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Singin’ Gospel Music Festival celebrates 10 years

Singin’ Gospel Music Festival celebrates 10 years


with Grammy award-winning Blackwood Brothers Quartet


by Alan Philips


This year, Jim Thirsk hits a milestone mark bringing some of the best in Southern Gospel music together once again for the 10th annual Gospel Music Festival in Cloverdale. This year’s headliner, and local favourite, is the multiple Grammy and Dove Award-winning group, the Blackwood Brothers Quartet from Memphis, Tennessee in their 84th year as the most well-known American Radio Gospel Quartet in history, recording over 200 albums and selling over 50 million records worldwide. During the peak of their popularity, while appearing regularly at The Ellis Auditorium in Memphis in the late forties, then current member and iconic bass singer, J.D. Sumner would sneak a young Elvis Presley in the back of the Ellis Auditorium in Memphis to see the Blackwoods perform because the young teen couldn’t afford the ticket price. As Elvis became popular, he had them join him for various occasions during his early career. When his mother, Gladys Presley, died in 1958, Elvis and Vernon asked the Blackwood Brothers to sing for her funeral. They were touring in North Carolina at the time, and Elvis chartered a plane to fly them to Memphis. Elvis had them sing many of his favourite songs such as “Rock of Ages,” “I Am Redeemed,” “Precious Lord,” “In The Garden,” and his mother’s favourite song, “Precious Memories.” James Blackwood’s son, Billy, still leads the group as they continue on today as messengers of the Gospel through their music, reaching unimaginable heights worldwide.

Joining them will be Father’s Daughter. This trio of sisters started singing at a very young age. Rooted in the rich musical legacy of their German Mennonite heritage, their childhood years were spent performing and touring in Canada, and around the world, with the Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir. Back in 2002, Sonja, Emily and Rachel Fast and their dad, Ed, recorded a family project of some of their favourite songs. Since then, as more and more gospel music lovers have heard and enjoyed their tight family harmonies, they have performed at numerous events in their community as well as in churches and at gospel music celebrations throughout Western Canada. Winner of the 2010 Covenant Award for Southern Gospel Album of the Year, Father’s Daughter has the new sound of Southern Gospel music in Canada. Highlights include regular appearances at the Canadian Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer, Alberta, performing at the GMA (Canada) 2010 Covenant Awards Show, and singing at the National Quartet Convention in Kentucky.

The Royal Heirs was formed by concert organzier Jim Thirsk and friends. They feature a rich sax instrumental sound. Over the years, the Royal Heirs have enjoyed preparing and sharing their unique arrangements of Gospel songs, favourite old hymns, and original music presenting their Christian testimony and their own unique smooth blend of music.

Growing up in Alberta, Thirsk began a relationship with Jesus at the tender age of six. His mother did some work for nuns in a nearby convent, in exchange for music lessons for her son. And so, a love of music combined with a love of Jesus, was born. Some years later, in 1962, Thirsk and a group of friends formed The Royal Heirs. For more than 50 years they have been serving the Lord with their music, and Thirsk has been serving the Christian community in the Lower Mainland, producing music concerts. The Royal Heirs have played in BC, Alberta, Ontario, Washington, Oregon, California and New Orleans. They have been involved in missions, fund-raising in Haiti, Africa and other parts of the world. Thirsk says, “We never plan to retire, we will play until God calls us home.”

Joining them will be local artists, Vic Schofield’s Class Brass Gospel Band, Vancouver Canucks National Anthem singer “Mr. O Canada” Mark Donnelly, the wonderful pianist Lil Schmunk, and your host for the evening is Axis Church Pastor Harvey Trauter.

This event is on Saturday, April 27, 6:30 pm (doors at 5:30) at Cloverdale Baptist Church, 18685-64 Ave (at 187 St) in Surrey.

Tickets are only $20 each and can be purchased at House of James in Abbotsford, Tom Lee Music in Langley, and Pilgrim Book and Bible in Vancouver. To purchase tickets in advance, go online to and search “Gospel Music Festival.”
For more info call (604) 534-2997.

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