Photo: Courtesy of Donald Lawrence

Donald Lawrence performs on Sunday, June 23.

Back for a second year in the birthplace of gospel music—Bronzeville—the Chicago Gospel Music Festival is stuffed with activities for the genre’s lovers: There’s a historic church tour on Saturday, an art marketplace, a kids activities zone—complete with bouncy house and face painting—and a health awareness fair.

But the highlights, as always, are the music acts. Here are the ones to catch:

Dexter Walker and Zion Movement
The winners of the 2012 “How Sweet the Sound” choral competition, this Chicago-based choir are thrilling live performers. They provide background vocals for Sunday’s night closing act, but given their enthusiasm, they might just steal the show. Check out this performance of “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.” Gospel theatrics at its finest.

Donald Lawrence
He was the headliner at 2011’s Gospel Music Festival and for good reason. The sartorially-savvy showboating artist (above) has written some of the catchiest gospel anthems of recent years with songs like “Giants” and “Blessings of Abraham.” He teams up with Hezekiah Walker and and Ricky Dillard for Sunday night’s show-closer at 6:30 p.m.

Smokie Norful
“Smokie” is a fitting name for this preternaturally gifted tenor who, like so many other major gospel artists, does double duty as both a pastor and a lead singer for his group. Just hope he sings the stunner, “Justified”. Norful performs Saturday at 5 p.m. with John P. Kee and New Life, Lecrae, and Vickie Winans.

Kierra Sheard
The 25-year-old Grammy Award winner is related to gospel royalty (her mother is a Clark, of the famous Clark Sisters, and her grandmother is legendary choir director Mattie Moss Clark). Her R&B influenced music is a blatant attempt to inject youth into an aging genre, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Tamela Mann
Her 2012 single “Take me to the King” is ubiquitous on V103 and 1390 AM right now. A vocalist for Kirk Franklin and The Family back in the day, this is Mann’s time. Don’t miss her performing on Saturday at 5 p.m.

The Chicago Gospel Music Festival runs Thursday June 20 through June 23.