The May 27 concert in Johnston Park is a free, family-friendly entertainment series made possible each year by the Allied Arts Council of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
The series is funded in part by local sponsors and under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission.
The Tri-Octaves, a high-energy trio, sings a variety of musical styles — “something for every musical taste,” said Kyle Elrod, concert organizer.
Renowned area vocalists Willie Kitchens, Doug Richesin and Michael Rodgers make up the group.
“These are incredibly talented musicians,” Elrod said, “and will present an evening of everything from gospel music to inspirational pop.”
Richesin has appeared on the Evening Shade stage during two other seasons, singing inspirational music.
His aunt discovered his singing talent when she heard him at the age of 12 singing “Love Lifted Me” while mowing the lawn. She encouraged him to become involved in music at church and school and he began to use his love for music in church choirs, school musicals and in a small band with some friends.
He took his love for music, which ranged from Andy Williams to Elton John, and applied the numerous musical styles to develop his own personal delivery and method of communication.
“My faith played a crucial role in the shaping of my musical talents, and it is that faith that carried me through my music ministry journey,” Richesin said.
Richesin has performed on the same stage as Bill and Gloria Gaither, Howard and Vestal Goodman, Greg and Janna Long, Andre Crouch, and Jerry Reed, and has worked with Dove Award winner Lari Goss. He was extended an invitation to audition with the Gaither Vocal Band and was awarded the grand prize on the vocal competition at the 23rd annual Christian Artists Seminar in Estes Park, Colo.
In addition to an active traveling ministry, he serves as a senior vice president at Peoples Bank in Sweetwater. He has several recordings to his credit, including “Seed of Faith” and his newest release, “Work of Art.”
Born to a musical family in Chattanooga, Willie Kitchens fell in love with music at an early age. At age 7, he began singing at community churches with his sisters and his father, a guitarist with the gospel group Five Sons of Calvary. His father taught him to play guitar when he was 10, and at 16 the younger Kitchens joined the Five Sons of Calvary as bass guitarist and background vocalist.
With the Five Sons, Kitchens performed with groups including the Swan Silvertones, the Brooklyn All-Stars and the Jackson Southernaires. Diversifying his repertoire, Kitchens joined the funk band at Howard High School as lead guitarist and lead vocalist while continuing to perform gospel at church and with the Five Sons. After graduating high school, Kitchens attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
At age 24, Kitchens began to concentrate on gospel performance. Over the years, he taught himself to play the harmonica, piano and electric keyboards.
In 1995 Kitchens became music and performing arts director for the Bethlehem Center, a ministry in inner-city Chattanooga. There he created a traveling youth choir for children ages 2 to 18 and opened the Bethlehem Recording Studio for the Bethlehem Center’s radio and television programs. He also has performed for luminaries including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
In December 1999, Kitchens joined the Impressions, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rhythm and blues group. In 2001 the Impressions toured with Eric Clapton. Kitchens served as lead singer, writer and arranger for the group.
He returned to his gospel roots and now serves as executive director of the Bethlehem Center Mass Choir and as minister of music to the Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church.
Born in Williamsburg, Va., Michael Rodgers studied voice at Knoxville College and traveled with the well-known Knoxville College choir on their concert tours across the United States and Europe while earning his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance. He also holds a master’s degree in performance from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Rodgers joined the Knoxville Opera Co. in 1993 where he has been cast in several comprimario roles and continues to perform with the magnificent opera chorus. He also sings with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Knoxville Opera Gospel Choir, and Chattanooga Symphony and Opera. He currently serves as a soloist with Cokesbury and Christ United Methodist Churches as well.
Rodgers teaches students with special needs for Knox County Schools. He serves on the board of directors with the Knoxville Opera Co. and works with their educational and outreach program.
Recently he enjoyed singing with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra on their 75th anniversary concert of Gershwin. Rodgers also celebrated the second annual concert with the Knoxville Opera “Knoxville Opera Goes to Church,” which has been a huge success under his production.
“Their unique combination allows them to bring popular hits that everyone knows as well as gospel music that everyone loves,” Elrod said. “Community support has been terrific for our 17th season. We hope everyone will come to downtown Cleveland this Friday night as we end this year’s series and as we kick off summer.”
Enjoy dinner at one of the downtown restaurants or pack a picnic supper to begin the holiday weekend in Johnston Park at 6:30 p.m.