Everett Parker doesn’t know how many singers will show up to perform with his “Unified Community Choir” Sunday afternoon for the Sounds of CommUNITY concert sponsored by the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge.
Parker doesn’t know who they will be or how much time they will have spent preparing.
And he won’t know until the pre-concert rehearsal begins 90 minutes before the 4 p.m. concert at Broadmoor Baptist Church, 9755 Goodwood Blvd.
Parker is taking it on faith that those who show up will either be able to read music well enough or pick it up by ear and “have enough experience to come into that rehearsal just prior to the concert” and give it their best.
“My belief is their best will be good enough,” said Parker, who also conducts the LSU Gospel Choir and serves as music director at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
Parker’s pastor, the Rev. Charles T. Smith, who will retire in May after 50 years as pastor of Shiloh, is credited by the federation with starting the annual interfaith concert 22 years ago.
“He believed music brings people together,” explained the Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade, federation executive director. “Thus, the ‘Sounds of CommUNITY.’”
Vivian Walker, a trained opera singer who is active with the Heritage singers, a group committed to preserving and performing spirituals, has organized the federation concert since 1998.
This year’s concert will include performers from Broadmoor Baptist, First Christian, Jordan United Methodist, Jubilee Christian Center, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, St. Mark United Methodist, St. Mary Baptist, St. Thomas More Catholic and Unitarian churches as well as a Buddhist bell, the Jewish Community Ensemble and the Unified Community Choir.
The concert has always featured musicians from a variety of congregations, but Parker said he longed from the beginning for a mass choir with singers from a multitude of congregations.
He organized such a group in the fall to perform at events celebrating the federation’s 25th anniversary as well as serve to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks.
Sunday’s choir will include representatives from more than five congregations, perhaps as many as 10, he said.
The goal is to have 75 voices or so, McCullough-Bade said.
A weeknight rehearsal earlier in April drew a small group of musicians who could get acquainted with the two songs Parker selected and take them back to their congregations for more preparation.
“I wanted to select songs most people can identify with, so that we could sing in harmony, not just musical harmony,” Parker said.
He sees “Great Is Our God” by James Hall as having a broad enough look at the divine — without focusing on the Trinity or Jesus — so as to be appropriate for people from a variety of traditions.
“Stir Up the Gifts” by Rudolph Stanfield is a song that can serve as a call to action, Parker added.
“To me the story of the ‘Gifts’ sort of underlines what we are about,” he said. “Everyone… whatever you have to bring to the table, bring it, and let’s use it for the betterment of the community and the betterment of the world.”