BRSO, gospel choirs to team up for joyous noise

Friday will be a day of praise in more ways than one.

First, there’s the obvious as the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra collaborates with several community choirs and choruses to present “The Louisiana Gospel Tradition” in the Baton Rouge River Center for the Performing Arts.

And then there’s Timothy Muffitt’s songs of praise for how, after 15 years, his dream has become a reality. That’s how long he’s been the orchestra’s conductor and music director.

“This was an idea that was many years in the making,” he says. “And through conversations with leaders in gospel music in the community, we hit a critical mass a year ago. We were able to get all the right people in a room together.”

The show also will feature the Celebration Quartet, Cox Communications Gospel Choir, Florida Boulevard Baptist Church Choir, Greater King David Baptist Church Mass Choir, Heritage, Shiloh Baptist Choir and members of the Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus. The program will be narrated by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

“We’re also featuring some extraordinary soloists,” Muffitt says. “And the program looks at different types of gospel music, including southern gospel, praise gospel, contemporary gospel and celebration gospel. We’ll also look at some of the roots of gospel, which involves spirituals. Heritage will be performing some spirituals.”

“The Louisiana Gospel Tradition” also will include a segment on shape notes, a method dating back to the early 1800s designed to facilitate congregational and community singing.

“Shape notes were used in revival meetings or gatherings where people celebrated or worshipped through song,” Muffitt says. “It has its own powerful, charismatic character.”

Still, the concert’s overall focus will be on Louisiana’s contributions to gospel music.

“Louisiana’s musical legacy extends to virtually every genre of music, although it may surprise some that the roots of gospel are firmly planted in our rural soil, as well as in the back streets of our big cities and in the pews of countless churches throughout the state,” Dardenne says. “I am looking forward to telling the story as the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra hits all the right notes.”

“It is a program rich in our cultural history, community fellowship and, of course, great music,” Muffit adds. “We are very excited about bringing some of the extraordinary talent in gospel music from our city and state together for one truly spectacular night. It is a unique event combining many of the different styles of music that fall under the broad category of ‘gospel’, and I can promise no one will have ever experienced anything quite like this before.”