An indescribable feeling has reached far and wide this year as the “How Sweet the Sound” gospel competition toured the nation to conduct its search for Americas Best Choir. On Saturday, November 13th the finale took place in Washington, D.C. where the winners “Voices of Destiny (V.O.D)” from Greater Zion Church Family out of Compton, California were crowned.
It has been an amazing ride for the inspirational singers who we were first introduced to us at the regional competition which took place on Monday, October 11th at Staples Center in Downtown, Los Angeles. Their stage presence, visual interpretation and vocal arrangements earned them top honors that evening- including Viewer’s Choice, Best Large Choir and Overall Regional winner respectively.
The incomparable CeCe Winans joined Co-Host Donald Lawrence this year, along with an impressive roster of guest judges including Marvin Sapp, Hezekiah Walker and Kelly Price. They each delivered heartfelt commentary about the choirs’ stellar performance. But “AMAZING” was the word echoed the entire evening. It was clear that the audience shared that sentiment when they gave a standing ovation after the choirs’ theatrical and moving rendition of“My Time for God's Favor and Presence of the Lord (Remix).”
For “Voices of Destiny”, it truly is their time for favor and as choir master and Pastor of Greater Zion, Michael Fisher admitted that the recognition did not come without hard work and a humble heart. “I am still in shock! I think I am still processing all of this. We are truly blessed and humbled by this experience and praise God that we were able to have the opportunity.”
It was just last year, when Pastor Fisher attended the competition and was encouraged by his congregation to enter V.O.D. into this year’s competition. “I was not sure we could pull it off at first” says Fisher. “The choirs were phenomenal and I knew we had to be on point if we were going to compete.”
The choir practiced 3 times a week, every week for about 4-5 hours each day. An impressive schedule for members who work, go to school and have families. “I was so impressed with the members’ dedication and unwavering support of the Greater Zion congregation. They came to practices, feeding us and providing care for those who had children; holding babies in the pews while we belted out hymns from the top of our lungs.” He goes on to talk about the bonding process and how the experience has really brought the choir closer. After all it is not easy to perform at that level for thousands of people. “We are more than just a choir, we are a family and all of the members worked really hard. They deserve this.”
During the competition, choirs are judged on originality, interpretation, technical merit and stage presence, all categories that “Voices of Destiny” mastered perfectly. Yet, the People’s Choice category is the greatest element of the event because it allows the audience to vote via text, for the choir that moved them the most. “Voices of Destiny” made an impact because they connected with the audience and were very original. According to Donald Lawrence “You do not have to stick to the map, just be your selves and the people will see that it comes from the heart. I believe that is why “Voices of Destiny” stood out” he says.
Today, like Voices of Destiny many choirs have become the pinnacle of houses of worship across the nation. No matter what your faith you can lift your voice in song and leave all of your cares at the altar. “How Sweet the Sound” has displayed the power of praise. It is something that joins every religion together it seems.
Lawrence who has been a choir master for many years, talked about this dynamic on the road with the tour. This being his 3rd year with the competition, he has met people from all walks of life who seek refuge in singing for their church choirs. They use this type of fellowship to deal with personal issues. “The choir is a safe haven for most members. Everyone has a story and I have found that people are helped through some of the most tumultuous times in their lives just by coming to their place of worship, connecting with other members and ultimately emerge stronger.”
Lawrence also raises the point that “How Sweet the Sound” was not just about showcasing African American choirs as seen in 2009 when “Atlanta West Pentecostal Church” from Lithiana, Georgia took home the National title. “It’s about celebrating and sharing what is in your heart no matter what denomination you belong to and I am so thankful to Verizon for giving choirs a voice. They are indeed the true heroes of our communities.”
“Voices of Destiny” has set the bar for what it means to be “America’s Best Choir”. For years they have worked tirelessly to serve their hometown, long before the accolades were bestowed upon them. Greater Zion Church Family offers several ministries in support of education, ending homelessness and helping families. Aside from the food and clothing drives that are ongoing, it has always been Pastor Fishers’ dream to install a full service Youth Center at the church. Now after winning over $30,000 in prize money it is no longer a dream deferred and is set to open in the spring of 2011. In addition, Greater Zion will be working on a new sanctuary as well.
Pastor Fisher remains a man of the people refusing to let the choir’s new found fame derail their mission. “I feel like we still have so much more to accomplish. But we praise God for his blessings and if you remain faithful to what God gives you. He will water it and give increase”.
Coming up, you can catch “Voices of Destiny” as they headline the 2011 Superbowl Gospel Celebration on February 4th, in Dallas, Texas. Stay connected with the Greater Zion Church Family by logging-on to www.greaterzionchurchfamily.com.
“How Sweet the Sound” could be coming to your city next so stay tuned to www.howsweetthesound.com for more information.