Opening night includes a first-time feature for the event, a sneak peek of Regina Taylor's Crowns on the stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on June 21. The Gospel musical sensation Crowns appears at Goodman Theatre June 30 - August 5.
The 27th Gospel Music Festival provides free entertainment in several different locations, including Chicago's Bronzeville, home to Thomas A. Dorsey, the father of Gospel Music, which hosts the festival on Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24. The weekend portion of the festival will be held at Ellis Park, located at 37th and Cottage Grove.
"Gospel music is an integral part of the fabric of Chicago's history," said Michelle T. Boone, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. "Recreating the festival and hosting much of the free music performances in Bronzeville was a priority for the City as this is where Gospel music began."
The festival celebrates this musical genre in many ways and many locations beginning on Thursday, June 21 with Crowns which centers on Chicago-born Yolanda, who is sent down South after the death of her brother. She finds strength in the tales of the wise women who surround her-and the powerful rituals connected to their dazzling hats.
With a prolific body of work that encompasses film, television, theater and writing, Goodman Theatre Artistic Associate Regina Taylor is among American theater's most versatile actors, directors and playwrights. Her play Crowns is one of the most-produced musicals in America over the past decade.
Immediately following the presentation of a sneak peek at Crowns, will be a Gospel Music performance yet to be announced. On Friday, June 22, musical performances will fill the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington Street).
Scheduled for Saturday, June 23, is the McDonald's Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour with Grammy Award winning artist, Fred Hammond. Hammond, who has just released his latest recording, God, Love & Romance, will headline Saturday night at main stage on the new festival grounds. Special guests added to the tour include Grammy and Dove award winner Byron Cage and Grammy winner J Moss.
"We're excited to bring the McDonald's Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour to the community this summer," said Rob Jackson, McDonald's Director U.S. Marketing. "We're committed to giving back to those we serve and this is just one of the many ways McDonald's is deeply rooted in the community."
Sunday evening features a powerful triple bill opening with Take 6, followed by Blind Boys of Alabama and, closing the evening is Mary Mary. With more than a dozen Grammy wins between them, this promises to be a rousing final night of the festival.
As the most Grammy nominated vocal group in history, Take 6 started in the early 80s at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama as an a capella quartet. Founded by Claude V. McKnight III and joined shortly after by tenor Mark Kibble, the group signed with a label after college and officially changed their name to Take 6.
Since 1987, the group has maintained a steady line up that includes David Thomas and Alvin Chea, and they were joined by Kibble's brother Joey in 1991. Longtime member, Cedric Dent, stepped back from touring just last year, leaving as an active member of TAKE 6, but he still plays a strong role behind the scenes. Dent was replaced by Khristian Dentley.
The group has won 10 Grammys, 10 Dove Awards, 2 NAACP Image award nominations, and a Soul Train Award.
A Lifetime Achievement Grammy, award from the National Endowment for the Arts and an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame are just a few of the honors bestowed on the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama, who take the stage at 5:45p.m.
Formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, the group toiled for nearly 40 years almost exclusively on the black gospel music circuit. Their music is widely recognized as being influential for many gospel, R&B and rock 'n' roll artists. While the group did not cross over to pop music, they performed at benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King, playing through the 60s and 70s. But in 1983, there was a turning point when the sound of the Blind Boys reached a new audience through the Obie Award-winning play "The Gospel at Colonus."
Coupled with multiple Grammy awards was the opportunity to appear on recordings with many of artists of all genres. Today, more than 70 years later, founding member Jimmy Carter looks back on a career far beyond what he and his colleagues could have imagined.
Closing out the festival for the year is Mary Mary, returning for the first time since 2005. Sisters Erica and Tina Campbell signature harmonies have earned the duo honors such as the NAACP Image Award, a BET award and three Grammys, including a recent double nomination for their latest album, Something Big and one of its songs, "Sitting with Me".
Like many gospel music artists, Erica and Tina grew up singing in church choirs; not surprising with an evangelist/choir director mother and a youth minister father. The sisters eventually joined a lineup of traveling gospel music shows and toured as backup singers for R&B acts until songwriter/producer Warryn Campbell helped them secure a song publishing contract. A string of successful songs and albums followed and they bring all the talent to this year's free admission Chicago Gospel Music Festival.
The Chicago Gospel Music Festival is presented by the City of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and sponsored by McDonald's Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour, Pepsi, Aquafina, Communications Direct, LaGrou Distribution System and Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.
For more information on the festival as news becomes available, call 312.744.3316, visit www.chicagogospelmusicfestival.us or like it on Facebook.