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Several Christian Music Artists Featured at GR Festival of the Arts

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Festival 2022 logoSinger Denise Frye was raised on music of the church.

"My brothers, sister and I sang in a family gospel group," said the Grand Rapids woman of her legacy with the vocal ensemble Wings of Faith.

Now at the upcoming Festival of the Arts, Denise will be featuring her solo vocals with a performance at 4pm Saturday June 4 on the Fountain Stage downtown as part of the annual city festival.


The former Denise Cutts was part of a talented, family-based group featuring her sister Gwendolyn and her brothers Tom Jr. and James Cutts. They developed their talents at their home church, St. Mary's Temple on Sheldon Blvd. in Grand Rapids.

But their musical gifts spread. "We sang in quite a few different churches," Denise recalled. Her family also helped bring national gospel artists to West Michigan to perform and sometimes would share the stage with them. Among those who came to Grand Rapids were the legendary Rev. James Cleveland and John P. Kee.

Actually, Denise's group was the second generation of Wings of Faith. The original group featuring their parents retired in the early 1970s, and the succeeding group was known as "Wings of Faith Jrs.," initially under the direction of their late mother Ann. They released an album ("In Flight") in 1983 and actually appeared on local television and did several national tours.

But the group rarely performs together anymore. (Gwendolyn passed away several years ago). They all have their separate musical ministries.


For her Festival set list Frye will sing several contemporary gospel songs, including "The Heavens Are Telling," (a Karen Clark Sheard song) and "I'm Getting Ready, ( Tasha Cobb Leonard). Her own Restoring Faith Ministries church praise dancers will be performing with her.

Frye said her song selection is similar wherever she shares her music, as the songs are part of her Christian witness. "I don't just sing to be singing, I sing to those who need to hear," she said.

Denise still harbors hopes that she can complete a solo record album. "You're never too old to have your dreams come true," she smiled.


Meanwhile, closing out the musical offerings at this year's festival - at 5pm Sunday June 5 at the Calder Stage - is the Hark Up Big Band. The ensemble is a seasoned, all-purpose group with plenty of firepower. "Four trumpets, four trombones, six saxes, rhythm, percussion and vocals," chimed director Chris Hansen.

He says Hark Up has two newer members – Bill Reynolds and Liz Barrett – who are outstanding singers.

Both will be featured during the band's eclectic set, with Barrett anchoring vocals in two gospel numbers: "Joy, Joy Joy," (a Tommy Walker cover) and the CeCe Winans' inspired "Dancin' in the Spirit."

Among other faith-based music on the Festival schedule:

- The Growing Roots, featuring the husband and wife team of Scott and Lisa Barry. Their style is a mix of roots, acoustic rock, vocal harmonies with touches of blues and soul. Performing at 3 pm Sat. on the diSuvero Stage.

- ALIVE, a vocal ensemble, 4pm Fri. Lyon Stage.

- River City Fellowship Choir, a community gospel choir consisting of singers from around West Michigan, 12:30pm Sat Calder Stage.
- VOW, vocal group, noon Sat. Lyon Stage

- Embellish, a handbell choir led by director Stephanie Wiltse. The area's premier handbell ensemble just completed its annual spring concert at Calvin University. Much of its repertoire consists of religious music, 5pm Sat. Indoor Classical Stage.

- Big Band of Praise (BBOP), The Holland-based brass ensemble features a variety of styles with a mission to present the love of God in song, 2pm Sun. Calder Stage.

There is a single church among the 17 food vendors this year. That's Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church serving the ever-popular souvlaki and baklava.
Just three years ago there were at least eight churches hosting food booths.

Festival of the Arts, Fri-Sun June 3-5, 2022
Downtown Grand Rapids, based at Calder Plaza on Ottawa Ave. NW just south of Michigan St. No admission charge.
Performances, art exhibits, family activities, no admission charge, food booths available.
Listing of performances, activities and other information at www.festivalgr.org

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: -Mlive.com (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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