Grammy Award–winning gospel singer Karen Clark Sheard, recently took us to church at the inauguration of Mayor Brandon Johnson on May 15. She sang renditions of “The Impossible Dream” and Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise,” two quintessential gospel songs. Her performance not only had attendees in chills, but solidified that the moment —although a historic one for Johnson— truly belonged to the people of Chicago and its storied roots in gospel.

On June 3, Sheard will return to Chicago to co-headline the Chicago Gospel Music Festival in Millenium Park with singer, songwriter and keyboardist Tye Tribbett. Hosted by Inspiration 1390 radio personalities Sonya Blakey, DeAndre Patterson and Candice McCollum, other performers will include Destiny Worship Center Chorale, Janet Sutton & The Voices of Acme, and Bishop Larry D. Trotter & The Sweet Holy Spirit Combined Choirs.

“This is a tribute to the long standing history of church choirs and the importance that they place within our city,” DCASE Program Director of Performing Arts Mariam Thiam told The TRiiBE

The fest is a part of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) summer concert and film series. It’s free for guests of all ages, and goes from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Entrances will be located at Randolph and Monroe streets.

Chicago is the birthplace of modern gospel. In the 1930s, Thomas A. Dorsey ushered in a new, exciting and somewhat controversial era of gospel music. His music had similarities to the rhythms and vocals heard in a blues or jazz club at the time. Fueled by the energy of the Great Migration, the new style was dubbed Gospel Blues, and featured hand clapping, feet tapping and the “call and response.” This new style caught fire, revolutionizing and popularizing the genre, making Dorsey the father of modern gospel. It’s this spirit of gospel music that is woven into the soul of Chicago; the very soul that Brandon Johnson referenced many times during his inauguration speech

The Gospel Music Festival is one of Chicago’s longest running festivals, along with the Taste of Chicago and the Chicago Blues Festival, which all started in the early 1980s, according to Thiam. 

Chicago is the birthplace of historical things related to gospel music. It’s in our spiritual houses of worship and political protest,” Thiam said. “So gospel plays an important part in really carrying the message and legacy of the city and its upliftment.”

Mariam Thiam said DCASE’s summer concert and film series offers youth, tourists and Chicago residents a positive and family-friendly outlet in the downtown area. 

Other events in the summer series include a Tribute to Ramsey Lewis on June 22, and a performance by Big Freedia on July 13. Some of the free films that will be shown in Millennium Park will be Fast Five on July 11, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on July 25, and Barbershop on August 22. 

“I think our summer series both in music, film and dance, represents the best of Chicago. This is the high value that we really put into our artists, our creativity,” Thiam said. “We always strive to make goals that represent all sides of the city. So there’s something for everyone, whether they’re a Chicago resident, whether they’re tourists, that they leave with a lasting positive experience of their time here in Chicago, and we hope that people in Chicago come downtown and discover something new this summer.”

is a culture correspondent with The TRiiBE.