Mad River Union
ARCATA – Lorenza Simmons-Phillips brings triple blessings to the Arcata Interfaith Gospel Choir. She’s the new assistant director of the adult choir, the new director of the youth choir and a member of the soprano section, contributing her voice and infectious joy to the choir. Oh, and she was also the accompanist for the youth choir when it was directed by Lorien Sanchez.
Simmons-Phillips is well known to music lovers in the area from her time with such groups as Aka Bella, Lalona and Vidagua. Hers is a stage presence not to be forgotten. Folks might also recognize her as one of the friendly servers at Renata’s Creperie, where she has worked for six years.
But it’s her teaching that leaves an even larger legacy. Simmons-Phillips gives piano and voice lessons to both children and adults, is the choir and keyboard teacher one day a week at Aldergrove Charter School and taught through the Humboldt Music Academy.
Now assuming dual directorships with the gospel choir will further expand that legacy. The gospel choir has a long history of both youth and teen choirs under various directors – a new singer who joined the adult choir this season had been in the teen choir years ago.
Simmons-Phillips is “looking forward to having a new group of kids and getting them to sing out as much as possible,” she said. “The more the merrier.”
Simmons-Phillips has deep roots in Humboldt County. “I came as a child when I was 1,” she said. “We moved to Southern Oregon, but I came back to go to HSU at 17.” Theres, she sang with Mad River Transit and the Madrigal Choir and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music and music education. “She’s the real deal,” said gospel choir director Louis Hoiland. “She’s got training, she teaches music, she’s got gospel roots and she just exudes love.”
To see her solo is a real joy. Simmons-Phillips wowed the crowd at the North Country Fair in September and soloed on Si Tuvieras Fe, the Latin gospel song extolling the virtues of faith as a mustard seed, at last year’s Harvest Concert.
She’s excited about the season starting for the youth choir. “They do not have to have choir experience or be able to read music. They can be first timers,” she said. “It’s the experience of singing and singing with a group, especially gospel. They’ll get the inspiration and love that comes from gospel music.” Simmons-Phillips said that parents are welcome to attend rehearsals.
“I’ve got a ton of new songs to teach,” she said with a big laugh. “I’ve got a couple of a cappella songs planned and may bring back some of the old ones.” Last year, the youth choir covered Finish Line by Chance the Rapper and many of the singers wrote their own raps. “Most did eight-bar raps,” she said.
Susan Stein, a teacher at Aldergrove Charter School, will take over the accompanist role from Simmons-Phillips.
The youth choir, for ages 5 through 14, meets Thursdays from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m. October through May. Sign-ups are still open. Call (707) 822-4444 for more information or email AIGChoir@gmail.com.