Spirit making numerous appearances with patriotic program

Robert Black had already put together the program of patriotic music for Wayland Baptist University's musical ensemble Spirit weeks before the events of Sept. 11. But since that date, his group has been called on much more frequently to present their short program to a variety of groups.

"I bet we've done a program an average of every three days this month, and we have several more already scheduled for October," said Black, assistant professor of music at Wayland and the group's director.

"Everyone's just been calling me, and I assume its just word of mouth. We've had to turn down several events because we just can't keep the kids out of class that much."

Spirit will perform a 20-minute musical program titled "With Liberty and Justice For All," featuring songs from the musical intertwined with quotes, at a patriotic rally planned by Plainview mayor Lloyd Woods at noon on Friday, Oct. 5 at the Hale County Courthouse.

The program includes an arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the Gaither Vocal Band, "Procession of the Patriots," featuring the theme songs of the armed forces, "God Bless the USA," a reading of the Pledge of Allegiance and a few spirituals.

The group performed at graduation ceremonies at Wayland's Arizona campuses in Phoenix and Sierra Vista. They also performed in chapel the day following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and sang at the traveling Vietnam Memorial exhibit in Plainview last weekend.

Black said the patriotic "God Bless the USA" is always a favorite, especially at the military bases where Wayland campuses are located.

"Spirit does that song probably 50 times a year. In the past, we've gotten tired of it because we've sung it so much," Black said. "But we've had no complaints at all this year. It's become a rallying song for the country. I think it says what we're all feeling."

Besides their patriotic fall program, Spirit also has a more spiritual program featuring contemporary Christian tunes, and has a Christmas repertoire as well. Their spring program and concert consist of musical theatre and popular music selections blended with choreography.

Black also noted that Spirit is a unique group.

"These students are work-study employees, they receive class credit and it's a ministry," he said. "For many, I would say it is also a calling, to take their spiritual witness into the community."

Founded in 1976 as the Spirit of America Singers, the group performs in churches, service clubs, schools and other venues and presents a full concert each spring. Spirit includes John Ed Baker, Braxton Edwards, Paul Harkey, David Harper, Marleny Morales, Julie Reid, Andrea Turner and Angela Zanon. Jamar Jordan is sound technician for the group.