Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas

Christmastime GospelFest was last week and it was a huge success! So thankful for a wonderful evening. It was also our first night offering our new "GospelFest Goodies" Christmas cookbook. Full of favorite Christmas treats from the GospelFest Singers, it also includes recipes from some of southern gospel's top personalities, including Wes Hampton from the Gaither Vocal Band, Doug Anderson from Signature Sound, members of the Speer Family, Rodney Griffin from Greater Vision and Judy Nelon. This cookbook is available for $5 (plus $2 shipping) through our PayPal account (shawn@gospelfestministries.com). It will soon be available on the webstore as well.

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Letter from Listener

I received a letter in the mail from a 34 year old gentleman that listens to "The GospelFest Hour" in Indiana. He'd been raised in a Christian home and thought he had everybody "fooled," until he landed in prison in 2003. He has 2 more years to go until he's released, but since his incarceration, he's totally given his life over to the Lord. He wanted to let me know what an encouragement "The GospelFest Hour" has been to him. He has to stand on his bed and hold up his headphones near the window to get good reception. He said it's a bit awkward, but worth it. After his release in 2 years, he knows it'll be a rough road, but is excited that God is now in control of his life and looks forward to what He'll do in his life.

What an encouragement that letter was to me! To know that the program is ministering to at least one person is such a blessing to me. That is why we do what we do: to encourage folks and to exalt the name of the Lord!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Christmastime Tickets

Christmastime GospelFest 2009 is quickly approaching! This year's concert will be Friday, December 11th at the Caterpillar Performing Arts Center at Five Points Washington in Washington, IL. Concert begins at 7:00pm.

Tickets for this year's Christmastime GospelFest will soon be available! Group sales begin Monday, October 19 and regular ticket sales begin Monday, November 2. Group rates are as follows: 15-24 tickets are $12 each; 25 or more are $10 each. Regular tickets are $15 advance and $18 at the door. Children age 5 to 12 are $7; and 4 and under are free!

Consider bringing a group (Sunday school class, office staff, etc.) for this unforgettable Branson-style evening of Christmas music. Tickets will be available by calling the ministry office at 309.472.0027, at the Five Points Washington front desk. You can send in a check made out to "GospelFest Ministries" to 1336 Honeysuckle Ln., Metamora, IL 61548. Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Christmastime GospelFest 09

Preparations are officially underway for our 5th annual "Christmastime GospelFest." This holiday favorite will be held December 11th at the Five Points Washington community center in Washington, IL. Tickets will go on sale Monday, November 2, so put the date on your calendar. We've lots of exciting things planned for this year's event, so stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stamps-Baxter Wrap-Up

Well, as always, the two weeks just flew by. Had a great time with friends both old and new in Murfreesboro this year. A highlight was having Tom Powell back to direct the group singing sessions. Tom is Rosa Nell Speer Powell's son and the oldest grandson of G. T. "Dad" Speer. Singing many of those Speer Family classics with Tom directing is like a little taste of heaven. 

Several groups came to give concerts to the student body, including the Perrys, Mike & Kelly Bowling, Priority Quartet (formerly the Mike LeFevre Quartet), Chuck Wagon Gang, Stephen Hill and Greater Vision. I had never heard the Perrys or Greater Vision live before, so that was an extra special treat.

My class consisted of mostly 16 and 17 year olds that had a basic knowledge of music theory. We took that and built upon it, reviewing scales, intervals and key signatures and by the end of the two weeks, we were working on 4-part writing. They were a great group of kids and were eager to learn all they could.

Performance Training with Allison Durham Speer was always a treat--she is an excellent communicator and knows how to get the most out of a singer. Looking forward again to working on her "Elijah Conference" this fall.

Perhaps the best times are the "off-hours" times after we've finished for the day. It wasn't uncommon to find a group of us at Steak-n-Shake or Sonic around 11:00pm after the concerts were over. Hearing Ben Speer tell stories and jokes from his experiences on the road is priceless!

Allison Speer asked me to help her plan out the closing program and we had a lot of fun doing that. We recognized Harold Lane, former member of the Speer Family, who is being inducted into the SGMA Hall of Fame this fall, by playing a recording of his song "I'm Standing on the Solid Rock." Tom Powell had decided to close the concert with Dad Speer's incomparable "He is Mine and I Am His," which always moves me to tears. Prior to that song, we decided to incorporate some audio of Dad Speer giving his testimony at the National Quartet Convention in 1958--the year he received a special certificate honoring 50 years in gospel music. It worked beautifully with the hymn and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. As a special ending, Ben, Faye, Mary Tom and Rosa Nell concluded the program with "Didn't It Rain," always a crowd pleaser.

All 3 of my girls were excited for me to be home and I was very glad to see them--a short two weeks for me wasn't quite as short for Anne, who is a single mom for these two weeks. I so appreciate her willingness to let me go and do this every year!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stamps-Baxter Update 1

It's been a great 3 days so far. The school's schedule is always full and tiring, but so worth it! Tuesday night we were treated to a concert from the Perrys...fantastic! They are doing everything right and it was great to hear them live. I've heard them at NQC, but never at a full concert. Last night was Mike & Kelly Bowling--another great concert!

My class is going very well. I've got 11 students, mostly sophomores & juniors in high school and they seem eager to learn. They can all read music and know their scales & chords, but we're focusing on getting them to a place where they don't need to think about what a ii7 chord in the key of Ab is...any takers? One of my students actually ENJOYS the ear-training exercises...writing out a melody after hearing it, identifying chords by listening to them. I hated that part of my collegiate experience.

Group singing has been phenomenal. With Tom Powell back, Tracey is playing better than ever and we're not only doing some new songs, but we're also working on some old favorites, including many Dad Speer songs like "He is Mine and I Am His" and "When I Kneel to Pray." A glorious experience each time...I struggle with wanting to sing and wanting to sit out and just listen...but I choose to sing. This music is definitely participatory in nature and I think you can enjoy it more fully when you're totally engaged in it.

Two more days, then we can sleep in! Looking forward to that!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stamps-Baxter School of Music

After a great vacation in northern Wisconsin last week, I arrived in Murfreesboro Saturday to get ready for Ben Speer's Stamps-Baxter School of Music. Registration began Sunday and it was great seeing old friends--many of whom are like family after so many years.

This morning I received my class roster--11 students--and we had a great first day focusing on intervals and scales...and of course shape notes!

Tom Powell has returned this year to head up the academics as well as lead group singing. It was wonderful having him back at the podium. If you've never sat in or heard a large group singing these wonderful convention songs, you're missing out! Many students and staff will be posting updates, so be sure to keep your eye out.

Tomorrow is another busy day that will culminate with a concert by the Perrys in the evening!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Come and Gone

The 11th Annual Summertime GospelFest was this past weekend...what fun! Although it was a smaller than usual crowd (probably around 500 people), we had a wonderful evening celebrating God's goodness and looking forward to heaven! The choir sounded great as did the GospelFest Singers. We also got several inquiries to come and sing at other churches in the area which is very exciting.

Now looking forward to a week's vacation in Wisconsin before heading south for my 6th year teaching at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music! I teach music theory, sight-singing and ear-training and am one of 1o different levels. A great time to connect with other folks who eat, sleep and breathe southern gospel music like I do. (www.stampsbaxterschool.com)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

GospelFest Hour now International!

We've been so blessed by the stations deciding to air the "GospelFest Hour" and have some great news...in addition to stations in 25 states airing the program, there are now 3 in Canada and 1 in Zambia, Africa! It's just amazing to think that God's word is being shared in this program not only in the United States, but on the "other side of the pond" as well. God is so good!

For a complete station listing, visit www.gospelfestministries.com/ministries/radio.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Eva Mae LeFevre

We lost one of the true pioneers of southern gospel music recently...Eva Mae LeFevre went home to be with the Lord on May 18, 2009, at the age of 91. She had been in failing health this past year and had been in and out of the hospital and nursing home.

I met Eva Mae in September 1997 during my first visit to the National Quartet Convention. She was one of the first "celebrities" I'd met and I spoke with her for a few minutes. What a funny lady! One thing I most remember was her signature laugh. A few days after returning from the NQC, I was working on a paper in college on southern gospel music and thought I'd try calling my new friend and seeing about doing an interview. I left a message on the phone number I found, and didn't expect to hear back. How surprised I was to return home the next day and hear that "some woman named Eva Mae had called!" I called back and we talked for probably a half-hour about her involvement in southern gospel music. She was so generous and encouraging...that conversation is something I'll always treasure.

Eva Mae began playing piano and singing at a very young age (as most pastor's daughters of that day did!). She was only 8 when she met her future husband, Urias LeFevre, and his brother, Alphus. Urias & Eva Mae were married when Eva Mae was 16, and thus began the LeFevre Trio. She was known for her great alto voice and her fantastic piano playing. Just listening to a few measures, you'd know it was her playing the piano.

Rex Nelon was an important part of the LeFevres as their bass singer. After Urias & Alphus retired in the mid 1970's, the group became the Rex Nelon Singers. After her retirement, Eva Mae continued singing by herself, even up to shortly before her death.

The very first Homecoming video featured Eva Mae on the piano, with many gospel singers calling out song after song. She was a very important part of southern gospel music's history and we are forever grateful.

Thank you, Eva Mae!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mosie Lister

This week's "GospelFest Hour" showcases the songs of the great Mosie Lister! On any given recording, at any given concert, chances are a Mosie Lister song will be heard. Mosie was born in Cochran, GA and became a student of Dad Speer's while studying at the 1939 James D. Vaughan School of Music in Lawrenceburg, TN. He was an original member of the Sunny South Quartet prior to WWII. After returning from the war, he formed the Melody Masters Quartet with Jim "Big Chief" Wetherington, Alvin Tootle, Lee Kitches and Wally Varner. Despite similar last names, he is no relation to the founder of the Statesmen, Hovie Lister. He and Hovie were friends, and Mosie was hired as the original baritone for the Statesmen. Mosie later left the group as a singer, but continued with them as an arranger. 

All the while, Mosie focused on his songwriting. Despite a wide range of styles, all of his songs are Bible-inspired and evangelical in nature. He formed the Mosie Lister Publishing Company in 1953. That company merged with Lillenas publishing in 1969. Today, Mosie continues to write and arrange for Lillenas.

With the recent passing of Eva Mae LeFevre, I'm reminded of a story of one of Mosie's classics. The song "I'm Feelin' Fine" was written as a slow ballad and was offered to the LeFevres to record. They had a different idea for the song and recorded it as an upbeat convention song. At first, Mosie wasn't too sure about this new tempo, but history has proven it to be one of his most popular songs.

It's hard to choose the "best of" from a catalog as vast as Mosie Lister's, but there are songs that always rise to the top. In this week's "GospelFest Hour," we'll hear some of the best, including "How Long Has It Been?," "Goodby, World, Goodby," "Then I Met the Master," "His Hand in Mine," "I'm Feelin' Fine," and "Where No One Stands Alone." 

Please let me know what other writers, singers or groups you'd like to be featured on the "GospelFest Hour." I'd love to hear your ideas! Check out the new website at www.gospelfestministries.com.

Until next time...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

new website

The new GospelFest Ministries website will be launching shortly after Memorial Day! Be sure to check it out: www.gospelfestministries.com, and be sure to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Evening with Fanny Crosby

Tomorrow night, the GospelFest Singers will be presenting "An Evening with Fanny Crosby" at the United Methodist Church in Douglass, IL. We've been doing this program now for several years and it's always popular.

Fanny Crosby is one of America's most prolific hymnwriters, having written over 8,000 hymns during her 95 years on earth. Blind from six weeks of age, she discovered her writing gift during her early teen years. She studied at the New York Institute for the Blind and later became a teacher at the school, along with her husband who was also blind.

Fanny only wrote the texts of her hymns. The melodies were written by many different hymn writers of the day, including William H. Doane, Phoebe Knapp, Robert Lowry and William J. Kirkpatrick. She used many different pseudonyms for her hymns. One reason for this was because at one time, she was the only writer on staff at the Bigelow & Main Publishing Company and her bosses didn't want their competition to know they could only afford one writer!

Our program is a biography of this great hymn writer and talks about her life while weaving in many of her most popular hymns. This was a woman who allowed herself to be used by God, despite her physical handicap, to share His love with others. What an inspiration!

Some of Fanny's more popular hymns include "To God Be The Glory," "He Hideth My Soul," "Redeemed," and of course "Blessed Assurance." If you'd like to have "An Evening with Fanny Crosby" at your church or event, please contact us by visiting our website at www.gospelfestradio.com.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Summertime GospelFest 2009

The 11th annual Summertime GospelFest will be here before you know it! This year, central Illinois' premier southern gospel event will be held Friday, June 26th at 7:00pm at Grace Evangelical Church in Morton, IL. Ticket information will be available soon.

The GospelFest Choir is a volunteer, community-wide choir made up of folks from all over central Illinois. If you'd like to join us in the choir, we'd love to have you! Rehearsals begin Wednesday, April 29th at 7:30pm at Grace Evangelical Church in Morton, IL. Rehearsal CD's and music will be provided...come on out and sing with us! We have a lot of fun!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter

Hope you all had a wonderful Resurrection Day yesterday! Our church had 2 services and by noon we were already tired! The girls had great fun hunting eggs (at 6:00am, before Daddy had to leave for church!)

We're now up to 8 stations airing "Shawn Degenhart's GospelFest Hour," and the first program aired this past weekend. Looking forward to getting feedback from those stations.

Rehearsals for the 11th annual "Summertime GospelFest" will begin Wednesday evening, April 29th, at 7:30 at Grace Church in Morton, IL. All are welcome to join us...please pass the word along if you know someone who'd like to sing in GospelFest this year! Concert is Friday evening, June 26th, at 7:00pm.

Finishing up taxes and now have all the paperwork filed to incorporate "GospelFest Ministries" as its own non-profit entity! Pretty excited about that. Stay tuned for more info...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stations Added

It's been an exciting week around here. After the "first-wave" of promotions for "Shawn Degenhart's GospelFest Hour," there have been 6 stations that have decided to air the show! We're so thankful. Those six stations are in Michigan, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama,  Mississippi and North Carolina. For more complete information about the stations, check out the "News" section on our website, www.gospelfestradio.com. While you're there, you can also sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Dates for this year's 11th annual "Summertime GospelFest" have been announced: June 26th at Grace Evangelical Church in Morton, IL. Choir rehearsals will begin shortly after Easter. E-mail me for more information...we'd love to have you!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 20, 2009


We've gotten a green-light on the revised demo we sent to Westar Media Group! One minor adjustment and we'll be sending the demo to them in the next couple of days. The demo (along with an 8-minute "telescoped" demo) will be sent out to over 1,000 stations across the country! Continue to pray for "Shawn Degenhart's GospelFest Hour."

If you haven't yet signed up for our monthly newsletter, I'd encourage you to do that. Just visit the website and sign up in the little white box. Every month you'll get a newsletter keeping you up-to-date on the radio program, upcoming concerts and other news. The website is www.gospelfestradio.com.

In other news, I'm finishing up a songbook project for Daywind Artists "Brian Free & Assurance." This book will have close to 40 songs, from old favorites to songs that are featured on their brand new album, due out in March.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

GospelFest Radio

Lots happening with Hands of Love! Very soon we will be syndicating "Shawn Degenhart's GospelFest Hour" across the country! Westar Media Group will be shipping demos out to over 1000 radio stations across the country! To support the program, we've developed www.gospelfestradio.com as a source of information for not only the radio program, but also the many concerts, recordings, etc.

You can also check out the GospelFest group on Facebook as well as hear audio clips at www.myspace.com/shawndegenhart.

Christmastime GospelFest with Allison Durham Speer was fantastic and we were very excited to have her join us. There are some pictures up on my Facebook page.

Exciting things happening!