GR Festival Hosts Inspiring Arts, Artists

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

festival235The annual Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts (June 3-5) brings its usual array of Christian arts and entertainment events to its downtown stages and exhibits.

"All of the faith-based performances always get a good response from festival-goers of all ages," said Festival co-chair Becky Richard. "Many of the performances draw large crowds."

There are several church-affiliated ensembles which seem to appear every year.

A group of worship artists from Resurrection Life Church in Grandville perform at 7 p.m. Friday on the Calder Stage. Marvin Sapp and his Kingdom Life Full Life Center Church take the Calder Stage at 7 p.m. Saturday.

But the longest festival church choir performance run is that of former Bethel Pentecostal Church – now known as One Church Empowerment Center – which finishes the weekend's live Calder Stage music at 5:15 p.m. Sunday. The ensemble has performed for nearly all of Festival's 47 years.

"Their closing act is a long-standing Festival tradition and is one of my personal favorites," Richard added. "On that Sunday night of Festival weekend, it becomes my church, too."


Even in the Christian music category, there's a lot of variety on the Festival plate: hip-hop, modern rock, choral, worship, brass and dance (see list below).

For artists who have performed for many years, memories erupt.

"We used to sing each year in the old Art Museum," said Deb Holtz of the West Michigan Lutheran Chorale.

"We laugh that it seemed there was always a tornado watch, thunderstorm or something," she recalled. "One year the electricity kept flickering while we sang."

In recent years the group has shifted to the new art museum on Monroe Center (this year at 6:30 p.m. Friday).

The 35-member Christian chorale is led by director Diane Long, also music director at Grace Lutheran Church in Wyoming. Their repertoire includes everything from hymns ("And Can It Be"), spirituals ("Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"), to patriotic ("God Bless America").

"We love opportunities like Festival to share our faith in Christ through music," said Holtz, ensemble coordinator and an original member.


Jubal Brass also makes a return appearance at Festival. The classical and sacred music ensemble is directed by Dr. Mark Taylor. Its player roster includes several area school music teachers, including Andy Camper of Covenant Christian High School (6:30 p.m. Friday, Clocktower Stage).

The Hark Up Horns Big Band performs at 7 p.m. Saturday on the Circle Stage. The group does a variety of styles under the guidance of director-arranger Chris Hansen.

Meanwhile, The Hark Up Choir and Band is inviting area singers to step up on the stage to join them in the final two songs of their set Saturday afternoon on the Calder Stage.

They'll be performing two familiar modern worship standards - "Revelation Song" and "Total Praise" - with guest conductor Debra Perry. "We will make a call from the stage for singers," said organizer Hansen who estimates the two songs will begin at around 2:25 p.m. (weather or other circumstances could alter that time).


Modern rockers Thirsty Ground return - this year at 12:15 p.m. Saturday on the Outer-DiSuvero Stage (formerly called the Outer Fringe).

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"It's been a thrill to perform at Festival for the last few years and have my friends and family come out to see us", said guitarist Steve Bacinski, 33.

Their performance will be the first opportunity for Bacinski's infant son Jack (born May 24) to see his dad on the stage. Will young Jack make it to the show?

"That's going to be mostly up to his mom, I think," he noted of his wife, Jamee. "...Got to get him started on music right away!"

For Festival details, map, schedule and more visit

Faith-based/Christian arts performances at Festival of the Arts, June 3-5 (partial list)


1:45 p.m. - One Faith - City Stage
4:30 p.m. - CHH (Christian Hip Hop) - Circle Stage
6:30 p.m. – Jubal Brass – Clocktower Stage
6:30 p.m. – West Michigan Lutheran Chorale, Grand Rapids Art Museum
7 p.m. - ResLife Worship – Calder Stage


10:30 a.m. – Perfect Shelter – City Stage
12:15 p.m. – Thirsty Ground – Outer/DiSuvero Stage
2 p.m. – Hark Up Choir & Band – Calder Stage
4:15 p.m. – Rockin' the Gospel – Clocktower Stage
5:15 p.m. – Carpenter's Cross – Clocktower Stage
6 p.m. – HIS Dance – Calder Stage
7 p.m. – Hark Up Horns Big Band – Circle Stage
7 p.m. – Lighthouse Full Life Center Choir presented by Bishop Marvin Sapp – Calder Stage


11:30 a.m. – Souled Out Worship Collective – Clocktower Stage
1:15 pm. – "Gonz" (Ty Gonzalez) – City Stage
3:30 p.m. – James Cutts and Imani – City Stage
4:15 p.m. – United Voices of Praise – Circle Stage
4:15 p.m. – Beacon Light – Clocktower Stage
5:15 p.m. - One Church Empowerment Center – Calder Stage
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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