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In concert: How Sweet the Sound competition at Verizon Center

By John Murph

sweet soundFourteen choirs competed for the title of "Best Church Choir in America" at the national "How Sweet the Sound Finale" competition. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

Fourteen gospel choirs from around the country transformed Verizon Center into a sanctified church and made Saturday night feel like a Sunday morning. Verizon's third national "How Sweet the Sound Finale" competition kept the preaching to a minimum but delivered plenty of praise.

Gospel superstars CeCe Winans and Donald Lawrence hosted the competition while the equally illustrious Marvin Sapp, Fred Hammond and Karen Clark Sheard judged the choirs on stage presence, technical merit, originality and interpretation. Since all of them sang forcefully, theatrics often became the distinguishing factor for the groups.

sweet sound

That said, the District's all-male Greater Mount Calvary Men of Valor offered a stately rendition of Milton Brunson's "Available to You," earning the $5,000 "National People's Choice Award." On the opposite end was California's Voices of Destiny, which took home the top prize of $25,000 with droll performance of Kurt Carr's "My Time for God's Favor" that simultaneously channeled bristling Baptist church services and the cutesy choreography from TV's "Glee." Chicago's Greater First Church Chorale brought a similar intensity to Reginald Herber and John Dykes's "Holy Holy Holy," resulting in one of the evening's most musically intricate and emotionally gripping performances, and earning the $15,000 runner-up prize.

Although it didn't win, no one outdid Detroit's Burning Bush International Ministries Mass Choir in terms of spectacle with its rendition of Joe Pace's "Stir Up the Gift" that had some of the men wearing "Phantom of the Opera" masks and the women donning fans -- all while incorporating hip-hop and black Greek fraternity step-show dance moves.

Tarboro, N.C.'s Salvation and Deliverance Church Choir gave a histrionic take on Horatio Spafford and Philip Bliss's "It Is Well With My Soul" that included cardiovascular-pumping handclaps and jarring choreography. But Sapp took most note of choir director Kristian Herring's sparkling shoes.

"I almost didn't hear the choir with your shoes being so loud," Sapp joked. That was no small feat considering that Herring also delivered the event's most ear-splitting scream.

sweet sound

sweet sound

By John Murph  | November 15, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  How Sweet the Sound  
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Next: In concert: Kris Kristofferson at The Music Center at Strathmore

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