Campus choral group to serve Fresno City despite objections
The campus Praisong choral group, a women's vocal ensemble, has sung at many events over the course of the school year, whether at a Christmas concert or festival competition.
However, in breaching out from common campus festivities, director Michael Ogdon decided to find time in the group's normal routine to perform for the Fresno City Council at an invocation, Feb. 25. Students will leave school at 7:30 a.m. and will sing in the Council Chambers at 8:30.
"We are responding to a request by a community leader as a part of what he does as a civil servant, and we are meeting his need," Ogdon said. "We are certainly stepping outside the realm of the normal. This is a simple but profound statement of our intention to be in the world but not of the world."
At first, Ogdon was asked by the council's president, Larry Westerlund, a church friend, to come to the council meeting to offer an invocation. However, Ogdon declined the invitation because of his teaching schedule and instead asked if the ensemble could sing the invocation.
Viewing the invocation as an honor, senior Olyvia Franklin plans to take a longer amount of practice time on the song than she usually takes. She says that continual practice of the music and asking questions in class helps her understand it to its full extent.
"Repetition really helps when it comes to music," Franklin said. "Doing the song over and over and over again really helps everyone in ensemble really get the music down. And, if we still don't get it, we just ask Ogdon questions until it makes sense."
"We are certainly stepping outside the realm of the normal." --Michael Ogdon, music director
For the invocation, Ogdon wrote and arranged the piece, simply named "Invocation," in order to state his and his colleagues' beliefs as Christians that also abide by certain restrictions.
"We will be performing an original composition I have written that accommodates [the rules], while still affirming our principal beliefs," Ogdon said. "While some may see this as compromising, I feel we are still being salt and light in a dark world that needs who we sing for."
By accommodations, Ogdon refers to recent activity within The Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics, which is objecting to the use of Jesus's name at the end of City Council prayers. The group has made statements about its views in a Fresno Bee article on Feb. 9.
However, despite such restrictions, junior Bree Ainley believes that the ensemble can still perform with the mindset of ministering.
"I think that, even though certain restrictions have been placed, our actions will speak louder than words and people will see that we are a Christian school," Ainley said.
Ogdon arranged the invocation in hopes of encouraging the ensemble to become more active in the Fresno community.
For more information on this upcoming or other Praisong performances, e-mail Ogdon.