This year Chicago’s Gospel Fest gave us the spirit!!! The 1st weekend in June always a soul stirring spirit filled weekend of great music!! The Gospel Fest is the kick off to the Summer music festival season in the city and this year it was simply the best!!! It has been a few years since I have attended because it usually rains on the first night but not this year. The Festival had been held at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and the Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park for many years then it was moved to the historical Bronzeville neighborhood south of the former site of the Ida B. Wells Public Housing development, on King Drive between 37th street and Pershing Road. However, this year it returned back to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Also, the Chicago Cultural Center hosted several local gospel artists and choirs such as Jessica Love (a.k.a. JLove), “Chicago’s Next” featuring Kymar Garner, Ebony and Ron Poindexter, and the exciting Kenwood Academy Highschool Concert Choir (I am biased because Kenwood Academy is my alma mater) for an afternoon of contemporary gospel and some hymnals to set a wonderful tone for the beginning of the event. The workers who come out of their offices at lunchtime were in for a delightful treat for those who stop by on their lunch break and for the public who visit the cultural center.
Friday night June 3rd 6pm the downtown area of Chicago along the lakefront was the place to be! The night was warm and the sunset beautiful with many people in the grass area with their blankets some had arrived earlier in the day waiting with anticipation, while others were arriving from work but prepared to enjoy a night of gospel filled evening!! Others were sitting in the seating area but I think many preferred the grass area with a blanket and shoes off! There were food trucks so if you did not have time to grab any food before arriving, there definitely was something to eat and drink while enjoying the night.
It began with the Orchestra Ebenezer Ministry followed by Kenny Lewis and One Voice. It was a joy and a treat to start what was going to be some dancin’, shoutin’, and foot stompin’ good time!! Next up it was the Celebration of Gospel Quartets featuring The James, The Douglas Singers, and The Victory Travelers. They moved the crowd as though we were in a church filled with the holy ghost. The grand finale was the Gray Boys Production presents: Percy Gray, Jr. & Joshua’s Troop, and the Chicago Mass choir!! WOWZER is my word for the evening!! I clapped, danced, shouted, snapped my fingers, and walked away from the park with a new sense of renewal. Truly the Gospel Fest 2016 gave us spirit and food for the soul.
The following night opened with The Great Migration Centennial Mass Choir featuring Dr. Cynthis Nunn & The IMEJ Mass Choir and Rev Derrick Wells and The Christ Universal Temple Ensemble. They had the park filled with so much energetic powerful music which made for a great afternoon because it had rained earlier but by the time it was time to get the praise party started the clouds opened up to let the sun shine through. Then it was Brian Courtney Wilson and William Murphy. By this time many were trying to catch their breath from dancin’ and singin’ it was time for the Queen of Gospel Ms. Shirley Ceasar. It was amazing to see her live but even more so amongst so many people of all races and religions enjoying the gospel. She was followed by Travis Greene and then it was time for Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Group to take us home. The day into the night was magical!
If you are in Chicago next year the 1st weekend in June, Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park is the place to be. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) did a fabulous job this year and I am looking forward to attending again next!!! For more information on the Gospel Fest and other festivals going on in Chicago, be sure to check out the website: