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CCU gospel choir performs with disco legend Gaynor

In its 27-year history, the Coastal Inspirational Ambassadors, CCU’s student gospel choir, never had a moment quite like this. On Aug. 30, the group performed with disco legend Gloria Gaynor at her Carolina Opry concert. Massed in their teal choir robes, the students swayed and harmonized in perfect pitch as they sang three gospel songs, all new numbers that appear on Gaynor’s latest CD. 

The show was the culmination of a relationship between the celebrity singer and the college choir that began in 2015 as part of Gaynor’s participation in CCU’s Women in Philanthropy and Leadership (WIPL) Conference in February. Prior to the conference, Gaynor attended a choir rehearsal at the Lackey Chapel.

“We were star-struck when we met her that first day,” says Eia Richardson, choir president and a senior majoring in intelligence and national security. “But she was so cool, she made me feel like I was just talking to my auntie.” 

Gaynor talked to the students about the importance of their work as members of a gospel choir. “She really validated the ministry of our organization,” says Dominic Prince, student director of the choir and a senior management major specializing in international business. “She stressed the importance of practicing what we preach.”

Later, at the WIPL conference, the choir surprised Gaynor, one of the keynote speakers, with a pop-up performance of her career hit song “I Will Survive” after her speech. Some members of the group were hidden in the audience and some were waiting in side rooms. “She really lit up when we jumped up and started singing,” says Prince. After her speech, the students sang it again and she spontaneously joined in. “Not many people get to experience something like that.”

The choir had a couple of practices with Gaynor over the summer for the Carolina Opry show. Then the big day arrived. “We weren’t nervous at the sound check, but when it came to the actual show, we knew we couldn’t mess up,” says Richardson.  

In the green room after the show, Gaynor accepted roses from the choir and said goodbye to her new friends. 

It was a night to remember for the choir, which is one of the most visible and one of the oldest student organizations on campus. Says Richardson: “We just did what we always do—times 10!”