This Monday’s holiday recognized a man who affected each in a different, yet positive way through his wisdom and words.
It’s a day which is widely celebrated, with people coming together to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the milestone in history he worked so hard to see: having the African American community become a part of the United States.
Each person celebrates differently, with food and festivities, but one of the most common additions to these gatherings is gospel music.
Gospel music is Christian-themed music, which was created to express emotions, sang by many activists during the Civil Rights Movement in order to keep spirits high when times were difficult.
This Thursday, Jan. 21, Auburn University’s gospel choir will be performing a selection of spirituals and gospels in celebration of MLK, Jr. Day.
Directed by Dr. William Powell, this performance will give students a chance to sing along to familiar songs that have influenced many people throughout the world.
“Basically there is a body of literature and research of the songs from the Civil Rights Movement,” said William Powell, associate professor of music and director of choral activities.
These include both spirituals and gospels, which are two separate varieties of songs.
“Spirituals were sung by slaves,” Powell said. “They were developed by an oppressed people in dire circumstances… and they were kept through oral tradition.”
Gospels, however, were specialized in churches and are available in many hymnals.
“In the 20th century during the Civil Rights Movement, they became important because they were with our forefathers,” Powell said. “(They) sang them as encouragement and rallying up and beating (the oppression).”
Aashana Vishnani, sophomore in vocal music education, has been a part of the gospel choir for two semesters and has found it to be beneficial in many ways.
“I think music is one of the purest forms of expression and to make a connection with God, or any Higher being, through music is a phenomenal experience,” Vishnani said.
Jeremy Pyles has now been a part of the gospel choir for four semesters after being heavily involved with his church choir.
“(Gospel choir) is an aerobics for the soul,” Pyles said. “It allows you to express not only your work for music but your love for Jesus…. It’s a workout.”
Vishnani explained that not only does the gospel choir involve singing, but also dancing.
“When I dance, it is an amazing feeling because there are no inhibitions, it is just my connection with the music and God,” Vishnani said. “Singing can be really fun because you just get to let go, and people in the choir aren’t afraid to do so.”
This singing and dancing created many popular gospels during the 20th century, such as “We Shall Overcome,” which Powell said was the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
Vishnani also agreed that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers made a large impact on gospel music.
“The freedom songs that were sung during that time fostered hope and unity among the people who sang them,” Vishnani said. “Martin Luther King taught a message of hope and equality in the future, and these songs express that message very clearly.”