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Choral invocation performance sidesteps controversy

Demonstrations of a year’s worth of work are often restricted to school concerts in church sanctuaries for on-campus choirs. In an effort to step outside this mold, the Praisesong ensemble sang the invocation for a Fresno City Council meeting, Feb. 25.

Director Michael Ogdon was invited to perform by council president Larry Westerlund. The invocation serves as an opening prayer, and the function has never been set to music before.

The routine invocation has been a topic of recent controversy due to the use of Jesus’ name in these prayers. Singer Alyssa Quenzer, ’10, says Praisesong was able to take a stance for Christianity without breaking the religious ambiguity rules.

“There is a controversy surrounding this as far as saying Jesus’ name, because he represents the Christian faith, and they asked us not to say Jesus’ name in our song,” Quenzer said. “But because we’re a Christian school, we represent Jesus wherever we go, so we took a stance on the issue with our presence.”

For Ogdon, the performance was an opportunity to extend beyond the average reach of his choirs.

“There’s a sense among the administration that Fresno Christian doesn’t exist in the mentality of Fresno; that somehow we’re well-known to ourselves and a well-kept secret,” Ogdon said. “Having an opportunity to extend beyond the normal and into something that’s important to our community; to support their leadership and yet, be present in it was important to me.”

Praisesong performed a song called “Invocation,” written by Ogdon for the event. Despite a full panel of City Council members as an audience, sophomore Amanda Merzon says the recital was not intimidating.

“Being in ensemble has definitely been a learning experience,” Merzon said. “I am the youngest member, and this event was another experience, something else under my belt. Each performance you gain knowledge, but I don’t think this one was particularly intimidating. I’m not singing for any particular person that scares me.”

Ogdon says the highlight of the event was helping the ensemble members out of their comfort zones.

“The best thing for me was that it’s not normal,” Ogdon said. “I’m always looking for things that are out of the norm that give us the opportunity to do things that stretch us. I think if you asked them individually, each singer would say they stood up a little taller.”

Praisesong: City Hall Performance from FC Video Productions on Vimeo.

For more information, read the Feb. 22 article, Praisong to perform invocation for Council or check out Brrrr or Choral Invocation. Or, e-mail Ogdon.

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