Wednesday, 22 November 2017

C Columns

Liberty Quartet A ministry in four-part harmony

Members of Liberty Quartet are shown during a performance. Members are, from left: Derek Simonis, baritone; Paul Ellis, lead; Philip Batton, tenor; and Royce Mitchell, bass. The quartet travels frequently, but will be home in the Treasure Valley fora Christmas performance on December 10. (Courtesy photo)

By Gaye Bunderson

Ministry is at the heart of everything Liberty Quartet does. Though the group's members singand entertain, their core purpose is service, and Southern gospel is the means by which they gettheir message across.

Royce Mitchell was one of the group's original founders in 1995. At the time, he served as a music minister at Boise First Church of the Nazarene, then on Liberty Street. When he got the idea to launch a musical group, three other men from the church joined him and Liberty Quartetwas born.

“Those first three original members were 'weekend warriors,'” Mitchell said. “They worked jobs during the week and spent weekends in ministry with the quartet. It wore them out.”

Over the next 22 years, the group would have 14 different members who came and went;  Mitchell stayed with the group the entire time. The current group has three full-time members, and one member who works another job.

Liberty Quartet doesn't put on shows.

“We don't like the word 'show,'” said Mitchell. “We're a ministry.”

They minister in nursing homes, prisons, and other non-traditional venues, reaching out to those who need to hear the word of God and to know they're unconditionally loved by the Creator.

“There's a base (of supporters) that gives to the ministry every month, making it possible for us to sing in places like nursing homes,” he said.

They have performed for as few as four people and for as many as 25,000 during a San Antonio faith-based conference.

They are a non-demoninational group. Other members include:

• Paul Ellis is a nine-year member of Liberty. As a pastor's kid, he sat next to his mother and listened to her alto voice sing songs of worship. He started traveling and singing with groups inhis teens. He is Liberty's lead singer.

• Derek Simonis is Liberty's newest member, having recently moved here from Illinois. He started singing gospel music at an early age, being influenced by his mother, a pianist and music teacher. He is a baritone.

• Philip Bratton is a six-year member of Liberty. He was raised in a minister's home with a music-loving family. His parents sang, his father wrote music, and Bratton and his seven siblings performed together when Bratton was only 5. He is a tenor.

Mitchell also started singing at an early age, performing at 13 with a group called The Gospel Four. He began singing in church at age 6. Though he now sings bass, he joked, “I was a tenor back then.”

Members go through an extensive audition process before being accepted into Liberty.

“We get a feel for their spirit, as well as their voice,” Mitchell said.

The men climb into an Eagle Entertainment Coach and take to the road for their music and ministry commitments.

“It's like a family,” Mitchell said.

Liberty music is featured regularly at www.AbundantRadio.com; the group's CDs are for saleat www.LibertyQuartet.com; and there is an office with a staff at 55 SW 5th Ave., Ste. 100, in Meridian. Despite all that formality, Liberty is still a faith-based group that relies on God first and foremost.

“It's exciting. I wouldn't change it. The Lord is providing,” Mitchell said.

There have been occasions of miraculous provision, including “thousands of dollars to keep the ministry going,” said the co-founder.

Liberty Quartet is one of two full-time Southern gospel quartets in the West; the other is Keepers of the Faith, based in Spokane. Southern gospel is a genre of Christian music sometimes known as “quartet music.” Mitchell said, “It's evolving. ... It's traditional, and it's contemporary.”

It can “hit a bunch of styles,” he said, including swing, country, and barbershop quartet — “there's nothing quite like four-part harmony.”

Liberty has its own recorded instrumental music it uses for performances, or the men sometimes perform a cappella. For CDs, Liberty performs vocals in Boise at The Mix House. Instrumentals are done in different parts of the country, such as Tennessee and Georgia, and songs are written for the group by people from all over the country as well. Sometimes one person will write the lyrics, while another writes the music. All the moving parts are then brought together for the CDs and performances.

Liberty has performed with the Gaither Vocal Band, among others — something the men all enjoy.

“It's so much fun to share ministry with other groups, to see their talent, to see how God is working through them,” Mitchell said.

The group often performs at church services.

“We are ministers,” he said. “Sometimes we're there to minister to the staff of the church, including the pastor. We all need encouragement. Fellowship is part of worship.

“Some people think if you're working for the Lord, you shouldn't experience burnout. (I find that) if you do experience it, you're doing something wrong, something for 'self' and relying on yourself too much rather than on the Lord,” Mitchell said.

He explained that when he hits the wall, he looks inward.

“I ask, 'What am I doing wrong?' The Lord has shown me where I've gone off-track. Those have been some powerful moments.”

Liberty Quartet's schedule can sometimes be exhausting, driving through the night to get to ministry performances, where people are waiting to hear them — often many people.

“It's a big responsibility,” Mitchell said. “We're on the road 200 days a year.”

The singer-ministers have witnessed some amazing acts of God. Many people have come to the Lord through their work, while others have had their faith renewed.

“One gal...her son had just committed suicide, and she was driving to identity his body. She was ready to give up on the Lord. She had one of our CDs playing in the car, and she heard the song 'Thank You Now.' She knew the Lord still cared.”

All the lyrics to every Liberty Quartet song can be found on the website, including “Thank You Now,” which includes the verse: “Lord, so many times you've proved just how good you are to me.”

Six of the current or past 14 members of Liberty Quartet are military veterans. Though many former members have moved on from Liberty, none have moved on from ministry. Three are  concert artists, while others serve as music ministers at their churches. But they are all — everyone — still involved in ministry in some way.

Liberty Quartet will hold a Christmas concert, called “The Wonder of Christmas,” beginning at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, December 10, at Valley Shepherd Church of the Nazarene at 150 W. Maestra St. in Meridian. For more information, go to http://www.libertyquartet.com/the-wonder-of-christmas.

The group already has a full 2018 schedule, which can be viewed at http://www.libertyquartet.com/events.

Christian Living Magazine

Email:

boisechristianliving@gmail.com

Phone: 208-703-7860