The biggest sporting event in the world will take place Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston. However, before those festivities start, there’s a chance for you to get your praise on in a “super” way when the NFL Sanctioned Super Bowl Gospel Celebration kicks off Super Bowl LI with a star-studded concert.
The 18th annual event will begin at 7:30 p.m. today at Lakewood Church, 3700 Southwest Freeway, in Houston.
Husband and wife duo, David and Tamela Mann will host the show which will feature gospel artists CeCe Winans, Natalie Grant, Yolanda Adams, Jekalyn Carr, contemporary soul violinist Damien Escobar, R&B singers Lalah Hathaway and Anthony Hamilton, and hip-hop artists BJ the Chicago Kid and Lecrae — just to name a few.
Melanie Few-Harrison, president of Results Marketing & Media Inc., based in Atlanta, is the creator and executive producer of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, which launched at Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999 in Miami.
Few-Harrison initially pitched the idea of a gospel event for the Super Bowl in 1991 after attending a couple of Super Bowls in years past and realized that there wasn’t a faith-based event not only for the players and their families, but for fans that get to go to the Super Bowl as well. After several years of rejection letters, the NFL finally said yes and the rest is Super Bowl gospel history.
“I kept trying ... I just wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Few-Harrison said. “I was always a very persistent little girl and even when my parents used to tell me no, I’d still keep trying until it eventually turned into a yes. No doesn’t mean no forever. So when Gene Upshaw, who was executive director of the NFL Players’ Association at the time told me (in 1998) that if I could get Gladys Knight to perform at the inaugural event back in 1999, I immediately made it happen and that was the beginning. Ironically, the first gospel concert that took place was the last time the Atlanta Falcons went to the Super Bowl, so we’ve come full circle per se.”
Along with the featured artists, the concert also will include the NFL Players Choir, which features 40 current and former NFL players, under the musical direction of Myron Butler. This will be the 10th anniversary of the choir performing as well. There also will be many surprise appearances that will keep the audience entertained throughout the evening.
“Tonight’s show will display a blend of different types of talent across the musical spectrum,” Few-Harrison said. “It won’t just be gospel music presentations, but a diverse mix of music by talented artists and inspirational speakers that will reach old and young alike. I feel real good about the show that will take place tonight. This isn’t a regular concert; it’s a beautiful experience that will leave you feeling better after witnessing and hearing what we’ve worked so hard to bring year after year. You don’t want to miss it.”
Tickets can be purchased through Ticket Master and Ticket Servant or by visiting http://superbowlgospel.com/celebration. The concert also will be broadcast at 11 a.m. Sunday on BET and Centric TV (check your local listings for channel information).
And if you can’t make tonight’s concert, there also will be two performances by the Super Bowl Gospel Choir, under the direction of Chad Brawley, of Walker Entertainment Group, at 8 p.m. Saturday at the George R. Brown Convention Center; and at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Super Bowl tailgating event at NRG Stadium.
The choir will feature 40 members that will sing songs such as “Grace” and “Greater” off Brawley’s upcoming CD “We Worship Project,” which is slated for national release in the spring as well as several other gospel songs.
“We’ve been preparing for this event since November and we couldn’t be more excited about being a part of the Super Bowl festivities,” Brawley said. “I’m very grateful that they’ve chosen to include a gospel choir element and we’re looking forward to singing to people we may not have had the opportunity to sing for otherwise.”