Residents of Chester Court and surrounding seniors’ homes gathered by the riverbank on Sunday afternoon for a concert that is fast becoming an annual tradition.
© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Down Home Country Gospel perform by the riverbank outside Chester Court on Sunday afternoon. From left to right: Jim Neufeld (bass), Art Kun (guitar), Lloyd Glass (banjo) and Robert Bannerman (guitar).
For the last five years, local band Down Home Country Gospel have performed an outdoor concert by the river each summer, entertaining area residents with their unique blend of country and gospel music.
“It’s one of our ways of bringing recreation to our residents that live here,” Chester Court tenant’s association president Iris Morris said.
Retired president Mildred Skiftun added, “We have three senior homes here … and they’re all over here listening to the music, because they don’t get a chance to listen to the good gospel music very much -- unless you go to a concert or something.”
The annual Down Home Country Gospel performance originated five years ago during a conversation between the band’s banjo player Lloyd Glass, his wife Bev and her sister Skiftun.
“We were just talking one night and I said, ‘Gee, it would be fun if we would have a concert out in the open one summer,’” Skiftun recalled.
“Lloyd, he thought ‘Hey, I’ll bring that to the band.’ So he brought it to his band and they said, ‘Sure, you say the day’ and we did and we started right out here.
“This is where it started and it started small, and now you can see how it’s grown really a lot.”
More than a hundred residents, mostly seniors, attended Sunday’s riverside concert. Band and audience gathered beneath the cool shade of some overhanging trees for the performance, while many nearby residents watched from their balconies.
The musicians -- which include Glass, bassist Jim Neufeld and guitar players Art Kun and Robert Bannerman – fully displayed their smooth harmonies and humorous between-song banter during the performance.
For Glass, the appeal of performing gospel music went beyond mere entertainment.
“Gospel music provides the gospel message, which is that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of mankind, he was buried, in three days he rose from the grave, and that’s what our message focuses on from beginning to end,” he said.
Gospel music provides the gospel message. Lloyd Glass
Since the formation of Down Home Country Gospel eight years ago, the group has variously performed at Sunday morning church services -- filling in when pastors get called away on short notice -- and special events such as gospel jamborees.
The band’s chosen genre is an ideal fit for its audience at the riverbank concerts, according to Skiftun.
“I think pretty well everybody here loves gospel,” she said. “When you get older, you usually like the old gospel music more than you do the loud music.”
During the concert, the group occasionally paused to take an offering and to say prayers.
Taking a break between songs, Glass spoke about the ways in which the presence of God manifests itself, extending even as far as the longevity of his own band.
“At the time, the band came together, none of us was aware of each other being in position to join a band or even thinking about it,” he said. “But God brought us together and this band has never had one word of argument or discrepancy in eight years.”
“Most bands, something goes wrong after two or three years,” he added. “I don’t know what you guys feel,” he said, turning to his fellow musicians, “but really, we’ve been in harmony for eight years.”
“And we’re going to outdo the Stones,” Kun chimed in, drawing an appreciative laugh from the group. “If we live that long,” he joked.
Despite the light-hearted nature of the exchange, Glass’s response was a reflective one.
“Whatever God’s will is,” he mused. “That’s how long it’ll be.”