Members of the Fort Wayne Voices of Unity choir were fully prepared to face the pressure at the World Choir Games in Cincinnati.
For weeks, they had been practicing how to impress judges and defend their championship gospel title.
But an appearance on national TV? Nobody saw that coming.
Yet just before 6 a.m. Monday, 16 members of the choir gathered around Cincinnati’s Fountain Square for a live performance on Good Morning America.
Joined by two choirs from Ohio, members of the choir sang I Can, the official anthem of the global choir games. The song was written by Grammy-award winner and Gospel singer Kirk Franklin.
I was excited, said 18-year-old Lainey Parker, who graduated this spring from Angola High School. I’ve been in front of TVs before, but it was my first time being on national TV. It was a very surreal moment.
Voices of Unity, along with the two Ohio choirs, were also chosen to perform I Can during the opening of the games. Voices of Unity Tour Manager Dea Chambers said the choirs were practicing together for the first time when the musical director for the song asked if they were free Monday morning.
At first, Chambers said, choir members groaned when they heard how early it would need to get up. But when they heard they would have the chance to be on Good Morning America, she said, everybody went nuts.
Throughout Monday, Chambers said, students in the choir were bombarded with texts and calls from friends and relatives who had seen them on TV. They were just on for a few seconds, she said, even though they performed the entire song in front of a large crowd.
The Voices of Unity Youth Choir, a self-described soulful choral group, is one of more than 360 choirs from 48 countries participating in the 7th World Choir Games, which started July 4. Organizers bill the event as the Olympics of choral music, and say it’s the largest international choral competition in the world.
Previous games, held every two years, have been in Austria, China, Germany and South Korea. It’s the first time the World Choir Games have been held in the United States.
The Fort Wayne choir will participate in five events, including opening and closing ceremonies. Over the weekend, the group learned it earned a gold medal in the Popular Choral Music category, which it competed in Saturday.
The choir was third in its gold medal category, placing behind Stellenbosch University Choir of South Africa and Dekoor Close Harmony of the Netherlands.
Tomorrow, Voices of Unity will compete in the gospel category at 3 p.m. in Procter & Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. The choir was the world champion in the gospel category during the 2010 games in Shaoxing, China, and hopes to defend its title.
It will be amazing, Parker said. We’re feeling very confident but we’re humble because we don’t want to let our heads get too big.