Throughout East Texas are hundreds of gospel music venues where people gather on weekends to hear songs that you’ll hear only in churches.
In recent weeks, Doris and I have sat in pews in places like Lala Hill in southern Angelina County, Chireno in Nacogdoches County, Shelbyville in Shelby County, Athens in Henderson County and other places where the old gospel songs are still cherished with the same appreciation as a good apple pie.
In most of the venues, the sole musical instrument is a piano, but guitars,
fiddles, banjos and a few saxophones are showing up with increasingly frequency, likely because gospel music is attracting new converts like young people..
It’s a welcome trend, too. The gospel songs are getting better.
In the older and traditional country churches, the gospel songs come from the songbooks you’ll find in each pew. Here are a few of the most popular gospel renditions:
• Where could I go but to the Lord.
• Bringing in the Sheaves.
• Revive us again.
• On Higher Ground.
• Heavenly Sunlight.
• Love Lifted Me
• Onward Christian Soldiers.
• Standing on the Promises.
• When the Saints Go Marching In.
• I’ll Fly Away
• I Love to Tell the Story.
There is little formality at a gospel singing. Men show up in overalls and blue jeans, kids come in their play clothes, and women arrive in simple house dresses.
But they all have one thing in common: they love to sing.
At Lala Hill, one of the younger musicians said a teacher offered to give him voice lessions, but he added: “I wanted to hunt coons instead.”
I keep hoping that someone will put together a directory of gospel singings in East Texas so that gospel-lovers will know when and were the singings take place.
Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com