By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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The Peninsula Men's Gospel Singers are for the latter, the former and all of the above.
And in their season opener this Friday, Rivers and his 15 fellow singers, accompanist Penny Hall and sign-language interpreter Karen Coles will be back together again to offer old songs and new.
There's no admission charge, and though the 7 p.m. performance will be at one of Clallam County's well-known worship spaces — Queen of Angels Catholic Church, 209 W. 11th St. — Rivers emphasizes that non-parishioners are more than welcome.
“If you've ever been burned by organized religion, give this group a chance,” he said.
“We're about loving each other, loving God and trying to make good music.”
Friday's event is officially the 10th annual Benefactor's Concert, an appeal to would-be supporters of the nonprofit choir.
But it's also the first full-length public concert following Rivers' return.
A songwriter and guitarist who grew up during the 1960s, Rivers founded the Peninsula Men's Gospel Singers in 2001.
He built the ensemble and led it for a decade; then, he left to develop his own music. Rivers released “My Father's Face,” a CD of original songs, and went on tour with it.
Now he is back, replacing ex-director Lee Moseley, who stepped down last spring.
“The whole focus of my energy this season,” Rivers said, is “to sing a new song.”
Rivers held auditions, went on retreat with the choir in August and mapped out the season, to include Christmas concerts next month in Sequim and Port Angeles, and a February performance at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center.
On Friday night, the singers will offer a set list including a mostly Latin “Tenebrae,” a song Rivers calls “gorgeous and scary-hard.”
Some of the singers looked askance at this, but they've come along.
“We all have a lot of respect for [Rivers],” said Michael Craig, one of the choir's longtime members.
Also in the season's repertoire are “My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord,” “Deep River” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen,” alongside “a few straight-up gospel songs like we've always done,” Rivers promised.
“We try to make this special,” Craig said.
Asking for donations
The concert is a fundraiser, after all, at which choir president Gordon Shipps will explain the choir's financial status and ask for donations.
“Hopefully,” Craig added, “we gain enough help each year from our supporters to continue our mission.”
While the concert is free to all comers, Rivers urges guests to call ahead so that there's plenty of coffee, tea and dessert for everybody.
To RSVP, phone Shipps at 360-457-5374.
More information about the choir is at www.PMGospelSingers.com.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.