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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

JOURNAL: Marquette’s Joyful Noise

Photo by Alex DeBuhr
The Gospel Choir has performed at several Marquette events including basketball games.

Music can convey different meanings to each individual, sending messages that are beyond measure. As the chords, notes and lyrics float through the air, they can fill your body with countless emotions, pulling at your heartstrings like a guitar.

Many groups can create these sensations for individuals, such as the Marquette Gospel Choir, which welcomes students of all faiths to explore and enhance their spirituality through gospel music.

Gospel music is a genre of Christian music developed from songs that helped sustain generations of African people through slavery. These songs inspired hope and were then introduced to other cultures.

Debra Duff, the current Marquette Gospel Choir director, oversaw the Mount Mary Gospel Choir for 19 years before coming to Marquette in spring 2021.

“I grew up around music and played for the church choir when I was younger, and so I continued to utilize my musical gift,” Duff says. 

Duff gets her inspiration from the history of gospel music and from the different artists she listens to. She says her decisions revolve around encouraging messages.

“At this time it connects to me because it’s uplifting, and I just want to share my gifts with the students and have a way for them to have an outlet and come together with those who have similar interests,” Duff says. “It’s just not for singing, it’s a ministry in itself.”

The Marquette Gospel Choir has performed to audiences at events such as singing at men’s basketball games, the Marquette’s Board of Trustees conferences and have been televised on PBS.

The performances excite Duff because she can see the impact of Gospel choir on the community.

“What brings me the most joy is to see people inspired by the songs that we sing, to see the students grow spiritually throughout the semester and seeing the conversations and reaction of the audience after our performances,” Duff says.

Duff feels gospel music addresses issues around the world and thinks the words they sing can positively influence society. 

“I believe with everything going on in our world today, gospel music plays a major role in uplifting people,” Duff says. “There is still hope and God is in control no matter what individuals are facing, and [we want] to encourage people not to give up and keep the faith.” 

Rebekah Tait, a senior in the College of Nursing, is the president of the Marquette Gospel Choir and recognizes the power of the lyrics they sing. 

“I believe the words we sing have the power to heal and create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone,” Tait says. “I have seen firsthand the power that our music has during our concerts and the special ability we have to touch lives and open hearts to the great grace God has to offer.” 

Tait believes in the power of gospel music and how it can communicate people’s emotions when they may not have the words. 

“Some of our slower songs can really help someone tap into the hurt and give the safe space to be vulnerable. Our upbeat songs allow a joyous environment to simply praise the great gifts we have been blessed with in our lives,” Tait says.

When the Marquette Gospel Choir is surrounded by people who appreciate them, Tait says the aura of love is indescribable. 

“We also tend to have a lot of crowd engagement in our concerts that truly exemplifies the feelings of inclusion,” Tait says. “After our concerts, we always try to interact with our crowd and thank them … we have heard numerous times about the lasting impact our music and voices have made in their hearts and lives.” 

Lizzy Bitoye, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and the vice president of the group, believes strongly in the power of gospel music.

“I grew up in the church and was very involved in the choir while also being a worship leader. I sang in my school choir as an alto, so I knew coming here, I really wanted to be in the choir,” Bitoye says. 

In Bitoye’s words, gospel music is all about remembering where you came from but also creating a welcoming space for everyone to worship God. 

“The music we sing is to worship and praise God, and we invite everyone to come and join us at the events we host or are a part of,” Bitoye says.

The Marquette Gospel Choir spreads the word of God to the Marquette community and beyond. In a time of hardship and struggle, the gospel choir aims to ease this pain.

“I feel the world today is hurting and many people are still recovering from the traumatic events of the pandemic alongside everyday challenges,” Tait says. “I think our music aims to heal these broken places and give a sense of hope and security in trusting the Lord and allowing Him to take control of your life, no matter what it brings.”

This story was written by Isabella Flores. She can be reached at [email protected]

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