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"Dartmouth Gospel Choir to Perform at New Orleans Jazz Festival"

(603) 646-2117 March 28, 2007

Dartmouth Gospel Choir invited to perform at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest

HANOVER, N.H. – The Dartmouth Gospel Choir has been invited to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, a rare recognition for a school group from outside Louisiana,. The group will sing on Saturday, April 28, as the opening act for the New Orleans-based Bishop Paul S. Morton and the Greater St. Stephens Mass Choir.

In addition, the choir will take part in a Katrina-related community service project on Friday, sing in church on Sunday, and perform at one or two high schools on Monday, before returning to Dartmouth, reported Joshua Price Kol, director of student performance programs at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center for the Arts

Jazz Fest bookers responded to the quality of the group’s sound and the diversity of their music, said the choir’s director, Walter Cunningham, who accompanies the group on keyboard and writes many of the choir’s arrangements. "The students have worked very hard over the last few years to achieve the level of talent required to receive such a prestigious invitation. We are especially grateful and excited by the opportunity to assist in Hurricane Relief efforts and to share our message of faith, love and inspiration with the Jazz Fest audiences."

The choir is one of only a few college groups from outside of Louisiana who will perform at the festival. The 60-plus-member choir is composed of Dartmouth students, a few Upper Valley community members, and about 20 musicians and singers who are members of Cunningham’s Chicago-based gospel group One Accord. Cunningham resides part-time in Chicago.

Founded in 1970, the annual Jazz Fest draws tens of thousands to New Orleans for two weekends of music in such traditions as gospel, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, and Caribbean. The headline performers for Jazz Fest 2007, to be held April 27-29 and May 4-6, include Harry Connick, Jr., Norah Jones, Allen Toussaint, Ludacris, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jill Scott, Irma Thomas, Rod Stewart and Bonnie Raitt.

Almost ready to disband four years ago, the Dartmouth choir has experienced a rebirth under Cunningham’s leadership, Kol said. “Everywhere this choir goes to perform, audiences are wowed by the artistry of the group and stunned—Dartmouth College has a world-class Gospel Choir? Well, we do.”

This combination of music and mission is true to the choir’s purpose, says Dartmouth Dean of Student Life Holly Sateia. “The gospel choir is unique in the sense that they not only care about the performances they give but also about supporting the communities in which they perform,” she said.

The April 28 performance is scheduled for 4:15-5:15 pm. Further information about the festival can be obtained at www.nojazzfest.com.


- Dartmouth News


CD - "I Feel the Spirit," now available on iTunes and CDBaby.



We are Gospel Fusion! We sing music of the traditional black gospel experience uniquely infused with the energy of pop and rock, the heart of jazz, the soul of rhythm and blues, and the refinement of a contemporary choral ensemble. The multiculturalism of our group members allows an amazing artistic versatility that we celebrate when singing songs of love, faith and inspiration. We are not all music to all people, but we do borrow inspiration from other musical genres in order to not only appeal to the traditional gospel music listener, but also to contemporary Christian and choral audiences alike.

Walt Cunningham and One Accord is an extremely talented group which allows for a flexibility unheard of in the performance arena. Generally speaking, there are three different levels at which they can perform, all of which are highly entertaining. The smallest set-up consists of approximately 15-25 One Accord members accompanied by Walt on keyboard and singing a cappella and with tracks. This is the type of performance usually requested by smaller churches and community programs. The mid level performance would add a live 6-piece band that could also be expanded to 12-piece band if a horn section is requested. This type of performance is typically requested by larger churches and festivals. The largest set-up includes the larger mid-level performance and adds members of the Dartmouth College Gospel Choir (up to 40 members). This is the type of performance requested by colleges and major music festivals such as the New Orleans Jazz Fest. In all likelihood, it can only be performed 3 or 4 times a year usually as part of a Dartmouth College sponsored tour, though it is noted that it is not unusual for some students and former graduates to join us in mid-level performances.


Eclectic is the word Walt uses to describe both himself and his music. It is key to how his various careers and musical loves have come together to create a groundbreaking gospel group and CD.

A standout in his native Iowa, Walt excelled in many different areas. Declining a scholarship to Julliard, Walt decided to attend West Point making him one of only a thousand plus black Americans to graduate from the distinguished military academy. After fulfilling his military obligation, his communication skills won him the prestigious opportunity to serve as a national spokesperson for West Point.

Walt further honed those skills in the business sector working for corporate giants Pfizer, Inc and Wilson Learning. Over a 12-year period he has worked in sales, training and development, and performance consulting, earning many awards including top regional salesman for the launch of Viagra.

During all the above, Walt has always been involved with his God given gift of music. Whether it was as a lead in community musicals or as the cadet in charge of the gospel choir at West Point, he has always found a way to stay connected to his love of music. He has been actively involved in the local gospel music arena as a minister of music for several different Chicagoland churches and has conducted gospel music workshops across the mid-west and east coast. It was at this time that he founded the music group now called One Accord, made up of top talent from different churches across the Chicago Metropolitan Area.

Following his passion is what led Walt to the Ivy League where he is the Ensemble Conductor for the gospel choir at Dartmouth College. The response to his work with this college ensemble has been nothing less than phenomenal. During his 4-year tenure it has grown from a small student-run club with low attendance into a full 75-member performance ensemble with near sell-out audiences in Dartmouth�s largest auditorium. Recently, Walt, the Dartmouth ensemble and One Accord performed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival where they opened for Bishop Paul Morton, and during the Christmas holidays they will be doing a performance tour through Switzerland and Italy.

All the above has shaped Walt�s music of love, hope, and inspiration. His motivation is to bring this music to a world in need of something to ease their daily journey while simultaneously helping them to fulfill their divine destiny.