The Fillmore district is known for giving San Francisco a bit of soul. But the night of Dec. 9 it got a taste of its own medicine.
That’s because SF State’s gospel choir hit the stage at Yoshi’s jazz club for their end-of-semester concert and bombarded the place with swag. Sunday at church may not be much of a party, but with platters of sushi and flowing champagne, this sure was.
“This is the thing about gospel music, you gotta make some noise,” said Ja Ronn Thompson, the choir’s director and maestro, while taunting the audience. “If you like the 49ers, and they make a touchdown, you do what?”
And the auditorium went wild. Outfitted in black outfits, pink accents and massive grins, more than 85 students belted out songs in a beam of excitement. And though the concert is a final for the Music 388 class, there wasn’t a moment in the hour and a half show that seemed tedious.
“My role is to sing with passion and no fear,” said choir member Tim Wilkins, an SF State senior majoring in psychology, summing up the group’s motto.
They started rehearsing for the show in early September, picking songs that would fit the occasion as well as the choir’s sound. Life’s battles, changes and moments worth savoring were muses of the evening.
While gospel music, and most of the songs that were performed, are inherently Christian, that’s not the focus of the class. People of any belief are invited to partake in the fun.
“What this class is about is teaching people how to come together no matter what their religious beliefs or backgrounds,” said Thompson while backstage before the show. “We can all agree to disagree, but come together and sing about something that makes people feel better.”
The choir, and the whole event, was a bit unconventional. The waiters and waitresses were dancing. Thompson used an iPad instead of sheet music. He even said some people refused to come to the show because alcohol was being served.
At one point the choir stopped and the beat for “Otis” by Jay-Z and Kanye West began. One member began rapping. Like Thompson says, it’s not the type of music that makes it gospel, it’s the feel-good message. Local singer Leah Tysse came out to harmonize with the band as well.
By the end of the night a few people in the audience were up and out of their seats singing along. Hands and hats were waving in the air. Cat-calls and whooping shouts of support filled the famous jazz club.
“It was way too fun,” said Nnenna Obioma, a chemistry major, while beaming with a post-performance smile. “We’re all a big family here.”