For thousands of Montrealers, it has become a signature of the holiday season in this city to spend an evening in the bliss with Jireh Gospel Choir and Montreal Gospel Choir.
Last December, more than 2,000 packed the majestic sanctuary of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church at 309 rue Rachel East in downtown Montreal for a feast of music prepared by Carol Bernard, director of the two choirs: Jireh Gospel Choir, a long-standing institution in the city and the Montreal Gospel Choir, a 100-voice emerging musical force on the Gospel circuit.
Bernard says both groups offer a combination of “authenticity and audacity, gaiety and depth, in the purest tradition of gospel music, from negro spirituals to hip-hop,” that makes it difficult for audiences “to stay still while listening to their songs.”
So there will be dancing in the aisles at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church on December 7, when music lovers gather for the ONE:19 Christmas show.
They will have an added treat with Jireh performing two of Kanye West’s songs from his recently-released and much-hyped album, Jesus Is King.
The repertoire of the evening will include mostly new songs… all gospels and many Christmas carols, performed by the two choirs singing separately then together, backed by some of the most talented musicians on the circuit today with the effervescent and dynamic Bernard providing the direction.
Bernard says it promises to be “an authentic gospel experience” that involves a lot of “energy, groove and emotions.”
All in keeping with what Jireh has become known for, which is an intricate and exciting combination of traditional and contemporary gospel sounds.
And it has made them one of the sought after choirs in the city. Over the past two years the choir has been one of the highlighted features of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, performing on one of the outdoor stages this year and on the closing concert with Bobby McFerrin in 2018.
For Bernard, who founded both Jireh and The Montreal Gospel Chjoir because of her unfettered love Gospel music and her desire to share it with all Montrealers, the past year has been an uplifting one.
She points to a series of collaborations with Place des Arts that had her hosting six days of noontime Gospel workshops with Montrealers during their lunch hour, sharing with them the fundamentals of the music and singing on the esplanade of the iconic institution.
And also spoke of having been invited to host a surprise mini-gospel workshop for the 15-member board of directors of Place des Arts during which she and two of her choir members serenaded them and lead them in a sing-along of “Oh Happy Day” and “Tiens bon,” a favorite from their best-selling album Get Album.
Coming right on the heels of their ONE:19 Christmas Concert on December 7, Bernard and Jireh Gospel Choir have been invited to share the stage with the famed Montreal Symphony Orchestra for the annual holiday concert of the iconic orchestra, in which the choir will be featured in two songs for the televised show.
All adding to the hectic excitement of the path that Bernard, a McGill University graduate (Mathematics and Computer Science), who walked away from a high-ranking job at CN Rail to pursue her dreams in music, has chosen.
“I’m driven by the love of God and a love for this city… Montreal,” is how she puts it.
And now, as she grooms 105 singers and five musicians for what has become a signature event on the holiday calendar of many Montrealers, she is laser-like in focus.
Because for Bernard, it’s all about the music and the audiences that provide the motivation and support.
ONE:19 – Christmas Gospel Concert Jireh Gospel Choir & Montreal Gospel Choir on Saturday, December 7, 2019, 3pm & 8pm Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste, 309 rue Rachel. Tickets: www.montrealgospel.com