PLATTSBURGH — Curious crowds gathered when members of the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir broke into song Saturday afternoon at Champlain Centre.
Choir members carefully assembled in a surprise "flash mob" at about 2 p.m. and quickly filled the Food Court with music, bringing smiles to the faces of unsuspecting mall patrons.
Shoppers of all ages watched intently as one choir member began a solo that was quickly joined by 40 other members of the gospel group.
"It scared me at first," said Thomas Crouse, 13, of Tupper Lake. "But then I realized it was a flash mob."
Like many other members of the crowd, Crouse decided to capture the excitement on his cellphone.
"I'm going to put it on Facebook," he said.
Crouse was enjoying lunch with Kylin Strader, 8, of Tupper Lake when they noticed choir members setting up sound equipment.
They both said they had no idea what was going to happen.
"I thought it was awesome," Strader smiled.
Debi Pettit of Plattsburgh was shopping nearby when she heard music coming from the Food Court.
"I wasn't sure what was going on, but what I heard was really beautiful," she said.
Pettit was among many shoppers who stopped what they were doing after hearing a loud chorus of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" echoing through the mall.
The group worked hard to make sure the performance was pitch perfect, said Dexter Criss, music director for the Gospel Choir.
"We had been setting up and putting stuff together for about an hour beforehand," he said. "But it took some planning."
Besides teaching organic chemistry at Plattsburgh State, Criss directs the diverse chorale group, comprising about 60 students and community members. It is a job he has been doing with great pride since 2001, he said.