The McDonald's Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour had a line of gospel fans wrapped around a long Detroit block at Greater Grace Temple for the kickoff of the 16-city tour. The free event brought together some of gospel's biggest names for a night that offered a message of "Love Unstoppable."
Rehearsals the night before the kickoff concert felt like a family reunion. From the production team to the artists, a palpable joy and exuberance filled the atmosphere. As each artist ran through their songs, it was apparent that this was more than a show. Their professionalism was balanced with an innate need to offer a joy-filled praise to God. Donald Lawrence took the lead to make sure vocal arrangements were tight and transitions were smooth. Before the show started, I spoke to him about his process in preparing for the show:
“…we finalize what everyone [will sing] and then I sequence [performances] inside the show to make sure [it] climbs. We give [the audience] multiple moments [instead of] the same type of moment back to back. We may go from a quartet to something that's smooth like Anita Wilson, then you come to me [with a] choir moment, then we go to Tye [Tribbett]…so it’s about giving the show some dynamics.”
All of his diligent work made for a memorable show, which started off with a bang led by the always energetic Tye Tribbett. He brought out all the night's singers in a moment that got the crowd on their feet.
The night continued with stirring performances, including duets from Bishop Paul Morton with Paul Porter and Brian Courtney Wilson with Anita Wilson.
The phenomenal Jekayln Carr ushered in the spirit with a powerful rendition of her hit song “You’re Bigger.” Donald Lawrence added the sounds of the choir to the evening with a masterfully executed arrangement. Host Lonnie Hunter kept the night moving with ease while comedienne Small Fire had the audience laughing during an intermission.
The night concluded with an over-the-top set from Tye Tribbett, who had all the young people at the foot of the stage and the whole building rocking with a praise party to his latest single “Work It Out.”
Throughout the evening, Lonnie Hunter and others shared reminders of the work of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (the recipient of all donations collected at the tour). Before the show, Jekayln Carr and Donald Lawrence offered stories on how they relate to the charity’s mission of helping families of sick children in need:
“…They helped one of my singers a long time ago. She (Sheri Jones-Moffett, the singer for “Encourage Yourself”) was in New York and went into labor early after a concert and they helped her a lot. She was away from home and couldn’t take the baby home because it was born premature, so they really [assisted] her.” – Donald Lawrence
“…My father was sick and we didn’t know exactly what was going on with him. [We found out] he had been walking around a long time with blood pressure [issues], so being able to step in and not only pray for him but to be there physically to help him with his needs was a beautiful thing. [The same is true] for the Ronald McDonald House, they support people and don’t even think twice about it.” – Jekalyn Carr
The evening truly delivered on its promise to inspire attendees and celebrate all the beautiful diverse expressions of gospel music. In an age where the headlines can seem more and more disheartening, this concert was a welcome respite with the message of the good news and that love is unstoppable.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour when it comes to a city near you. It picks back up in Charlotte, North Carolina, on June 7 and runs through October 21.