The 2014 November Concert for the Carolina Gospel Association featured the award-winning Kingsmen from Asheville, NC and the legendary Pine Ridge Boys of Inman, SC. It was another concert in a long line of successful gospel sings at RS Central High School in Rutherfordton, NC. After 19 years, the concert series continues to be the talk of the Blue Ridge Mountains, attracting gospel music fans from both Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.
Wayne Hardin and Jim Bishop started the non-profit organization with the sole purpose of promoting gospel music and giving back to the community. It really started over a cup of coffee. Hardin says, “I just felt led to do something and I loved gospel music. It just seemed the right thing to do. Ray Wilson served with us for 14 years as well putting on these great concerts.”
That first year was 1995 with only five concerts featuring Gospel music’s who’s who. Fans enjoyed Hovie Lister and the Statesmen, The Nelons, Speers, Florida Boys and JD Sumner and the Stamps. At each concert a regional group was featured with a local soloist opening the concert. For the last 18 years the concert series conducted a total of seven concerts annually.
In the last 19 years, sell out concerts have been the norm with the Carolina Gospel Association concert series. The brightest names in Gospel music provide a Thursday night crowd with the best in Southern Gospel music. The series runs from October to May with monthly concerts, excluding December. The CGA has the support of the local churches in the region with many pastors and music ministers being active in the concerts. Hardin shares, “We are here to support the local community in every way.”
Hardin and Bishop have made it clear; the focus is good gospel music. Yet the concert is more than just a singing. An invitation is given with prayer for those attending. Hardin states, “We‘ve had people make a profession of faith. Why, I even had a man passing through stop for the concert. He heard JD Sumner give his testimony. The next morning he tracked me down saying what a blessing that concert was to him. So much so that he gave his heart to Christ. Now that’s what I’m talking about.”
When asked about some of the concert highlights, Hardin says, “There are so many. But two come to mind that really stand out. The last concert given by JD Sumner and the Stamps was with us. The next morning, JD moved on up to heaven.” He continues, “One year, JD road over to the concert with Mark Lowry. We didn’t know Mark was coming. But it was a funny night. That night was the first time Mark introduced and sang ‘Mary Did You Know.’ Yes, a very special night.”
The Carolina Gospel Association is one of the longest running non-profit gospel music organizations in the country. Single tickets are available at the door for $12 or the avid gospel music fan can get a season ticket for only $60.00. The association also sells a full program ad book for each concert. Any profit from the gospel concerts and book sales literally goes back into the community. Donations over the years have included Hospice, Yokefellow, local churches and mission groups. The Association also partners with the Rutherfordton Housing Partnership at each concert as they host a spaghetti fund-raising supper prior to the sing. The RHP invests in the local community with multiple housing projects each year, from home improvements to a new roof for elderly and others in the community.
Concerts for the remainder of the 2014/2015 series:
January 15, 2015- The Browders and Royal Quartet
Februrary 12, 2015- Kingdom Heirs and Southern Sound Quartet
March 19, 2015- Inspirations and Golden Valley Ramblers
April 16, 2015- Mark Trammell Quartet and Broken
May 7, 2015- The Hoppers and Carolina Quartet
Hardin states, “Next year we are going to have a 20 year celebration series of concerts. “ Now if the last 19 years are any indication, you know it’s going to be good.” For ticket and concert details or more information on the Carolina Gospel Association contact 828-245-6746.