Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Executive Director Jermaine Mondaine hopes that the upcoming Gospel Fest concert, performed by OMHOF’s new inductees, will serve as a “revival.”
“We’re in the Bible Belt,” Mondaine said. “We’ve noticed that revivals have great success here. That is a niche people are interested in.”
Gospel Fest goes up Saturday and includes OMHOF’s induction ceremony, honoring singer-songwriter Dennis Jernigan, all-female vocal group Point of Grace and gospel singer and pianist Smokie Norful.
The event also serves as an annual fundraiser for OMHOF, Mondaine said, because it drew a larger crowd.
Mondaine said that the event’s focus on gospel music, rather than the typically eclectic mix of artists nominated by OMHOF members, stemmed from potentially awkward interactions between secular and religious music.
“At one of my first inductions, they had (R&B group) Color Me Badd,” he said. “You had Color Me Badd fans sitting through (country singer) Roy Clark, and you had Roy Clark fans sitting through Color Me Badd. It can get interesting.”
In response to that conundrum, Mondaine said, OMHOF decided to narrow its selections this year down to a specific genre.
Overall, Mondaine said the event honored the prevalence of Oklahoma performers.
“This is a good picture of how influential and how powerful Oklahoma musicians are,” he said.
Jernigan could serve as an example. The singer-songwriter has penned widely known songs like “You Are My All In All.”
“People keep singing my songs all over the world,” Jernigan said. “Thousands of people, every month. It’s an amazing thing.”
Jernigan said a troubled childhood led him to a relationship with God, which in turn led him to Oklahoma Baptist University, where he went to school.
“They wouldn’t let me in the music department. Said they didn’t think I had potential,” Jernigan said. “It kind of crushed me at the time, but I kept going.”
It wasn’t until after he graduated from OBU that Jernigan — who called himself more of a “song receiver” than a writer — began composing music.
“I was just writing songs about my issues,” he said. “After a while, I started hearing people singing my songs in church.”
Once Jernigan signed with Christian music label Word Records, he said, his songs started traveling around the world.
“Thousands of people sing these songs, every month,” Jernigan said.
He said he’s heard his songs in places like Turkey and Korea, and in multiple languages.
“This is how I support my family, and it kind of fell in my lap,” Jernigan said. “But I give the credit to God for that.”
Jernigan said that while he hadn’t decided on his set yet, he was “pumped” to perform in the Muskogee Civic Center.
“I have no idea what I’m going to sing yet, but I’m very excited,” he said.
So is Mondaine. This is his first time at the helm for the induction ceremony and concert, even though he has participated in the process before.
“I’ve been on the board, I’ve been in the show communities, but this is my first time over the whole thing,” Mondaine said. “It’s not a big difference — there’s still a lot of involvement elsewhere — but there is that sense of responsibility with my name being attached to it.”