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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Latino Youth Choir Wins Annual Gospelfest

November 07, 2000

LOS ANGELES — A gospel choir made up of at-risk Latino youths took first place in the 16th Annual McDonald's Gospelfest at the Shrine Civic Auditorium, literally stopping the show with its high-energy performance.

The El Monte-based Soldiers on Soul Patrol won in the youth choir category, beating out the Los Angeles-based Testimonial Inspirational Youth Choir. The 95-member Soldiers were the first majority Latino group to be represented at the annual event, which searches out the best amateur gospel talent in Southern California and is usually dominated by black choirs.

Randy Quesada, the 19-year-old founder of the group, said the win Saturday was like reaching into a Christmas stocking and pulling out a plum. "But for us it was not about winning, it was about bringing our message that Jesus loves you," Quesada said.

The visibility opened up new opportunities to get that message out, Quesada said.

The group--an unlikely coming together of one-time gang members and high school misfits with little musical background--received several invitations to sing at other churches. There is talk of a possible recording contract and perhaps even a movie.

Lindsay Hughes, Gospelfest's chairman and co-founder, said about 4,000 people attended this year's show, with proceeds benefiting the Pride and Leadership for African American Youth Scholarship program.

The adult choir winners were Los Angeles-based Se DAY, representing the Southern California Seventh-day Adventist churches.

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