Hari Sreenivasan: Finally, we turn to another installment of our weekly Brief But Spectacular series.

Tonight, three members of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. Founded in 1986, the group performs around the world and includes more than two dozen people from diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

Terrance Kelly: We start the night with a warm up. I’m a classically trained singer, so I believe that, as a signer, you must warm up before you get started.

Isa Chu: It’s what Terrance calls vocal yoga.


Terrance Kelly: Within the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, we have, at last count, about 13 faiths, Christian, Unitarian, agnostic, Jewish, Baha’i, Sufi, Muslim. Somebody said baseball.

Mary Ford: I’m not interested in who people believe in. I’m interested in how they act and how they are with one another, how they treat one another.

Isa Chu: Interfaith is my faith, I guess, and the openness to different people and different beliefs.

Terrance Kelly: Well, it is sometimes difficult when a song might say Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus for possibly a Jew or somebody of the Muslim faith. But what we decided to do is that when we have Jesus, God, lord, master, you mentally insert the name of your God, so you can get in there with some true praise.

Mary Ford: In 1988, I was at a fund-raiser in San Francisco. The Oakland Interfaith Gospel ensemble was singing. And I heard the choir, and I went, that’s it. That’s what I want to do.

Terrance Kelly: Gospel music comes from a point of pure love, so when you sing it, it touches people at bone level. Bone level means it hits you at your soul.

Isa Chu: Right now, I work as a dispatcher for the Oakland Fire Department. It’s so cathartic to kind of start your week on a Monday with choir rehearsal, knowing that whatever happens the rest of the week, you have your choir family.

Terrance Kelly: Gospel music is a part of the African-American church, which is the bastion of safety for the African-American. And it kind of provides that feeling for any and all who take part of it.

Mary Ford: When I tell people I’m in the choir, and they’re like, oh, that’s nice, you know, Jesus, uh-huh, uh-huh. They look at us and they think, what are they going to be able to do together?

They haven’t had an experience of all faiths in harmony. That’s what we do. We get along. We have different sexual orientations. We have different economic situations. We have different colors on our skin. But we sing together, and we make this beautiful music together.

Mary Ford: My name is Mary Ford.

Isa Chu: My name is Isa Chu.

Terrance Kelly: My name is Terrance Kelly. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take.

Mary Ford: Brief But Spectacular take.

Isa Chu: This is my Brief But Spectacular take on healing through music.

Hari Sreenivasan: The choir’s next performance is in January, part of a tribute to Martin Luther King, in Oakland, California.