by Lisa Tome
Those looking for that "old time religion" don't have to go far to find it.
"I enjoy coming up here. I really do," said Charlie Barton of North East.
Barton, who has been playing guitar since 1959, spends most of his Friday nights playing gospel music at Rising Sun's Seventh Day Adventist Church on Walnut Street.
As far as anyone remembers, Barton and other musicians who turn out for open mic night, are keeping up a longstanding tradition. Gospel music at the church on Friday nights goes back at least two decades.
Singer, songwriter, and church first elder Bo Pierce has missed two Friday nights in that 20 years. Pierce explained that people travel from far and wide for the weekly music. Those who attend come from as far away as Ephrata, Pa. Delaware, and Essex. Some are musicians who want to perform. Others are those who enjoy the fellowship and listening. The event is free and if you attend frequently, everyone will sign a card for you on your birthday.
And it doesn't matter how many birthdays you've had. All ages are welcome to take the stage. There's teens who sing and play regularly. There are also senior citizens and every age in between.
"It's part of me. It becomes part of everybody," said Trish Tome, who performs and said she learns from other musicians.
"Singing God's music is part of everyone," said Pierce. The focus is the music. Pierce said he leads a prayer at the beginning of the evening. At the end of the night, about 9 p.m., there is a group prayer and requests are taken. "All the preaching is done through the music," said Pierce. The church's pastor, Kenneth Coleman, is one of the performers. He plays bass guitar and sings.
Rhea Karlsson has been attending the singing since 2014. After much coaxing, she now performs. "They revived my music career. They've brought me out of my shell and I absolutely love it," said Karlsson. "Everybody helps everybody. It really is a musical family. This is very enjoyable."
Vaughn Smith is a seasoned guitar player. "I play here once or twice a month. I love gospel music," said Smith.
Some of the singers also perform elsewhere. Many go to Bay Church in North East on Saturdays. Monthly, they also perform at Asbury Church in Port Deposit. They also donate their time and perform at Calvert Manor Healthcare Center.
Peggyette Cox attends the singing from North East. Her son, Jack, comes from Harford County to listen. "We've made a lot of friends here," said Peggyette Cox. "We like the people and the music," said Jack Cox.