MANATEE — Students in Room 174 were making a glorious noise to the Lord this past Tuesday.
Maybe it was only a rehearsal, but with their soaring vocals, rhythmic hand-claps, and the way they swayed to the music, it might as well have been Carnegie Hall. That’s how much they were into the venerable praise art form.
But, no, these students would probably tell you their voices were being lifted to a higher power.
The Voices of Praise Gospel Choir, a group of students who attend State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, will be among those singing at the second Manasota Gospel Feast in Song beginning at 6:45 p.m. today at Mount Raymond Full Gospel Baptist Church, 2410 Fourth Ave. E., Palmetto.
Jorad Holmes, a 21-year-old Palmetto High School graduate, is the founder of the Voices of Praise.
He brought the idea to Melodie Dickerson, SCF’s director of choral and vocal studies, three years ago.
“I asked, ‘Why don’t we have a gospel choir?’” Holmes recalled.
The music was in his blood. He had been steeped in the tradition virtually from birth.
“I’m a lifelong gospel singer,” he said, recalling growing up in St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Bradenton.
“Every time I listen to it, my day will be good. It energizes me and makes me happy,” Holmes said.
Although Dickerson immediately bought into the idea, interest was slow to build.
Now, there are about 20 members in the choir, and most of them were at the rehearsal Tuesday.
“Last year, it came on strong,” Dickerson said of the development of Voices of Praise.
“Most of the members have grown up in church. It’s from the heart, from the soul. They learn it all by ear,” Dickerson said.
Jay Simmons, former president of the Voices of Praise, called the members an awesome group.
“They have accomplished a lot this year,” Simmons said.
Petressa Poole, 40, said her church roots run deep and she likes the positive message delivered by Voices of Praise.
“I’m always close to God, and the Voices of Praise brings a unity,” she said.
Among others taking part in the Gospel Feast on Saturday are the Mount Raymond Praise Ensemble, Faith Temple C.O.G.I.C. Mass Choir, Turner Chapel Dance Team, and the headliner, Pastor Charles “Stobey” Taylor and United in Purpose.
This is the last semester for Holmes at SCF, who hopes to continue his education at a four-year college.
“They’ll elect new officers,” Dickerson said, expecting Voices of Praise to continue with their gospel music.
And she wouldn’t mind if they dust off “Right in King Jesus” again.
“I really like the way they did it,” she said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.