Gospel Music Celebration (Red Deer, AB)

The Gospel Music Celebration in Red Deer Alberta is a weekend of wall-to-wall music. If you enjoy the various flavours of gospel music, it’s definitely the place to be in western Canada each early July (this year July 7-9).

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s Celebration.

The Pilkey Sisters
These ladies from our part of the world (Abbotsford, B.C.) know how to harmonize! We first heard them (and loved them) at the 2015/16 New Year’s Eve concert in Chilliwack.  On Friday night they didn’t disappoint. They recently released a CD!


The Pilkey Sisters (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

The Freedom Singers with their rich voices and incredible story of escape via shipping container from persecution in Romania are also sort of local (Kelowna, B.C.). I recently read Simon Ivascu’s story, The Price of Freedom. Gripping! (My review is HERE.)


Freedom Singers (Stefan [L] and Simon Ivascu  [R]. Simon survived a sea crossing to Canada via container.) (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Southern Raised are four siblings, classically trained musicians from Branson, Mossouri. They play their collection of instruments (bass, banjo, mandolin, violin, and guitar) with energy, skill, and joy. I loved their get-up. They reminded me of a troupe of roving troubadours.


Southern Raised (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)



Individual members of Southern Raised (Photos © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)


The Jim Brady Trio (Springhill Tennessee) was a new group to me, though I’ve heard Jim before when he sang with the Booth Brothers. The first night the guys came on stage wearing hockey jerseys. Apparently their luggage never arrived with them and so they picked up concert wear at one of the local sports shops.

They’re a group with a warm stage presence and a great sound. I enjoyed them a lot at the Friday morning chapel. There Mrs. Jim (Melissa) told a touching story about how her grandma came to Jesus after years and years of holding out. Love those personal touches!


The Jim Brady Trio (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

In fact, the Friday and Saturday morning chapels (where a time of audience singing and worship is followed by a mini-concert from one of the groups and then a message from Chilliwack Pastor Leon Throness) were two of my favourite segments of the weekend.

These chapels add a practical spiritual challenge and grounding to the fun musical weekend.

The Triumphant Quartet (Pigeon Forge, Georgia) were our chapel singers on Saturday morning.


Triumphant Quartet at Chapel (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

The Ball Brothers (Chickamauga, Georgia) are another favourite group of mine. They do such great harmony and can they ever rock it a-capella!


The Ball Brothers (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Hernie Haas & Signature Sound (Stow, Ohio) are a lot of fun to listen to and even more fun to watch—but impossible to photograph. They never stand still. But I tried anyway!



Ernie Haas & Signature Sound (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Another lovely group is Double Portion (the Hemmerling family) from North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Not only do they sound great but they’re so cute! And there are lots of them. Though this photo is full, we’re still missing the young man on the drums.


Double Portion (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Speaking of families (Southern Gospel is sure full of them!), we were privileged to have one of Southern Gospel’s classics—The Hoppers (Madison, North Carolina). After hearing about Connie’s recent battle with cancer and Claude’s stroke, it’s really a miracle they could all be here and seemingly in great shape!


The Hoppers (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

There were many other wonderful groups too, but I’ll stop there.

I love it when on the last concert night, things loosen up and the stage action gets casual and cooperative. In these shots, members of various groups were joining in on the stage action.



It seems like everyone just gets comfortable with each other –and it’s time to go. (Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly)

Altogether, it was a wonderful weekend. We left feeling uplifted—and singing!



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