Gospel Fest comes to the Mission Church—bringing songs of inspiration and singers from around the Bay Area.
If Shelene Huey-Booker ’03 has her way—and there’s little reason to think she won’t—this year’s Santa Clara University Gospel Fest, Reviving Our Destiny, is a harbinger of bigger things to come.
Not that this, the fifth gospel fest on campus, was small potatoes. It was held in May in the Mission Church. Led by Huey-Booker, the university’s 11-member gospel choir shared the stage with the U.C. Davis Gospel Choir; the director and a trio from the San Francisco State University Gospel Gators; Voices of Bible Way, from the Bible Way Christian Center, in San Jose; Leah Jones, of Oakland’s Lily of the Valley Church; gospel recording artist and event promoter Joe Douglass; and a 10-year-old boy, Jermiah Porda, whose two solos brought down the house. The evening’s emcee was Lorianna, another gospel recording artist. Anthony Butler ’92, one of the SCU choir’s original founders, said a prayer over the groups before the music began.
Why the name “Reviving Our Destiny?” This may be the SCU gospel choir’s third incarnation. When Huey-Booker arrived on campus in 1999, the choir Butler and two other students started in 1988 was inactive, but, determined to resurrect it, she started a gospel club. Three years later, its gospel fest drew more than a thousand people, she says.
The group sang all over the Bay Area, at schools, festivals, and churches; but once Huey-Booker graduated, in 2003, the choir became inactive again. Over the years, she remained in touch with Associate Professor of Theatre Aldo Billingslea. A couple of years ago, “I told him I was willing to revamp the choir, and here I am again.”
She sees this year’s fest, which 300 people attended, as a good start. “Everyone was very, very excited. I felt so much unity and love, with everyone supporting one another, and a lot of audience participation. I had everyone stand up and begin to move like a choir, following my hand movements and dancing or clapping.”
“This year’s gospel fest was a great seed planted that could yield tremendous fruit,” says Billingslea. “Shelene’s vision of uniting students from Bay Area universities through gospel music is inspiring, so much so that it has become my dream as well.”
Huey-Booker says the SCU Gospel Choir is working with Douglass’s company to build on this year’s success. Within two years, she hopes to launch a bigger fest—indeed, “one of the biggest gospel fests this campus has ever seen.”
Pamela Feinsilber is a freelance book editor and writing consultant and a contributing writer to San Francisco magazine. www.pamelafeinsilber.com.