Saturday, December 22, 2018

Eric Conway: Morgan Choir sings with CeCe Winans in Christmas Concert with BSO


CeCe Winans
(Jeremy Cowart)

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Last night, the Morgan State University Choir had the privilege of sharing the stage with Grammy-award winning singer CeCe Winans at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  After speaking with the BSO leaders, they proudly told me that the concert was completely sold out!  I was surprised to learn that last night’s concert was CeCe Winan’s first concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Of course Christmas is a great time for concerts, with the holiday cheer and all, but a CeCe Winans holiday concert is different.  Yes this was billed as a Christmas concert, but last night was a deeply spiritual event.  One could sense the anticipation of the audience as they entered the hall.  Everyone knew in advance that they were going to have true worship.  CeCe Winans is that rare artist that can connect with everyone in the hall on a personal level. She was so incredibly charming and at ease on stage, that everyone in the hall was totally relaxed, comforted, and ready to be blessed in song.

Musically, I found that CeCe Winans has an uncanny sense of pitch, where every note sung is totally in the center of the pitch - which separates the great artists from the ordinary.  I have always been captured by the sincerity in the sound of CeCe Winans.  It is this sincerity that brings one in to the message of her music. The first half of the concert consisted of gospel favorites from her standard repertoire.  The second half to the concert was all Christmas music with remarkable orchestral arrangements of traditional carols as well as new songs from her recent Christmas CD - all accompanied by the BSO and her rhythm section. 

Upon accepting the offer to have the Morgan choir sing the concert, and for me to lead the orchestra last night, I knew that one challenge for us was the timing of the concert.  Dec. 21st was at least a week after our Fall semester was over. Students already left for home to be with their families for the holidays. Having said that, I knew that I would have a good representation from my choir who either lived in Baltimore, or made arrangements to stay in Baltimore to sing with CeCe Winans.  We had a group of fifty voices which worked well on stage for the concert.  We ended up singing in over half the songs in the concert.  Once again, audiences recognized the signature blue robes of the Morgan State University choir on stage!

Personally, given I was the first-call orchestral pianist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra from 1993-2004, until I assumed the reigns of the Morgan Choir, it was nostalgic for me to be on stage at the Meyerhoff again, seeing many of my colleagues on stage again, who warmly welcomed me back.

Once again, the Morgan choir was blessed to be a part of last night’s phenomenal concert.  Everyone in Meyerhoff left the hall knowing they had an extraordinary service.  At some point CeCe Winans opened up the doors of the church (hall) with an invitational to accept Christ as their Savior.  It was refreshing to see CeCe Winans remind everyone at the concert of the Reason for the Season.  Merry Christmas!


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