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The 25th Annual Chicago Gospel Music Festival returns to Millennium Park June 6 and 7 for a celebration packed with gospel music stars. This milestone event kicks off the 2009 lakefront music season with Grammy®, Stellar and Dove winners Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and a special appearance by FANTASIA featuring Diane Barrino headlining the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Celebrating 25 years of Gospel Music at its best, the festival offers national, international and local gospel music performances beginning at 11:00 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. both days and admission is FREE. See the full line up or at http://www.chicagogosplemusicfestival.us.

“The Gospel Music Festival is one of many free festivals sponsored annually by the City of Chicago to showcase and celebrate Chicago’s diverse musical heritage,” said Megan McDonald, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. “This year’s special line-up will be a tribute to the many genres within gospel music drawing from classical to R&B to traditional gospel music performed by the industry’s top, award winning artists.”

On Saturday, June 6 Donnie McClurkin brings his heart-felt lyrics from his recently released album We All Are One (Live in Detroit) to the Pritzker Pavillion . Past award winning hits such as “Speak to My Heart”, which garnered two Stellar awards and a Dove award nomination, have given McClurkin a strong following in the gospel music community. McClurkin has performed at the White House and on The Oprah Winfrey Show spreading his gift uplifting spirits through his music.

Before McClurkin takes the stage, The Acme Missionary Baptist Church Choir, recently named the best church choir in the U.S. during the Verizon Wireless’ How Sweet the Sound(SM) 2008 Tour, will kick off the Pritzker stage followed by Shekinah Glory Ministry and the dynamic sounds of Jonathan Nelson featuring Purpose. An “Evening of Gospel Elegance” at the Pritzker Pavilion will feature renowned tenor, Rodrick Dixon, The Divine Divas, the Chicago Mass Choir. The Quartet Special will feature Doc Mckenzie & the Hi-lites and Lee Williams & The Spritual QC’s.

Sunday, June 7 five-time Grammy® winning and multi-platinum gospel artist, Kirk Franklin, will close the festival on the Pritzker stage. Franklin’s latest release The Fight of My Life, is one of his most dynamic and stylistically varied of his career. The first single, “Declaration (This is it)”, is a burst of affirmative energy and gospel soul sound. His jazz-kissed pieces with hip-hop grooves are why Kirk Franklin is one of the most successful gospel music artists of his time.

Opening the Jay Pritzker Stage on Sunday will be Dr. Charles Hayes & the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir followed by the dynamic youth choir, New Direction. A Touch of Chicago’s Gospel Pioneers and Legends will feature such acclaimed artists as Professor Almond Dawson, Evangelist Verlene Moore, Reverend Walter Veal & Dr. Yolanda Freeman, followed by the award-winning Evangeline Turrentine-Agee.

Just before Franklin takes the stage on Sunday, 2004 “American Idol” winner FANTASIA will wow the audience. The special performance with her mother Diane Barrino will showcase the gospel music roots shaped by her family. Known as a powerhouse vocalist with a soulful, high-energy delivery her recent album, Free Yourself, made Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart history with the No. 1 debut of her hit “I Believe”. Most recently, FANTASIA appeared on Broadway in Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple” portraying the role of Ms. Celie.

Gospel music enthusiasts are invited to enjoy uplifting entertainment on Saturday and Sunday at the Walgreens Day Stage and the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge Gospel Youth Tent. Performances feature local choirs, quartets and more with gospel music sounds sure to make this weekend one to remember.

Admission is FREE and performances begin on Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7 at 11:00 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Entertainment at the Pritzker Pavilion begins at 4:30 p.m. both days.

The Chicago Gospel Music festival is presented by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events with the help of many generous sponsors including: Walgreens, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge, Verizon Wireless, Pepsi-Cola, Hinckley Springs, Clairol, American Airlines, Best Buy, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Chicago Tribune, chicagotribune.com, WGN-TV, CLTV, La Grou Distribution System, Inspiration 1390, Communications Direct, Chicago, Transit Authority, Chicago Defender and Chicago Jazz Magazine.

The Mayor’s Office of Special Events encourages taking public transportation to all lakefront festivals. Call (312) 836-7000, TTY (312) 836-4949 for information on RTA, CTA, PACE and Metra. For more information and updates on the Gospel Music Festival call the Mayor’s Office of Special Events (312) 744-3315 or visit http://www.chicagogospelmusicfestival.us. For help in planning your trip to Chicago visit http://www.explorechicago.com. Become a fan of the event on Facebook at Chicago Gospel Music Festival.

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