Aug. 02--CHESAPEAKE -- Over the next two weekends, Deep Creek will be the epicenter of musical testimonies and faith-based harmonies.
On Sunday, Deep Creek Baptist Church will be the site of a concert featuring gospel superstar Ivan Parker.
At the same venue, Aug. 8 and 9, the Virginia Annual Gospel Singing Convention will bring professional and amateur groups from across the region and neighboring states for a traditional gospel homecoming.
But first the tone will be set when the Nashville-based singer Parker takes the stage at 6:30 p.m.Aug. 3. Concert producer and convention organizer Ken Channell said Parker always packs them in.
"Oh, he's still the number one guy," said Channell. "They don't call him 'The Voice' for nothing. He always draws crowds when he performs. He has a solid following here in Chesapeake and the area."
The Sanford, N.C., native is the son of a Pentecostal minister who began his professional singing career as a member of the Singing Americans and, later, Gold City.
Parker turned solo in 1994 and has been heating up the Southern gospel record charts ever since. He's released 17 solo recordings including 2011's "JoyRide" and his latest "Timeless Treasures."
After Parker gets the Southern gospel fans in the mood, the convention on Aug. 8 and 9 will continue the tone and testimony with performances from duos to full choirs, all with a traditional feel.
"It's all pure Southern gospel harmonies," Channell explained. "This year we sent information and leaflets about the convention to around 125 churches throughout Hampton Roads, the Peninsula and Western Tidewater, so we're expecting large crowds and good participation. I think we've really alerted the region's church community."
The Friday (Aug. 8) performances from 7 until 10 p.m. traditionally feature invited professional and amateur groups, Channell explained.
This year's showcase acts are the Dumplin Valley Trio from Tennessee, the Master's Hand Quartet from the Suffolk/Smithfield area, the Steadfast Quartet from Windsor, N.C., and the Old Time Gospel Singers from Virginia Beach.
"These are all top groups who've made names for themselves, who have pretty good followings," Channell said. "All have sung at the convention before and all are fan favorites."
Then all day on Aug. 9, the convention is thrown open to any amateur group willing to step up on the Deep Creek Baptist Church's sanctuary stage and sing harmonic witness.
"Groups will come from all over," Channell said. "And every year we don't know how many show up, usually it's about 15 to 25. All anyone has to do is show up, sign up and sing. And just because they're amateur -- they don't do this for a living -- doesn't mean these singers aren't talented."
That night at 7, the convention will feature a Patriotic Hour, Channell said, including the Chesapeake Sheriff's Honor Guard, a trumpeter and solo singer performing "God Bless America." Then an ad-hoc choir made up of singers compiled from the participating groups will perform a set of patriotic anthems and hymns.
"People still love that traditional gospel music," he said of what draws fans to the church-hosted event. "There's the message in the songs, the beautiful harmonies and the many original songs these performers write and sing. "
Eric Feber, 222-5203,firstname.lastname@example.org
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