Area gospel leader’s performance of new record to be tribute to musician’s father

PORT ANGELES — September was going to be an intense month for former Peninsula Men’s Gospel Singers director Michael Rivers.

His solo album, “My Father’s Face,” would be coming out.

He made the 10-song record after what he said was a “torturous” decision to leave the gospel choir he started a decade ago.

And Sept. 10, Rivers’ son, David — also a musician and a member of the popular local band Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys — would marry his sweetheart, Danielle Robb.

The album and the wedding happened on schedule.

Then, Rivers’ father, Clarence, after traveling from his home in Valparaiso, Ind., and watching David and Danielle say their vows, died of a massive heart attack.

Rivers had planned a CD-release concert for “My Father’s Face” on Friday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles.

He’s going ahead with it.

“That is what he would have wanted,” Rivers said of his dad.

Friday’s 7 p.m. performance will be a tribute to the man his friends knew as Chuck Rivers, a man who “lived quite a life,” his son said.

“He was a truck driver in Seattle, a missionary in New Guinea, a professor of social work [at Valparaiso University] in Indiana.”

Chuck Rivers was 83 when he died. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Margaret.

“She’s a powerhouse, a force of nature to be reckoned with,” Michael Rivers said of his mother, who is 10 years younger than her late husband.

As he prepares for Friday’s concert, Rivers said he’s wrestling with three layers of meaning beneath “My Father’s Face.”

The album’s name refers to his dad, of course.

Chuck even asked, some time ago, that his son sing the title track at his funeral.

After the younger Rivers moved to Port Angeles in 1998, the two built a house here together.

“We hammered out a relationship,” remembered Rivers, who has since run his own construction company.

Several other songs are about Rivers’ own journey as a father of four.

“The other layer that is really important to me,” he added, “is looking at God as father.”

Rivers is well-known here for his ability with spiritual songs.

“He is very much an artist, a musical perfectionist,” said Mike Stenger, a member of the Peninsula Men’s Gospel Singers.

“He always challenged the guys to do their very best. Frankly, at times, he was able to get things out of me that I didn’t think I was able to do.”

The gospel singers have Lee Moseley as their new director. Rivers, in addition to running his company, now leads worship one Sunday a month at the Olympic Vineyard Church in Port Angeles.

On his new CD, the songs cover the gamut of emotions: “Some of them make me laugh, some make me cry, and some make me squirm,” Rivers has said.

His quest is “to tell the truth, put it to music and sing it for people.”

Rivers won’t be alone on stage Friday night. He’s looking forward to reuniting with the musicians on his album: singers Larry Murante, Jennifer Lind Ivester and Dan Cobb; fretless bass player Dan Mohler; drummer Mark Ivester; and Scott Burnett, who plays both electric and baritone guitar.

Murante, a Seattle singer-songwriter who has a following in Port Angeles thanks to his performances at the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, will also play a set of his music Friday.

Admission to the concert at Holy Trinity, at 301 E. Lopez Ave., will be a suggested $10.

“My Father’s Face” will be available for $15 there and at Port Book and News, 104 E. First St.

Rivers said small services will be held for his father in Seattle and in Port Angeles; a larger memorial gathering will be in Valparaiso, where Chuck and Margaret raised their family.

Rivers also hopes to go on the road with his record and plans what he jokingly calls a “world tour of the Olympic Peninsula,” with concerts in Port Angeles, Joyce, Sequim and Clallam Bay over the next six months.

“The idea,” he said, “will be to start out where I’m from.”

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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