Crystal Aikin, winner of BET’s gospel singing competition, “Sunday Best,” will be the headliner for the third annual Gospel Jubilee at Proctors at 7 on Friday night.
A native of Tacoma, Wash., Aikin will be joined on stage by the Jubilee Mass Choir, which consists of more than 120 Capital Region residents along with 15 members of Union College’s Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir. The group will be directed by Pastor Elgin Joseph Taylor Sr., of the Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Albany.
“Crystal is a big new star who is nationally recognized and now traveling the world singing her own songs,” said Sara Hill, a group sales specialist at Proctors who also started the Gospel Jubilee in 2012.
“Everybody else performing is local; talented singers from a number of different churches in the area. Crystal will do some solos of her own songs, our choir will accompany her on some of the numbers, and then they will sing some more traditional gospel songs. People are going to love it.”
Birth of an idea
The idea for Gospel Jubilee was born in March of 2011 when Hill put together a group of gospel singers to perform at a special showing of “Crowns” at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany. In the crowd was Proctors’ CEO Philip Morris.
“We brought in a gospel ensemble to do a pre-show before a Capital Rep performance of ‘Crowns,’ and it was so well received, Philip and I looked at each other and said, ‘let’s have a gospel concert,’ ” remembered Hill.
‘Gospel Jubilee at Proctors’
WHERE: Mainstage at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
“The ball kind of took off from there. We had the first one in the GE Theatre [at Proctors]; we filled up the place to capacity and had to turn away at least 30 people.”
Last year the Gospel Jubilee was moved to the mainstage at Proctors, and while the crowd didn’t fill the 2,700-seat venue, it did draw a lot of people.
“We exceeded our target last year, and ticket sales are going very well so far,” said Hill, who is also the founder of SISTA (Soulful Inspirational Sounds To Admire) Factory, which presents musical acts throughout the Capital Region. “There seems to be a buzz this year, and we also get a lot of walk-ins so I’m expecting a packed house.”
Hill, a Schenectady native who went to Mont Pleasant High School, attended the Junior College of Albany and New York University. She was a musical curator and general manager at Joe’s Pub at The Public in New York City, where she lived for nearly 20 years before returning to Schenectady in 2007 to begin working at Proctors.
“My parents raised me in our church community, which was Pentecostal,” said Hill, who did attend a Catholic Elementary School in Schenectady.
“My love of music is because of my parents, so I’m an old-school type of gospel lover. But I also love Crystal’s songs. They’re new and they’re about her story of faith and worship. That’s what the Gospel Jubilee is all about. We need to celebrate all this music because it brings together community and different generations.”
The 2012 Gospel Jubilee was dedicated to Georgetta Dix, founding pastor of the Refreshing Springs Church of God in Schenectady, and last year’s event, headlined by Melba Moore, paid special tribute to former magazine publisher and activist Annette Delavallade of Albany and Rev. Albert Holman of the Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church of Schenectady.
This year’s event will include a special tribute to Artis Kitchen, a former Capital Region television and radio personality who was a big supporter of gospel music.
“This is very special for me because I grew up watching him on TV,” Hill said of Kitchen, who died in 1986. “He was a big promoter of gospel music, and he brought people like Mahalia Jackson, Shirley Caesar and The Caravans to the area for very memorable performances.”
Also a part of this year’s event will be the Jubilee Praise Dancers.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or email@example.com.