Gospel Choir Director Finishes Job Started as Undergrad
Posted: November 28, 2000
When Raymond Wise graduated from Denison University in 1983, he may not have known that he would be returning nearly 20 years later to finish what he started.
"Raymond Wise has brought incredible energy and talent to our choral offerings," said Associate Professor Andrew Glendening, chair of the music department. "His approach to the Gospel Choir blends the history of Gospel music with performance pedagogy that has created an exciting learning environment. He is really exciting to watch."
The Gospel Choir is not a new ensemble on Denison's campus, however. While Wise was a student at Denison, he created the first incarnation of the choir. When the ensemble started, it had only six members. It would not take long, though, for the ensemble to grow.
Once the choir grew in size, it went on tour. The choir even recorded an album. "The response was overwhelming from the administration and the school," said Wise. "It was one of those features that brought everyone together."
However, when Wise graduated in 1983, the ensemble did not sustain itself. After a while, the Gospel Choir was another chapter in Denison's music department's history.
Turn the clock forward 17 years to the year 2000. As the music department undergoes a set of changes, much of the curriculum is changed and new ensembles are added, including a reincarnation of the Gospel Choir.
The reestablishment of the choir brought with it the return of Wise to his alma mater, where he could once again preach to the gospel to the choir and share his knowledge of Gospel music.
"It's really a fulfillment of where I was going when I left 20 years ago," said Wise.
Though it may be difficult to determine the future of the Gospel Choir, one thing is for sure: it will be a part of Denison's music department for years to come. "The Gospel Choir has exceeded all of my expectations," said Glendening. "This ensemble has filled a gap in our musical offerings and has brought fresh air and new faces into the program.
The music department is in the process of commissioning a work for the Gospel Choir and the Denison Orchestra, to be premiered during the fall 2001 semester, which would bring these two traditions together. Additionally, there are plans to feature the choir at baccalaureate and commencement this year.
Glendening alluded to future course offerings on the subject of Gospel music. In addition, the group might lead to an institute in Gospel music studies.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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