McDonald's Gospelfest

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The McDonald's Gospelfest is an annual gospel music festival, talent competition, and fundraiser in Newark, New Jersey. The event, inaugurated in 1983, and sponsored by McDonald's, takes place in spring and has been held at the Prudential Center since 2008. The closing night contest and ceremony is produced, directed, and hosted by A. Curtis Farrow. The event, which can take several hours, has been recorded and broadcast variously on WABC-TV and WWOR-TV. Involving more a thousand performers it has been described as the "largest collection of gospel talent ever assembled"[1] and the "most spectacular gospel celebration in the nation".[2] The event is followed up by McDonald's Inspiration Celebration which makes a national tour.[3][4][5]


Gospelfest has taken place at Prudential Center since 2008

McDonald's Gospelfest originated in 1983 under the auspices of the McDonald's Corporation and the McDonald's Tri-State Owners' Association. The event has been an important fundraising event which supports education opportunities within local communities. and has awarded millions of dollars in scholarship money. Over the years the competition performances have taken place at Palace Theater,[6] the Hammerstein Ballroom,[7] Westbury Music Fair, Newark Symphony Hall, Madison Square Garden,[8] and New York City Center.[9] Since 2008, the 25th incarnation of the event, it has been held at Prudential Center. Parts of the show have been broadcast by WABC, which in 2000 and 2001 garnered New York Emmy Awards for WABC in the "Religious Programming" category.[10][11] The show is since 2008 televised on WWOR-TV.[12] The Gospelfest is produced by Newark-based Irving Street Rep and is directed and hosted by its founder, A. Curtis Farrow.[13]

Greater Newark has long tradition of gospel[14][15] and jazz,[16] having begun in the 1910s with the Coleman Brothers.[17][18] Savoy Records gave many early artists opportunities to record.[19][20] Alex Bradford was musical director of the Abyssinian Baptist Church[21] Cissy Houston, a member of The Drinkard Singers and The Sweet Inspirations and mentor to numerous singers, has long been a driving force behind the New Hope Baptist Church[22] and the Gospelfest.[14] Newark Symphony Hall is home to the NSH Special Ensemble,[23] which was selected as the Gospelfest Youth Choir Winner in 2011,[24] and hosts the "When Praise Goes Up!" annual gospel showcase. The affiliated Newark Boys Chorus also includes spirals in its repertory.[25] In 1980, the former movie palace Stanley Theater became the Newark Gospel Tabernacle.[26][27] Newark is one of seven cities nationwide to host the touring gospel music competition "How Sweet the Sound".[28][29][30]


Auditions and semi-finalist competitions are held in tri-state New York-New Jersey-Connecticut each year prior to the Gospelfest. There are fourteen categories:

  • 1. Praise Dance Group
  • 2. Praise Dance Solo-Trio
  • 3. Gospel Rap
  • 4. Gospel Comedian
  • 5. Gospel Poetry
  • 6. Step
  • 7. Adult Choir
  • 8. Group Soul
  • 9. Contemporary
  • 10. Spanish Language Soloist
  • 11. Teen Soloist
  • 12. Gospel Soloist
  • 13. Youth Choir
  • 14. Out-of-Town Choir

2016 Honor Thy Mother[edit]

Saturday, May 7, 2016, on Mother’s Day Weekend, featuring Yolanda Adams, Tamela Mann, Bishop Hezekiah Walker & LFC, Shirley Caesar, Donnie McClurkin, Jennifer Holliday (from the original Dreamgirls), and others.[31]

2015 When the Choir Meets the Quartet[edit]

May 9, 2015 with Bishop Hezekiah Walker & LFC (Love Fellowship Choir), Ricky Dillard & New G, Mighty Clouds of Joy, the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Mississippi Mass Choir, the Thompson Community Reunion Choir, Greater Allen AME Cathedral Mass Choir, Doc McKenzie & The Hi-Lites, and the Clark Sisters.[32][33][34]

2014 Women Who Worship[edit]

The 2014 Gospelfest took place on Saturday May 10 before Mothers Day. Auditions were held in January.[35] Among those who participated are some most popular female artists in gospel: Shirley Caesar, Vickie Winans, CeCe Winans, The Clark Sisters, Dorothy Norwood, Kim Burrell, Yolanda Adams, Dottie Peoples, Tramaine Hawkins, Cissy Houston and Melba Moore.[36][37]

Gospelfest 2013[edit]

Auditions for Gospelfest 2013 took place in January[38][39] The show, which lasted eight hours, took place May 11, 2013 and include performances by Aretha Franklin,[40] Donnie McClurkin, Smokie Norful, John P. Kee and Lecrae.[41] and Hezekiah Walker.[42][43][44]

2012 Honor Thy Mother[edit]

One thousand performers chosen from 80,000 contestants took the stage for the May 12, 2012 Mother's Day event. Among the headliners were Shirley Caesar,[45] Donnie McClurkin, Vickie Winans, Fred Hammond, Mary Mary, Steve Harvey and Cissy Houston.[46] The festival was also seen as a tribute to Whitney Houston,[47] with roots in Newark, whose had died earlier in the year and whose funeral services were held at the New Hope Baptist Church.[48]

2011 The Mighty Men of Valour[edit]

On June 18, 2011 the Father's Day show had more than 1,100 competitors chosen from over 40,000 people who auditioned and included some of the biggest names in gospel: Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, James Fortune, Bobby Jones, and Bishop TD Jakes.[49][50][51] The event was noted for showing the changing face and diversification of gospel music.[52]

Gospelfest 2010[edit]

There were 80,000 audition contestants of whom 850 were chosen to perform in the event which took place on June 19, 2010. Headliners included Dionne Warwick,[53] Roberta Flack, Hezekiah Walker, Vickie Winans, Cissy Houston, Regina Belle, J Moss. Keith Wonderboy Johnson, Kurt Carr and The Kurt Carr Singers, KOHSHI, and Bishop T.D. Jakes.[54][55]

2009 What a Fellowship[edit]

Of the over 80,000 people auditioned, over 1,500 competitors took part in the Gospelfest on Saturday, June 13, 2009 . The post-competition concert included Patti LaBelle, Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans, Regina Belle, J. Moss, Vickie Winans, Bebe Winans, Cissy Houston, and Bishop Hezekiah Walker.[56][57]

2008 25 Years of Glory - Let There be Peace![edit]

On June 14, 2008, its twenty-fifth anniversary, the Gospelfest increased its participant and audience capacity and for the first time was held in the arena recently opened Prudential Center. Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir, Byron Cage, Vickie Winans and Cissy Houston were among the headliners who performed in the evening concert.[58][59][60]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gospel Comes To Newark At 2011 McDonald's Gospelfest". CBS Local. June 18, 2011. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  2. ^ "Gospelfest 2009". Gospel Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  3. ^ floyd, Kimberly (May 14, 2012). "McDonald's Presents Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour Featuring Fred Hammond". Digital Urban Voice. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  4. ^ "GRAMMY-Winning Gospel Artist Fred Hammond, McDonald's Raise Funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities through Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  5. ^ Mcghee, Cecil (May 12, 2012). "The McDonald's Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour Kicks Off Today With Fred Hammond, Byron Cage And More!". PraisePhilly. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  6. ^ "McDonald's Gospelfest 2003". TheaterMania. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  7. ^ Gladstone, Valerie (June 2, 2002), "Dance Stepping and Stomping in an old time gospel mood", The New York Times, retrieved 2012-10-15 
  8. ^ Respect, but This Time Delivering It to a Higher Power, Jon (June 6, 2005), "Respect, but This Time Delivering It to a Higher Power", The New York Times 
  9. ^ Coyne, Kevin (June 23, 2006), "Singing, with their eyes on the prize", The New York Times, retrieved 2012-10-15 
  10. ^ "The 44th Annual New York Emmys - Winners" (PDF). National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences / New York. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "The 45th Annual New York Emmys - Winners" (PDF). National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences / New York. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Cook Bush, Antoinette (Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meaghen, & Flom, LLP (September 23, 2009), RE: WWOR-TV Renewal Application File No. BRCT-20070201AJT Notice of Ex Parte Presentation MB Docket No. 07-260, retrieved 2012-11-06 
  13. ^ "A. Curtis Farrow". Person of the Week. Stuff People Like. June 7, 2011. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  14. ^ a b Lopate, Leonard (June 3, 2011). "Gospel Music in Newark, NJ". WYNC. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  15. ^ Adario, Sharon (February 17, 2012). "For Houston, Newark Gospel is Where it all Began City's religious musical tradition nurtured a crossover superstar.". Newark Patch. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  16. ^ La Gorce, Tammy (October 10, 2011 by Tammy La Gorce). "Jersey's Jammin'". New Jersey Monthly. Retrieved 2013-01-15.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ Warner, Jay, American Singing Groups A History, From 1940 to Today, Hal Leonard, ISBN 9780634099786 
  18. ^ The Coleman Brothers: The Newark Gospel music pioneers, Cross Rhythms, February 11, 2011, retrieved 2012-10-15 
  19. ^ Baraka, Amir (2009), Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music, University of California Press 
  20. ^ Barbara J. Kukla (2002), Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 9780813531168 
  21. ^ "Prof. Alex Bradford". All Music. Retrieved 2012-11-05. 
  22. ^ "Cissy Houston: National Visionary". Oral History Videos. Retrieved 2012-10-15.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  23. ^ "Newark Symphony Hall Special Ensemble". NSH Special ensemble. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  24. ^ Omogbai, Emike "Newark Symphony Hall Special Ensemble Youth Choir & G-Fy-G Win at McDonald’s GospelFest 2011", The Star-Ledger, July 5, 2011. Web. October 5, 2014
  25. ^ "Music". Newark Boys Chorus. Newark Boys Chorus School. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  26. ^ "Stanely Theater/Newark Gospel Tabernacle". Newark History. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  27. ^ "Newark Gospel Tabernacle". Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  28. ^ "How Sweet the Sound". How Sweet the Sound. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  29. ^ "Verizon's How Sweet the Sound Returns to Newark's Prudential Ceneter i n Celebration of the Community". 06/14/2012. Prudential Center. June 14, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  30. ^ Mc Call, Triss (September 11, 2012), "How Sweet the Sound Gospel Celebration comes to Prudential Center", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-10-15 
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  36. ^ McCall, Tris (November 12, 2013). "Gospelfest will bring 'Women Who Worship' to Newark in 2014". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-12-22. 
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  40. ^ "News: (@ArethaFranklin) Aretha Franklin To Headline McDonald's Gospel Fest, Talks Family Music". Zimbio. February 19, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  41. ^ "McDonald's Gospelfest 2013" (Press release). Prudential Center. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  42. ^ McCall, Tris (May 12, 2013). "At McDonald's Gospelfest 2013, stars and church singers reach for the spirit". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-06-22. 
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  44. ^ McCall, Tris (May 10, 2013). "Gospelfest celebrates thirty year milestone". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-07-31. 
  45. ^ McCall, Triss (May 11, 2012), "Shirley Caesar carries on tradition at Gospelfest", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-101-15  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  46. ^ "Honor thy Mother 2012 Gospelfest". McDonald's Tristate. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  47. ^ McCall, Tris (May 12, 2012), "At Gospelfest, big tributes for Whitney Houston", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-10-15 
  48. ^ Lustig, Jay (February 16, 2012), "Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys to sing at Whitney Houston's funeral service in Newark", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-10-15 
  49. ^ Graves, Samatha D. (June 16, 2011). "Annual McDonald's Gospelfest brings "The Mighty Men of Valour" to the Prudential Center". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  50. ^ "Gospelfest 2011". McDonald's Tristate. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  51. ^ Adario, Sharon Adarlo (June 19, 2010). "Gospelfest Roars into Newark Newark native, Whitney Houston's mother sings at the event". Newark Patch. Retrieved 2012-10-15. <
  52. ^ Phan, Katherine T. (June 19, 2011), "Face of Gospel Music No Longer Just Black or American", Christian Post, retrieved 2012-101-15  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  53. ^ McCall, Tiss (June 15, 2010), "Dionne Warwick to lead long list of stars at Gospelfest concert", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-10-15 
  54. ^ "Gospelfest 2010". McDonald's Tristate. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  55. ^ "McDonald's Gospelfest 2010 Lineup Announced". Prudential Center. January 22, 2010. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  56. ^ "Gospelfest 2009". McDonald's Tristate. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  57. ^ "Mcdonalds Gospelfest 2009 Wow!!!". PRLOG. June 30, 2009. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  58. ^ "McDonald's Gospelfest 2008 at Prudential Center Celebrates 25 Years of Glory". Prudential Center. March 3, 2008. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  59. ^ Lustig, Jay (June 12, 2008), "Ever-expanding Gospelfest moves up to arena-sized Newark venue", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-10-15 
  60. ^ Lustig, Jay (June 16, 2008), "Supersized Gospelfest keeps the faith", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-10-15 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°44′00″N 74°10′20″W / 40.7332°N 74.1723°W / 40.7332; -74.1723