On September 11, 2010, a few hours before Third Day took the Cinderella Stage at Disney’s Night of Joy festival in Kissimmee, Florida, gospel music was ringing through the air of its nearby Epcot park.
The first-annual Disney’s Gospel Choir Fest was a new element to the longstanding event, bringing together 11 choirs from around the country to compete at Epcot’s American Adventures pavilion.
EMI Gospel served as a corporate sponsor, offering judging services from EMI Gospel President Ken Pennell, Vice-President Larry Blackwell, Jr., and Eboni Funderburk, owner of EFG Promotions & Consulting. The winning choir, The University of Oregon Gospel Singers, were also invited to sing onstage during Smokie Norful’s set that evening. Recording artist and radio show host Darlene McCoy served as emcee.
“Disney has created an incredible opportunity for gospel choirs to compete on stage at Epcot and showcase their talents in front of an audience of international theme park guests,” said Tim Hill, director of special programs for Disney Destinations. “Combined with meeting Smokie Norful and attending the ultimate Christian concert event, Night of Joy, and Disney Gospel Choir Fest is sure to be an unforgettable experience.”
The choir styles kept the competition interesting, alternating between contemporary and traditional gospel with some elements of R&B and hip-hop at times. The Jesse H. Bishop Crusaders Acapella Choir rendered this lively version of “Oh Happy Day.”