Dozens of people crowded around the altar, singing a prayer in a combined choir, making a rainbow with their choir robes and a forceful noise with their voices.
It was the end of the Charleston Choir Festival, held Sunday at St. Mark's United Methodist Church. In this moment, the festival accomplished, quite literally, what it set out to do: It brought Charleston's church choirs together.
"And it's a chance for the choirs to hear one another in a setting that's not competitive and take that back to their own churches with them," said Larry Stickler, director of music at St. Mark's.
"There's no other place for us to do anything like that."
Stickler organized this year's festival. It's now in its sixth year, but this was the first time it has been held outside of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, where it began.
Stickler sent invitations to all of Charleston's churches, and eight of them responded and sent their choirs to participate, a number he said he was happy with. There were enough churches to make for an interesting show, he said.
It's a nondenominational event: Churches were asked to sing something representative of their faith or to show off what they would sing on a normal Sunday. Each choir sang two songs, and some took time to explain their meaning.
That request made for variety in the festival's music. It had classics to elicit handclapping, like "When the Saints Go Marching In," but also more traditional hymns and at least one new song, written for Orphan Sunday, which will be held in many churches this month.
"And then sometimes they'll hear someone else sing something they like and then go to their own choir director and ask to do it or something like it," Sticker said. "It's like that."
A collection was taken, with donations benefiting the Davis Child Shelter, a Charleston nonprofit that works with at-risk kids in Charleston and around the state.
Ushers weren't sure after the event just how much had been donated, but the event raised at least $400 before it even began - each church gave a $50 donation in lieu of an entrance fee.
"And that's what it's really about, the children," Stickler said.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.