Atlanta Pentecostal Choir Named 'Best Church Choir in America'

The choir of Atlanta West Pentecostal Church snagged the title of "The Best Church Choir in America" late Saturday, beating out ten other church choirs from around the nation that had made it to the finale event.

Along with the title, the winning choir also snagged $30,000 in cash and prizes, adding to the three other awards it had picked up as it made its way through the "How Sweet the Sound" competition, sponsored by Verizon Wireless.

All 11 choirs, each hailing from different cities, had been selected the overall winners of their respective cities over the last two months as part of the third annual competition, which is touted as the only nationwide, community-focused celebration of its kind.

Saturday's finale event in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena pit the choirs for one last performance before a crowd of 15,000 and brought to a close the month-long tour that began in September.

Since Sept. 19, the competition has been going from city to city, selecting the top choir from each out of eight regional finalists that received the most votes among a pool of 16 judge-selected choirs.

Though "How Sweet the Sound" is promoted as a competition, organizers say it is more than that.

"How Sweet the Sound is an opportunity to celebrate the unique ways that music connects people," explained Mike Lanman, vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless. "Gospel is a genre that attracts people from all walks of life which is what makes this competition so exciting."

With this year's competition concluded, choirs across the nation will have to wait until next year before giving it another go. And Verizon has confirmed that there will be a next year.

"'How Sweet the Sound, The Search for the Best Church Choir in America' will return in 2010," organizers say. "With sell-out crowds for the 2009 tour, 2010 promises to be even bigger and better."

Updates on 2010 registration, tour schedule, along with other announcements will be made available to those who sign up for the competition's e-mail list.

Updates will also be available via mobile alerts, RSS, and Twitter. Choirs from as small as six to as large as 100 are eligible.

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