Gospel Fest brings Waco community, universities together in worship

Gospel Fest will be hosted at at 6:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Truett Seminary. Photo courtesy of Melvin Kearney

By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer

The Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir is hosting Gospel Fest at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday in George W. Truett Theological Seminary in partnership with the Baylor Activities Council. Gospel Fest is a free event for anyone to attend.

The event brings together gospel choirs from Baylor and the University of North Texas as well as a headline performance by Chris Wesley and Undignified Praise.

This year’s event will be the first since 2019 to be fully back to normal after COVID-19 restrictions prevented it from being held in 2020, and pushed it online in 2021. Houston junior Katherine Boulais, event coordinator with the Baylor Activities Council, said Gospel Fest’s return to campus has been a special thing for everyone involved.

“It’s been really exciting because everyone who’s planning it has never been to one,” Boulais said. “It kinda feels like we’re revamping it a bit.”

Some of the revamping includes hosting pastor Ronald English to speak just to the choirs before their performances, as well as giving the choirs time to bond and get to know each other before they sing together. Boulais said this pairing gives the Waco community the opportunity to showcase itself to students, as well as join in on what college gospel choirs have to offer.

Despite the fresh start coming out of the pandemic, Gospel Fest is still sticking to its roots, Boulais said.

“We’re keeping it traditional in the sense that it’s still an event where the whole community and students can come and see the performances,” Boulais said.

The gospel music is the most important part of the event, Suffolk, Va., sophomore Melvin Kearney, Heavenly Voices singer and Gospel Fest planner, said. Gospel music is close to his heart, as he has been listening to it his whole life, and continues to listen to it every day.

“I connect to gospel music because I’ve grown up listening to it a lot,” Kearney said. “It has a lot of meaning and soul in it.”

Gospel music may seem like a homogenous genre, but Kearney said he finds a lot of diversity and variation in the music, fitting every mood and matching any energy, but always keeping worship the focus.

“It varies a lot,” Kearney said. “You can have fast, high-pitched gospel music with stomping and clapping, but then there’s also really slow, swaying back and forth types of gospel music. But at the same time, they all have a lot of energy and emotion. You can really feel the music. That’s what I like the most about it.”