A priest from Philadelphia and an ensemble from the Archdiocese will take the stage for âa jam of the Holy Spiritâ, spreading the joy of Christmas in a troubled world.
Father Stephen Thorne and the Philadelphia Catholic Gospel Mass Choir, led by Tonya Taylor-Dorsey, will join hundreds of singers, musicians and evangelizers for âA Soulful Christmasâ on December 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts.
Now in its eighth year, “A Soulful Christmas” is a large-scale collaboration between community choirs, area pastors, worship dancers and instrumentalists for an annual evening of worship and music – all inspired by the cultural heritage of the African diaspora, said the program’s creator and artistic director, Dr. J. Donald Dumpson.
“We are bringing the African American community in an extraordinary celebration of Christmas,” said Dumpson, music and arts minister at Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.
The “very intentional” teamwork among the evening’s many ensembles delivers “a message of hope” to a city rocked by “so much division, so much violence,” said Father Thorne, who will deliver a short homily before the performance of the archdiocesan choir of âEmmanuelâ by gospel artist and evangelical bishop Norman Hutchins, who was honored at the 2019 event.
The song is one of Father Thorne’s favorites, Taylor-Dorsey said.
While pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Catholic Gospel Mass Choir is based, Father Thorne asked if the piece could be added to the liturgical repertoire – year round, Taylor added. -Dorsey.
âEven if it wasn’t Christmas, he would ask for it for Sunday mass,â she said.
That’s because the song is about a need that transcends time, Father Thorne said.
âEmmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’, is so needed today,â he said. âJesus came to save everything. “
The concert is a testament to this divine mission, said Dr Dumpson.
âIt turns the hall into an interfaith sanctuary,â he said. âMethodists, Baptists, Catholics – all come together to celebrate by chanting the good news and goodwill to one another. This is extremely important, especially at this time of year.
The Kimmel Culture Campus is the perfect setting for such an occasion, said Leslie Tyler, senior director of media relations and communications at the center.
âVerizon Hall is becoming a place where people feel welcomed and loved, and the spirit of the holiday season is celebrated in a very unique way,â she said.
For Taylor-Dorsey – who will be making her first appearance on the Soulful stage this year – the concert also evokes deeply personal memories: attending the annual performance has been a long tradition for her and her young adult son.
“It was our mother-son date every year,” she recalls, admitting that in her childhood years she had resorted to “almost bribing her son with sushi dinners” and dessert at Insomnia. Cookies to get him to join her.
âHe was sitting there, and I didn’t think he was paying attention – until a year ago when he said, ‘They did this piece a few years ago,â Taylor-Dorsey said. blown away.I thought he was going for the food.
But it’s impossible to resist what Dumpson called “the incredible synergy” of the evening, which is evident even during rehearsals, Taylor-Dorsey said.
âIt really is the church,â she said. âEven if it’s a rehearsal, you feel like you’ve been served. Sometimes the song ends, and the choir is so full of the Holy Ghost that the band will keep playing, and all of a sudden you’ve got this praise moment.
This worship naturally strengthens community bonds, said Father Thorne.
âIn the same way that a choir and an orchestra have to listen to each other, we have to do a little bit of listening,â he said. “This concert is a great momentâ¦ to make the world a better place.”
And the “beautiful city” of Philadelphia is where this task rightly begins, he added.
âGod is always in the realm of blessing,â Father Thorne said. “And he’s over Broad Street.”
For information and tickets for “A Soulful Christmas” visit the Kimmel Cultural Campus website.