Letting Their Gift Shine The Regent University Singers record viral music video with artist of #1 song

May 25, 2018 0 comments
Regent Singers performing on stage

The Regent University Singers are a talented, 10-member, a cappella group with a very specific mission. “We want to create a world-class vocal ensemble that will serve as musical ambassadors for the school,” says the group’s music director Gary Spell. “It means that we have to be producing world-class music.”

Spell doesn’t want his voices-only group singing “warmed over choral arrangements from a catalog.” Instead, his goal for the Regent University Singers is to create cutting-edge, musically interesting, original pieces and arrangements that have popular appeal both inside and outside the Christian world.

“We are not a group that is primarily for entertaining or performing for the Regent community,” he explains. “We want the Regent Singers to perform in places where their presence can generate support and goodwill for the university.”

“We want the Regent Singers to perform in places where their presence can generate support and goodwill for the university.” – Gary Spell

Commissioned in January 2015, the unique vocal ensemble was actually conceived by Regent Founder, Chancellor and CEO Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson in 2013. “He called me to say that, as he was in prayer, God put on his heart the idea of beginning to incorporate music into the Regent profile,” Spell recalls.

Soon, the two men began discussing possibilities, and the concept of an a cappella group began to resonate. It didn’t take long for the Regent University Singers to take shape. The signature performance ensemble is open to undergraduate and graduate students and alumni, who represent Regent locally, nationally, on air and at high-profile ministry events. Students audition to earn a place in the group and receive a partial scholarship for letting their gift shine.

“The Singers serve as musical ambassadors for the school,” Spell says. “Group members have been able to travel, cut tracks in a recording studio, shoot music videos and so much more. They’ve been stretched as musicians, performers and ministers.”

A recent music video shoot saw the Regent University Singers perform what became a number-one song with Bethel Music artist Cory Asbury. “Reckless Love” was #5 on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs when Asbury performed at a Night of Worship (NOW) event on campus February 16. Before he took the stage, the worship leader and songwriter recorded his future #1 hit with the Regent University Singers.

“The experience with Cory was good, but intense,” Spell says. “We had him for a half hour. He had never heard the arrangement, and I had never met him. So it felt really dangerous. Fortunately, he’s a really laid back guy and was even willing to experiment with us a little.”

“Working with Cory Asbury on ‘Reckless Love’ was not only an amazing experience, but also one of the first collaborations the Regent Singers has done with the original artist!” says ensemble member Brandon Vera ’16, ’17 (CAS and SCA). “It provided a whole new dynamic for the group, as we were able to gain Cory’s insight and understand the songwriter’s perspective.”

Lisa Hernandez agrees: “Working with Cory Asbury was exciting for everyone in the group. He was extremely down-to-earth and easy to work with. The video turned out better than I could have imagined, and the response has been overwhelming. I love the candid moments in the beginning of the video, which really captured what the experience was like for us.”

Two weeks after recording his “cover version” with the Regent University Singers, Asbury’s “Reckless Love” took over the top spot on the Billboard chart and held it for four weeks. (The song was bumped to #2 by “I Can Only Imagine” — one of the most popular contemporary Christian songs of all time, which was buoyed by the success of the recently released feature film with the same name.) The music video quickly garnered attention too, with nearly 60,000 Facebook views since it was posted on March 4.

Spell admits that, while the video is “way bigger” than anything the group has done before, it’s still nowhere near where he wants the ensemble to be: “We want to expand the group from 10 to 12. I’d love to add either a beatboxer or a percussionist. We also would like to expand as a worship team, so we could be available for conferences like Christian Booksellers or the Southern Baptist Convention, as both artists and worship leaders.”

College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) student Ronnie Riffle, a self-described “Navy brat,” has been singing with the group since his first semester freshman year. Now a senior at Regent, he says the Lord is using the Singers to be an outlet for reaching into the community, “God is growing us closer to one another, along with growing the talents He has given us. … We have some really cool things coming up, and a lot of music we are really excited to share!”

This is CAS student Jessica Benner’s second semester with the Regent University Singers: “My favorite thing about this group is how loving everyone is. If you mess up, have a bad day, or just need to talk, every single member of this group will go out of their way to be there for you. I also love how this group encourages and challenges me musically and spiritually.”

Tyler Benner, Jessica’s husband, is grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the structure of music and the importance of it singing a cappella: “Being a part of this group has been such a blessing, and I couldn’t ask for anything better! All of the singers are awesome. The most important and special thing about this group is that we all love each other and that our focus is to worship and glorify God in order to touch lives everywhere!”

Recently, the Regent University Singers performed at a black-tie fundraiser alongside two former contestants from NBC’s hit show “The Voice.” Also, Virginia Beach officials have contacted Spell about having the group perform in the city’s official Fourth of July celebration at the Oceanfront. “I’ve just really been thrilled at the doors that have been opening for us, particularly in the non-Regent, non-church community,” he says. “These things feel like exactly what
Dr. Robertson wants us to be doing.”

To learn more about the Regent University Singers and to watch the music video of “Reckless Love” with Cory Asbury, check out their Facebook page at facebook.com/regentsingers.

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