Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Doc at The New Parkway

Called ‘One Voice: The Story of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir,’ the film is more ambitious than a typical concert film or behind-the-scenes tour.


One Voice is a documentary about the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

Photo courtesy Berkeley Film Foundation

Now in its fourth decade, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir is firmly ensconced as a local treasure. The OIGC’s annual concert at the Paramount Theatre, slated for Dec. 7, is a perennial highlight of the holiday season. But even if you’re a devoted fan and have soaked up the choir’s joyful soul stirrings along with artistic director Terrance Kelley’s wisdom and wit over the years, you don’t know the whole picture. And not all that many people with the bad luck to live outside the 510 or 925 area codes have even heard of the OIGC, let alone heard its rousing spirituals. Hence the profound necessity of Spencer Wilkinson’s 2018 documentary, One Voice: The Story of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

More ambitious than a typical concert film or behind-the-scenes tour, One Voice places the OIGC in the powerful tradition of African-American music. Wilkinson and Kelley describe the choir’s origins, then widen the frame to trace the rhythms and blues of gospel back to the slave ships and slavery itself. By the time we meet various members of the multi-ethnic, multiracial, and multicultural choir, we’re inculcated in the music’s history and power.

One Voice, screening Aug. 6 at the New Parkway Theater under the auspices of the redoubtable Berkeley Film Foundation, also takes us into rehearsals and on tour with the OIGC, revealing how the song affects the singer — as well as the audience. The Maze, Serginho Roosblad’s short doc about the complicated history of the geography of the MacArthur freeway interchange, is the evening’s curtain-raiser.

One Voice, 7 p.m., Tue., Aug. 6, New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St., Oakland, 510-658-7900, NewParkway.com.