Lifebridge Church's 'The Voices of Life' choir brings music to life

As its Christmas program nears, Lifebridge Church’s The Voices of Life community choir is combining faith, finesse and fun for an immersive and impactful experience.

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  • | 11:24 a.m. December 11, 2019
  • Southwest Orange
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When Winter Garden resident Derric Johnson was a music minor in college, his vocal coach told him he would never make a living as a singer.

Instead, his coach inspired him on another path in his pursuit of music — he suggested Johnson learn to write music and help others flourish vocally.

Years later, Johnson has written 150 original songs, 23 cantatas and 2,800 musical arrangements; published 32 books of choral collections; and has been involved in producing 98 recorded albums on 14 labels. He also spent 33 years as a creative consultant for Walt Disney World Resort, where he is credited with arranging and producing Epcot Center’s The Voices of Liberty, as well as the Christmas Candlelight Processional.

Today, though, it’s his newest brainchild that allows him to continue stretching his musical muscles and gather with like-minded singers and musicians while incorporating something else dear to him — his Christian faith.

Johnson directs The Voices of Life, a community choir that is part of the ministry of Lifebridge Church in Horizon West. The choir exists to sing songs of faith and hope, and it comprises committed singers expressing their love for God and country. 

“I started it last January, so we’re brand new,” Johnson said. “I just have this music in me. The well of creativity never runs dry as long as you keep dipping from it. That’s what The Voices of Life is. We’re designed for ‘choir orphans’ — a lot of people go their churches, they love their churches, but there’s not a choir there. We said, ‘Come sing with us. You can stay at your church — we don’t sing Sunday mornings but Sunday nights.’ We have members from eight local congregations, and it keeps growing all the time.”

After spending more than three decades working with Disney, Johnson knew it was time to move on and make new memories. Although he no longer serves there, it was his persistent love of and hunger for music — as well as his faith — that inspired him to start a choir at Lifebridge.

“They don’t have a choir at all, but they have a lot of people within the church who have choir backgrounds and want to sing,” Johnson said. “It’s a really good choir — we have great anchor voices all the way through. I do it because I just love to do it. The people start coming who love to do it.”

The Voices of Life’s first production celebrated Easter, and at the time, there were 40 members in the choir. For the Fourth of July patriotic concert, that number grew to 55. Next, The Voices of Life did an evening of spirituals and grew to 60. Currently, the active roster is up to 79 singers.

The Voices of Life meets at 7 p.m. every Monday for two hours. Its members range from The Voices of Liberty alumni and those in the entertainment industry to nurses commuting from Maitland and talented singers who need a creative outlet.

Writer and director Derric Johnson leads the choir.
Writer and director Derric Johnson leads the choir.

Faith, finesse and fun comprise the backbone of The Voices of Life, Johnson said.

“Faith is why we do what we do, finesse is when we do it better than the crowd can do it, and fun — if it’s not fun, don’t do it,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to have a good time, so we really have a great time.”

And just in time for the holiday season, there is much more fun to be had before the new year. On Sunday, Dec. 15, the group will be telling the story of Christmas one color at a time.

The group’s “Colors of Christmas” show will take place at 6 p.m. at Lifebridge Church, and attendees will get to experience Christmas as told through music and color. 

“The whole church building, we change colors,” Johnson said. “We sing ‘Silent Night,’ and it’s blue, and the whole sanctuary turns blue. We really bathe it. … We do six colors with a song or two with the story of Christmas. I say it’s romantic in the feeling. It’s a whole different feel to sing ‘Silent Night’ when the whole room is cold blue.

“I’m always looking for a new hook to hang something on,” he said. “I don’t want to just do a Christmas program and call it ‘Wonderful Night.’ How can I tell the incredibly wonderful story of Christmas in a fresh way that nobody I know of has done before? It’s the same story — let’s find another door. I love to create new concepts.”

It’s the dedication, commitment and talent of the choir members that makes The Voices of Life a choir of a different caliber. Johnson said it isn’t just 79 people who sing, but instead 79 people who are singers and who exude joy and enthusiasm.

“It’s very euphoric,” he said. “I just love every bit of it. …It’s really important, the whole concept of singing together and your voice providing the note in a chord surrounded by other singers filling it out. …That’s fun, that’s just what it is. I want to go for heart, not just for ear. That’s what that choir is really about.”


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