Star-studded music festivals in historic downtown Helena continue this weekend with the 13th annual Arkansas Delta Family Gospel Fest. The headliners this year will be The Fairfield Four and The Martins. The festivities are scheduled to get underway around 11:20 a.m. on Saturday May 18 with an opening ceremony.
Sponsored by the Delta Cultural Center, the Gospel Fest features the best in traditional and contemporary gospel music talent from throughout the Delta region. The festival's beginnings date back to 2000.
All performances will take place on the Cherry Street Pavilion, weather permitting.
The Fairfield Four organized in 1921 in Nashville, Tenn. Today, they are considered the most distinguished performers of traditional African American a cappella gospel singing. They pioneered the use of radio to reach a larger audience. They have been a major influence on sacred and secular singers across the country, including blues legend B.B. King.
The multi-Grammy award-winning group achieved notoriety for their performance on the soundtrack and in the motion picture, “O Brother Where Art Thou.”
Arkansas natives The Martins began singing in their home church. The group consists of siblings Joyce, Jonathan and Judy. The trio has achieved national and international success. Utilizing their distinctive harmonies, The Martins have performed on Bill Gaither's award winning Homecoming video and concert series, at the White House and Carnegie Hall.
The trio has won six Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association and earned a Grammy nomination. They have numerous hit songs.
For 10 years, the group members went their separate ways and began recording solo material. They have reunited with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Rascal Flatts member Jay DeMarcus produced The Martins' latest recording “New Day.”
Also included in the lineup is Apostle J.L. Cash and Praise. The group's origins date back to the 1980s and were formed as a revival crusade team. Their music is described as a blend of R&B gospel with a contemporary edge but anchored in traditional gospel sounds. The Florida based performers have traveled around the country as well as abroad. They were featured in Tyler Perry's first stage play, “I Know I've Been Changed.” They perform regularly at the House of Blues at Disney World.
The Whisnants will bring their popular Southern gospel sound to the Delta Gospel Festival. The group has charted 10, No. 1 tunes and many Top 20 songs. Originally from Morgantown, N.C., The Whisnants have taken their singing ministry throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Helena-West Helena native Joseph Wheeler performs contemporary gospel music. His early musical influences include Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke and The Commodores. Wheeler obtained his Master's Degree in Divinity from The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Ga. He served as minister of music at the Greater New Hope Christian Assembly in Stockbridge, Ga. He has been called a talented and electrifying performer and is a self-taught pianist.
Page 2 of 2 - Other local and regional acts include the Gospel Wonders of Brinkley, the Eternal Light Singers from Marianna, the Delta Jubilaires of Forrest City, Young N Ready of Helena-West Helena and Gospel Soul from Barton.
For additional information, please call the Delta Cultural Center at (870) 338-4350 or toll free at (800) 358-0972 or visit the DCC online at www.deltaculturalcenter.com.