Friday, 15 August 2014

NIGMA Traditional Group of the Year 2014

We are astounded and delighted that the public voted for us and we won this category in last night's inaugural NIGMA awards ceremony, as part of the annual GospelFest event. Amazing! Just shows what can be done with two voices, a mandolin, guitar and a clatter of old old songs and hymns and the stories about them - and a message that is greater than anything ever heard.

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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

No more enquiries for 2014 please!

We're really pleased so many people enjoy what we do, but we've decided to take on no more bookings until 2015. At the moment we're getting phone calls every week from people who want us to play at events during the Autumn, but we're going to turn every one of them down. Meanwhile you can stay in touch with us via our Facebook page, come and see us at any of the events we're playing at for the rest of the year - and also enjoy the brilliant video below from Alastair Begg, a man who is definitely on our wavelength!

Monday, 30 December 2013

What a year

2013 is over, and what a year it was for us! We now use our Facebook page for general updates, so there's not been much activity here on the blog for a few months.

We did 32 dates in 2013, and while we enjoyed all of them, the ones which really stand out for us are going over to Whitby in Yorkshire with Sam Purdy, playing at Glenmachan for the Male Voice Choirs evening which was compered by Paul Clark of UTV, two visits to Castlereagh Presbyterian Church and all of the places we played at for the first time - like Lurgan Baptist Church, 2nd Randalstown Presbyterian and the Game Fair at Shane's Castle - as well as the old favourites like Donaghadee Methodist Church and the Broadisland Gathering, and Kirkistown Orange Hall just down the road from us. It has been exciting to play on big stages, to get a wee bit of radio coverage, but heart-warming to be among friends in the wee small places too.

We trust you enjoyed your year, and that 2014 will be full of new challenges and opportunities, and hopefully - finally - some re-arranged recording to put down all of the new songs we've been road-testing this year.

The stage at Glenmachan:

The stage at Whitby Pavilion:

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Broadisland Gathering - Saturday 7th September, Ballycarry

We are delighted to have been asked to play at this year's Broadisland Gathering. We were part of the Festival back in 2011, when we took part in the opening concert at the Presbyterian Church a few days before the Gathering. We had been due to play at last year's event but weren't able to make it, so we're really looking forward to going back. We'll be playing for about 45 minutes some time between 1.15pm and 2.45pm at the Community Centre or else in the 'Language Tent'. Come and say hello!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sankey in Scotland, 1873


'... There is a fascinating power in the singing of a hymn which can do God's work in a soul when every other instrumentality has failed. There was not always so much freedom in this respect in the days of our grandfathers. The opposition to hymn singing was widespread throughout Scotland, and Sankey tells how, when he commenced singing a solo in the Free Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, during the great mission there in 1873, a woman's shrill voice was heard in the gallery, as she made her way toward the door, crying: "Let me oot! Let me oot! What would John Knox say to the like o' yon?"

In his delightfully written life story, where he relates his varied experience during his first campaign amongst the good Scottish folks, Sankey does not hide the fact that he was not a little perturbed regarding the question of solo singing, as its propriety and usefulness was not yet fully understood or admitted.

As he took his seat at the instrument at one of the first meetings held in Edinburgh, Sankey discovered to his surprise that Dr. Horatius Bonar was seated close by the organ, right in front of the pulpit. "Of all men in Scotland," says Sankey, "he was the one man concerning whose decision I was most solicitous. He was, indeed, my ideal hymn-writer, the prince among hymnists of his day and generation. And yet he would not sing one of his own beautiful hymns in his own congregation, such as "I heard the voice of Jesus Say" or "I was a wandering sheep", because he ministered to a church that believed in the singing of Psalms only. With fear and trembling, therefore, I announced as a solo the hymn "Free from the law, O happy condition".

No prayer having been offered for this part of the service, and fearful lest the singing might prove only an entertainment, instead of spiritual blessing, Sankey requested that the whole congregation should join him in a word of prayer asking God's blessing on the truth about to be sung. It was a time of tense solemnity, but the anxiety of the moment was relieved, and believing and rejoicing in the glorious truth contained in the hymn, he sang it through to the end, amid a reverent silence never before experienced.

At the close of Mr. Moody's address, Dr. Bonar turned toward the American singer with a smile on his venerable face, and reaching out his hand, he said : " Well, Mr. Sankey, you sang the Gospel to-night." Thus the way was wonderfully opened up for the mission of sacred song in Scotland, a particular sphere of ministry in which so much has been accomplished since that memorable hour ...'

- from The Romance of Sacred Song by David J Beattie

You can read about the Moody & Sankey campaign in Britain in this 1875 book

Monday, 12 August 2013

Harry Ironside's advice to gospel singers, and 'My Ain Countrie'

'... Ira D. Sankey I heard twice only. He was not with Mr. Moody at the meetings I have referred to, but he visited Oakland and San, Francisco in 1897, and I heard him in both cities. I shall never forget how he moved a great audience gathered to hear Henry Varley, as he sang, for the first time on the Pacific Coast, "Saved by grace." Other hymns that he brought out with him, that were new in those days, were, "There'll be no dark valley when Jesus comes," and, "Let the blessed sunshine in."

And, of course, he sang, "There were Ninety and Nine," as only he could sing it. I have never heard anyone else who seemed to put into it what he did, and who made it so appealing and impressive. In each meeting he sang by special request, "My Ain Countree," and told how he found it and how he came to use it. Since I myself am of Scotch extraction, I think I enjoyed this most of all.

One trouble with many modern gospel soloists is, there is too little gospel and too much solo. The tendency is to perform instead of endeavoring to give a spiritual message. If either preacher or singer is more concerned about drawing attention to himself than exalting Christ and reaching the consciences of his hearers, he fails utterly in his service ...'

- from this website.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Summer is here!

... and as usual we are taking time off to be with our families and to relax a bit. We are hoping to finally get some recording done so will keep you posted when there's something for you to listen. The plan is to record a load of songs and hymns live in the studio and to make them available FREE of charge as downloads.

We'll be playing in Killinchy in mid-August and then have a very busy Autumn lined up, including a run across to Yorkshire to take part in the annual Whitby Gospel Music Convention 'Winter Warmer' on Saturday 9th November. We're delighted to have been asked and are really looking forward to being there!


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Castlereagh Presbyterian Church - with Kenny Archer & The Colorado Band

As you'll see from the poster below, next Saturday night looks like it's going to be great crack! We're delighted to have been asked to share the evening with Kenny and The Colorado Band. Ticket information is below, and includes supper. The church hall is opposite the historic Castlereagh Presbyterian Church, set up in the hills with a superb view overlooking Belfast.



Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cairnalbanagh cancelled tomorrow night

The event we were to play at tomorrow night in Cairnalbanagh Presbyterian Church has now been cancelled. Most of you will have seen the news coverage of the terrible snow conditions in that part of County Antrim. The church had widely advertised the event in their area, and we are all disappointed that it has been cancelled. Please pass this on to anyone you know know who may have been planning to attend.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

People's Hall, Portavogie

We are pleased to have been asked back by David Boyd to help out at this year's Portavogie Bible Week, which is on from 8th - 12th April at 8pm nightly. David has done a good job with the posters and publicity and we'll scan a few and post them here soon. John has put in a tremendous amount of effort to distribute thousands of invitations around the district and we are more than happy to be able to assist on two of the nights. (Click the images to enlarge)