Peninsula Men’s Gospel Singers to sing last concert with founding director

SEQUIM — After a decade with the Peninsula Men’s Gospel Singers, Michael Rivers is saying goodbye to the group he founded.

Rivers will lead the 20-voice ensemble for the last time in a concert at the Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church, 925 N. Sequim Ave., at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Admission is by donation, with proceeds supporting the Crisis Pregnancy Centers of Sequim and Port Angeles.

Rivers, 51, made the decision to depart just a few weeks ago, said Gospel Singers spokesman Paul Wessel.

The founding director, a singer-songwriter in his own right long before he teamed up with the ensemble, plans to produce a CD of his own compositions.

“I’m going into the recording studio in June to do a 10-song project,” Rivers said Thursday.

Collection of songs

At David Lange Studios in Puyallup — a place favored by many Pacific Northwest songwriters ­— Rivers will make “My Father’s Face,” a collection of songs that have lived in his heart for a long while.

Ever since he belonged to a songwriting circle in Seattle during the 1980s, Rivers has been building a personal catalog of music.

The time came, he said, when he had to sit down and think about all those songs and what meaning they might have in this stage of his life.

“I’m kind of a woo-woo mystic,” Rivers said. “I went into a meditative state, where I held the songs up to the light.”

Rivers realized he had a subset of songs with a common theme: fatherhood. There were some about his relationship with his dad and some about what it means for him to be a father of four.

“Some of them make me laugh, some make me cry, and some make me squirm,” he said.

Rivers knew it was time to create a whole from the parts. “My Father’s Face” is slated for release Aug. 15.

‘Torturous decision’

Deciding to leave the Peninsula Men’s Gospel Singers, though, was “torturous.”

Yet “I feel, in the most profound sense, that the reason I’m here is to write and sing these songs,” that will be on the new record.

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

“My Father’s Face” will be the third CD from Rivers, who studied at Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music while in his mid-20s.

His most recent record was “Iron Horse,” released 17 years ago.

Rivers’ departure means “a huge change” for the Gospel Singers, Wessel said.

“The group as a whole has committed to continue” and is looking for a new director.

A guest conductor may be invited to start the Singers’ new season in October; those seeking more information about leading the ensemble may phone its president, Gordon Shipps, at 360-457-5374.

The group’s website is www.PMGospelSingers.com.

The Gospel Singers have come a long way with Rivers, Wessel added.

Ten years ago, the group was “a bunch of guys gathered around piano who liked to sing gospel songs. Michael was the piano player,” he said.

“The group as a whole has such enormous respect for the man’s talent.

“My sense is that he will be able to take his strong sense of the spirit to a much wider audience.”

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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