Watch the Voices of Unity Gospel Choir in a special Music/Black Studies collaboration

The Department of Music’s interdisciplinary Listen Forward video series is home to a new collaboration with the Department of Black Studies: A performance by Voices of Unity Gospel Choir, a performance collective with deep roots at SUNY New Paltz.

The collection of videos can be viewed now on the Listen Forward channel. They include:

  • A rendition of the Voices of Unity alumni song, “Oh Lord, How Excellent!
  • Choir co-director Lee Riley ’06 (Black Studies) explaining how “Oh Lord, How Excellent!” became the Voices of Unity alumni song
  • A discussion of the Choir’s founding and history with Pastor Daryl Ware ’89 (Business Administration), who created Voices of Unity when he was a student at SUNY New Paltz

Voices of Unity is currently led by Ceista Quinn, adjunct lecturer of Black Studies, and Riley.

New Paltz students can join the Choir by enrolling in the Voice of Unity course, which explores not only voice techniques and performance, but also invites students to study the roots of spiritualism and how it impacts the creative process.

While the course moved online for fall 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and faculty have been finding ways to continue working in harmony with one another.

“Before COVID-19, Voices of Unity was a class that brought all students together in a safe environment, where they could be themselves—let their hair down,” Quinn said. “Though that happened on Zoom, it was very different as the students could not greet, shake hands, hug, or converse and pray—if they chose to—with and for each other. With the help of Lee Riley and the Department of Music, we are getting though it.”

Students rehearsed to a backing track that was recorded live at Julien J. Studley Theatre by musicians Josh Borden (piano) and Anthony Murry (percussion). They then recorded their parts individually from the Studley stage, while an audio and video team captured their performances.

“The video project was conceived to give students a goal,” added Assistant Professor Alex Peh, associate chair of the Department of Music. “COVID-19 has made it especially difficult for musicians, especially singers, to make music together. Watching this project come together has been so uplifting in this dark time, and I hope it inspires us to stay strong during this winter.”

Music students Brianna Cordi ’23g (Music Therapy), Bennett Lin ’22 (Recording & Electronic Music) and Charles Burgner ’21 (Recording & Electronic Music) took the individual audio tracks to create a combined choral sound, while Nathaniel Lewis ’20 (Digital Media Production) created a compilation video.

The videos can be viewed now on the Listen Forward YouTube channel and on the Department of Music homepage.