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'Awesome' gospel experience promised at Arena tomorrow - Showcase anchors Festival of Religious Freedom

Published:Friday | January 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

After a full day's programme, tomorrow's first Festival of Religious Freedom ends with a two-hour live music experience. Dale Flynn, who chairs the festival's Music Committee, promises this event will be "awesome."

The festival is being put on by the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, in collaboration with the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches and other religious groups.

Slated to start at 6:30 p.m. at the National Arena, the free Gospel Music Showcase features a 150-member choir and special artistes Judy Mowatt, Jabez, George Gordon, Kimiela 'Candy' Isaacs, Carey Sales, Venecia Nicholson and Shelly-Ann Brown.

Together they form a combination of established and upcoming performers, veterans and youth. Flynn speaks glowingly of each featured artiste, while making it clear that a unified approach will be taken in the presentation. So, the featured artistes will be singing with the choir from the get-go, eliminating the need for pauses and types of introduction which may break the showcase's rhythm.

"We want to make it a family evening - oneness, unity, togetherness and mutual respect," Flynn said.

In addition, there is the background of the entire festival behind the Gospel Showcase.

"It is a production that will tell a story of elements of freedom," Flynn said. He clarified that while freedom is one thing there is responsibility which comes with that freedom. "There is a reason for living," Flynn said.

SPIRIT OF FREEDOM

Within that context, through song, the 150-member choir and guest artistes will present music that shows why there is a reason for freedom. There will be appropriate lighting and Nadine Blair is slated to host the showcase.

In terms of the song choice, Flynn said, "We will be doing songs that explain the spirit of freedom within the context of the Christian faith. The group (choir) is an inter-faith [choir with persons] from different denominations and walks of life."

In choosing the choir members, persons were considered once they were able to sing and willing to attend rehearsals. Those rehearsal sessions started in the first week of last November and were run once every two weeks until January, when the pace was increased to weekly.

The Gospel Music Showcase is a one-off presentation, but Flynn is confident that it will continue to have an impact even though it is not an annual event. "These are springboards and catalysts that reignite the passion," Flynn said. It will be streamed and he believes that when there is a retrospective of the year's gospel calendar the Gospel Music Showcase at the Festival of Religious Freedom will figure prominently.

That is not only due to the size of the choir and expected audience (5,000 to 6,000 people), but also the quality which Flynn said will be presented at the Gospel Music Showcase. "It is a production of class... This started out in a very simple way. What we believe in is quality, keeping it simple but making a statement," Flynn said.

The Festival of Religious Freedom starts at 9:00 a.m. A press release from the organisers said "the Seventh-day Adventists Church in Jamaica is spearheading the first ever Festival of Religious Freedom in Jamaica for all religious groups and people on January 24, 2015 at the National Arena."

"More than 50 Festivals have been held in more than 41 cities covering all the six continents of the world and it's now Jamaica's turn to host such a Festival by giving thanks to God and country for having religious freedom."