I’m not one for viewing presidential inaugurations regardless of political party. I really don’t care what’s said. I’m more focused on what an administration will do in the next four years. I kind of wish they’d take the oath and just get to work. However, I am going to tune in today to the second inauguration of President Barack Obama long enough to listen to The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
Under the direction of Carol Cymbala, the wife of Pastor Jim Cymbala, the 280-voice choir will sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) extended an invitation to the choir back in July, his privilege as chairman of the congressional committee planning the swearing-in, well before the election would be decided. Choir members said they would have been excited to perform no matter who won. The committee told them what to sing and that they had to keep their performance to 3 ½ minutes.
I have been a fan of Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir for more than 20 years. I was drawn to their style and spirit before I knew much about them, but appreciated their talent even more after I learned their backstory.
The choir began with nine people in the mid-1970s, becoming a vital part of the worship services of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. They recorded their first album in the early 1980s with much of the song written by Carol. They funded the production by pre-selling albums to their friends and family members. The choir, which continues to be mostly composed of vocally untrained church members, has recorded three videos, three DVDs and numerous albums, winning five Dove Awards and six Grammy Awards. They’ve sung at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and the Madison Square Garden Theater.
According to their website, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir is “a highly unlikely group of people, a mixture of ethnic and economic backgrounds, in the heart of a city synonymous with coldness and decay. Made up of attorneys and former street people, nurses and ex-crack addicts, the choir is a unique cross section of humanity.”
Pastor Cymbala explains: “None of us would have met if it weren’t for Christ. Our backgrounds are just too diverse. But all of us have one thing in common: we have all been lifted up and changed by the power of Jesus Christ. So the choir sings, not about am mere theological doctrine, but about what has happened to them. It’s not just the lyrics of a song; it’s a reality to each of them. “
Starting each rehearsal with prayer reinforces that principle as the choir asks the Lord to bless their music and anoint their songs for the services. “I just want to see people drawn to Jesus Christ,” Carol Cymbala says. “I want the music to be the arrow that points them to him.”