Today was another AWESOME DAY! Today was our second competition day; one of the most important days of this entire trip.
Our day started around 11:30 a.m. When walking into the lobby, we were greeted by familiar faces from Fort Wayne. Many parents, VOU alumni and friends of VOU came to Cincinnati to support us for the competition. We lined up by vocal section, wearing our aqua VOU shirts, khaki pants and white shoes. Once the roll had been called, and everyone was in place, the sea of aqua blue fled the hotel lobby onto the sidewalk, toward The Aronoff Center for the Arts.
Once we arrived there, we were instructed to sit quietly and wait for further instructions. While we waited, Mr. White gave us a pre-competition pep talk. He reminded us that we were not singing to win the grand champion title, but to inspire those in the audience and to extend praises to God, for that is what matters most. After his pep talk, we walked in one straight line to the backstage area. We waited until it was finally time for us to walk on stage for our sound check.
When sound check was over, a group of us were interviewed by News Channel 15's Terra Brantley. Then we quickly left the venue and walked back to our hotel. Once we got to the hotel, we literally had 15 minutes to eat lunch, change into our gold and black shimmery formal uniforms and be back downstairs, ready to load the bus to go back to The Aronoff. When we loaded the bus, we were silent. We prayed and prepared our minds for what we were about to face. There was a common feeling of anxiousness, excitement and even a bit of nervousness, but above all, WE WERE READY!
We made it to The Aronoff, and sat in our holding area until we received word that it was time to line up backstage. Once we received word, we walked in one straight line to the backstage area. I was first in line and walked with pride as I led my fellow choir members to take the stage. While we waited backstage, we did the wave, silently down the line, several times to keep our energy levels up.
Suddenly, introductory music began, and the emcees took their places. They introduced the distinguished panel of international and national judges. After introducing the judges, they called us to the stage: "Voices of Unity, USA," and the crowd went wild! It was an amazing feeling. The music for our first song began, and the energy on stage was intense! We sang "In the Sanctuary" by Kurt Carr, followed by "Genesis, The Creation" arranged by our own director, Mr. White.
When we sang "Genesis, The Creation" the crowd let out a loud roar near the middle of the song, as we had come to one of the most exciting parts! It is such a technical song, and the audience seemed amazed to hear such a young group sing it in such a way as we did. We received a standing ovation from the massive audience as well as the panel of judges…it was only our second song!!
We followed it with "Total Praise," and "God of Promise," both by Richard Smallwood. We were the youngest choir to take the stage, but that was the least of our worries! We gave our performance all that we had inside of us! We were on a mission to inspire! At the end of our last song, Mr. White motioned his hands for us to turn and walk off the stage. It was done in such a disciplined manner, that you could literally hear us turn in unison! We were given a second standing ovation. The energy continued even as we walked off stage and into the backstage area! We felt like we had accomplished our mission!
Unlike our experience in China, we were able to sit and listen to the following choirs due to the fact that we were first to perform. We filed into the auditorium in the upper level and took our seats.
It was interesting to sit and listen to our competition. We chatted amongst each other and marveled at the amazing talent that followed us!
The competition was FIERCE! We competed against 6 other choirs in the Champions Gospel Music Category: Gospelchor Rejoice from Germany; Peace & Serenity from New York, NY, USA; Calvary Choir from Cincinnati, OH, USA; L'ensemble Vocal Voxapella from Canada; The Jeremy Winston Chorale from Wilberforce, OH, USA; and Stellenberg Girls Choir from South Africa. Each choir brought something unique to the competition. The song choices ranged from up-tempo to soft and sacred. Calvary Choir even sang one of the songs we had just performed, "Total Praise." Some choirs wore robes, while others wore dressy outfits. All in all, each choir sounded amazing! Language barriers were not an issue for our international competitors. Each word was sung clearly and powerfully. It is difficult to tell which choir will be named the grand champion in this category!
After it was over, we walked downstairs in two lines with linked arms. When we made it to the bottom of the stairs, we were greeted by Mr. White, who called: "Mission statement!" We all said our mission statement for the spectators in the lobby. They all stopped dead in their tracks to listen to us recite, in one voice, our mission. If that wasn't enough to amaze them, we recited it again, in Spanish. People cheered and congratulated us for a job well done, both on and off the stage.
We walked back to our hotel with pride, not knowing the outcome of the competition. We were just excited to have been a part of such an amazing event. When we got back to the hotel, Mr. White, band members, chaperones and visiting family members gave testimonials to how our performance moved them.
"You guys are INCREDIBLE!" said Mr. White. Many of the others' sentiments echoed what Mr. White had said. It made all of us feel proud.
As we lay our heads to rest tonight, we can rest assured that no matter the outcome, we gave it our all!