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Exploring New Worlds : Galaxy’s Universe Will Expand When the Starlights Kick Off a Family-Oriented, Gospel Brunch Series

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Galaxy Concert Theatre took the plunge into punk music last month with an inaugural triple bill featuring All, Cows and Rust. Now, to further broaden its musical, spiritual and culinary palette, the Santa Ana venue is instituting a Gospel Brunch.

The planned weekly series opens Sunday with the Starlights, a gospel group from Compton. It continues Nov. 19 with the Long Beach Children of Christ choir and Nov. 26 with a return engagement by the Starlights. The Randells, a female quartet, will play a December date to be announced.

“We’re interested in bringing a different form of entertainment and culture to Orange County,” explained Jennifer Kelce, a Galaxy spokeswoman. “The series is being designed for people who want their religious experience in a fun, energetic way. We’re hopeful the community will respond.”

The idea came to Kelce and Galaxy / Coach House publicity director Nikki Sweet after they attended a gospel brunch at House of Blues in Hollywood.

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“Are we copying them? Absolutely!” Sweet said.

Added Kelce: “We loved the music and the whole atmosphere so much, we thought, ‘Hey, why can’t we do this, too?’ ”

Besides, it’s not as if the Galaxy is purloining an idea unique to the House of Blues.

“There are at least 20 gospel brunches in the L.A. area. Why not [have] at least one in Orange County?” asked Chris Bridges, an independent promoter who helps book gospel acts into the House of Blues. “If you can bring in really good gospel music of several varieties in an environment mixing churchgoers with non-churchgoers, then you’ve got the formula for success.”

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Galaxy officials are hoping to foster a family atmosphere at their brunch, where an all-you-can-eat buffet will include such Southern specialties as catfish, grits, jambalaya, gumbo and rice, biscuits and gravy as well as the more-standard fare of ham, sausage, bacon, eggs, cereal, pastries, juice, coffee, tea and milk.

For the Starlights’ part, they are glad to help launch the local series.

“It’s a compliment to cut the ribbon, so to speak,” said singer-songwriter Greg Botts, whose father, Henry, once sang with the Pilgrim Travelers at the White House during World War II. “It’s going to be one of the biggest things to hit that side of town.”

The eight-member Starlights gained national exposure during the O.J. Simpson trial. In March, Judge Lance Ito’s court clerk saw them perform at the House of Blues and the next day requested an April 1 court appearance to entertain beleaguered jurors. Ito sang their praises in a subsequent thank-you letter.

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They’ve also performed at the 1994 Orange County Blues Festival and the 1995 Long Beach Blues Festival. Last year, they released “Live in L.A.--If There Ever Was a Time,” an album for Fortress Records.

“I’m a true believer in Jesus Christ, and I want to make a difference in this world,” said Botts, 30. “We strive to lift up a heavy heart and touch someone through our music”.

Their impact is not limited to singing the Lord’s praises. They also serve as spokesmen for the National Diabetes Foundation and the Boys Club of America. And they’re looking ahead, Botts said, to producing other young gospel talents while providing an alternative to secular rap, R & B and rock.

At the gospel-brunch performances, however, the focus will be on show time.

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“We’re looking for groups like the Starlights with a sense for flair and showmanship . . . that will get the crowd inspired, on their feet, and rejoicing,” Kelce said. “We want people to walk out clapping and singing and wanting more.”

* The Gospel Brunch begins Sunday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3353 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. 11 a.m. $22.50 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under. (714) 957-0600.


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