Critical Mass shares gift of song with community

December 17, 2019 / by / 0 Comment
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By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau

As Buddy the Elf would say, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Critical Mass performed during the 2019 Winter Commencements. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

It’s a message that summed up the end of the semester for Grand Canyon University Critical Mass choir students, who had an active Christmas season. On top of performing in the College of Fine Arts and Production’s annual Christmas music performances, such as Handel’s “Messiah” and “A GCU Christmas,” Music Director Mark Fearey and Critical Mass students brought the spirit of Christmas music to facilities that care for and educate people with special needs.

“We’re not so good with shovels, but we can go sing,” Fearey said.

The group performed a medley for the residents of The Arizona Training Program in Coolidge,  as well as the students of Sierra Academy of Scottsdale, one of whom is Critical Mass performer Sam Brown’s older brother, Hunter.

Critical Mass students are featured at a number of winter University events. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

“It was really cool to see him,” Sam said about the opportunity to perform for his brother and his peers. “It was honestly such a beautiful experience seeing all these children, who are special needs, and just how happy they were. The innocence of it was beautiful.”

Hunter always has been nonverbal but found a way to connect to and appreciate music and the arts, an appreciation that Sam himself would pick up on.

“When we’re at home, he’ll just listen to the same song on repeat for like weeks and weeks until he gets sick of it and has someone change it,” Sam said. “I really wanted this group, all my friends, to see this world and see just how different we all are, and that people really go through stuff like that that they can’t control, yet out of all of it they’re happy and it’s just beautiful.”

Sam (fourth from right) and Hunter Brown (center, in blue shirt) were reunited when Critical Mass performed at his school.

The idea to visit these schools was presented to Fearey by Brown and resulted in an experience that moved the Critical Mass students and the audiences for which they performed.

“It certainly gives you a good, warm feeling to know that you’re really giving a gift to people that might not have the chance to get as much musical offerings like this that often,” Fearey said.

Senior and Vocal Performance major Brooklyn Peterson said that being able to participate in such a service opportunity was especially meaningful to her. Peterson hopes to continue her education by pursuing a master’s degree in music therapy, to learn about music’s ability to bring healing to the listener.

Grand Canyon University’s 2019 Critical Mass.

“It’s kind of cool to go out in the community and use music to unite people together and to bond over something that’s so universal,” she said. “They were all so engaged, which was kind of cool for someone who’s then pursuing music therapy, to watch the benefits of music and what it does to people.”

Although it is not the first time that Critical Mass has served the community, it was an experience that was unique to students like junior Isaac O’Farrell  and one that he won’t forget.

“There was this one kid, he was super cute, at the first home and I just related to him a lot,” O’Farrell reflected. “He was like laying down like he was really sleepy and, at one point in the song, he just started getting up and he just started dancing and smiling and when we say ‘oh,’ then his lips would make like an ‘oh,’ and he just seemed overjoyed by it. … I could just tell that our music was affecting him in a really good way.

“It’s a blessing to sing in the choir, and then to hear that it’s a blessing for some of the people that we sing to, is just the icing on the cake.”

The students were more than enthusiastic to go out and have a positive impact on other people’s day.

It’s just another reason Fearey is proud of his students

“As a group, I think they are shining examples of what GCU wants to see in their students,” Fearey said. “They are a good testament to the school and the training, they’re very strong in their faith and they’re shining in the GCU spirit … so I think it’s a good representation for GCU.”

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]

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Related content:

GCU Today: Hark! GCU’s choirs sing, celebrate season

GCU Today: Concert to share songs of faith with east Phoenix


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