Kean Gospel Choir Is Three-peat Winner at McDonald’s Gospelfest
The Kean Gospel Choir took home first place for the third straight year at McDonald’s Gospelfest, held Saturday, May 12 at Newark Symphony Hall.
“It is an honor to even be in the competition. We don’t go expecting to win. We go for the experience, so winning is an added gift,” said Malcolm Evans, Kean Gospel Choir director and adjunct professor of communication.
Performing a mash-up of traditional and modern interpretations of the song The Blood Still Works, the 23-member choir won the adult choir category at the event that featured performances by renowned singers Cissy Houston, Melba Moore, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Vashawn Mitchell, Le'Andria Johnson and others.
“For us to win a third time during my senior year is just – wow,” said Ymani Hawkins of Maplewood, a senior communication major and member of the Kean Gospel Choir. “The process was tough, but necessary. It has been so rewarding to be able to worship with my peers, and it has created a lot of opportunity for us.”
Being repeat winners at the traditional Mother’s Day weekend event has led to television appearances for the choir, a backup gig with Sons of Serendip at their Kean Stage holiday concert last December, and soon, the release of the group’s first single, Behold Him.
“The choir is so grateful to represent Kean University. Being able to collectively serve as an ambassador for our school is exciting,” said Hawkins.
Evans says he brings out the best in the students through patience and positivity.
“I help them to realize the talent that they already have,” he said.
Hawkins believes the choir’s success at Gospelfest is a tribute to Evans, who emphasizes presentation as well as performance.
“We make sure to interact with the audience, to invite them in to our singing,” she said. “Ultimately, we are authentic in our worship and what we sing to God.”
The choir is active on campus, performing recently at the African Heritage Graduation and at the Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Awards, sponsored by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, and many other events. They also perform in local churches and at universities.
The Kean Gospel Choir promotes and provides an outlet for students to express their faith through gospel music. Anyone can become a member, regardless of their knowledge of gospel music or level of musical ability. They encourage positive attitudes among all members, respect all gifts, and strive to raise the consciousness of Kean’s community toward a greater understanding and appreciation for gospel music.