By Lee Edwards
Choirs from all across Cook County and even places beyond Illinois will all converge on St. Michael Missionary Baptist Church, 4106 W. Monroe St., on Oct. 7 to compete in the third annual Cook County Wide Gospel Choir Competition hosted by Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) and The Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation.
Hosted by Inspiration 1390 AM radio personality Marcella Jones, the competition has five confirmed choirs that will be in attendance, with the hope that another 10 will confirm, according to Anthony Beckham, community outreach coordinator for Commissioner Boykin. The first- through third-place winners of the competition will receive cash prices of $1,000, $750, and $250, respectively.
"We believe it's necessary to bring people from our communities together and think outside of the box and be very creative," said Beckham. "We're so proud that we're going to be working with the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation this event. Each year gets bigger and better; anywhere from 400 to 500 people come out to this event. It's an awesome event and this year we think it's going to be our biggest event."
Boykin said his office looks forward to the competition each year because it offers an afternoon of stress relief for competitors and attendees.
"We are a people who are soulful; we enjoy the opportunity to listen to music, gospel music," said Boykin. "It has been so special to do the competition throughout the years because people come and have the opportunity to praise and worship and then you have some competition sprinkled on top of that where you have choirs that come from every part of the county to participate."
Beckham shared that typically Boykin has taken the reigns for the past three years past to serve as the primary sponsor to allow the public to attend the event free of charge. Boykin guaranteed that this year's event will be a "standing room only" event. The impact of the competition seems to be greater than just singing.
"We just think that right now there's a lot of different things going on in our community and gospel music is just one of those things that bring all wide range of people together and we want to preach positivity in our community," said Beckham. "We want to put a narrative in our community that we all can come together and that we can be that change that we're looking for in our communities. We need the Lord more than ever in our communities; there's so many elements and issues that's going on in our communities and this is one of those events that just brings people together."
However, don't expect Boykin himself to lead any choir or be a key vocalist. He laughed at the notion that he would ever join in.
"I'm going to be clapping my hands and tapping my feet," said Boykin. "I'm going to sing along to the hymns that I know like 'Amazing Grace'."
This year's non-competition performance will be led by The GMac Mass Choir. Last year's performance was by Dexter Walker & Zion Movement, according to Beckham.
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