The Nation’s capital was the place to praise on Wednesday September 12th. Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound rolled into the Verizon Center with the best choirs the region has to offer. Washington DC definitely had the livest crowd so far and the choirs, our judges and hosts matched their energy at every step. After Bishop Hezekiah Walker, backed by The Celebration Choir of Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church rocked “Souled Out” and the judges were introduced, it was time for the main event. The first competing choir to grace the stage was the Gentle Giants Music Ministry directed by Nate Brown, performing “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.” They started out a jazzy intro before going into an all out technical performance that would rival a Broadway stage play. It was like a musical meets Sunday morning church service. Next up was 100 Men in Black Male Chorus with director Marlon West performing “Let Everything that Hath Breath Praise the Lord.” As Fred Hammond said, he was happy to see 100 men who could sing, and sing they could. Their arrangements were perfect and the spoken word/mini-sermon bridge they added was the icing on the cake. The third choir up was Elder Patrick Riddick and D’Vyne Worship singing “Omnipotent.” They did a good job of mixing old and new styles. They took it to church, especially near the end when the audience got involved. Even Bishop Hezekiah Walker got in on the act saying, “you looked great, you sounded great and you made me want to get up and start dancing.” In between choir performances, CeCe Winans performed her hit “He’s Concerned, before Donald Lawrence encouraged the crowed to “embrace their grace place,” followed by a crowd stirring medley of hits performed by Fred Hammond. Our co-host Yolanda Adams began the second half of the show with her popular song “Be Still.” Harvest Life Changers Church Choir director Lester Harmon kicked off the second half of choir performances singing “It Is Well With My Soul.” The crowd actually started cheering for them well before the lights even hit the choir, their supporters came deep. They moved and sang in unison without flaw, exhibiting stellar grace and power. They also stood out because they were one of the few choirs to feature a soloist. Returning regional winner 4 The Caz of Christ and director Trini L. Massie sang “Lift Him Up.” The Pittsburgh, PA choir had great melodies and symmetry. They got the crowd extra hyped with their big voices and Trini’s energetic direction. Their performance even had a few theatrical elements. The last choir for the evening was Virginia State University Gospel Chorale directed by Perry Evans singing “Search Me Lord.” As the second college choir to perform at HSTS, they had a point to prove and by the end of their performance, they showed and proved. Their performance stood out because they started with a soloist and featured a lot of youthful energy (they even pulled off a couple frat inspired steps). Their band added a lot to the performance with the use of a strong horn section. The tuba player alone gave a true New Orleans feel to the show. Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell brought the house down with a performance of “Yesterday,” before introducing Bishop Hezekiah Walker, who sang “You’re All I Need.” Washington DC got a special treat when local radio personality and gospel recording artist, Lonnie Hunter and his choir hit the stage and sang “I’m Back.” In their first appearance at How Sweet The Sound Virginia State University Chorale took home the Verizon People’s Choice Award for the choir that received the most text votes. The final two choirs that received the two highest vote totals from the judges were Elder Patrick Riddick and D’Vyne Worship and 4 The Caz of Christ. The winner would receive $10,000 and the runner up receives $5000 (each participating choir that does not win an award receives $3000). The Washington D.C. region How Sweet The Sound winner is… 4 The Caz of Christ (they also received the Verizon HopeLine Champion Award). The show ended as always with a huge performance of Donald Lawrence’s hit song “Giants,” featuring all of the talent gathered onstage. It was a great evening overall. Thanks to our sponsors Verizon Wireless and United Healthcare, as well as the great Washington D.C. crowd. It was one of the best How Sweet The Sound shows yet.