California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

New CLU Gospel Choir shares expression through gospel music

President of CLU Gospel Club Nairi Semerdjian addresses the conjugation at the Samuelson Chapel before her club performs.

The newly formed Gospel Choir Club at California Lutheran University performed for the first time on March 14 during Thursday’s chapel service at Samuelson Chapel. They performed three live music pieces for worshippers, two of which were done alongside the long-established Chapel Choir, and one solo piece conducted by themselves. 

The Gospel Choir Club was founded from the ideas of its president, Nairi Semerdjian. Semerdjian approached the Coordinator of Chapel Music, Jessica Helms, in the spring of last year with the idea for a specialized group of singers. Helms said the two met continuously throughout the fall semester of the 2023 year, and ultimately launched the club a couple of weeks ago. 

“I got into campus ministry from one of the interns who has been here last year, and she inspired me to get involved. Especially in the music aspect, because I am a music major here, so I wanted to bring elements of music that I love and music that I am familiar with into my job,” Semerdjian said. 

The group provides an opportunity for all members of the Cal Lutheran community, from students to faculty and staff, to sing and learn more about this unique form of music. The club welcomes all members who are interested in the topic, ranging in skill levels from beginners to advanced singers. 

“We have official choirs on campus, like the CLU Choir and others, which are ones you have to register for, which are classes. But some people don’t have that much time, or can’t devote that much time to it. So this [the Gospel Choir] is an option for people to come sing without so much of a time requirement, and it is more for fun than an official grade,” Helms said. 

Helms said the new choir differs from the Cal Lutheran Chapel Choir founded by former faculty member Kyle Johnson, through its specialization in music and its registry system. She said the specialization in Gospel music makes the club unique from the regular choir. 

“The Chapel Choir does an all variety of music, we do hinge arrangements, classical pieces, and we have occasionally done some gospel before but it was more of an eclectic mix,” Helms said. “Nairi wanted to create something that really focused on her passion, which is gospel music.” 

Helms said that specialization provided a unique recruitment tactic for the club in its first opening days, attempting to attract its first founding members. 

“We mostly advertised by making announcements within choirs that already exist on campus, since they are already singers so we know they enjoy it. We sent out emails, she [Semerdjian] created an Instagram account and was trying to spread the word,” Helms said. 

After collecting three interested members who were willing to perform, the club had its first live performance with support from the Cal Lutheran Chapel Choir. For their first performance, Helms approached Semerdjian with a selection of songs, and Semerdjian met with her club members on Tuesday to select which one they would be performing. 

“If you’re doing something that you don’t like, you’re not going to want to do it. So we pick songs that we know that we enjoy, that we know have a meaning to us, or have a meaning to the community,” Semerdjian said . 

The club meets every Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. in Overton Hall where the club practices for its upcoming performances and selects their songs. Semerdjian said the club’s current plans are to sing again the day before the graduation ceremony at the Samuelson Chapel. 

“What we want is for people to listen to us and hear real gospel. You can play a gospel song on your phone and hear the sounds and hear the difference between that and any other type of church music. That’s the dynamic that we are going for,” Semerdjian said.

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