Gospel Fest at the fair: “It’s like church in the park.”

William Mason and Friends has been a crowd favorite. Their selections brought the crowd to their feet.

Gospel Fest at the fair: “It’s like church in the park.”
October 06
13:46 2021

The Chronicle has changed things up slightly for our annual concert series at the Carolina Classic Fair. Traditionally we would have two consecutive Sunday afternoons filled with gospel music, but this year we have added a new wrinkle to our musical series, which is Jazz Fest.

“We love to put on Gospel Fest every year,” said James Taylor, publisher of The Chronicle. “With the new branding of the Carolina Classic Fair, we wanted to add a fresh perspective that would allow our audience to experience another unique facet of our history, heritage and culture. It was in that light that the new Jazz Fest component was born.”

The jazz artists will take the stage on the second Sunday of the fair, which will be Oct. 10. The gospel artists kicked things off on Oct. 3 with a great collection of new and returning artists that rocked the crowd.

First on the stage Sunday afternoon was Jazz’A, a new artist to the Gospel Fest stage, but she definitely performed like a seasoned veteran. “It was awesome and any time I can minister to the people, I am excited about it,” she said about performing at Gospel Fest. “I love Aretha Franklin, I love Chaka Khan, I love Mary Mary; I just love music in itself and those are some of my influences.”

Chris Graham was another artist performing for the first time as a solo act at Gospel Fest. He previously performed with Todd Curry and St Peter’s as a drummer. 

“It was crazy and I enjoyed every bit of it,” Graham said about performing. “I like performing, so any time I get to share the goodness of God, it’s alright with me. Tye Tribbett is probably one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to music.

“The first time I came out here, I actually saw him perform and at that time I was procrastinating, so when I saw him, I said, you know what, I am going to put the gas pedal down and get this thing going.”

Graham’s style of gospel music seemed to resonate with the young people in the crowd. Adrian Stewart, who happened to be walking by as Graham was performing, said he stopped to listen because Graham’s music had a nice beat and he wanted to hear what Graham had to say.

“At first I thought it was the radio playing, but when I got closer, I realized that it was a live performance,” said Stewart. “His (Graham) music had a nice flow and once I realized that he had church lyrics to go along, I had to stop to hear what he had to say.”

Gospel Fest veterans and crowd favorites, Willie Mason and Friends, really stole the show. Their style of traditional gospel choir music always leaves the crowd wanting more. From the start to the ending of their set, nearly everyone in attendance was on their feet and clapping their hands.

“We had a very good rehearsal yesterday and with the pandemic, we really haven’t been able to do a lot. So yesterday we were determined to have a choir rehearsal and when I tell you the power of the Lord came in that rehearsal,” said Mason. “We then had a fellowship outing just to dine together outside, so I knew today we were charged for this event.

“I am very pleased with what the Friends did today, and we got the energy from the crowd and it’s always a blessing to be there.”

Mason says their “old school” type of gospel music seems to always resonate with the crowd, because that’s what many people grew up on and are used to hearing. He says people should embrace all styles of gospel music, but understands those who prefer their style.

Mason and his choir were very strategic with the musical selections they chose to go with Sunday afternoon as well.  They had a great mixture of different tempo songs, but their traditional choir songs really let the vocal talents of their members shine through.

“I’ve been doing this so long that you just kind of know that when you’re in events like this, you are going to have people from all demographics, so you try to sing something that’s going to be accommodating or something people can relate to on their own in their walk with Christ,” Mason said about their song selections. Everybody is in a different place and so people can gravitate to the words of one line in a song and it can be something that’s life changing and take them through this week.”

Mason says he is aware that people from all demographics can relate to his choir. He says everywhere they go, they get people from all cultures that enjoy their music. He says they give all the glory to God for having the ability to be a blessing to the community and their theme is “make a difference wherever we go.”

Charlene Thomas says she has been coming to Gospel Fest for several years just to hear Willie Mason and Friends. For her, she says “it’s like having church in the park.”

“They never disappoint me,” Thomas stated. “Every time I get the chance to see them, it’s always like they have a message in the song especially for me. It’s feel-good music for people my age and it’s something that will never get old.

The other acts on the day were Raymond and Kim Larkin, Paul Scott and Karlton Jones, who all did a great job on stage as well.  

Please join us this Sunday for Jazz Fest as The Chronicle brings some of the best local artists to the stage for your enjoyment.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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