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Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir to Perform at Burlington Church

The Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir will perform live in Vermont for one night only this month to kick off the start of the school year.

The concert will take place Saturday, Sept. 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Community Bible Church in South Burlington, Vt.

Known for its large end-of-the-year GospelFest in May, the choir is also accustomed to touring. In the past, the choir has traveled internationally to Tokyo, Toronto, Montreal and most recently to the Caribbean island of St. Martin-St. Maarten.

The 75-member choir of students, faculty, staff and community members represents more than 15 countries on five different continents.

Dr. Dexter Criss, artistic director and an associate professor of chemistry, joined the choir in 1999 as the pianist and has been directing since fall 2001.  He and some 60 members will be heading to the show in vans provided by the college.

“It will be nice to see some people we haven’t seen before in the audience and to see some familiar fans in their homes state of Vermont. We have a lot of ‘Vermonters’ who come to our show. They’re some of our biggest fans,” he said.

The choir will be accompanied by its nine-piece band of professional musicians who perform at the GospelFest in May. When traveling, the choir is usually accompanied by a smaller band made up of the students and Criss.

“This is the first time the choir has taken its spring concert on the road with the large band. It will be great for new and old students to come and hear the choir this early and be blown away,” Criss said.

The Power of Sound

The choir has a one-of-a-kind sound. Blended heavily with Caribbean- and Afro-centric rhythms and spiritual overtones, the choir presents a melodic fusion of traditional gospel, urban gospel and contemporary Christian music.

Mike Kriesel, head pastor at Community Bible Church, said the event came about after learning the annual Burlington Gospel Fest was taking a year off.

Coincidentally, the choir was looking for a venue to take its show to Burlington. Through those connections, Kriesel and Criss were able to create the event, and Kriesel said his members could not be more excited.

“We’re so blessed to have them,” he said.

The choir’s Praise Team, Praise Dancers and award-winning Step Team will also be performing for this family-oriented concert.

A Place Like Home

Many of the students in the choir are far from home, some for the first time. Beyond the creative outlet the choir provides, it also provides them with the comfort of a home away from home.

“Since it’s my first year in college, family is what I miss the most, and choir has helped fill in that missing gap,” said Luis Popoca, a member of the choir.

“Being a part of the choir has been an honor, singing with people who have magnificent voices. The choir is not just an organization, it’s a family,” he said. 

Additionally, the choir allows its members to connect with their culture and beliefs they may be missing from home.

“Being a part of the choir means I have a place to call home. I'm a freshman, international student and a devout Christian. I needed that worship and fellowship like I had back home. The Gospel Choir, for the short time I've been here, has been such family to me; they are all so loving, and the beautiful music is the worship I needed,” said Zuwena James, a member of the choir.

Energize Your Soul

“What excited me most is that it's my first one. I've heard so many great things about the choir and its performances that I just can't wait to perform (with it),” James said.

Tickets are $10  adults, $8 seniors and $5 students in advance and will be available for purchase at the- Community Bible Church and Advance Music Center both in Burlington, and the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir Office, 133 Hawkins Hall, SUNY Plattsburgh. Tickets at the door are $15 adults and seniors, $5 students. For more information about this event call Criss at 518-564-2700.

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