Third Day Gospel Choir gives passionate performance

Students sing during Third Day Gospel Choir's "A Historical Journey through Gospel Music," presented by the Department of Music in Cohen Auditorium on April 11, 2014. (Nicholas Pfosi / Tufts Daily Archive)

Third Day Gospel Choir, a massive gospel singing group of over 200 Tufts students, performed its first concert of the year, “Everything I Need,” on Friday. Directed by Music Lecturer David Coleman, “Everything I Need” consisted of ten masterfully arranged gospel songs, some classic and some original.

The concert managed to display the many different musical and stylistic facets of gospel music. The first gospel on the setlist, “Everything,” was a slow, serene composition. The melody was almost tantric, and the soft and repetitive singing by the choir made Coleman’s solo stand out. In contrast, the following song, “Hide Me,” opened with a solo by the drummer, who showed off some funky beats and syncopation.

The pieces performed were diverse in their speed and energy as well as in their history. Third Day sang one particularly famous soul song, “What the World Needs Now is Love” (1965) and several original pieces, including “Everything I Need,” which was originally a solo guitar piece that Coleman added words to and arranged for the choir.

Third Day also featured “WeR1,” originally by Boston-based hip-hop artist Kabir Sen (professionally known as MC Kabir), a soul-meets-rap number that had never before been performed publicly. In his introduction to “WeR1,” Coleman explained MC Kabir’s prominence in the Boston music scene, often acting as an opener at rap clubs. What made this number even more special was the fact that MC Kabir was present and even contributed to one of the rap verses performed by the choir.

The original version of Kabir’s song was turned into a collaboration with Coleman in response to the multiple shootings and acts of violence that garnered attention and controversy in 2016. Despite its tragic background, “WeR1” is devoid of anger or even sorrow, and with its heartening lyrics (“enough of the insanity, humanity is one”) and call-and-response section, Coleman and Kabir created a positive and empowering message out of the many tragedies that took place in 2016.

The message of this song seemed to encompass the message of the concert at large: a feeling of togetherness and community. “You’re not alone,” Coleman told the audience. “And even when you lose all strength, perspective and hope, gospel tells you that it’s going to get better.” 

Coleman’s charisma was evident throughout the performance. Graduating seniors shared memories about their time in Third Day and presented their director with flowers before the final, most energetic song of the night, “Better.” Coleman maintained a friendly vibe with the audience, encouraging clapping and call-and-responses when appropriate. His keyboard opening to “Everything I Need” morphed into the recognizable opening bars of “Stairway to Heaven,” before he said “just kidding” and switched back to the song’s melody. In a particularly moving moment of the concert, Coleman also paid tribute to his mother, who had traveled to Tufts from Memphis, Tenn. to see this concert.

The musicians in the concert also deserve special recognition. With the exception of “WeR1,” all of the numbers were performed using exclusively live music. The live band included three keyboard players (Coleman, guest musician Michael Manigault and senior Jackson Clawson), guest musician Gerald Langford on the bass and guest musician Matthew Williams on the drums. All musicians, particularly Williams, successfully carried the singers. Although Coleman shone as the main soloist of the night, senior Priscilla Sena also gave a passionate solo for the third song of the night, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

“Everything I Need” was full of energy, passion and positivity. Although it could be difficult for 200 students to sing together while also sounding polished, the talent and love of each singer was evident, making the performance universally enjoyable.