Praise Music

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We were leaving the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival when we heard it: elated shouts, rhythmic clapping and voices raised in joyous song. These intriguing sounds of jubilation came from the Rhodes Gospel Tent.

There seemed to be two classes of people inside. The first were the folks who'd drawn us in with their blissful revelry. The second were clearly those, like me, who'd never before seen gospel music performed live. I soon gave up trying to keep my mouth from hanging open. Voices raised in song - this phrase never meant much to me until that day, when I heard the euphoric, spiritually uplifting melodies climbing straight to the heavens. But gospel music is more than religious - it is, without a doubt, the purest form of musical appreciation.

If you've never experienced a live gospel concert, the West Tampa Cultural Society and the General Assembly Church of the Firstborn host the 2005 Main Street Gospel Festival, beginning at noon this Sunday. A variety of performers are scheduled to appear and highlights include the Glory to Glory Dancers (3 p.m.), Maurice Allen and Praise (4:30 p.m.), Carlton Burgess and the Children of Promise Choir (5:30 p.m.), the No Limit Dancers (6:45 p.m.) and the Conquerors (8 p.m.).

2005 Main Street Gospel Festival, noon-9 p.m. Sunday, July 3. General Assembly Church of the Firstborn, 2123 W. Main St., Tampa, 813-254-5085

-Leilani Polk

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