Unity Gospel Choir brings faiths together in Christmas celebration

Loren Allred, singer in The Greatest Showman and 2012 contestant on The Voice, performed at Friday’s A Soulful Christmas Celebration at the UCCU Center in Orem. (Brittany Salinas)

About 4,000 audience members were in the UCCU Center on Nov. 30 shouting praises and singing along with Loren Allred, best known as the voice behind Jenny Lind on “The Greatest Showman” and a 2012 contestant on The Voice.

The Unity Gospel Choir held its third annual A Soulful Christmas Celebration with a focus on placing Christ at the center of Christmas and encouraging the message #LightTheWorld by finding ways to serve others over the holiday season.

The choir is different from other performance groups under The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since their style is gospel soul music. The Unity Gospel Choir’s mission is to “bring hope, love and healing” and  “cultivate unity on an international level” through song, according to their website.

Director of the Unity Gospel Choir Debra Bonner said the music selected for the concert was chosen in hopes of reminding individuals about the true meaning of Christmas.

The Unity Gospel Choir was formerly known as the Genesis Gospel Choir and has grown in popularity across the Utah Valley, according to director Debra Bonner. (Sarah Collins)

“The songs are uplifting and bring people closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ,” Bonner said. “It’s a time we all celebrate because it’s His birthday.”

The Christmas concert showcased a variety of different talent, such as dancers from the Center Stage Performing Arts Studio in Orem to performances by Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker. World-renowned gospel pianist, composer and arranger David Blakely accompanied performances throughout the event.

UVU student Taylor Doty said she appreciated the Center Stage dance performances and Allred’s talent.

“I really enjoyed when Loren sang ‘O Holy Night,'” Doty said. “I just really felt something powerful in hearing her sing.”

The Bonner Family, featured on the “Jane & Emma” movie soundtrack, performed a “Primary Medley” where familiar Church songs like “Families Can Be Together Forever” and “I Love to See the Temple” were sung in a gospel style. Between each song, members of the Bonner family expressed the importance of family and helping others.

Other religious faiths were also welcomed to the event. Pastor Darrell Hodges and the Sabbath Ministries Band from San Antonio, Texas, performed and supported the idea that God and Christ are the reasons for celebrating Christmas.

A “poor man” raises his hands to the audience and invites them to #LightTheWorld over the holiday season. The character shared quotes and messages between performances of A Soulful Christmas. (Sarah Collins)

Hodges shared a brief message about the impact God can have on people’s lives and invited the audience to chant the phrase, “Jesus, I love you more than anything.”

BYU student Chris Means said he enjoyed the experience and message behind Hodges’ words.

“I felt the Spirit so strong the whole time,” Means said. “It just shows that you don’t have to be a member of the Church to feel the Spirit.”

Non-profits like Children Need Families and Lift Up Voices were promoted as a way to help others this Christmas season. Audience members were also encouraged to offer aid to cities like Flint, Michigan, which has been dealing with a water crisis since 2014.

Debra Bonner said she plans to continue holding A Soulful Christmas Celebration “to share the message of Christ to our fellow brothers and sisters.”

BYU student Marianne Aboussou said she was a member of the Unity Gospel Choir last year and appreciated how the group incorporated more people from different religious beliefs and backgrounds.

“I love how this shows the way different faiths can come together to see the focus,” Aboussou said. “The focus is Jesus Christ — He is the gift and gave us the ability to give.”

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