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Dartmouth Gospel Choir performs with Grammy winners at Inauguration event

Along with Grammy-winning artists Carole King, Yolanda Adams, and BeBe Winans, the Dartmouth Gospel Choir helped kick off Inauguration festivities with its Jan. 18 performance at a breakfast for supporters of President Obama at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. And thanks to Dartmouth alumni in the D.C. area, members of the choir were able to stay for Tuesday's Inauguration.

choirThe Dartmouth Gospel Choir-led by Walt Cunningham (center)-performs at the Calvary United Methodist Church in Arlington, Va., on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The choir also performed at a Jan. 18 breakfast for supporters of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Click here for video of the Jan. 18 performance. (Photo by Meg Sommerfeld '90)


In the audience that morning was Trustee Pamela Joyner '79, a former member of the Gospel Choir. "The performance was remarkable," she says. "We were represented with a high degree of skill, passion, and dignity. It was an emotional moment about which the Dartmouth College family should be extraordinarily proud."
 Joyner says that many of her colleagues from other colleges and universities remarked on the choir's skill."

Also in attendance was John Mathias '69, president of the Association of Alumni (AoA), who wrote about his experience in a post for the AoA blog. "The choir practically stole the show before an audience of more than a thousand riveted guests who clapped, stood, and sang along with them as they backed these superstar performers. ... There wasn't a dry eye in the house following BeBe Winans's and the choir's stirring rendition of the 'Star Spangled Banner.'"

"Words cannot express how excited and grateful I am for the choir to have been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," says Choir Director Walt Cunningham. "From early in the campaign I have had my mind set on getting an Inauguration gig. That this became a reality is truly amazing."

Choir member Deborah Osborne '10 (Shreveport, La.) says, "Because we had this honor, we wanted to show up and minister like we never had before. So we gave our all." About the choir's cultural diversity, she remarks, "Sometimes people are skeptical of our music because we are not all African American, but as soon as we start to sing, they quickly realize that we are exactly who we say we are. Without our diversity we would not be the powerful force that we have been."

Mark Davis from the Valley News traveled with the Gospel Choir and wrote about his experience in the article, "Warm-Up Act For History." He reported that not all choir members had a place to stay to attend the Inauguration, but "a call went out to Dartmouth's D.C. alumni for help. Within an hour, graduates had offered enough beds and spare rooms to accommodate every student." (Read more about the alumni who hosted choir members.)

The choir also performed on Martin Luther King Jr. day at the Cavalry United Methodist Church in Arlington, Va.

By STEVEN J. SMITH

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 1/30/09