It wasn't a church service but rather "Gospel Brunch" on the deck of
The new Sunday afternoon series is the creation of M'Lynn Hartwell and
"My son was in
The music was a long time in coming for Hall. He moved to the area in 2002 to play the
"It's rare in northern
The naturally gifted keyboardist discovered his talent in an unconventional way and took only a year of lessons.
"At 6 years old I had a dream that I could play," he said. "We had a piano in our house and so I woke up from a dream and tried to play what I heard in my dream. And I could play!"
He started performing in bands in the 1980s, eventually touring with an R&B dance band. But something "wasn't right," Hall said. He quit the band and moved to
At the same time, he started reading his Bible.
"One night, to stay awake, I was reading my Bible and this janitor came by mopping the floor," Hall recalled. "He said, 'That's a good book you're reading,' and he invited me to a church. 'They don't have a keyboardist, they have a drummer,' he said."
After a month of invitations, Hall finally gave in. As he reached the church that day, he heard music like he'd never heard it before.
"They just had a drummer but the congregation was so loud it sounded like every instrument was being played. That was the first time I encountered that," he said. "I looked up on the pulpit and there was that janitor. He said, 'I'd like to thank my friend
The drummer gave Hall the "come on over" nod and Hall found himself rising to play for the service.
"They had the same exact keyboard setup I'd had in a band," he said. "And that's when I started playing gospel. I was raised up in gospel but I couldn't play until then."
Now Hall is music director and associate pastor at
Joining him are vocalist Renne Herman, choir director at
Murphy, a drummer and keyboardist who plays locally with Berle and
"This is the core group but we would welcome a chorus," said
The series began
"So far we've gotten a ton of compliments,"
"This is great," said Anton, owner-chef at Trattoria Stella. "We were going to the splash pad and the beach and Annika said, 'I want to go listen to the music.'"
It was a special afternoon for
"I think it's so cool," said Sutherland, whose grill-master will cook up barbecued ribs, grits and eggs, and other Southern brunch-style fare for the event. "It feels like that event, that music and the energy and the people that were there, is why the city built
"It's about community, a place where families and friends can come and get together," he said.
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