Wednesday Folk Traditions Presents: 

Springfield's Women of Faith Ensemble - July 30th, 2014

HADLEY – The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum continues its 33rd season of Wednesday Folk Traditions on July 30th, with a performance by Springfield’s Women of Faith Ensemble. This marks the 5th Annual Horace Clarence Boyer Memorial Gospel Performance, and the Museum’s 33rd annual Gospel concert. This and all other performances are held Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. in the Sunken Garden at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, 130 River Drive, Route 47, Hadley, MA 01035. General Admission is $10, or $2 for children 16 and under. Picnickers are welcome on the museum grounds beginning at 5:00 p.m. The Museum and grounds are a smoke-free site.

The Women of Faith Ensemble was brought together ten years ago by Vanessa Ford. Responsible for the musical direction of the ensemble as well as its inception, Ford was born and raised in Springfield, singing from an early age in church choir. After twenty years of leading children’s choirs, singing in devotional settings and developing her own sensibility as a musician and minister of song, Ford was driven to form a female ensemble. “It came together easily, as I realized that there were several others who had that same passion for praising God,” Ford remembers. “We began rehearsing and everything fell into place. The blessing is that we started with a firm faith foundation and have dedicated ourselves to worship God together ever since.” The members of this new ensemble all knew each other through church and other musical and fellowship events, so Ford didn’t have to look far to fill her roster. “We had often talked about eventually forming a group to do what we loved together, so it came together easily,” notes Ford. Most members have been in other choirs, a cappella groups, and bands. On top of her position as musical director, Ford also currently serves as the District Office Manager for State Senator James Welch.

Primarily, the group sings for worship and special services, community events, fundraisers, and conferences. United by their faith in God and their desire to minister to their community with their talents, the group is tight-knit and serves their community at every turn. “We laugh together, cry together, pray together, and encourage each other in life as Women of Faith,” Ford says. All members are volunteers, and are frequently called upon to perform at community events. “Depending on what we’re asked to sing for, we research and pray to find the appropriate selections for that service, funeral, concert or event,” Ford explains. “For example, when we sing for a particular organization like the Red Cross, women’s shelter or fundraiser concert to benefit those in need, we minister songs that will touch and encourage those that are struggling. We might present a medley of a gospel and a secular inspirational song to reach the audience...it simply depends on the request.” The group has written their own music for certain occasions, but their repertoire is vast and varied, ranging from contemporary gospel to traditional praise and worship hymns and anthems. “Every selection that we do, we always try our best to put our own twist on it, to sing it from our hearts with passion,” Ford says. The Ensemble will be performing a mix of uplifting traditional and contemporary gospel selections at the 5th annual Horace Clarence Boyer Memorial Gospel Performance.

This annual memorial performance commemorates the life and work of the late Horace Clarence Boyer, a beloved and internationally acclaimed musician and scholar of Gospel Music. Dr. Boyer, who for 25 years presented an annual gospel performance at the Museum, was also a pivotal member of the Pioneer Valley musical community, a long-time professor at UMass Amherst, and Minister of Music at the Goodwin Memorial African Methodist Episcopalian Church. Boyer often performed with the groups he introduced, and he cited nurturing Gospel here in the Pioneer Valley and throughout the world as part of his mission. The Museum aims to further that goal with this memorial series, continuing the tradition he supported and preserving his legacy.