"Bravos" will make room for "Amens" this month when the Akron Symphony Orchestra joins forces with a 200-voice gospel choir drawing on the vocal strengths of the city's black churches.
"You hear it and you're smitten," says charter choir member Pat Kennard. Long known for her voice as a news reporter on Akron TV and radio, she now leads the soprano section of the choir that will reunite with the Akron symphony Feb. 23 for a 20th anniversary concert.
"I get goose bumps just talking about it," Kennard says. "There's a sense that God is in the music and in the building."
Singers from 73 different churches are a part of this year's all-volunteer choir for which there are no auditions.
"We're a fellowship," says current chair Brenda Justice. "You come, we bless you, and you keep on going."
This year's concert at E. J. Thomas Hall will highlight past audience favorites, including "Anthem of Praise" accompanied by dancers; "Genesis," an a capella number directed by Leslie Parker Barnes; and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in German with special guest conductor Eric Benjamin.
For Kennard, the night is as much about ministry as it is music.
"Maybe those that come in with broken hearts will say, 'This is for me. I want the joy that they're singing about,' " she says.