Seven-time Grammy-winner Kirk Franklin tickles ears with contagiously catchy beats and gospel-chorus fireworks while lifting up listeners with messages of hope. Franklin's The Fearless Tour mixes material from his new album, Hello Fear, with classic songs from his decade-spanning career, bringing his inspirational music to lift up those who have recently discovered their hearts are not shaped like valentine cards. Gospel-belting aces Isaac Carree, Deon Kipping, and Jason Nelson will enliven proceedings with their own inspirational melodies, and BET Sunday Best winner Amber Bullock will showcase her up-and-coming pipes with edifying aplomb. The 10,000-seat House of Hope provides ample space for high-energy tunes to soar without becoming muddled or working napping bats into a frenzy.
The nondescript brick building on a nondescript Hyde Park street corner would be easy to overlook, were it not for the howling blues tunes booming out from within. Past the front hall plastered with press mentions and award clippings, a boisterous crowd of well-dressed locals and wide-eyed college students packs the intimate, rectangular space. They lounge on upholstered vinyl chairs at the floodlit bar, sipping stiff drinks and tapping their feet to the music. Up on the stage stands the source of the infectious melodies—Chicago blues legends like the Mighty World Band and Shorty Mack. The musicians often call for audience participation, when the lively guests unhesitatingly raise their voices to sing along with soulful tunes that earned the joint accolades from the likes of Fodor's and The Travel Channel.
Dennis and Marge Dennehy started the Dennehy School of Irish Dance more than 50 years ago. Since then, the school's instructors have taught Irish dances to countless kids?including Michael Flatley, who went on to star in shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.
Former professional basketball player Mike Robinson—a product of the Chicago Public School system who was drafted by the Utah Jazz and played professionally in Europe for eight years—created In the Paint Basketball to help youths develop as players. His development programs teach the fundamentals of the game, such as shooting and dribbling, but also connect kids to mentors and encourage them to discuss problems they may be having in school with peer pressure or homework.
Founded by Liberia-born business leader P. Saingbey K. Woodtor nearly a quarter-century ago, the African Festival of the Arts celebrates the arts and culture of African diaspora in Chicago. Past years have seen performances by such legendary acts as George Clinton, Erykah Badu, India.Arie, and James Brown, and every year features a world's worth of food. Nigerian egusi, Senegalese wolof rice, Caribbean jerk chicken, and even Cajun and soul food from the US all have their spots at the food pavilion.
But the real stars of the annual show are the fine arts and the artists who make them, be they painters, sculptors, jewelers, or wood carvers. In all these ways, the festival gives Chicagoans a glimpse of Africa without the need for plane tickets or risking the climb inside the time machine your cousin "invented."
Founded in 2011, the Chicago-based American Chamber Opera features an ensemble committed to singing full-length oratorios in English. Its productions resemble concerts more than traditional opera performances: the music takes center stage as the singers belt and emote in settings that evoke the world of the story with just a few well-placed details.