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Crown of Life reignites Dukes concert series

Crown of Life Praise Team 001

After a nearly two-year gap since the last Sunday show in the Dukes Memorial Concert Series at First Congregational Church/UCC, the concert board is inaugurating its 2022 season with a contemporary gospel event with the Crown of Life Praise Team on Sunday.

After a nearly two-year gap since the last Sunday show in the Dukes Memorial Concert Series at First Congregational Church/UCC, the concert board is inaugurating its 2022 season on Sunday with a contemporary gospel event courtesy of The Crown of Life Praise Team.

"We’re excited about our plans, which have been on hold because of the pandemic," said Carla Martin, chair of the series board. "All are invited to attend any or all of our six free concerts. We will practice social distancing and are asking audiences to wear masks for safety."

The Rev. Terry Matthews, director of Crown of Life, has led the gospel group for several years. Growing up in Flint, Mich., Matthews sang in choirs and was inspired by Flint vocalists Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder. "Most families worked in the auto industry," he said. "Our family moved to California in the ’70s when the industry went elsewhere."

Today Matthews shares his music with his Crown of Life congregation and also works in the prison ministry, which started in Shafter, continued in Tehachapi and now takes him to Chowchilla.

"Music is a universal language. It transcends racial, economic and denominational boundaries. ... I love the prison ministry. For prisoners, there’s nowhere to go but up."

Matthews’ praise team includes Toni Cantu, Lavonne Jarrow, Ronnie Shotwell and Glinda Stubbs. Currently, his Crown of Life church is celebrating five years at its current location at 1100 Gorrill St., near Union Cemetery.

Other upcoming Dukes concerts include Mariachi Aguilas de Bakersfield (Feb. 6), the Jay Smith Group (Feb. 27), Richard Noel on digital accordion (March 13), Tim Stonelake & Friends (April 24) and pianist Gene Lowe (May 22).

The Dukes series concerts are free, but the board encourages donations that help compensate musicians. In its 16th season, the concerts were inspired by an endowment left to the church by longtime Bakersfield educators Beverly and Fred Dukes. The series is also co-sponsored by Valley Public Radio (KVPR/KPRX-FM).

The Crown of Life Praise Team will perform at 4 p.m. Sunday in the church sanctuary at 5 Real Road.

Visit crownoflifeministriesca.com for more information about Crown of Life Ministries.

Marjorie Bell is a co-founding board member of the Dukes Memorial Concert Series.