Gospel Choir reunion brings ‘family’ together for a grand performance
By Cierra Mills
The voices of the Upstate Gospel Choir filled the room with praise and harmony at Cornerstone Baptist Church on Oct. 15. The singers were mostly alumni dating from early 1980s.
Gospel Choir member Stacey Mills is now Executive Director of USC Upstate’s Greenville campus.
“We have to continue being who we are, and rise above all the negativity,” Mills said. “What better way than to bring the gospel, whether it’s sung, read, or preached, but most importantly it should be lived.”
Dr. Warren Carson led the Gospel Choir for 25 years, providing not only entertainment, but also a strong sense of hope, encouragement, and long-term values. The reunion began with a welcome from Upstate’s fourth and newly-inducted Chancellor, Dr. Brendan Kelly.
Carson spoke of the “wonderful opportunity” to see so many people come back, and to have everyone seeing old friends and meeting younger friends. He expressed an overall sense of gratitude for the 2017-2018 song selection of “God’s Grace”, led by Choir Director, Alphaeus Anderson.
Carson recalled a time when Anderson was a “little guy,” and remembers picking him up for practice when Anderson didn’t have a driver’s license.
The choir was made up of hundreds of singers in formal black and white attire, bringing a worship experience to Cornerstone Baptist. Classic gospel tunes like “Total Praise”, “Trouble Don’t Last Always”, “Oh How Wonderful”, and “Let Me Tell You How to Move a Mountain” filled the sanctuary.
The timeless songs helped form the Gospel Choir community that has been an icon in the Upstate community for more than three decades.
“The Gospel Choir was composed of African-American students, once an extreme minority, and was enforced as a family, to become a culture within a culture, an institution within an institution,” Mills said.
The reunion was special for alumnus and former Gospel Choir member, Joseph Carson who traveled from Texas. Carson said he was able to open up and share with others his spirituality, saying the choir always gave him a sense of family when he was a student.
Warren Carson serves as senior associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and is set to retire in December after 34 years at the University. He remarked that he enjoys leading the choir, but mostly enjoys having a special bond with his students that will last forever.
Carson was given a high honor, with a leadership contribution of over 25 years leading the choir.
The legacy of the Gospel Choir still lives on today with school performances and church visits around Greenville and Spartanburg.
Photo gallery by Cierra Mills