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Gospelfest returns for 20th year

PLATTSBURGH - The Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir is carrying on a tradition and it's one that's lasted 20 years.

The choir - which consists of students, faculty and staff from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and community members from the Plattsburgh area and Burlington, Vt. - is busily preparing for their 20th annual Gospelfest, to be held this weekend at the university campus.

Choir director Dr. Dexter L. Criss said the event originated with students in the fall of 1991. Michelle Noble-Coursey, a charter member of the choir, was a sophomore at the time, said Criss.

"She stated that they wanted to sing the songs which they grew up with from home and church; while others were just wanting to enrich their college experience," said Criss.

The choir, which was "small but full of ambition and hope" at the time, said Criss, established Gospelfest as a festival of music from the gospel genre. And, it's an event that's developed a huge following, he added.

"The Plattsburgh State students, staff and surrounding communities have embraced the choir. When one person attends the concert they always bring another person with them to the next concert because of what they had experienced previously," said Criss.

The event includes performances by the 70-member choir and a 9-piece band, as well as the Step Team, Praise Dancers, and Praise Team, making it "a wonderful family event," said Criss.

"We see little children dancing with their grandparents, sons with their moms and, yes, dads with their daughters," said Criss.

One of the focuses of the event is also to show gospel music is something that can be appreciated by all, not just those who attend religious services on a regular basis.

"The first American music genre, gospel music, can be heard not only in churches across the globe, but in stores, work places and community events as well," said Criss, who added he hopes to draw people to this weekend's event. "We want people leaving the concert happy and inspired."

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