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Las Vegas Mass Choir gospel singers involved in Switzerland TV show

Gospel soloists Denise Robinson and James R. Smith of the Las Vegas Mass Choir flew to Switzerland on July 27.

Simultaneously, yodel singers Barbara Klossner and Res Mathys from Musical Stillezrartlichkeithen, flew from Switzerland to Las Vegas.

The singers were part of a popular Swiss TV program called “Job Swap.” No one was told where they were going or the kind of music they would encounter. All they knew was, with TV cameras in tow, each was to learn the music of the other group for concerts that were to take place on July 31.

Robinson and Smith’s destination was the “incredibly beautiful” ski town of Toggenburg, Switzerland. The soon-to-be yodeling group, in full Swiss garb, performed for their guests.

After welcomes, hugs, conversations and introductions to group leader and host Reudi Roth, the Americans were asked to sing something.

“This was a surprise to us, so Denise and I just starting singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ ” said Smith, the CEO and founder of the Mass Choir. “The Swiss singers immediately joined us in perfect harmony. I hope that got on camera. The music was so beautiful, it brought tears to our eyes.”

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Klossner and Mathys were greeted at the airport by Mass Choir business manager Vee Vee Prejean holding a sign “Jobtauch,” which is Swiss for “Job Swap.”

“Barbara was very enthusiastic when she saw me,” Prejean said. “I think she liked the idea of singing with a predominantly black group. We drove the visitors to the CME Church where the Mass Choir, in their robes, was waiting and singing, ‘Come on in; sit right down’, a song from our CD.”

Later, Klossner and Mathys were taken to the home of Mass Choir member Fate Kent.

In Switzerland and Las Vegas, the next three days were for rehearsals and fun.

The newest choir members not only had to learn the songs; they had to learn the physical joy of gospel singing. Klossner explained the Swiss are generally reserved with formal audiences. Gospel, however, can involve a choir that rocks to the music.

The gospel concert took place at Hartland Mansion, 525 Park Paseo. Mathys, who doesn’t speak English, had his challenges, but with the help of choir director Jack Yates, mastered his solo. Klossner, who is fluent in English, really “got into” her solo number. The crowd was also treated to a yodel song the guests performed alone.

“Their voices were like two blended instruments,” Prejean said. Much of the crowd had never heard such music before.

Halfway across the world, Smith said the end of their trip was full of beautiful moments and tears. A longtime family friend of the Robinson family now lives in Switzerland.

“Their family had eight kids; we had eight kids,” Robinson said. “We were always together.”

As a surprise, the TV program arranged for Laurie Garrett and her family to reconnect with Robinson after not seeing each other for 30 years.

After the tears dried, both gospel enthusiasts thought all went well.

“I think Denise and I did well with our yodeling,” said Smith, “but some of the songs also had words in German, so we needed to look at the written words.”

A gospel song also made it into the Swiss Sunday concert. Smith said the Swiss were encouraged to move to the music and, “They really seemed to enjoy dispensing with formality.”

Smith, founder and CEO of the Las Vegas Mass Choir, said the time in Switzerland was “the best experience of my life.”

The edited TV program will be shown in Switzerland on the SRF channel in the fall and will also be available online.

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