6:00 PM “Gentlemen of Song” featuring Daryl Coley, Youth Edition, and Marvin Sapp

There was a time in the mid-80s when Oakland-born vocalist Daryl Coley did commercial jingles and sang on albums by secular artists such as Ramsey Lewis and Nancy Wilson. But having been raised in a devout Christian home, the classically trained singer and ordained minister eventually decided to put all his eggs in the gospel basket, and now he spends much of his time on the road, performing, conducting music workshops, and preaching at revivals. In concert Coley pulls out all the stops, using his astonishingly wide range to deliver searing melismata and unbroken scales borrowed from Bach. Also on the program are Youth Edition, a fast-rising male vocal group that spices its contemporary gospel sounds with smooth Boyz II Men harmonies, and Marvin Sapp, a onetime member of the popular gospel group Commissioned who’s now enjoying a successful solo career.

7:10 PM Rance Allen Group

Bishop Rance Allen, now the pastor of Toledo’s New Bethel Church of God in Christ, introduced soul and rock elements to gospel in the 70s, and by making nonspecific references to a supreme being, he pioneered the type of “message” songs that became a staple of contemporary urban gospel. But no matter what he’s singing, he’s fantastic, soaring in high falsetto tones to what critic Joel Selvin has described as “upwards corners other singers have only heard about,” then dropping to a deep, growling bass, delivering tour de force scats en route. Current gospel superstar Kirk Franklin recently paid his respects by inviting the multioctave marvel to sing “Something About the Name Jesus” on his The Nu Nation Project (Gospo Centric), and Allen’s over-the-top performance there has introduced him to a new generation of fans.

Interlude K & K Mime, comedian Ron Baker Jr.

:30 PM Canton Spirituals

Persistence paid off for the Canton Spirituals, who’d been singing around their native Mississippi for nearly 50 years when, in 1994, the famous Williams Brothers, who run the Blackberry label out of Jackson, took up their elders’ cause, producing and releasing their first nationally distributed album, Live in Memphis. The record, which mixed old-time harmony with updated rhythms, was a hit, and with their current smash, Living the Dream: Live in Washington, D.C. (Verity), they have no equals in gospel’s quartet category. Only Theo “Pig” Thompson remains from the original lineup, but brothers Harvey Watkins Jr. and Cornelius DeWayne Watkins are sons of founding member Harvey Watkins Sr.



noon Malcolm Williams & the Voices of Great Faith

12:30 PM Rutledge Sisters

1:00 PM U.S. Postal Workers’ Chicago Performance Cluster Choir

1:35 PM Wimberly Family

2:15 PM Voice of Many Waters

2:50 PM Desmond Pringle

3:20 PM Hearne Family

Interlude K & K Mime

4:05 pm Tyrone Block & Love Salvation and Devotion


4:30 PM “Ladies of Gospel”

featuring Tramaine Hawkins, Beverly Crawford, and Melba Moore

Tramaine Hawkins applies her mezzo-soprano pipes to everything from traditional and contemporary gospel to semiclassical and inspirational pop music with breathtaking sophistication and emotional depth. The northern California vocalist has helped mainstream gospel music by bringing the good news to supper-club and jazz-festival audiences, and pushes the envelope further by featuring guests like Carlos Santana, Jimmy McGriff, and Stanley Turrentine on her recordings.

Throaty contralto Beverly Crawford takes a more traditional approach to gospel music, especially on her latest disc, Now That I’m Here (Warner Alliance). Recorded before an effusive congregation at Nashville’s Baptist World Center, she pulls out all the stops on songs that include salutes to “First Lady of Gospel” Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker’s Caravans, and Mattie Moss Clark.

Onetime Newark schoolteacher Melba Moore hit the scene in the late 60s as the first African-American lead in the Broadway production of Hair, then won a Tony and other prestigious awards as the star of the 1970 Broadway musical Purlie. She topped the R & B charts twice, with “A Little Bit More” and “Falling,” both in 1986, and the same year starred in her own short-lived CBS sitcom, Melba. In 1990 she invited an all-star cast of R & B and gospel stars (including Stevie Wonder and Take 6) to join her for a hit rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (the African-American national anthem), but an ugly divorce from her husband and manager Charles Huggins soon drained her emotionally and financially. Now on the comeback trail, Moore divides her time between secular and religious engagements.

5:30 PM Angelo & Veronica

6:05 PM Tanya Ray

6:35 PM Bryant Jones & Chosen

7:05 PM Professor Thomas A. Dorsey Tribute

featuring Dr. Lena McLin & the McLin Singers

Much attention has been rightly paid to the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birth, but the centennial of “The Father of Gospel,” Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993), has been largely overlooked outside Chicago, where the Georgia native spent his adult years: proof that the cultural establishment has yet to truly embrace gospel music for the unique and powerful American art form that it is. Once a piano accompanist for blues diva Ma Rainey, Dorsey began composing gospel songs in earnest in 1928, applying the rhythmic and harmonic lessons of blues and jazz to Christian themes. At first, mainline ministers rejected his “gospel blues,” but Dorsey persisted, sending such singers as Sallie Martin and Mahalia Jackson from city to city to perform his work and sell his sheet music, and by the 40s Dorsey songs such as “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” “It’s a Highway to Heaven,” “Peace in the Valley,” and “Old Ship of Zion” had become staples of the repertoire. Paying tribute to him here is his niece, a pianist, music teacher (she plucked a young R. Kelly off the basketball courts at Kenwood Academy), and prolific composer in her own right, Lena McLin.

7:35 PM “Unity Fellowship Celebration”

featuring Lonnie Hunter & the Voices of St. Mark and the Maranatha Revival Choir

:30 PM Walter Hawkins & the Love Center Choir

Although not as well-known in secular circles as his older brother Edwin (of “Oh Happy Day” renown), Bishop Walter Hawkins has been one of the country’s most successful African-American gospel artists since the release in 1975 of Love Alive (Light). His Love Center Choir, based in Oakland’s Love Center Church, is packed with powerful soloists and driven by a kicking band (piano, organ, bass, drums) through the pastor’s intricate dynamic and rhythmic shifts. Hawkins’s own fervently ringing tenor voice is featured throughout the choir’s current double CD, Love Alive V: 25th Anniversary Reunion.



Noon Doc McKenzie & the Gospel Hi-Lites

12:40 PM GATT Quartet

The GATT Quartet comes from Chennai (the Indian city formerly known as Madras), where its singers have specialized in American music–specifically barbershop and gospel quartet music–for nearly 30 years. When gospel queen Mahalia Jackson heard them in the early 70s, she told them they reminded her of the Golden Gate Quartet; they couldn’t have asked for a stronger compliment.

1:20 PM “Unity Gathering”

featuring the Gospel Crusaders and the Gospel Trumpets

2:00 PM Foundation of Souls

2:40 PM Carolyn Traylor & Albertina Walker

In the 1950s, Chicago native Albertina Walker introduced the gospel music world to such future stars as James Cleveland, Cassietta George, Inez Andrews (see below), and Shirley Caesar through her hugely popular group, the Caravans. Although they disbanded more than 30 years ago, Walker remains both a venerated standard-bearer of traditional gospel and a booster of young talent. At this year’s festival she’s lending her gruff contralto and prestigious name to a program by Carolyn Traylor, a Texas-born vocalist who has been seen nationally on BET’s Bobby Jones Gospel and is working on her debut album for the Malaco label.

3:20 PM Victory Travelers with Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson

4:00 PM Christland Singers


4:30 PM Inez Andrews

As another critic once put it, Inez Andrews’s voice has “a demure contralto bottom, a middle that when clear exhibits mezzo-soprano coloration but usually stays hoarse and funky . . . and a thrilling top that defies the hoarseness below and zooms above the staff.” Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1929, Andrews performed throughout the south with the Raymond Rasberry Singers and the Original Gospel Harmonettes before moving to Chicago in 1957 to join Albertina Walker’s Caravans. Although the formidable Shirley Caesar was also with the Caravans at the time, Andrews became the group’s premier attraction; she formed her own ensemble in 1961 and scored her biggest hit a dozen years later with the rousing “Lord Don’t Move the Mountain.” She’s an official salutee of this year’s Gospel Fest.

5:05 PM “A Touch of Chicago Gospel Pioneers”

featuring Professor Ernest Allen Sr., Gladys Beamon Gregory, Lorenza Brown-Porter, Professor Andrew Jackson, Vernon Oliver Price, Dolores “Honey” Sykes, Doris Sykes, Reverend Willie A. Treadwell, Claude “DeDe” Wyatt, and Ann Yancy

6:20 PM DeAndre Patterson & the Progressive Radio Choir

6:55 PM Lamar Campbell & Spirit of Praise

7:35 PM “Unity Fellowship Celebration”

featuring the Nu City Mass Choir & the Chicago Mass Choir

:30 PM Pilgrim Jubilees with Doc McKenzie & the Gospel Hi-Lites, the Canton Spirituals, the GATT Quartet, the Christland Singers, and the Victory Travelers with Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson

Their 1953 debut recording for Chicago’s struggling Chance label didn’t make much of an impact. But the Pilgrim Jubilees, featuring brothers Clay and Cleve Graham, must’ve thought their fortunes had turned when, two years later, their friend S.R. Crain of the famous Soul Stirrers arranged an audition for them with Specialty Records, one of the leading gospel labels of the period. Owner Art Rupe liked them enough to offer a contract–on the condition they change their name to avoid confusion with Specialty’s well-established Pilgrim Travelers. The Jubes refused, and their audition tape remained in the can until 42 years later, when four selections turned up on a 1997 Specialty CD titled Golden Age Gospel Quartets, Volume Two (1954-1963). Meanwhile, in 1960 the band signed with Peacock Records, where they cut the hits “Stretch Out” and “Old Ship of Zion.” Nowadays they record for Malaco and remain a favorite among fans of down-home quartet singing.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Reisig & Taylor/ Greg Allen.