By Ashley Short
America’s got talent and they’re right here. In the heart of Petersburg, advice Virginia a group of people with extraordinary voices and undeniable faith have really earned the title as Virginia’s finest. The Virginia State University Gospel Chorale is probably the most passionate choir you will ever meet or hear. The seed planted by Ms. Jackie Ruffin and Mr. Larry Bland, founders of the group, has beautifully blossomed and set the platform for how a choir should be. Formerly known as the Larry Bland Gospel Ensemble and the Virginia State College Gospel Choir, Virginia State University Gospel Chorale has had eight directors including their current director, Perry Evans II. Under the leadership of several directors, the chorale has won many awards and competitions, recorded several albums, and traveled internationally.
With their great gift they have gained the hearts and love from not only their Virginia State family but also from the whole country. Virginia State University Gospel Chorale auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” in June and it has only been up from there. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, America’s Got Talent is a reality television series on NBC’s network that features many talented (or not so talented) individuals who are all competing to win a million dollar grand prize; and to be crowned one of America’s talented.
Before going on stage, Nick Cannon said something very unique to the choir, “let the spirit use you”. Anybody who watched the audition on television can attest that they did exactly that, especially the soloist, Bernard Walker, whose voice is absolutely incredible. Their performance engaged not only your ears but also your eyes with their energetic choreography and preppy attire. After their performance, the crowd exploded with a standing ovation while the judges appeared to be blown away. Shocked, Howard Stern commented, “….you guys make it so that we want to go to church. Church can be the most boring experience”. Melanie Brown, former Spice Girl, exclaimed “I wanna join this gospel choir! It was brilliant and you’re different. You got different moves and it’s not like your average gospel choir and that’s what I liked about it.”
Virginia State Gospel Chorale was appreciative for the compliments and appraisal, but after being told that they were moving on to the next round in Las Vegas, they really displayed their gratitude with overwhelming joy. Several members had an overflow of emotions, including the business manager, Michael Rainey, who stated with tears in his eyes, “This is a dream come true. This is why we do what we do”. Successfully passing the second round in Las Vegas, the choir will be competing live this month at Radio City Music Hall. To learn what day they will compete and how you can help them continue this journey, visit http://www.vsu.edu/news/headlines/2013/06/vsugc.php. Although competing and winning awards are a blessing, this gospel chorale makes it known that their passion isn’t about competition but to minister under the Holy Spirit and to spread the word of God to the masses and anyone who’s willing to listen.