Lots of joyful noise echoed through Capaha Park Saturday at House of Prayer's first annual October Gospel Festival.
Traditional melodies made room for funky inspirational grooves and the thump of gospel rap as individuals, groups and choirs from Southeast Missouri churches took the stage to praise the Lord.
The festival drew singers from Cape Girardeau, Charleston, Sikeston and Southeast Missouri State University. Dozens of gospel organizations were represented.
With a loose format to the festival, some people took a break from their jobs to sing a couple numbers. Others relaxed in folding chairs and on the lawn to make a day of it. Some were dressed for church, others for a picnic.
Dollette Jones of Sikeston sang "This Battle is Not Yours," followed by Whitman McBride, 9, who warbled his own song, "A Pretty Little Piece of Paradise."
Sandra Smoot came straight from work to play keyboards and sing "Stranger in the City."
Cape Girardeau's Ware Sisters introduced each act and performed a few numbers themselves. Made up of four sisters, Shelly, JoAnn, Brenda and LaKaren, and one brother, Eric, they sing both traditional and contemporary gospel. JoAnn Ware McCauley is pastor at House of Prayer.
Churchboyz, a gospel rap group, had the youth in the audience bouncing.
"Some say gospel rap -- that ain't Christian," said Stafford Lee Moore, 22, who said he began rapping when he was 13. Other members of the group include his brother, Octavius Moore, Chris Smith and Julius Sloan.
"We try to focus on the youth and draw the youth in. If you play the traditional stuff all the time, you limit yourself," he said. "Sometimes you need the change."
Moore said his raps have always had a positive message. A few years ago, he decided focus the message on Jesus Christ.
One song, "You Can't Have 2," performed Saturday admonishes teen-agers that they can't walk the fence when it comes to good and evil.
"You can't be livin' on one side of the fence and jump on over when things get bad," intoned Moore. "It's either one or the other, you can't have two."
His aunt, singer LaKaren Ware-Porter, told the audience that she and her sisters grew up in church because their mother made them go.
"The Bible says train your child the way he should go and when he gets old, he will not depart from it," she said.
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