Joe Louis Arena was overflowing with praise and glory Monday as eight choirs battled it out on stage for the title of the Best Regional Choir and the chance to advance to Verizon Wireless’ 2nd annual How Sweet the Sound Gospel Competition for the crown of Best Church Choir in America and $25,000.
Returning host, Grammy Award winning producer/choir director Donald Lawrence, and co-host, gospel singer Lisa Kimmey-Winans, led the night by presenting Detroit and surrounding area choirs as they gave their best.
“I was flattered that they asked me to come back,” Lawrence said. “I am a choir master and I understand what these choirs go through and this competition is truly a rewarding experience.”
Before the choirs set it off on stage, concert-goers were able to participate in gospel choir karaoke, admire artwork and attend youth choir showcases throughout the venue.
After an energizing welcome, the audience was dazzled by appearances by gospel heavyweights Marvin Sapp, Kierra “Kiki” Sheard and Dorinda Clark Cole who served as celebrity judges.
This year’s competition awarded prizes in three categories: Best Small Choir, Best Large Choir and Best Regional Choir with each division being judged on originality, precision and vocals.
Throughout the night, the choirs lit up the arena with a cappella, new school beats mixed with old school church hymns and light choreography. In between the choir performances, the audience was indulged with special selections performed by the judges, including Sapp’s No. 1 hit, “Never Would Have Made It.”
At the end of the night, Praise Tabernacle’s Selected of God choir won the title of Best Regional Choir and will advance to represent Detroit in the national finale.
Beginning as a Memphis competition in 2007, How Sweet the Sound has evolved into a nationwide contest. Last year, judges awarded the winning title to the Voices of Acme from Acme Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. With their monetary prize, the choir has gone on to record a CD and purchase a new church.
All regional winning choirs on this 11-city tour will return to Joe Louis Arena on Nov. 7 to compete in the finale.