, for the farewell song, there was such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that I believe every member of our choir, and in fact everyone in the building, was moved. It was a phenomenal way to end the year."

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