The tradition of bringing Christian music lovers together for a "sing" is hardly new, but for years Lynn and Mary Chestnut had to travel for miles — sometimes to other states — to hear the Southern Gospel music they loved. All that changed in 2005, when the Great Bend couple organized a sing for central Kansas.
Next week, gospel music groups from four states will come to Barton Community College for the sixth annual Fall Gospel Sings Concert. Music will be presented from 7-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22, and 1-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, all in the Fine Arts Auditorium.
Admission is free, with freewill offerings received. Audience members can come and go, but concessions will be available for those who want to stay for the entire 10 hours, and there will also be door prizes, Mary Chestnut said.
Featured singers and entertainers include Ed Huffman and his Sanctified Sax, Maize; The Toneys from Gallatin, Mo.; Praises to Him, Paris, Mo.; Joyful Noyz, Galesburg, Ill.; The Torres Family, Haysville; McClellan Singing Sisters, Adams, Neb.; and Dave Arasmith, Topeka. From closer to home, Great Bend ventriloquist Don Paden and his friend Johnnie will be onstage, along with Art Cravens from Great Bend and the group 4-Told from Russell.
The Chestnuts organize the annual gospel sings on the fourth Sunday of October with help from area churches, taking no money for themselves, Mary said. "We’re trying to get Southern Gospel music promoted in this area. That’s what my husband and I want to do. We’re not about money; we’re about getting the Word out."
Most of the singers they invite feel the same way, although love offerings help cover their expenses, she said, noting few are in full-time music ministries. For example, the group 4-Told from the Russell County includes a hospital chief financial officer, a farmer, a construction worker and an employee at a parts supply company. "Their thing is not the money, it’s the ministry," Chestnut said.
All of the offerings and other donations go to the singers. Sponsors include Christian Church, Pawnee Rock; Calvary Baptist Church, Ellinwood; First Baptist Church, Russell; and in Great Bend: Central Baptist Church, Church of God, King Memorial United Methodist, First United Methodist Church and Sterling House. Many of the singers will visit these area churches on Sunday, Oct. 24, for their worship services.
About the singers
The Torres Family, Jeremy, Rebecca, Ray and Anthony, has been spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ through song and testimonies since 1998. They were recently awarded first place at the 30th Annual Seminal Oklahoma Gospel Singing Contest. This group performs Southern Gospel music in four-part harmony, with piano.
Mike and Carolyn Toney formed their musical duo in 1982 and have sung Southern & Country Gospel music in several states.
The quartet Joyful Noyz started as a trio in 1998; today its members are Chuck and Lanni Hillery and Rick and Nona Carroll. "We are not the message, but merely the messenger to reach those who need to hear," a group spokesman says. Their music is Southern Gospel.
Dave Arasmith from Topeka will serve as emcee for the first evening. His music styles include Southern Gospel, Country Gospel, ballads and cross lyrics, intermixed with Christian comedy.
Ed Huffman is the emcee for the second day. He plays traditional and Southern Gospel music on his "sanctified sax." He also plays with the Huffman Family Gospel Band.
Russell quartet 4-Told sings Southern Gospel music. Members are Don Krug, Duane Fields, Sam Radke and Robert Walters.
The McClellan Singing Sisters are Tiffany, Kimberly, Jewel and TaMera. Their music style is Southern Gospel and Christian Contemporary. Tiffany McClellan has completed a solo album, "At Calvary."