Steven Davis is learning a new way of life — and of singing — since coming to Goshen (Ind.) College last fall from New Orleans.
With the beat of southern gospel in his blood, Davis is learning the more rigid cadence of classical music and the generally reserved demeanor of those who sing it.
But he got to share a bit of his way of life with 44 of his fellow men’s choir members during a spring break tour to New Orleans this February.
The choir sang for Gladier Dalton, Davis’ adopted mother (see “Labor, Love Connect Faith Communities“). Afterward, she joined them in signing a familiar spiritual. They also performed in some schools and churches.
Choir members were introduced to Davis’ upbringing, to the realities of life after Hurricane Katrina and to the culture of jazz, art and food that still gives the city its lifeblood.
“I had never dreamed of going to college in Indiana, but when my mother got involved with the Mennonites and we visited Goshen, I fell in love with campus,” he said.
He decided to major in music and minor in art.
“As much as I love it here, it also provides some challenges,” he said. “The way people sing and worship, their humor, is all very different from where I grew up. But I believe we have a lot to teach each other.”
That mutuality occurred during a tour of New Orleans, said Scott Hochstetler, choir director and associate professor of music.
“The gift of our tour . . . was being inspired to see how the city has bounced back from what it suffered,” he said. “And we offered our faith and hope to the people down there through our singing.”
He said Davis works hard to learn the classical music style.
“The experiences that he and others from different cultures bring to our choir help it to improve and to diversify,” he said.
For the tour, Hochstetler chose three southern spirituals arranged by the late Moses Hogan, an African-American composer, conductor and arranger. During the first rehearsal, Davis saw the sheet music and exclaimed, “My mother sang with Mr. Hogan!”
“It turns out that Gladier toured in one of the chorales that Hogan directed in New Orleans and around the world,” Hochstetler said. “I was just floored by that.”