Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson’s student-run newspaper
Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Gospel night reaches record high numbers

2024 marked the 30th anniversary of Gospel Night at Branson, and it was the most successful year to date.

For the first time ever, tickets for the original performance sold out just hours after release, prompting the addition of a second performance for those who did not get online fast enough. Both nights ended with multiple standing ovations, signifying yet another triumph for the talented singers who participated.

At the beginning of the performance, a video was played featuring former Branson student Anndretta Lyle Wilson ‘94, who founded Gospel Night. In the video, she said she felt that she initially did not fit in at Branson, but that Gospel Night was a way for her to connect with her classmates.

“I decided to bring my community, my culture, my traditions, my music into a place that felt foreign to me and make it feel a little more like home,” she said.

Today, the tradition continues to resonate with members of the Branson community.

Before the opening night, Jaimeo Brown, a music teacher, thanked all those who had helped him organize the event.

“Within the Branson community, many people have all come together to help plan Gospel Night. This event is special because it is the only event where everyone comes together to gather and focus on gospel music,” he said.

He also thanked Dale Anthony and Steven Green, who have helped organize Gospel Night since 2005, saying, “They have helped with the spirit of African American gospel music, which is particular since African American gospel music is particular. It has a history of being able to uplift communities, especially in the light of great challenge and oppression.”

Brown also spoke to the inclusivity of gospel performance, saying that “sometimes in our society today, we put so much emphasis on performance that many people don’t get a chance to experience that power because they don’t see themselves as performers, but gospel focuses on that community aspect.”

The performance consisted of many Branson classes and groups as well as volunteering community members. Brown explained that the event is focused on a choir built up of many singers with differing levels of experience. This, he said, is part of what makes the event so special.

“We place the most important emphasis on the community choir. We invite different community members, from students to faculty and staff, to join,” he said. “The last three years I’ve been here, we have had a chance to hear community members who we did not even know sang, and gave them the gift of sharing their voice in front of an audience.”

One soloist, Olivia Ritter ‘26, who is a member of both Girls’ A Capella and Chamber Singers Honors, shared her excitement in anticipation of opening night.

“I am excited for my solo that I am doing above the choir, called ‘The Blessing,’” she said. “I have been working on it in Chamber, where we have had Dale and Steven come to teach us about gospel music.”

Another singer, Yasmin Charkin ‘26, also in Girls’ A Capella and Chamber Singers, echoed the importance of the community choir.

“I am excited to be in the big gospel choir with everyone,” she said. “There are a capella and solo performances, but my favorite part is the community singing where everyone sings together. You don’t have to be good at singing, and everyone is welcome.”

Both Ritter and Charkin shared appreciation for the energy present during Gospel Night rehearsals and performances.

“I love the energy and unpredictability of the style of music,” said Charkin. “The practices are very high energy and relaxed. They’re very mood-boosting.”

Ritter said that her favorite thing about Gospel Night was “how everybody comes together, no matter their religion, to support each other, have fun, and do brave things.”

Although gospel music is typically thought of as part of the Christian religion, “not everybody has to be religious,” said Ritter. “I’m not religious… Gospel Night is about the message and having a good time.”

Brown said, “For me, it’s not about the individual songs. It’s more about how these songs help bring freedom to people.”

Watch the recording of Gospel Night here.

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About the Contributor
Maitland "Mait" Wais, Writer, Photographer