Gospel Extravaganza celebrates 30th year at North Central College

By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted1/30/2018 12:34 PM
  • The 30th annual Gospel Extravaganza returns Saturday to Naperville's North Central College.

    The 30th annual Gospel Extravaganza returns Saturday to Naperville's North Central College. Courtesy of North Central College

When the Gospel Extravaganza comes to Wentz Concert Hall on the North Central College campus Saturday, the musical tradition will mark its 30th year with performances by top local talent.

"Thirty years is a long time in this community," said the Rev. Eric Doolittle, the college's chaplain heading the event. "We're really glad to be continuing this program."

In a departure from years past, when nationally known gospel acts headlined the event, the evening will feature gospel ensembles from Chicago and the suburbs.

"We really want to focus on the local scene," Doolittle said. "We figured we'd highlight the folks here in the neighborhood."

Doolittle said the event is supported by the college's cultural events, multicultural affairs and ministry and service offices.

The night will start with performer Cassidy Campbell, a recent NCC graduate who appeared at the 2017 Gospel Extravaganza.

Next up will be Chris Michael, a Joliet-area artist.

"He just released an album," Doolittle said. "He's bringing his whole band with him."

Also on the bill is Sounds of Judah, a band from St. Mark United Methodist Church of Chicago's Chatham neighborhood, the Cityside Singers from Chicago's Cityside Church and the Mosaic Choir from Waubonsie Valley High School.

Tyvon Dukes, a senior NCC music major who performed in the Gospel Extravaganza last year, will be back with his band, which will serve as the house band for the night.

Dukes, who often participates in worship music at Compass Church locations and at the Wheaton Christian Center in Carol Stream, plays piano. His band members include two of his brothers, one who plays guitar, the other who plays bass, his sister on violin and a family friend on drums.

"We're going to be doing instrumentals," he said. "Usually, if you play a song that everybody knows, somebody jumps up and starts singing. It's going to be somewhat free-form. We have a 10-minute set. We're doing our own kind of arrangement."

Concertgoers can count on hearing well-known gospel standards such as "Lord You Are Good," he said, a song that was written by mixed-race composer Israel Houghton.

"It crosses racial lines," he said, adding that gospel music includes a range of musical styles, from black gospel hymnals to more contemporary styles.

"What we're going to be doing is somewhere in the middle," he said. "It's more like jazz and blues put together. I'd say it's a bit of rock, too. Gospel and Christian music, it's all under one category. It's just different styles of how that message is presented. In the end, it's all about delivering the message of Christ."

Dukes said he also plans a duet of "Alpha and Omega" with his sister on electric violin, a performance that may turn into an ensemble number if additional musicians decide to jump in.

Doolittle said both the musicians and the audience at Gospel Extravaganza spontaneously join in.

"It's definitely a participatory concert," Doolittle said. "Most of the songs have a call and response. It very much pulls people into it."

"It's going to be very fun and very open-ended," Dukes said.

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