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23rd Annual Chicago Gospel Music Festival
June 1 - 3, 2007 * Millennium Park

Chicago Gospel Music FestivalNow when you look at these pictures, you'll see Thomas A. Dorsey's niece, Dr. Lena McLin. She is the one in the long white jacket waving. The very first Gospel Fest was held at the South Shore Country Club. And we literally marched down the street singing, "Walking Down The King's Highway!"

If you are in Chicago, the schedule is listed at the bottom. There are two different stages. Now for those of you who may or may not be from Chicago, the history of Gospel was born right here, in Chicago! 

The Evolution of Gospel Music

Gospel as we know it today came into being around 1926 when Thomas A. Dorsey published the first song and coined the phrase “gospel music.” The actual elements of the music can be traced back to old Negro spirituals, early American hymns, folk songs and the blues.

Gospel has become one of the richest forms of music in America. It was developed in the intersection of two distinct but related historical periods in African American culture: the rise of ragtime, blues and jazz, and the emergence of Pentecostal churches at the end of the 19th century.

By 1945, there was wide and active use of gospel music in Baptist, Methodist and other black Protestant churches.

Gospel took its shape from all that was happening in African American culture between 1900 and 1930. During this period there was great migration of blacks moving North to escape racial and economic woes. As black people found commonality at church, two distinct styles of black religious music were emerging: the harmonious a cappella style of male barbershop quartet, and the Dorsey-influenced black gospel group, comprised by female singers accompanied by piano and singing in the treble-choir tradition.

Typically, black church songs of the day were still performed as old spirituals, hymns and jubilee singing.

Also during this period, many big jazz stars were coming to Chicago, a center for black culture and music. Chicago became the home base for Louis Armstrong and all the great horn players, as well as many blues and jazz pianists.

The elements of gospel music came to fruition as Dorsey (who at the time was an accomplished blues and jazz pianist) merged his particular music style into sacred songs. He developed this genre of music not to interfere with church traditions, but because he thought his efforts were inspired by God—a pure expression of his many talents. In 1926, Dorsey wrote his first two gospel songs: “Someday, Somewhere” and “If you see My Savior.”

Initially, he sent out 500 copies to churches across the country, but there was little interest. Most ministers in churches rejected the music: as a blues man, Dorsey was considered too much “in the world.”

The church community considered him a non-Christian and worse. The music had a swing to it, which they found “burlesque.”

There was also the competitive factor. Minister would preach and get a response from the congregation with Dorsey’s music, the singers got a comparable reaction.

Sometime later, around 1930 at a National Baptist Convention in Chicago, Dorsey’s song “If You See My Savior,” was performed to a rousing response. After that, order poured in from all over the country, gospel music was accepted.

By 1932, there was a gospel movement underway. Sallie Martin, Eillie Mae Ford Smith, Marion Pairs, Mahalia Jackson (later on), Roberta Martin, Magnolia Lewis Butts and Theodore R. Frye were big supporters. Around the same time, falsetto singer R. H. Harris joined the Soul Stirrers quartet at age 15. The quartet had a sweet background harmony and put the improvising lead vocal in front. It was a wonderful sound and the entire world embraced The Soul Stirrers.

The Soul Stirrers were among the first gospel-and-black artist to perform at Radio City, New York. They packed Madison Square Garden and first performed overseas in 1945. They went on to perform for Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the president of France and the Queen of England.

The Soul Stirrers were featured in many gospel quartet competitions and never lost a contest. R. H. Harris left The Soul Stirrers and formed the Christland Singers around 1950. At that time, 19-year-old Sam Cooke began his illustrious musical career with The Soul Stirrers. Everybody from church singers to blues, pop, jazz, and rock-and-roll performers has been influenced by the sound of early gospel quartets.

In Chicago, and within the African American community, gospel music played many roles. It served as psychiatrist, psychologist and minister. It was also an outlet for relief from social, political, economic, personal problems and suffering of people who constantly had to be reminded of their color.

No history of gospel music would be complete without mention of the stellar achievements of Rosetta Tharpe, and the inimitable Mahalia Jackson. Sister Tharpe was the first nationally-renowned gospel singer. Chicago’s Mahalia Jackson was the unexcelled ambassador of gospel music during her distinguished career of concert appearances and recordings.

Today, Billboard Magazine reports double-digit growth and record-breaking sales in gospel music.


On Saturday the festival will feature "An Evening of Gospel Elegance" and "The Professor Thomas A. Dorsey Tribute" with The Christ Universal Temple Ensemble, The Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir, The First Church of Deliverance Choir, and special guest The Divine Divas. Pam Morris, Festival Coordinator for the event, describes Saturday's evening as "three dynamic Chicago choirs and three divine gospel divas add a special touch at this years Festival honoring Professor Thomas A. Dorsey's song Precious Lord which is 75 years old."

  Donald LawrenceJay Pritzker Pavilion 

Friday, June 1, 2007
6:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. - The Chicago Mass Choir
6:40 p.m.-7:40 p.m. - "The Quartet Special" featuring The Selvy Singers, The Mixon Singers, and The Strong Family
7:50 p.m.-8:20 p.m. - Keith "Wonderboy" Johnson
8:25 p.m.-8:40 p.m. - Kevin Vasser
8:50 p.m.-9:30 p.m. - Myron Butler and LEVI

Saturday, June 2, 2007
5:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. - Otis Clay
5:40 p.m.-6:25 p.m. - "All in the Family" featuring The Bady Brothers & The Brown Sisters
6:35 p.m.-8:05 p.m. - "An Evening of Gospel Elegance" and "The Professor Thomas A. Dorsey Tribute" featuring The Christ Universal Temple Ensemble, The Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir, The First Church of Deliverance Choir, and special guest, The Divine Divas, featuring Connie Kinnison, Felicia Coleman-Evans and Elizabeth Norman
8:15 p.m.-8:35 p.m. - Pastor Donald Alford
8:45 p.m.-9:35 p.m. - Donald Lawrence and Company

Sunday, June 3, 2007
5:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. - Pastor W. James Campbell & The St. James Radio Choir
5:40 p.m.-6:25 p.m. - “A Touch of Chicago’s Gospel Pioneers” & ‘”Gospel Legends” honoring: Elder George Jordan, Eva J. Purnell, Alwena “Bootsie” Ashford, and Dr. Lucius Hall
6:40 p.m.-6:55 p.m. - Lemmie Battles
7:05 p.m.-7:55 p.m. - “The Marvin Yancy Tribute” featuring Kevin Yancy, Pastor Lamont Lenox, and Tyrone Block & LSD (Love, Salvation, Devotion)
8:05 p.m.-8:45 p.m. - The Canton Spirituals
9:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. - Tye Tribbett & G.A.


Walgreens Day Stage

Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep Gospel Youth Tent operates
Friday 4-5:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 2, 2007 “Salute to the U.S. Armed Forces”

12:05 p.m.–12:30 p.m. - mezzo, Dr. Gloria Jackson Bacon
12:35 p.m.–12:55 p.m. - pianist, Randall Curtis Johnson (Gospel/Jazz)
1:00 p.m.–1:30 p.m. - Professor Wilbur Belton & Friends
1:35 p.m.–2:00 p.m. - Krystaal
2:05 p.m.–2:25 p.m. - Tracy Worth
2:30 p.m.–2:55 p.m. - psalmist, Vergia Towner Dishmon
3:00 p.m.–3:25 p.m. - DeWayne Woods
3:30 p.m.–4:00 p.m. - New Orleans Exchange Artist
4:05 p.m.–4:35 p.m. - Pastor Walter J. Butts


Sunday, June 3, 2007

“Sunday Quartet Special” “Salute to the U.S. Armed Forces”
12:00 p.m.–12:45 p.m. - The Canton Spirituals
12:50 p.m.–1:15 p.m. - The Luckett Brothers of Milwaukee
1:20 p.m.–1:50 p.m. - The Southern Sons of Memphis
1:55 p.m.–2:20 p.m. - The Selvy Singers of Arkansas
2:25 p.m.–2:45 p.m. - The Sacred Sons of Zion
2:50 p.m.–3:15 p.m. - The Heavenly King Juniors
3:20 p.m.–3:45 p.m. - The Victory Travelers
3:50 p.m.–4:25 p.m. - The Strong Family

Add A Comment


May. 31, 2007 at 7:28 AM Looks like a very fun event Baps!

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May. 31, 2007 at 8:10 AM I wish I lived there I love Gospel Music , Looks Like a Real Insiring time .

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May. 31, 2007 at 9:36 AM That looks like it's going to be straight awsome. 

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May. 31, 2007 at 10:10 AM

that is going to a great event!!! i hope you enjoy all those you attend.

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May. 31, 2007 at 12:17 PM That's going to be awsome to see, I love Gospel Music.I hope you enjoy. Wish I was there.

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May. 31, 2007 at 11:15 PM EVENT TIMES:
Friday 4:00  - 9:30 p.m.

Saturday 12:00 - 9:30 p.m.

Sunday 12:00 - 9:30 p.m.

LOCATION: Chicago Millennium Park


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