(KUTV) There's a beat and sound coming from inside the walls of an LDS chapel in Holladay, that is rarely heard from one of the denomination's choir practices: authentic gospel soul music.
The Genesis Gospel Choir is rehearsing for their upcoming Christmas concert. Leading the group is the talented, energetic and tough director, Debra Bonner, who has only been in the position for a month. To her, this is serious business.
"If I'm the director, then I'm the leader and they have to be one with me," she said. "I'm directing you. You have to throw out you and you have to be one with me."
The Genesis Group is an auxiliary of the LDS church that was started in 1971 as a support group for African Americans, but the gospel choir has only been around for about a year.
"We like to think of ourselves as missionaries when people come for the first time," explained Don Harwell, president of the Genesis Group. "We are trying to provide them a hope that the LDS church is as inviting as it should be."
Bonner, who grew up Baptist and singing gospel music before converting to Mormonism, comes with years of experience as a soloist. She's been a professional voice coach for 45 years and even had a show in Laughlin, Nevada.
"It was called 'Hot New Orleans Nights,' " she remembered. "I was the lead."
And, in 1996 she was a guest soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
"It was the most spiritual experience I have ever had in my life," Bonner said.
And that's the hope of this gospel choir: to provide spiritual experiences for listeners.
"This gives African Americans and others who want to really feel the music and come to know the Savior by singing this music," she concluded.
This is more than just providing great music for firesides. This is also a chance for these choir members to be able to be touched and inspired by their own music.
"I come to choir. It renews my spirit," said choir member Tekulve Jackson-Van. "I'm here with my choir family and we are able to uplift each other."
And, what better way to lift then through music?
"He walks us through the hard times and that's what the songs do for us. They keep us strong through the hard times," explained choir member Sebrina Myers.
Along with performing in various locations, the choir also performs the first Sunday of every month when the Genesis Group meets. If you would like to enjoy their Christmas concert, they will be performing that on December 6th. For more information and a location visit its website.