Las Cruces – A holiday gospel concert is one more way a group of New Mexico State University professors and local volunteers are working together to complete restoration of the 100-year-old Phillips Chapel. It is the oldest African American church in Las Cruces and is on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
The New Mexico State University Gospel Choir, under the direction of Bobbie Green, will perform on Friday, Dec. 9, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Phillips Chapel at 638 N. Tornillo Street to raise funds for the project. The concert will include Christmas and traditional gospel renditions and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to greet visitors.
NMSU History professor emeritus and Phillips Chapel trustee Clarence Fielder will introduce the choir and give an update on the restoration efforts. The concert is free and open to the public, however, donations to help the chapel will be accepted.
"The music and excitement created by the choir will rock the little adobe chapel," NMSU anthropology professor Beth O'Leary said. "We hope our community will come out for the concert and help us with a very worthy project."
The director of Black Programs at NMSU established the university's Gospel Choir in 1975. Since then hundreds of students from diverse backgrounds have thrilled audiences with their powerful delivery of gospel music. The choir has performed at local churches and events throughout the Southwest. They have sung backup for two national recording artists and recorded a movie trailer. In January, the choir was invited to perform in Santa Fe for Governor Susanna Martinez at the Governor's Prayer Breakfast.
Two years ago, O'Leary and Fielder joined with Dona Ana Community College building construction technology professors Ronald Taylor, Pat Taylor, David Chavez and Dominic Fuimara to develop a method to prevent ongoing problems with the building's adobe walls and the faulty drainage system, as well as addressing the structure's other damage using preservation standards. For the last three semesters, DACC students helped begin the restoration process.
"Phillips Chapel is past the halfway mark," said Fielder. "The Las Cruces community and volunteers have been generous with their money and time, but we are in desperate need of funding to finish the project."
KRWG's "Images" radio programs 90.7 FM on Saturday, Dec. 3, will feature Fielder talking about the Las Cruces African American community and the ongoing restoration.
For more information on Phillips Chapel visit http://www.newmexicohistory.org.
Those interested in helping with the Phillips Chapel restoration project may contact Clarence Fielder at 524-7210 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Beth O'Leary at 646-2560 or email@example.com.
Donations can be made at the concert or mailed to Phillips Chapel Restoration Fund, P.O. Box 245 Las Cruces, NM 88004.