The rich tradition of southern gospel music visited central Illinois recently when singer Guy Penrod appeared in concert at Calvary Baptist Church in Normal, IL.
The show was organized by GospelFest Ministries of Metamora, IL. Formed in spring 2009 by Shawn and Anne Degenhart , GospelFest seeks “to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ through music” via gospel music education, music publishing, a weekly radio show which is syndicated to over 130 stations around the world, and gospel music events such as their yearly Summertime GospelFest show and the Penrod concert.
A Celebrated Career
Penrod has been performing for decades. In the early ‘90s he was a successful session singer in Nashville where he provided background vocals for other artists in the recording studio and during live shows.
“I got to sing behind some of the great legends of country music who I grew up listening to, as well as backing new artists like Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain at a point when their careers were just launching,” Penrod says of his early career.
The artist, who has performed all over the world, is probably best known for the fourteen years he spent as the lead singer of the Gaither Vocal Band, where his strong voice and wide range helped bring the contemporary Christian and southern gospel band success in releasing popular albums. Penrod left the band in 2008 to pursue his solo career, and shortly thereafter released Breathe Deep, an album whose overall feel remained true to his Christian roots but that presented a greater focus on the sound of country music. He also hosts the Gospel Music Showcase program on the Daystar Television Network.
Shawn Degenhart, Board of Directors President for GospelFest, says their main goal in organizing the show was to “provide central Illinois with some great gospel music.”
Degenhart, who’s also an instructor at Ben Speer’s Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville, TN, believes that planning ahead is the most important part of coordinating an affair of this scope. They promoted the concert through a 1,000 piece postcard mailing, radio announcements and interviews, Facebook and e-mail blasts.
Penrod puts his heart and soul into every show, and Degenhart says he gave his all at their event as well, providing a night to remember for an appreciative crowd.
“[It was a] wonderful concert,” Degenhart recalls. “He sang for two straight hours with no intermission.”