GospelFest Returns to MCLA with Campbell Brothers


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - The Campbell Brothers will bring their signature "sacred steel" guitars to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) as they headline this year's return of the GospelFest on Saturday, March 2, in the MCLA Church Street Center's Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium at 7 p.m., for the annual Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship concert.

Co-presented by New England Newspapers, the GospelFest is a presentation of the MCLA Presents! performance series. In addition to the Campbell Brothers, who will perform with vocalist Katie Jackson, Harold "Zion" Edwards and MCLA's own awarding-winning Allegrettos will open the concert.

"It is great to have GospelFest back after a few years' hiatus," said Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA. "We have had some great artists over the past three years for this annual fundraiser concert for the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship, but there is a certain high-octane energy that only comes with a GospelFest.

"I can't imagine people will be able to stay in their seats for more than five minutes when the Campbell Brothers take the stage," Secor continued. "Their style of electric lap steel guitar gospel, with amazing vocals floating on top, is in a class and genre all to itself.  I first saw them five years ago in New Orleans where they were the toast of the gospel tent at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. They had thousands on their feet."

The Campbell Brothers, who have performed together for nearly two decades, create a unique, steel-guitar-driven gospel music called "sacred steel" that National Public Radio (NPR) called "earth-shattering."

"It's a soul-stirring blend of gospel and the power and volume of electric blues and rock, a sound as hot as brimstone that kicks holy butt. It also shreds perceptions of country's signature instrument, and the limitations of church music," according to NPR.

According to Jim DeKoster of Living Blues, the Campbell Brothers' music is "different from anything you've ever heard" and "essential listening for anyone interested in blues guitar."

Opening for the Campbell Brothers will be Harold "Zion" Edwards, a minister and gospel rap artist. Edwards, the founder of Christ Centered Music Ministries, travels nationally, teaching and ministering, and was twice named the Holy Hip Hop Artist - in 2004 and '07 - by WSOK Gospel Music Awards.

According to Nikab Productions, "There are very few who can rip a mic" like Edwards. "The CD is a complete package of ministry, tight beats, tight lyrics that really grab your mind and heart."

In 1997, Edwards preached his first sermon and was licensed into ministry. In 2002, he expanded his ministry and began using his gift as a Gospel Rap artist, signing with New Mind Records in 2007.

His video, "He Was There for Me," debuted in 2007 on BET's "Video Gospel." He also was featured on "Mixx Master's Lounge." Since then, Edwards has released two more CD projects, "Trouble," and his latest release, "Bury Me," released nationally in 2011. In addition, he was included in the Holy Hip Hop Vol. 4 CD, entitled 'Taking the Gospel to the Streets."

The Allegrettos, who were the first-place winners of the recent Lenox Caroling Festival, also will perform at GospelFest. According to Allegrettos Co-Director Juwonni Cottle '13, the Allegrettos aim to capture the heart and soul of what gospel music is all about, which is to inspire.

"I can't wait to see what the Allegrettos are going to do.  For the past year they have had a gospel 'branch,' rehearsing gospel music," Secor said. "Zion is new to us, and brings an urban sensibility, with the message flowing through rap and hip hop."

Each year, MCLA Presents! raises money for the scholarship that has been established to honor the college's first African American graduate, Margaret A. Hart, who is a member of the North Adams State Teachers College Class of 1935. 

A teacher and civil rights activist, Hart had a distinguished career in education that spanned more than five decades. The scholarship is awarded to a Berkshire County Student who demonstrates academic excellence and service to the community.

Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for MCLA faculty and staff and non-MCLA students with valid id, and free for MCLA and Williams students and members. All proceeds from this concert will benefit the Margaret A. Hart '35 Scholarship.

For reservations to GospelFest, call the box office at (413) 662-5204. For additional information and a complete listing of the MCLA Presents! season, go to presents or call 413-664-8718.

MCLA Presents! brings to North Adams and the MCLA campus some of the world's finest performers in music, dance, theatre, and spoken word.  From large musical festivals held in the school gym and on the grounds, to intimate one-person theatrical events and evenings of poetry held in the college's art galleries downtown, MCLA Presents! shares a unique performance series with the Northern Berkshire community. 

In addition to showcasing world renowned artists, MCLA Presents! is committed to showcasing the talent of its own community as well as the work of MCLA students.  MCLA Presents! is a project of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center ( bcrc).