Under the direction of Emmy winner Terrance Kelly, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir brings together singers and instrumentalists who embody a community of diverse races, cultures, and faiths. They also share an uncontainable passion for music. Their mission is to inspire joy and unity among all people through black gospel and spiritual music traditions. Judging by their audiences’ reactions—clapping, cheering, and singing along—it is apparent that they succeed in that mission.
Now celebrating its 32nd season, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir was born out of a gospel music workshop led by the exuberant Terrance Kelly at Living Jazz’s Jazz Camp West. It became an independent nonprofit organization in 1991, and since then, the award-winning choir’s exquisite harmonies and stirring gospel repertoire have led to performances with a wide variety of esteemed groups, such as Joshua Nelson, the Prince of Kosher Gospel; the Blind Boys of Alabama; and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. OIGC also appears on Grammy-winning albums by Linda Ronstadt, MC Hammer, Tramaine Hawkins, and others.
2017 has been a historic year for OIGC. In April, the choir hosted over 400 participants at the first-ever International Interfaith Gospel Music Conference at the Convention Center in Oakland. The finale concert featured choirs from all over the globe as well as the legendary Edwin Hawkins. In October, OIGC teamed up with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus for the Lavender Pen Tour, which took nearly 300 people on a soul-enriching, life-changing journey for equality through five southern states.
OIGC, referred to by SFJAZZ as a “treasured Bay Area institution,” was named “Best Gospel Choir” in 2006 and the winner in the “Best Church Music” category in 2009 in the East Bay Express Readers’ Polls and was voted “Best Arts Organization” by Oakland Magazine readers in 2015. Terrance Kelly was recognized as “Best Choir Director” in the East Bay Express in 2015 and granted the Dr. Edwin Hawkins Excellence Award in 2013.
To be certain, the best way to grasp the choir’s greatness is to hear it in person. A current public performance calendar can be found at https://www.oigc.org
You can hear it, too, when they sing. There are times when the voices pull together in just the right way to make one, booming voice. Suddenly the members can’t help but jump to their feet and wave their hands and bounce and smile. “Haa-lee-luu-yah.” It sounds as though they’re shouting in key, and you feel the vibrations of it all.
—Ryan Kost, San Francisco Chronicle