Renowned act delivers involved, energetic show

The world-renowned Harlem Gospel Choir, comprised of singers from the Tri-State area and Harlem's black churches, gave a performance in Geneseo this past Saturday night, bringing with them an array of unique voices.

Wadsworth Auditorium was almost completely filled with people coming from as far as Rochester, and the performance was worth the drive.

There was no sitting back and watching passively - if you go see the Harlem Gospel Choir, expect to be part of an active audience. Right away, the choir got the audience involved, standing and clapping along. Performers made their way into the aisles as well, choosing members of the audience to stand with them while they sang. By the final minutes of the show, several dozen people had joined the group on stage and stood holding hands as the final songs were sung.

A few free prizes, including a signed CD and a stuffed elephant, were given away to randomly chosen members of the audience. The friendly atmosphere seemed to prevent those invited onstage from being uncomfortable. In fact, audience members who were brought up were eager to participate and showed no uneasiness in dancing and singing along.

Song choices varied from slow and inspirational to fast-paced and eager, including "I Believe I Can Fly," "Man From Galilee," and "Amen." Almost every member of the choir was given a feature in at least one song, and each proved him or herself as talented as the next.

Hosting the show was the extremely personable Allen Bailey, founder of the choir. Witty and enthusiastic, Bailey won the audience's favor. His compliment to Geneseo, noting the village "second to none" as he gushed about the hospitable atmosphere, didn't hurt his case either.

Once a promotional director for a number of famous artists, Bailey's experience in the music industry was perfect for the creation and success of the choir.

Founded in 1986, the Harlem Gospel Choir has since performed around the world. Its audiences have included Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict VI. Additionally, the choir has performed with a number of famed entertainers including Whoopi Goldberg, Cindy Lauper and Bono. Praise for the choir comes in waves with celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Sir Elton John, Lyle Lovett and Amy Grant at the forefront.

According to their Web site, each performance is given with the theme of "bringing people and nations together and giving something back." Through their music, the choir aims to bring about an appreciation for black culture and gospel - and the Geneseo show certainly did that.

The environment was unmistakably joyous, and when Bailey asked whether they would be welcome back next year, the audience enthusiastically approved.