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WIDU Anniversary Festival of Praise

‘People are going to leave with an extra dose of hope’


Contemporary gospel music lovers have three good reasons to attend the 2022 WIDU Anniversary Festival of Praise.

That’s because Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker and Israel Houghton – a trio of Grammy-winning veteran recording artists – will headline the festival bill during its culmination at the Crown Coliseum on April 30.

This will mark the first WIDU anniversary celebration since October 2019. Unlike years past, when it often was staged as a three- or four-day event, this year’s festival is one day.
Concert-goers can expect to glean some inspiration from the show, according to the 50-year-old Houghton.

“Certainly, everybody with me – between Fred Hammond and Hezekiah Walker – these guys are absolute killers, Mount Rushmore legends of gospel, so I love being the young gun,” he said. “And people can count on songs primarily that they can sing along to. Hopefully, evoke some memories with the body of work in our careers. If anything, it’s going to be inspiring.
“If we do our job right,” Houghton said, “people are going to leave with an extra dose of hope. We have a significant shortage of it, don’t we?”

Houghton, who has worked as a full-time musician for three decades, said he’ll be playing a combination of vintage and newer material.

“I’m fortunate and grateful I’m still writing songs and recording songs and releasing songs that are still connecting to people,” he said. “Like anybody considered a legacy artist - somebody who’s been at it for 20-plus years - if you have hits 20 years ago people are like, ‘Just play those.’ It’s always a delicate balance now for an artist like myself. I go, ‘I still feel like I’ve got something to say.’ I’m still writing songs that I pray people are singing on Sunday morning in church, and I hope to add to the soundtrack of their lives.”
Houghton has recorded approximately 20 albums to date.

He said he has just been notified that his new song “Broken People,” from his latest recording, “Project LA: Alive in Los Angeles,” has just hit one million views on YouTube.

“We’re very proud of that,” Houghton said. “Just the fact that the feedback that that song, in particular, has really touched a lot of people. So it’s good to know that you can do something old and something new and feel that you’re having a great interactive time.”

Houghton is a six-time Grammy-winning gospel singer-songwriter, bandleader and gospel music innovator whose 22-year career with the musical collective NewBreed has taken him around the world. He often shares the spotlight with his wife, Adrienne, a frequent musical collaborator.

For 15 years, he served as a worship leader at Pastor Joel Osteen’s church in Houston. That ended in 2016.

Born in Oceanside, California, Houghton shares homes with his wife in Los Angeles and New York City.

“You know, I don’t know if you know the phrase, but it’s like, ‘I didn’t choose this life. This life chose me,’ ” he said with a laugh. “I grew up in church from the time I was a year old. My parents were pastors. It wasn’t even something that I was ambitious about or driven to do.

When you grow up in church like that, and you’re sort of for lack of a better word, a part of the family business, you feel the need as you see it. When I was a kid, probably 10 or 11, they’re like, 'We need a drummer.' That was my job, man. I was the drummer.

“I think as I grew in it," he added, "I came to be very driven and passionate about the medium. In particular, gospel music, worship music. It went from ‘I like doing this’ to this is a true calling and a cause in my life.”

One of the other two headliners is Fred Hammond, who has been a leading pioneer of gospel music since 1985, according to biographical material. The lifestyle Essence magazine listed Hammond among its 50 Greatest Male Singers of All Time.

He also has collaborated with the likes of Kanye West and Snoop Dogg.

Bishop Hezekiah Walker Jr. is founder and leader of the Love Fellowship Choir, and pastor and bishop of the Love Fellowship Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York, publicity materials say.

“Known as ‘the hip-hop pastor,’ Hezekiah Walker has brought a lot of young people to gospel and choir music, and has shown that he has no problem using modern vernacular and recording techniques to expand his fan and worship base,” publicity materials say.

WIDU Anniversary Festival of Praise, Israel Houghton, Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker