First, I'd like to mention a couple of holiday-related events coming up yet this month.
* This may be a bit different for the Christmas season... a live comedy sketch show, "Christmas Night Live (CNL)" is set for 7:45pm Fri. Dec. 14 at Grace For the Nations Church, 3333 Kraft Ave. SE Kentwood. Tickets and information at https://www.facebook.com/events/334162673821761/or call 616-974-9128.
* Christmas Nativity Walk – The Christmas story comes to life at 6pm Dec. 14-15 and 2pm Dec. 16 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 3225 Roosevelt Rd. Muskegon. A free, 50-minute tour covers eight different scenes. There is no admission charge. For more info visit www.facebook.com/events/293036778087979/
* You may have seen several billboards around West Michigan promoting this one: Grand Rapids First, 2100 44th St. SW, is hosting a live nativity from 5 to 8pm on Christmas Eve. The presentation will be set up in front of the worship center, and includes 40 animals! (likely more than at the original nativity?) There's also a Christmas Eve candlelight worship service inside at 6pm. For more info www.grfirst.org/christmas.
* (By the way, if you've heard something about an Aaron Shust Christmas concert Dec. 16 in Hudsonville, that concert has been cancelled).
This year made its mark in West Michigan with numerous inspirational concert opportunities.
How about the Unity Christian Music Festival last August in Muskegon? Giant name headliners Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Crowder and For King & Country alone made it a memorable festival.
West Michigan also hosted significant concert tours from Newsboys United, Matthew West/Jeremy Camp, Jesus Culture, Lauren Daigle, and Martha Munizzi.
Third Day's farewell tour also stopped in town for a DeVos Performance Hall send off.
This was also the first year in Grand Haven's remodeled Waterfront Stadium for the Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) summer Sunday series. Crowds were as large as ever!
MercyMe and TobyMac both performed at Van Andel Arena during 2018. And rap/hip-hopper Nate Feuerstein (NF) did a sold out show at 20 Monroe Live, also in downtown Grand Rapids.
ON A SAD NOTE....
Here are some inspirational artists we said goodbye to this year:
Kenny Marks – A Michigan-born singer-songwriter who had a big impact in contemporary Christian music in the 1980s and early '90s with his heartland-style pop-rock. Among his noteworthy songs: "Make It Right" and "White Dress." Died Oct. 31 at age 67.
Aretha Franklin – Perhaps best-known for her Soul and R&B, this daughter of a Detroit pastor made a strong imprint on gospel with her legendary voice. And her home-going service rang with scripture and musical message of the gospel. Enshrined in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Died Aug. 16 at age 76.
Kurt Kaiser – This composer-arranger was a true pioneer in a field that became known as contemporary Christian music. Co-writer of the 1960s ground-breaking folk-musical "Tell It Like It Is" (featuring the classic "It only takes a spark....." song "Pass It On"), Kaiser blazed the trail for the fresh Christian singer-songwriter movement that followed, bringing contemporary music to the church as well as Christian radio. He was a long time executive at Word Records and produced projects by dozens of early Christian artists, including Grand Rapids' native Ken Medema. A personal note: Kaiser once told me in an interview that he had a file drawer full of letters (from those pre-email days) testifying to the faith/life impact of the single song "Pass It On." Died Nov. 12 at age 83
Edwin Hawkins – The gospel singer who took the spiritual "O Happy Day" to mainstream music charts and a Grammy Award back in the late 1960s. As leader of the Edwin Hawkins Singers, he won three more Grammys during his gospel music career. Died Jan. 15 at age 74.
Here's a brief heads up for some concerts to watch for in 2019:
Jan 18 – Winter Jam at Van Andel Arena featuring Newsboys United, Rend Collective, Danny Gokey, Ledger and more.
Jan. 25 – Vertical Worship at Cornerstone University
Feb. 11 - Drew & Ellie Holcomb at Wealthy Theatre
Feb. 23 – NeedToBreathe at Fountain St. Church (sold out)
March 2 – Switchfoot at 20 Monroe Live
March 10 – TobyMac at Van Andel Arena
June 25 – Hillsong United at Van Andel Arena
June 26-29 – Chris Tomlin among the headliners at Big Ticket Festival in Gaylord
Aug 7 – Tenth Avenue North headlines Day Zero at Unity Christian Music Festival in Muskegon
- Next Article: Area Christian Nonprofits Partner to Provide Homeless Men with Transitional Housing
- Prev. Article: New Music Scoop: CD Reviews