After 21 years “Free Spirit” to Perform Final Concert at UMO

After 21 years “Free Spirit” to Perform Final Concert at UMO

After 21 years “Free Spirit” to Perform Final Concert at UMO

MOUNT OLIVE – After 21 years of music ministry at the University of Mount Olive (UMO), “Free Spirit” is performing its final season during the spring 2018 semester.  Founded by Professor of Music Dr. Alan Armstrong, the group has developed a reputation for providing a mix of Contemporary, Gospel, Southern Gospel, and a cappella Christian music that proclaims the message of Christ.

“When I was charged with creating this group, I wanted something that would resonate with our founding church, thus “Free” (for the Free Will Baptist Church), and “Spirit” for the Spirit of the Lord,” Armstrong said.

The purpose of the group has been two pronged – to share the message of Jesus Christ and to highlight the talented students at UMO.

“Our number one priority has been to minister,” Armstrong said.  “Of course, we have always wanted to entertain in the sense that we wanted the music to be beautiful to hear. I always say that it is somewhat hard for the Holy Spirit to fight through ugly sounds. However, the end all is for the music to be a tool for the Holy Spirit to use.”

When auditioning for “Free Spirit” members, Armstrong has sought students with good vocal talent who have the ability to harmonize.  Having an outgoing and engaging personality has also been a plus.  However, beyond those musical and showmanship qualities, Armstrong has looked for students with a grounded faith.  The group rehearses for an hour and a half every Tuesday and Thursday.  Before each session, the group stands in a circle and they pray.

“That has been one of the biggest rewards of being involved with this group, is seeing the students grow in their faith,” Armstrong said.  “I think it has been life changing for the students to see their friends be able to live for the Lord.”

Since the fall of 1996, “Free Spirit” has provided uplifting musical presentations throughout Eastern North Carolina and beyond. Their focus has been leading others in worship by performing in churches, University functions, schools, and community venues. The twelve to thirteen member group has performed in Tampa, Orlando, and Lakeland, Florida.  They have sung in conjunction with the choir in Virginia and at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. On two separate occasions, “Free Spirit” has had the opportunity to sing with one of Christian music’s most beloved artists –  the Talley Trio.

Dr. Burt Lewis, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said, “Alan’s music leadership has allowed hundreds of vocalists to reach new highs with their voices all while praising the Lord.  We are very grateful for his leadership and for the students he has served.  Most importantly, we are grateful for the relationships, experiences, and memories “Free Spirit” has provided to UMO and the communities UMO serves.”

Although “Free Spirit” is being retired in May, Armstrong will continue to teach in the Department of Music.

“I will soon turn 70,” Armstrong said. “As I plan for retirement, the timing seemed right to begin transitioning away from some responsibilities.  It will also be a good time for another faculty member to step in and start another group for the University.”

A grand finale concert for “Free Spirit” is planned for Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 PM in the Hazel B. Waters Assembly Hall in Mount Olive.  The event is FREE and open to the public.  For more information, contact Franklin Gross at WGross@umo.edu.

University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville.  For more information, visit www.umo.edu.

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