Arrayed in three rows on a bleacher set on the stage of O’Neill Tent, the Voices of Imani, Boston College’s gospel choir group, performed on the last day of Arts Fest. Through rhythmic steps and swaying, the members of Voices of Imani presented six vocally heavy songs to the audience gathered that afternoon. The singers were backed by a live band—saxophone, guitar, keyboard, and drums.
Voices of Imani was founded in 1977, as their website description states, by a small group of black students who felt “the need to be closely connected in their new academic environment” and who “congregated to encourage and support one another by singing the songs of their religious tradition and to give praise to almighty God.” Imani is the Swahili word for faith and was chosen as the name of this group. This word, faith, was readily apparent in the songs chosen for this performance and the passion that embodied them.
The group began with “Hallelujah, Salvation, and Glory.” This song is a gospel song, featuring lyrics like “Honor and power unto the Lord our God / For the Lord our God is mighty / Yes the Lord our God is omnipotent / The Lord our God, He is wonderful.” The voices of the choir, in singing this song, melded together in a beautiful sound of passion and faith.
Next up was “Awesome,” by Charles Jenkins. During this song (and others), the choir was cheered on by four members of Presenting Africa to You— BC’s African Dance group—who had showed up to the performance wearing the same outfits they had worn in their prize-winning performance at earlier this month at ALC Showdown 2018. This song featured a wonderful solo by one group member, which was echoed and backed by the repetitions from the rest of the choir.
Rounding out the middle of the event, Voices of Imani performed one of the most easily recognizable songs of the set: “Go Down Moses.” This spiritual describes the events in Exodus, in which Moses is commanded to tell the pharaoh of Egypt to let the Israelites go. In this song, the members of Voices of Imani began to dance back and forth, exaggerating the movements of their torsos, to emphasize the chorus of the song.
The second half of the event consisted of three songs—“Draw Me Close To You,” “Blackbird / Now Let Me Fly,” and “Glorious.” This finale was just as good, if not better, than the first half of the show. At times, the band switched to a much jazzier sound, especially on “Blackbird.” In a very artistic and fitting moment, at the height of one of these songs, a slight breeze carried the petals of hundreds of flowers from the recently spring-renewed trees nearby through the air of the tent.
Featured Image by Jacob Schick / Arts Editor