Gospel groups to perform in Weisiger Park


Two popular local gospel groups - the decades-old First Baptist Church Male Chorus and the fledgling Lexington Avenue Quartet - will bring a diverse mix of sacred music to Weisiger Park Thursday.

Gary Johnson, a tenor with First Baptist Church Male Chorus, says the group has been together off and on since the 1940s.

"It has been in existence quite a while," he explains. "Like most groups, it comes and goes. We've been able to maintain for the past 20 years or so."

The ages of ensemble members range from 30s to 70s. The group has anywhere from 15 to 20 members currently, Johnson says.


"Some of us have been singing together almost 20 years," he says.

"We have a fellowship together. It's something special. We learn from one another."

Duane Campbell, lead vocalist for Lexington Avenue Quartet, says the ensemble that also includes tenor Steve Griffin, baritone Bill Ruth, and bass Ervin Farmer, has been together almost six years. Debbie Baker Harmon plays keyboard for the quartet.

"We've known each other for over 15 years," Campbell says. "We all attend Lexington Avenue Baptist Church and sang together there.

"We were invited to sing one Sunday night in Perryville (Methodist church). We went to that particular singing and decided we ought to get more serious about it. That's where it all began."

First Baptist Church Male Chorus stays busy with requests for performances, says Johnson.

"Some months are slower than others," he notes. "But if I don't keep an eye on things, we could do something every weekend. ... Somebody's always calling to have us come and sing."

One of the highlights of the group's history was singing at the vice presidential debate in 2000 at Centre College.

"That was a big event for us," Johnson explains.

He characterizes First Baptist Church Male Chorus' sound as a blend of Christian rhythms, which the group will bring to Weisiger.

"They'll hear old gospel music and some new-type things," Johnson explains. "We do some hymns. A lot of things we get come from quartet groups we've heard, and different arrangements of songs. We do some things that are upbeat, to keep everybody involved and interested - we do not put anybody to sleep.

"It's spiritual music, spiritual gospel music. It's very special music, very special to me."

Campbell says the quartet's repertoire incorporates standards, spirituals and Southern gospel songs. Notable titles include "Swing Low, Swing Chariot" and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I Know."

"And we do some music the Gaither Vocal Band has written, such as 'Not Gonna Worry' and 'Hide Thou Me,'" Campbell adds. "Then, there are some old gospel songs such as 'Just a Little Talk with Jesus,' and some of the newer stuff as well and some of the old-time gospel stuff."

Lexington Avenue Quartet has released two recordings, one in 2000 and one in 2002. The latest recording was titled "Grace." Campbell says the ensemble is talking about releasing a third recording.

Johnson says he's stayed with the group "due to my service to the Lord."

"I want to give back something to Him. ... I always tell the guys He's allowed us to sing and encourage people and show them that God can change people. We ain't all been where we are now," Johnson says.

He adds one of First Baptist Church Male Chorus' songs "says it plainly."

"It's called 'It's In My Heart.' As long as I can sing for the Lord, I'll be singing."

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