Whittle: Gospel singing reflects heritage

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What's old and faded away, but sounds like it's making a "come back?"

Murfreesboro Missionary Baptist Church Minister of Music Key Dillard and Rutherford County gospel music promoter Dwight Faircloth are praying there'll be a multitude of gospel "hymnal vocalists singing on key" come Saturday night, (6 p.m.) March 8, at their home church at 316 Fortress Road.

Billed as an old-fashioned "Red Book Hymnal Singing," song leader Dillard described it as "church music the way the songs were written and sung back in the 1800s and early part of last century, especially in the South."

"We're conducting, in the name of the Lord, an 'old time gospel music revival, singing directly from the hymnal," recorded Faircloth. "We're expecting singers, song writers and pianists from throughout the Southeast … so yes, shaped note music and learning to sing those old standards are making a comeback."

"Bearing that in mind, folks might want to get to our church house early before the music is slated to begin at 6 p.m.," Faircloth forecast. "There is no admission charge."

How did Key Dillard's mother know to name a son 'Key' who would ultimately become a Baptist church song leader?
"I've been asked that before, but actually, I'm named 'Key' after Grandfather Franklin Key Dillard," the song stylist noted.

The minister of music's stated mission: "It's to bless our own congregation and area residents, plus encourage modern-day church attendees to join in when it's time for regular Sunday morning congregational singing."
Faircloth shared current history of old church-style gospel singing: "This movement, holding a 'Red Book Hymnal Sing,' started five years ago down in Georgia, it's spread now to Alabama and Tennessee, and going on over into the Carolinas."

"Some of the best church song leaders from throughout Middle Tennessee, including ministers of music from the Auburntown/Watertown/Alexandria/Liberty/Gassaway areas, will be here, plus we'll have multiple pianists, who will rotate as we go through the lineup of songs," Faircloth forecast.

"Our own church pianist, Shirley Dillard, can make those piano keys smoke as her husband (Key) leads singing at our regular church services," Faircloth added. "And Key is one of the most anointed song leaders I've known personally … Key and wife Shirley live the music they sing for God."

About those old standards … "We're talking songs like 'Amazing Grace' and 'I'll Meet You In The Morning' as written by Missouri legendary native (the late) Albert Brumley and made world famous by the fabulous Chuck Wagon Gang," Dillard added.

Dillard and Murfreesboro Missionary Baptist Church are also set to host the "Tennessee State Singing Convention" Sept. 12/13.

"That convention is expected to draw hundreds of church musicians to Rutherford County," added Faircloth.

"Not many today realize the heritage in gospel music that Middle Tennessee and Rutherford County has," Dillard traced back in time. "The last time the Tennessee State Singing Convention was held in Murfreesboro was 1957, but it was held here often back in the 1930s, including '36, '37 and '39, for example."
Musicians and others needing more information can call Key Dillard at 969-2708.

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Dan Whittle
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