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Thursday, July 23, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Jesus Christ's Superstars -- Creation `98 Brings Together Christian Music's Biggest Acts -- Contemporary Christian Is The Fastest- Growing Genre In Pop Music

Seattle Times Staff Critic

------------------------------- Festival preview

"Creation '98," with d.c. Talk, the Newsboys, the Supertones, Steven Curtis Chapman, Third Day, Rebecca St. James, Point of Grace, Audio Adrenaline, Jaci Velasquez, Big Tent Revival, All Star United, Plumb, Smalltown Poets, Reality Check, the Waiting, Delirious, Katinas, Plankeye, Five Iron Frenzy, Insyderz, Jennifer Knapp, Grammatrain, Hokus Pick and others; today through Saturday, Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Grant County; $10-$32, 206-628-0888. Gorge Information Line: 206-464-2000 ext. 7469. -------------------------------

The growth of contemporary Christian music is reflected in "Creation '98," the biggest event this summer at the Gorge Amphitheatre. The three-day festival, opening today, will include about two dozen of the most popular acts in the genre, along with speakers, preachers, seminars and church services.

Tens of thousands of young people from throughout the country are expected to trek to the Gorge for the festival. Most will camp out at the site so they attend all three days. Busloads of concertgoers will be coming from churches throughout the Northwest.

Contemporary Christian is the fastest-growing genre in pop music. Last year, sales jumped 32 percent from the year before.

According to SoundScan, which charts sales of recorded music, 44 million pieces of contemporary Christian product - albums and singles on CD, cassette tapes and vinyl - were sold last year.

Revenues from contemporary Christian albums topped $700 million.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, contemporary Christian music is the sixth-most-popular music style in terms of sales, behind rock, country, urban contemporary, pop and rap. It is more popular than classical, jazz, oldies, new age and world music.

Pop and religious music first converged in the early 1970s with the "Jesus People" or "Jesus Freaks" movement, which was started by converted hippies who didn't want to give up their music. "Jesus Christ Superstar," the rock opera, which opened on Broadway in 1970, also helped shepherd the movement.

Amy Grant became contemporary Christian music's first superstar in the 1980s. Her religious albums sold millions of copies, allowing her to move into the mainstream, where she sings pop and country music. While she is now a Top 40 artist, her product is still filed under contemporary Christian in most record stores.

Some of the genre's most popular acts will perform at "Creation '98," including:

d.c. Talk - A rock and rap trio whose music has been played on modern-rock stations and whose videos have been on MTV (see accompanying article).

Jaci Velasquez - An 18-year-old who sings in English and Spanish. Her debut album went gold (see accompanying article).

Steven Curtis Chapman - A singer-songwriter who is one of the superstars of the genre. His career recently got a boost from "I Will Not Go Quietly," featured in the Robert Duvall film "The Apostle."

Point of Grace - In just three years, this pop-oriented female vocal quartet has become one of the most popular acts in the field.

Audio Adrenaline - A very popular hard-rock band whose breakthrough hit was "My Father's House."

The Newsboys - This Australian band is known for its wild, flashy stage show.

Northwest acts will perform on a special stage. There will also be a late-night acoustic cafe, with live music, starting at midnight tonight and tomorrow night.

A Children's Ministry Tent will offer a program of clowns, puppets and music for children, as well as special presentations. Among them is Bibleman, a multimedia show starring Willie Aames, of "Eight Is Enough" and "Charles in Charge," in the title role.

There will also be a prayer tent, a water baptism tank, an exhibit area of Christian products and the Gorge's usual array of food and drink booths. The bar, however, will be closed.

The event is presented by Come Alive Ministries in Medford, N.J., and is an offshoot of the original Creation Festival, held annually in Pennsylvania since 1979.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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