The Carolina Quartet is rich in talent and legacy. Most of the group members have been together off and on for 20-plus years. When you attend one of their concerts, you will enjoy energetic performances, great songs, clean vocals, enthusiasm and a true love for the people they sing for and the Lord they serve. Those Carolina characteristics are the ingredients of a professional music group that can only be said for a few in todayâ€™s gospel music circles.
The groupâ€™s sound is defined by the recognizable lead voice of Scott Whitener. Now, Whitener is no stranger to gospel music. His first singing experience was with the church trio where his dad pastored. He was an influential member of the regional powerhouse quartet the Regals for many years. In 1987, he joined the award-winning Singing Americans. His dynamic voice and interpretations really grabbed the attention of Gospel Music fans in this time.
After leaving the Singing Americans, Whitener also sang lead with Jericho â€“ which was formed along with Dwayne Burke of the Singing Americans â€“ until 1996. This group was recognized for their smooth, focused vocals in a church ministry setting.
Subsequently, Whitener transitioned to the Melody Masters in the mid-1990s as lead singer. During that time, the group lineup of Chris Roberts, Whitener, Roger Burnett, and Richard Sanders achieved success with performances at the National Quartet Convention and the Canadian version of the NQC, which was held in Canadaâ€™s in Red Deer, Alta.
As in life, things come full circle. After more than 20 years in full-time Gospel Music, Whitener is now an ordained minister, serving as senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Gastonia, N.C., and as lead pastor of Gateway Cowboy Church in Stanley, N.C.
A graduate of Southern Wesleyan (S.C.) University and Wesleyan Fellowship of
Leaders Acquiring Ministerial Education (FLAME), when you talk with Whitener you understand his philosophy of life.
â€œI am a simple guy, a husband, a singer and pastor,â€ Whitener explains. â€œI love blue jeans, T-shirts, boots and buckles. I love my friends. I canâ€™t stand fake stuff or people. Just be real. I am blessed with Gospel Music, but I am more blessed with the love of Christ I experience every day.â€Â
Nobody sings tenor any better than Chris Roberts. He is able to interpret and deliver a ballad or barn-burner song with spirit, power and finesse.
His first Gospel Music experience came at the ripe age of four, singing with his mom and dad in church. Singing just came naturally to him growing up in the church. Later on, Roberts sang with the Chapel Grove Quartet, while serving as minister of music at Chapel Grove Baptist Church. His vocal credits also include singing with the Gardner-Webb (N.C.) University group Cornerstone.
In 1996, he joined the Melody Masters Quartet, playing piano. He later began singing tenor after the retirement of Jim McAbee. With the transition to Carolina Quartet, he continues that same passion today.
Roberts is in his 14th year as pastor of worship and music at the 3,000-member Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C. He holds degrees from Gardner-Webb (a bachelor of arts in sacred music/1986/summa cum laude), the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (masters of church music/1988), and the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (doctorate of worship studies/2015). In addition to local church ministry, Roberts currently serves as professor of music at Fruitland Baptist Bible College in Hendersonville, a position he has held since 2006.
â€œI love the blessings God has given me,â€ Roberts shares. â€œFrom the ministry of the church to singing with Carolina, it is exciting for me to see just how being available and using God-given talents can affect lives. Over the years, we have seen the lasting effects of our sharing Christâ€™s positive message.â€
Singing the baritone part is the familiar voice of Chesnee, S.C., resident Roger Burnett, who sang with the award-winning Melody Masters during the 1990s.
His first stint of Gospel Music came with his family at the early age of seven in the Burnette Quartet, then later on the Rebels Creek Quartet. For 17 years, Roger sang with the regional group, the Masterâ€™s Singers of Chesnee. Then in 1996, he formed the Melody Masters Quartet with long-time friends Jim McAbee, Richard Sanders, Dennis Hughey, Earl Brownlee and Keith Cantrell, adding Whitener and Roberts as Brownlee and McAbee retired.
Still today, Burnette is always a fan favorite everywhere. He can harmonize with anything. Roberts, Whitener and Burnette have been together for 20 years. On May 6, 2017, Burnette was inducted into the South Carolina Gospel Music Hall of Fame, recognizing his dedicated service to the Gospel Music community.
â€œI am overwhelmed to have received the Hall Of Fame honor,â€ Burnette says. â€œI made God a promise when He healed and saved my son years ago, and today I am still singing and honoring God for what He has done for me and my family. To be honored like this is icing on the cake.â€
Making his debut with Country Gospel music audiences is Chris Parker of York, S.C., whose rich bass vocals provide the foundation of the Carolina Quartet sound. Parker has made an immediate impact on the friends and fans of the group. His energetic style is a refreshing addition to an already stellar lineup. Parker succeeded Lamar Levi, who stepped down after 10 years with the group.
Parkerâ€™s Gospel Music background starts with family. In the 1980s he played drums with his dadâ€™s group, the Sojourners. Then, he played a variety of music styles over the years. However, most recently, he sang with his father again in Arise Quartet from the Raleigh, N.C., area. Gospel Music fans will also be familiar with Chrisâ€™ uncles, Dove Award-winning vocalist Ivan Parker and Danny Parker of the legendary Harvesters Quartet.
Parker is quick to point out his love of music and how it affects the generations.
â€œWith the Carolina Quartet, we can really do some great Southern Gospel music, but itâ€™s the groupâ€™s ability to pull from inspirational Country Music that allows us to sing a positive message to so many people today in so many different places,â€ Parker explains. â€œFrom a church to fairs, street concerts or festivals, it is amazing to see how many people respond. This is an exciting time for me.â€
With each touring group, there is the silent member or members of the group. With Carolina Quartet, their wives fill that role. You may see them at a concert, church sing or festival. If not, they are holding down the fort at home. They are supportive, encouraging, and the family rock for the group. Their love and devotion to their husbandsâ€™ hectic music and ministry schedule is second to none.
Scott and Judy Whitener are celebrating 38 years of marriage, Chris and Janet Roberts have been married for 29 years. Roger and Nell Burnette are enjoying 51 years of wedded bliss, and Chris and Holly Parker are the newlyweds with 16 years of marriage.
As you can imagine, a Carolina Quartet concert can be a buffet for the avid music enthusiast. Traditional Southern Gospel songs are mixed with powerful inspirational country tunes that lift up your life, God and country. Filled with energy, humor and just down-home, good singing, the Carolina Quartet inspires, motivates and generates excitement for young and old alike.
They are fan favorites everywhere they go, and for good reason.
â€œFrom an entertainment standpoint, we are committed to working hard every night to assure the fans that they get more than their moneyâ€™s worth,â€ Parker says.
Whitener adds, â€œAnd most importantly, we want people to know that we are dedicated Christ followers and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is what we are all about.â€
As a follow-up to their â€œSimple Christmasâ€ recording, CQ has just released â€œWorship Country.â€ This recording runs the musical gamut with a mix of praise and worship, hymns, and old-time gospel songs produced in the quartet’s unique style, and the quartet canâ€™t wait to hit the stage with the new tunes.
Catch a Carolina concert and see for yourselves. The unforgettable sights and sounds of the boys from Carolina will take your appreciation of four-part, male harmony to another level.
You can find more information on the Carolina Quartet on Facebook. For scheduling or to obtain music, contact Whitener by calling 704-678-1683.
By Charlie Griffin
First published by SGNScoops Magazine in June 2017.
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