On August 1, 2015, we were privileged to be at a concert featuring Karen Peck and New River in Coburg, Ontario. The site was the Lakeshore Pentecostal Camp, a beautiful campsite on the shores of Lake Ontario. Inside the Tabernacle was seating for about 1000 people on old-fashioned wooden pews and we were happy to see modern fans and feel the air-conditioning on that exceptionally warm evening.
Karen Peck and New River stepped onto the stage to a very appreciative crowd
welcoming the artists for the first time to that venue. Many had heard this mixed group previously and fully enjoyed the first few renditions of top songs from the well-awarded history of KPNR.
Karen Peck Gooch, Susan Peck Jackson and Jeff Hawes were joined onstage in the first half by Karenâ€™s daughter Kari on vocals and Matthew on guitar. Karenâ€™s husband Rickey
was running sound and we were happy to note that he is on his way to better health after dealing with cancer for much of the year.
Some notable musical moments included â€œOn The Banks Of The Promised Land,â€ where the guitar that Matthew was playing so proficiently turned into the sound of a mandolin, and then â€œHallelujah For The Cross,â€ a song off of their newest release, Pray Now, which featured Jeff Hawes on the lead. This vocalist will definitely be missed!
I always enjoy the clear tones of Susan on her alto leads, especially the tune â€œSustaining Grace,â€ which was another chart-topper for KPNR. Karen then had Rickey give his testimony of coming through his health battle, and we were all exhorted to â€œPray Now,â€ in every situation, for God does hear and answer prayer!
During the intermission we were blessed by the instrumental sounds of Matthew on steel guitar and Jeff Hawes on piano. Jeff is a terrific pianist as well as vocalist and Matthew is working his way to proficiency on a variety of stringed instruments. They made a great team.
The second half was as wonderful as the first, and I donâ€™t say that lightly. Karen has a way of drawing in her listeners and then taking them with her as her voice soars ever higher, bringing a special sense of worship and praise to God. After a full concert, Karen stepped down off the stage to present a song completely alone. Her rendition of â€œMy God Will Always Be Enough,â€ was simply incredible. Her clarity, tone and strength in her upper register after a long evening were amazing and gave proof to why she is one of the top vocalists in Gospel music.
After a sensitive and encouraging prayer time, the artists ended the evening appropriately with the song, â€œFinish Well.â€ While the hall was filled with all ages, there was a predominance of older listeners who sometimes feel that their best years are behind them. What an encouragement and exhortation to everyone there, that while we still have breath we have a work to do for the Lord, and we all need to â€œFinish Well.â€
The Karen Peck and New River concert at Lakeshore Pentecostal turned out to be the penultimate performance of Jeff Hawes with the group, and we were thrilled to have had that experience. We wish Jeff all the best in his new endeavors within the educational system, but we hope he knows how much the Southern Gospel world will miss his vocals and sweet spirit. Our prayers are with KPNR as they fill Jeffâ€™s position with another Godly vocalist.
No doubt Karen Peck and New River will persist in expanding their boundaries and pushing the envelope, as they continue on their journey of excellence in Gospel music.
Special note to all you fashionistas out there: take special note of the ladies’ shoes and fashions onstage. KPNR always is in style with colors that flatter and never look immodest. Love that about these artists!
By Lorraine Walker
Photographs by Cindy, Joan and Lorraine Walker