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Sinners stand back! When West High School's A Cappella Choir goes into its gospel mode, gonna be a whole lot of repentin' goin' on.

The Panther choir was judged tops among Utah schools competing in a gospel singing contest, qualifying it to perform this August during a convention of gospel music enthusiasts. From 16,000 to 18,000 people are expected to attend the convention Aug. 10-17 in the Salt Palace."We've done gospel music for years," said West High director Richard Torgerson. "The kids love it. It has lots of movement and feeling." Five years ago, West performed during the University of Utah's celebration of Martin Luther King Day.

An August performance at the Salt Palace means gathering up vacationing teens for at least one rehearsal, Torgerson said, "but they're all ready to do it. It's an honor to be able to perform for that many people." The group will sing "Blessed Redeemer" and a gospel version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Joyce Gray, principal at Roosevelt Elementary School and leader of the Rocky Mountain Regional Chapter of Gospel Music Workshop, said getting schoolchildren involved was one of the objectives of the organization as it began planning the Salt Lake convention.

Gospel music provides an avenue for children to explore cultural mores through a unique art form, Gray said.

The organization brought visiting experts from around the country to help initiate schools into gospel music and to prepare groups to participate in the convention, she said. Seminars were presented in 37 junior and senior high schools.

Beside West High, others that will perform will be Granger, second place winner, and Kearns and Granite, which tied for third place.

Gray said she hopes to generate grant money to expand the program and expose as many students as possible to a genre that is part of America's musical heritage.