The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jan. 28, 2022

Local teen with VOU choir in Big Apple

Submitted information

NEW YORK CITY, New York — Fort Wayne’s Voices of Unity Choir, including Van Wert’s James Defore, traveled to New York City June 18-22 to participate in a number of exciting events that culminated in an impressive performance at world-renowned Carnegie Hall. The students were able to expand their horizons and experience a Broadway show, perform at the well-known Harlem Children’s Zone, and see many cultural landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The Voices of Unity Youth Choir was invited by Choirs of America (COA) to participate in COA’s American Musical Performance that included other nationally recognized youth choirs, including over 600 individual singers. The main event allowed the choirs to collaborate and sing multiple songs in five different languages; selected choirs that had 40 or more singers were given the opportunity to spotlight a song from their repertoire. The climactic moment came when the Voices of Unity performed Director Marshall White’s rendition of “What a Wonderful World.” Dressed in their formal attire, the Voices of Unity Youth Choir made history at a once-in-a-lifetime performance at Carnegie Hall. The New York City audience and members of the other choirs were impressed. Commenting on the performance, Grammy Award-nominated recording artist Grant Gershon simply said, “Wow!” and applause ensued.

Voices of Unity Choir performs in April at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert. (VW independent file photo)
Voices of Unity Choir performs in April at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert. (VW independent file photo)

“This was one of the most humbling experiences of my musical life,” shared Director Marshall White, “because I was on the stage that thousands of great men and women shared throughout the history of our country. I thank God for this unforgettable experience and opportunity for these young people whose lives will be impacted forever.”

The choir members all had one word to describe the experience: amazing. “This means a lot to the choir. We’re making history,” said one member. “We’re putting Fort Wayne and Voices of Unity on the map,” commented another choir member.

Before the climactic performance at Carnegie on Saturday, the youth choir had the opportunity to perform for the world-renowned social activist Dr. Geoffrey Canada, president and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) and one of Time magazine’s “100 most influential people”. The Harlem Children’s Zone was holding a celebration in his honor for the influence and success he has had in the Harlem community. The Indiana youth choir impressed the New York City crowd at HCZ by performing beautiful pieces, including “America the Beautiful,” “What a Wonderful World,” and “In the Sanctuary.” They also sang a version of Michael Jackson’s “I’ll Be There,” and Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.” The choir received a standing ovation from the crowd that included Dr. Canada and his family.

Following the performance at HCZ, the choir experienced Broadway with a chance to see The Lion King. To top off the night, they sang an impromptu performance in the lobby to an international audience, and to some of The Lion King cast members after the show. Many pulled out their smartphones and cameras to capture the unified voices of the youth choir. Later in the week, choir members visited Queens College, where they participated in Choirs of America musical workshops from well-known composers and professors, including Dr. Andre Thomas, Dr. Bryce Pinkham, and Dr. Rollo Dilworth. The choir was also able to rehearse with the other participating youth choirs as they prepared for the big performance at Carnegie Hall.

Through discipline, dedication, and motivation the Voices of Unity Choir represented Fort Wayne, Indiana, in a tremendous way and stole the hearts of those who experienced them for the first time. Group members will not stop at Carnegie Hall or New York City, but will represent Fort Wayne and the United States at the 2014 World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia, July 13-22 and bring home another gold medal.

The New York trip and the trip to the World Choir Games are possible due to the generous support of Fort Wayne area donors who donated to the Gold for the City campaign. The students, parents, and staff are thankful for the emotional and financial support the Fort Wayne community has given. Area residents can support and learn more about the Gold for the City campaign at UPAF.com. Follow the Voices of Unity on their trips this summer and also find pictures, video and a blog at the above website.

POSTED: 07/03/14 at 6:45 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment