Sunday, 12 March 2017
During April we're going to be featured on a new three part BBC TV series called 'Wayfaring Strangers', based on the book of the same title. We were filmed talking about the gospel music connections between Ulster, Scotland and America, and playing the hymn Shall We Gather At The River at the People's Hall in Portavogie. Its words and tune were written by Robert Lowry, whose parents were County Down people.
We plan to be back in Scotland again in November, and various dates are pencilled in for the Autumn already. Stay in touch with us via Facebook!
Thursday, 12 February 2015
We are going to be on tv in this series - we don't know for how long, or how it will come across, but we hope it's okay!
We turn down a lot of tv enquiries, there are many Ulster-Scots programmes being made these days but most of them don't really suit what we do or where we believe we should be doing. And we're not chasing publicity either, we are as happy in a small congregation (as Jesus said in Matthew 18v20 "where two or three are gathered together" ) as we are in front of a big audience. But it was nice to be asked to be involved in a programme about hymn singing, so we were happy to accept the offer. Hopefully it'll work ok! Thanks to Julie and Gillian for their help.
Our mission hall world is often unfamiliar to folk today - but on the other hand a lot of people remember growing up with the old hymns and the wee halls and tent meetings before television wiped out our social lives and spiritual priorities.
Singing together as a communal shared experience is completely different from today's 'talent show' culture which is all about being impressed by the performer - a culture which has crept into many churches.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" - Colossians 3v16
Here are some photos of our uncle John Thompson at the People's Hall in Portavogie - with grand-neice visiting. Simple faith in the merits of Jesus Christ for sinners - offered freely to "whosoever believeth in Him".
Friday, 15 August 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.
Wednesday, 13 August 2014
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
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
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
'... 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
'... 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
... 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
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.