For a decade and a half, talented musicians have traveled to Madison from all over the world to perform in front of a live audience and to celebrate a day of fellowship, great music and cultural heritage at the Fall Gospel Fest. Due to the pandemic, the annual event will once again be held virtually this year on Saturday, Dec. 11, 7 p.m.
Clyde Gaines founded Fall Gospel Fest as he watched top gospel artists for years perform in large cities throughout the Midwest, but never quite making it to Madison.
“We are in year 17 for Fall Gospel Fest. When we first put this together, we wanted to bring some gospel music to Madison that featured national recording artists,” Gaines tells Madison365. “We were thinking that since Madison is not a city where these artists would normally go, it would be great to bring something here … because when you’re looking at Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, etc. … those places you’d be able to see the national gospel recording artists. We really wanted to have something like this in Madison – to have something like that here.”
Initially, Gaines was thinking that it would be a one-time event.
“We did it and people enjoyed it and we really enjoyed hosting it. It became something that had a life of its own,” Gaines remembers. “People really anticipate Fall Gospel Fest and look forward to it. It brings people together – families, people of different colors and ethnicities and even people who don’t particularly like gospel music but like good music, in general. We get all kinds of people interested in attending Fall Gospel Fest.
“We want Madison to be a place where people can come and enjoy this music,” Gaines adds. “We want Madison to be known as a place that is music-friendly and you have great artists coming. This is a unique event that is well-loved and we are excited about keeping it going through the pandemic.”
Last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fall Gospel Fest had to go virtual for the first time ever. Gaines says it was “a different feel.”
“For any kind of live music event, you can’t replace live music at a live music venue. But still, with gospel music, you still get to feel the power. You still get to listen to the encouraging messages,” Gaines says. “With us being in this time we are in with COVID, people need to have their spirits lifted. People need to know that things are going to be alright and they need to know that they are loved. People need to feel a sense of determination and focus.
“We think that even with Fall Gospel Fest being virtual, it still provides all of these things to a lot of people,” he adds.
And, with the virtual event, you can reach much more people. You don’t have to be here in Madison to attend.
“We will be able to reach people everywhere in the country and beyond. And if you have some people with physical limitations, having a virtual event will make it much easier for people in those positions.”
Byron Cage, a talented gospel artist who has been singing gospel music since he was a teenager, will be one of the performers at Fall Gospel Fest.
“Byron Cage is an award-winning artist who has been around for quite some time who has a number of chart-topping hits. He has his own style,” Gaines says. “They used to call him ‘The Prince of Praise.’ I know that many gospel fans out there will know and recognize Byron Cage.”
Fall Gospel Fest 2021 will also feature Ruth La’ Ontra, a Christian R&B and urban contemporary gospel artist and musician who started her music career in 2013 with the release of “So Good,” and The Wardlaw Brothers, who create a sound that mixes smooth soul and vocal jazz with classic gospel.
“Ruth La’ Ontra is a fairly new artist. She’s been around for about 5 or 6 years. She has some good hits including one right now ‘In His Name.’ She is steadily rising and becoming more of a fixture on the gospel music scene,” Gaines says.
“The Wardlaw Brothers have a quartet sound similar to groups like Take 6 or Boys II Men. Actually, those groups were very influential in the Wardlaw Brothers’ style. You’ll be able to hear some of that in their music. They are a young group of brothers from Georgia that have a really good sound.”
Fall Gospel Fest 2021 will take place over Zoom and Facebook and it will be free.
“We thought about it and decided to do it again as a free event this year,” Gaines says. “We want to give people an opportunity to enjoy all of the music without a fee being attached to it this year. It should be a really fun time and we are looking forward to it.”