Gospel choir entertains and inspires at annual concert

NEW HAVEN — As the Addison County Gospel Choir performed before its biggest audience of the year on Tuesday night at Addison County Fair and Field Days, the singers sensed it was an important moment when they sang their rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.”
The song was dedicated to Alice Quesnel, a fan of the choir who died in the summer of 2007. The night of the annual Field Days concert five years ago, Quesnel told her husband, Victor, that she would fly away. She passed away later that night.
The song performed in her memory for the audience, which included Victor and Alice’s family, was one of her favorites by the gospel choir.
“The words of the song speak a message of hope and remind us that we have a home waiting for us when we fly away,” said choir director Suzanne Rood of the tribute. “In remembering Alice, it makes the words more real. It reinforces our beliefs as a whole.”
In a 50-minute concert, the group performed a varied selection of gospel music, ranging from traditional favorites to contemporary pieces.
The audience swayed in their seats, singing along to popular tunes such as “You Raise Me Up,” “Worthy is the Lamb” and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” The choir also featured musical accompaniment, including piano, banjo, guitar and drums. In addition, a sign language interpreter for the hearing challenged supported the music.
The sopranos, tenors, altos and basses came together beautifully along with the band to give a memorable performance enjoyed by all, audience members said.
The choir has generated a following of people like Quesnel who look forward to attending their performance each summer. Since the beginning, Field Days has hosted a gospel group performance in the first days of the fair. For more than a decade, that group has been the Addison County Gospel Choir.
Rood, a Vergennes resident, has been the director for the choir for the past seven summers. She said she loves the sense of community that being a part of the group brings with it.
“The gospel choir pulls from so many different churches,” said Rood. “I love the sense of camaraderie between the members. It’s a great group of people, and it’s an honor to direct them.”
The choir attracts a wide range of people and currently has members from 15 different churches in Addison County. Singers range from 15 to 77 years old. Along with the wide age range, singers vary in experience — some are newcomers to gospel choir while others are more experienced — because there is no audition process to become a group member. Starting in May and ending in August, the group practices once a week for two hours at the Christian Reform Church in Vergennes. Rood said participation varies, as people tend to come and go during the summer months.
While the Fair and Field Days concert is their biggest event, audiences can expect to see more of the gospel choir on Sunday. The group will be holding a follow up performance at the Bristol Baptist Church starting at 7 p.m. for those who missed out on Tuesday night. 

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