Sing the gospel: Festival to celebrate Black History Month with music, praise
by Rebecca Johnston
February 08, 2014 09:51 PM | 2377 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Canton resident Ozella Tanner performs with the Community Choir at last year’s Gospel Fest at the Cherokee County Arts Center. This is the third year for the Gospel Fest in downtown Canton. <br> Staff/file
Canton resident Ozella Tanner performs with the Community Choir at last year’s Gospel Fest at the Cherokee County Arts Center. This is the third year for the Gospel Fest in downtown Canton.
Staff/file
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The Rev. Fred Forsh of Liberty Hill AME Church was the musical director for the Community Choir. He leads the singers in their opening number during the Gospel Fest last year.
The Rev. Fred Forsh of Liberty Hill AME Church was the musical director for the Community Choir. He leads the singers in their opening number during the Gospel Fest last year.
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The Community Choir, composed of members from several local churches, performs at last year’s Gospel Fest.
The Community Choir, composed of members from several local churches, performs at last year’s Gospel Fest.
slideshow
CANTON - The fourth annual Gospel Fest, a musical extravaganza, will celebrate Black History Month on Feb. 15 at the Cherokee Arts Center.

Gospel Fest IV will feature diverse talent including a mass choir, praise and dance teams, a drum ministry and solo performances. The event is free and begins at 6 p.m.

Started by Canton resident Pat Tanner when she was on the Canton City Council, the event was designed to bring the community together in a celebration of diversity and music.

“The old Negro spirituals, during the time of slavery, were used to communicate with each other, and gospel songs today continue to express the pain and suffering they went through then and we are still going through today,” Tanner said. “Everyone can relate to a good gospel song.”

The Rev. Fred Forsh will coordinate the music and the choir, as he has done each year since the event’s inception.

Among this year’s performers are the Wallah African Drum and Dance Ministry and the Hilltop Strummers from the United Methodist church. Local soloists include Jamorad Keith, Pam Mullins, Greg Robinson, Pastor Michael and Detra Freeman and Johnny Foster.

Churches from many different dominations, including Methodist, Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, Latter-Day Saints and Catholic, are participating, Tanner said.

“The diversity of participants and the audience speaks volumes about bringing all of us together. We all need to respect each other’s differences, and the likenesses,” she said.

Carmen Tanner Slaughter, who will emcee the event, gives the audience insight into the African-American movement and the meaning of the songs.

Tanner said she started the program because there was nothing being done in Canton regarding Black History Month.

When she left the council, the city did not plan to keep it going, the former councilwoman said. As event coordinator, she took it on to find sponsors to offset the costs such as the printing of the programs and audio taping.

Tanner has also found sponsors each year and it is now in partnership with the Cherokee Arts Center, helping to defray the costs for the venue.

This year’s main sponsor is Sosebee Funeral Home, and in the past sponsors have included Waste Management, Utility Partners, and Northside Hospital-Cherokee.

“I send out letters to 20 churches to be a part of the program. My main objective is to have a 100-voice choir, we have not had that yet, but it is growing, she said.

Tanner said she would like to see more ethnic groups participate.

I have reached out to the Hispanic community, and hope some congregates will join us in the choir this year,” Tanner said.

Each year, Tanner said she tries to bring something new to the event. Music and singing are a rich tradition for African-Americans, Tanner said.

Anyone wishing to participate in Gospel Fest should contact Forsh at (770) 926-4792 or Tanner at (770) 479-8676.

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