The Rev Tonya Michelle Smith-Waller conducted the Beth El A Cappella Choir during a benefit concert at First Tabernacle Church, 602 S. Broad St., on Saturday, Nov.15. — TRIBUNE PHOTO BY ROBERT MENDELSOHN

First Tabernacle Church hosted its annual fundraising concert at 602 S. Broad Street on Saturday, Nov.15th.

During the concert, attendants had an opportunity to hear the melodic sounds of Beth El A Cappella Choir whose four-part harmony group was the featured performers.

According to Christal Saunders, communications coordinator for the choir as well as a performer in the choir, the annual concert was the ministries 115th and included three other participating choirs.

The theme of the concert this year was God’s Grace is Sufficient.

“It’s all centered around this general idea that God’s grace is enough to keep everyone running, productive and moving,” said Saunders.

“The Beth El choir is unique simply because we do not use instruments. Any sound that we can come out with using the human voice we do tend to use,” she said.

The musical selections sung during the concert included original compositions as well as traditional and modern gospel songs which the choir transformed into their unique a cappella sound.

“We look forward to it [the concert] every year, and the community looks forward to it as well so we are excited to make this happen,” Saunders said.

Rachel Volkens said that First Tabernacle was celebrating over 50 years of a cappella singing at their Broad Street location.

“We have a very unique sound, we sing four part harmony and you won’t hear it in most choirs. Most choirs have a three-part harmony but we have a four-part harmony,” said Volkens.

First Tabernacle had help raising the roof during the annual concert from such groups as The Praise and Power Choir, Visions of Harmony who also sang a cappella and solo performances Rev. Tonya Michelle Smith-Waller.

The funds collected from the concert will be used for financing the care and maintenance of their Broad Street facility.

“As you can see, our edifice is historic and we are on the historic registry here in Philadelphia,” said Volkens.

“It takes a lot of money to keep the building up so the proceeds of this concert will be used to beatify the edifice,” she said.

Although First Tabernacle has ministered at 602 S. Broad Street since 1954, Volken said there are still a lot of people unaware of their existence.

“Most people don’t know about us, so we would love to have more visitors and more people come to our events as well,” Volkens said.

Chantelle Mitchell is not only a singer with Beth El but also serves as Sister-Elder at First Tabernacle. Along with preaching, visiting the sick and engaging in other ministerial duties, Mitchell said she has been singing since the age of 2.

“It’s a transcendent experience because it lifts you beyond your current circumstances and lifts you to a higher spiritual plane,” said Mitchell.

“Not only are you ministering to yourself but you are also ministering to others as well,” she said.

First Tabernacle is a Hebrew Israelite ministry with services Friday evenings at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday mornings, 9 a.m.

Visit them online at

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