June is a beautiful month in Chicago - just warm and sunny enough to enjoy the outdoors. It's the perfect month to enjoy the Chicago Gospel Music Festival taking place throughout several of the city's parks June 20 through 23. All of the festival events are completely free but, before you go there are a few things you should know.
Know Where to Find the Action
The Gospel Music Festival is unique in that it takes place in several locations throughout the city. Opening night kicks off downtown Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion with a Gospel Choir showcase featuring choral groups from the Chicago area. The showcase begins at 6:30 p.m. and concludes at 8:30 p.m. with the GMAC (Gospel Music According to Chicago) Choir.
On Friday things move down the street to the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.). We recommend catching local gem Faith Howard set at noon. Howard has contributed Grammy Award-winning gospel recordings and currently works with well-known Chicago pastor John F. Hannah. You'll also want to catch Kevin Gray's set in the outdoor Randolph Square at 2 p.m. Gray is a wiz at putting various spins on praise music a la R&B, jazz, rock and more.
Saturday and Sunday the festival continues and concludes in historic Bronzeville's Ellis Park -- the birthplace of Chicago's gospel music movement. Anthony McGahee -- performing with his group Praise Motivated at 4:10 p.m. on Saturday -- is a classically trained choral performer who has conducted the likes of Josh Groban. Other performers include Chicago youth choir Joshua's Troops, local "modern gospel music" aficionado Percy Bady and the Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour featuring Vickie Winans, John P. Kee and New Life, Lecrae, Tamela Mann and Smokie Norful.
Sunday's highlights include the Chicago Mass Choir at 4:40 p.m., Los Angeles-based quartet The Mighty Clouds of Joy at 5 p.m. and Kierra Sheard -- who's family to gospel greats like Karen Cleark Sheard and Mattie Moss Clark -- at 5:45 p.m.
Don't Miss Out on Everything Else
In addition to four days full musical praise, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival has plenty more to offer. If you were born with the shopping gene, there will be an art fair and marketplace waiting for you in Ellis Park on Saturday and Sunday full of local artists showcasing their crafts, artwork, jewelry, clothing and more. Nearby in the Health & Wellness Oasis you can get tips to living a healthier lifestyle, get access to free health screenings and participate in fun, healthy activities. And, if you're planning on coming with your little ones, the Kids Activity Zone will be full of, what else but, fun activities for kids.
Get to Know the Scene
Like we said, the Bronzeville churches that surround Ellis Park were where Chicago's gospel music greats came into their own and eventually influenced the performers you'll be watching all weekend. The Gospel Festival will offer free 90-minute bus tours on Saturday highlighting the most important area churches that contributed to the history of this particular musical movement. Tours will depart from the festival in Ellis Park at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
For more information on how to get to the festival sites, what to bring and other questions we haven't answered yet, check out the festival's website.
Help us keep the lights on by subscribing to Chicago Like a Local. For your efforts, we'll deliver awesome stories (like this one) to your inbox. Do we have a deal?