Choirs were judged on presence (enthusiasm, connection with the audience, and general appearance), technical merit (diction, ensemble, rhythmic accuracy, and conductor's abilities), and originality/interpretation. The competition consisted of two segments, small choir (6-35 members) and large choirs (36-100 members). Four choirs from each group performed music that was pre-selected.
The three-judge panel, which included Pastor Marvin Sapp, Pastor Shirley Caesar, and Fred Hammond, would then vote on each choir's performance and select one winner in each category. The James E. Jordan Choir won the Large Choir category and The Tribe of Judah Choir of Bowie, Maryland was voted the best small choir. Each choir took home a check for $10,000. The Jordan Choir was also selected Verizon's Video People's Choice winner and received an additional $5,000 for their church, which is pastored by Rev. James E. Jordan, Jr.
The rendition by the Jordan Jr. Choir, coupled with the group's poise, energy, and uniformity, brought the entire Verizon Center crowd to their feet to spontaneously rejoice as if they were in a Sunday worship service. As the choir concluded their rendition, co-host Donald Lawrence could not refrain himself and began to lead the Verizon Center "congregation" in worship. Judges Sapp, Caesar, and Hammond joined Lawrence in encouraging the audience to worship.
Pastor Caesar, sensing the significance of the moment, immediately took a Bible text from the book of Jeremiah and preached concluding with Jeremiah's statement that, although he was determined not to proclaim the goodness of God, he had no choice but to do so because the knowledge of God was like "fire shut up" in his bones.
Choir Director Courtney King said the choir's participation in How Sweet The Sound was an "awesome experience, another experience of God proving Himself mighty and awesome in our lives individually and collectively as a choir."
When asked if she anticipated winning, King responded, "I didn't. All we prayed for was 'God, your will be done.' We worked hard. We did all we could do and we just asked Him to anoint us afresh and whatever His will for us was, that's all we asked for."
The next step in the process for the Refreshing Spring COGIC choir is the national finale scheduled for October 28 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. With little less than a month to get ready, King says the choir will be busy. "We will rehearse three times a week. We are going to be in our sanctuary rehearsing, preparing, and giving God praise and glory."
Musical director and arranger Vonkendricks Ginyard, 41, said he believes having the opportunity to be in the competition "forces" everyone to get on "top of their game. The work ethic we put in was extensive," he added, "but this is what I think every choir should be doing in their local churches to get better."
When asked about the song's arrangement, Ginyard said "I just wanted to do it in a different way. I think the traditional way, which I do love, was expected. We did not want to take away from the continuity of the song, but kind of make it our own without taking away the melody. We took the melody and I asked God to give me an arrangement that would be something different, but still in a way where you would not recognize the song."
This is the fourth year that Verizon has sponsored the competition to find the best choir in America. Refreshing Spring's choir will face winners from 8 other regional's – Dallas, TX., Atlanta, Ga., Charlotte, NC., Detroit, MI., St. Louis, MO., Chicago, IL., Los Angeles, and Oakland, CA.