The Soul Children of Chicago Celebrates 40 Years
By Tia Carol Jones
The Soul Children of Chicago began as a school choir in 1981. Founder Walt Whitman was the Minister of Music at St. John De La Salle Church, located at 102nd and King Drive. The church needed a music teacher for St. John De La Salle School. The students in the choir performed at Mass every third Sunday.
This year, the Soul Children of Chicago celebrate 40 years, and the celebration includes a concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 27th.
The choir expanded to include children from across the city in 1982. When the choir would perform other places, children who did not attend the school wanted to be a part of it. The choir also started to compete and win awards and children wanted to join the award-winning choir. For a time, it was known as the Gospel Soul Children. When the choir began to record music, it became the Soul Children of Chicago.
With the popularity of the Soul Children, the choir did a live recording, “We Are One,” at Metropolitan Church. “Every competition we were in, we always won first place. It boosted the popularity of the choir,” Whitman said, adding the rise in popularity was not something that was intentional but a result of a blessing on the choir.
The Soul Children of Chicago has traveled all over the world. One of the largest audiences the choir has performed for was in Nigeria. There were 1.6 million people. Then there was a performance during the World Cup at Soldiers Field. Whitman’s most prestigious performance with the Soul Children was for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
Whitman teaches the children in the choir about being purposed, understanding purpose and their destiny. “When you understand your purpose and your destiny, you’re not guided by popularity, or guided by people determining your popularity. Our longevity has been whether we had a record deal or not,” Whitman said, adding that God has blessed the Soul Children of Chicago to be able to operate with purpose.
The concert at Jay Pritzker Pavilion stood out to Whitman because as an African American youth organization, for hm, the Soul Children of Chicago’s concert is them performing as headliners, not as an opening act. The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra is part of the performance.
All five generations of the Soul Children of Chicago were able to come together for the performance. The way Whitman has trained the singers in the choir is such that whenever they come together there is a connection, spiritually. It makes the sound incredible and when you hear it, it sounds like heaven. Whitman said when he hears them, he still gets goose pimples.
Whitman plans to acquire the St. John De La Salle Church and turn it into a Performing Arts Center. The church closed earlier this month when the Archdiocese of Chicago announced it would consolidate the Parish, with Holy Name of Mary and Ss. Peter and Paul. The goal is to go back and recreate the history that led to the Soul Children of Chicago.
For more information about Soul Children of Chicago, visit www.joinscc.com.
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