It has given me the inspiration to write many of my columns. Although I like a variety of gospel music, Southern gospel is the genre I enjoy the most. It seems to speak to my heart more than most of the other types of religious music.
I had someone tell me this week that although she enjoyed the columns, it sure did seem like I talk about death a lot. I’ve thought about that and concluded that dying is simply part of living. It’s not actually sad for the deceased, assuming they have made the proper preparations.
So as I write this column and reference gospel music, I am going to mention some that are still alive and some that are dead and gone.
Even though I enjoy the sound of the big names in gospel music, there are many locals who have made a lasting impression on me throughout the years. It amazes me that no matter how many different songs are in a group’s repertoire, it’s one song that can easily define them as a group or an individual.
Gospel music has always played a big part in our churches and in the community.
One of the first recordings from many years ago was “I Want to Live beyond the Grave” which was recorded by a group known as the North Canton Quartet.
My Granny Free did not like that song and assured me before she died that if anyone allowed it to be sung at her funeral, she would come back and “haint” us for the rest of our days.
For those of you not from around here, haint simply means haunt.
We believed her and decided rather quickly to not use that song during the funeral service. Even in death, Granny still had power.
Another quartet in high demand was The Ware Boys and Stacey. They sang in churches in several counties. One of the songs I remember them for was “Is That the Old Ship of Zion.” Those boys could sing and rile up a crowd in a hurry. They don’t sing together anymore to the best of my knowledge. However, their works certainly made an impact whether they know it or not.
Chalcedonia Baptist Church had a trio that consisted of Debbie Champion, Cathy Dobson and Vickie Powell. The church was blessed with their singing for many years. I can still hear them singing “Farther Along” from my place in the pews.
Mitzi Saxon grew up and around McHelen Baptist Church. I was blessed on several occasions to hear her sing “Consider the Lilies.” It has been years, but I remember it vividly. I wonder if I’m the only person that connects her to this song. I doubt it. Because the best I can remember, tears would flow down her cheeks as she connected with the song.
I honestly can’t say whether or not she sings in church now. I hope she does, so others can celebrate with a memory of her sweet spirit as I am able to do while writing this.
It’s impossible to talk about gospel music without mentioning Derek Cornelison. He has more talent in one finger that most do in both hands. There is no telling how many times he has been asked to sing at funerals. And if I only had a dollar for every time he has been asked to sing “Go Rest High on the Mountain,” I could retire. However, the beauty of gospel music is that it never grows old.
The Rev. Kent Samples, along with his wife Jeanette and their daughters, didn’t limit their ministry to Kent being in the pulpit. They sang together as a group in many churches across our county. It was a time that Kent and Jeanette will always treasure.
I like a minister who doesn’t limit his ministry to the pulpit. Kent is one of the good ones. When he’s not preaching or singing you will find him visiting hospitals and nursing homes. That makes him more than a preacher. He is truly a pastor.
There are others; many others. For every one I have mentioned, there are countless others I have not. And every one of them has blessed many through song.
Thanks to you all.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.