Diverse performers featured at Gospel Festival

Danette Dooley
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Mark House's first solo CD, "Rushing Wind," is a tribute album to American gospel singer and songwriter Keith Green.

Green was at the peak of his career in 1982 when killed in a plane crash. He was 28 years old.

"That was very shocking to his fans and to the gospel world," House recalls.

After acquiring the rights to the music, House recorded the songs in July 2007, the 25th anniversary of Green's death.

Mark House will be among the performers at this weekend's gospel music festival. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

Mark House's first solo CD, "Rushing Wind," is a tribute album to American gospel singer and songwriter Keith Green.

Green was at the peak of his career in 1982 when killed in a plane crash. He was 28 years old.

"That was very shocking to his fans and to the gospel world," House recalls.

After acquiring the rights to the music, House recorded the songs in July 2007, the 25th anniversary of Green's death.

The album, which also includes some original and other songs, was released several months ago.

St. John's born and bred, House became interested in music while attending I.J. Samson junior high school.

While he had no idea whether or not he was musically inclined at such a young age, his music teacher Frances Toll took notice of his interest and talent. The teacher became "almost like a second mother" to him.

Toll often staged full-scale Broadway musicals. House clinched the lead male roles in "Bye Bye Birdie" and "My Fair Lady" in grades 8 and 9.

"That got me going, and then I realized that this was something that I really loved and something I wanted to get serious about doing. I wouldn't be involved in this craziness if it wasn't for my music teacher. And I love every minute of it."

Since his school days, House has performed lead roles in numerous musicals including "The Pirates of Penzance," "Crazy for You," "Camelot" and "My Fair Lady."

He studied music at both the University of Western Ontario and Memorial and has performed with many groups including the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the London Ontario Symphony Orchestra, Newman Sound, Cantus Vocum, MUN Chamber Choir and the Quintessential Vocal Ensemble.

He's been teaching music in school for over 15 years, and is on a year's leave of absence to pursue his master's degree.

The founder and director of two acapella vocal ensembles featured during Festival 500, House is diversified in what he performs.

A gifted piano player, his repertoire includes classical, jazz, musical theatre, adult contemporary and gospel music.

Like Green, the gospel music House performs is also more contemporary than old time gospel.

House is among 24 local gospel singers and singing groups taking part in the eighth annual gospel festival, July 20-22 at the Bowring Park Cabot 500 Theatre.

He'll be performing with the gospel group Celebration.

According to the festival's artistic director, Peter MacDonald, performers include young people, seasoned musicians, community choirs and church groups.

"They are people that are heard weekly in their churches," MacDonald says.

The idea behind the festival was to raise the profile of local church musicians and the presence of the Canadian Bible Society in the community.

"At first we began with church groups, but soon it became apparent that there were other groups in the city that performed gospel music. Soon, they were asking to be involved as well," he says.

The performances will include both new music and traditional, with all denominations represented.

Both MacDonald and House say gospel music is alive and well, not only in this province but throughout North America.

"Every year I am amazed at the variety and high calibre of musicians in our festival. It is a delight to hear each and every one of them and it gives great testimony to the wonderful music making that takes place in our churches," MacDonald says.

House says the festival is a great opportunity for people to enjoy music with a message.

The messages are as uplifting as they are positive, he says.

"It's not preachy and nobody has any agenda or ulterior motives. People respond to the music that we create with no strings attached," House says.

People who attend the festival do so for various reasons, House says.

Many are there just to enjoy the music. Others are looking for something more.

"I have my own personal beliefs but I don't push them on anybody. People need to find God in their own way. And, if you're seeking Him, He will make himself aware to you," House says.

The gospel festival runs from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday and from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free. For more information on Mark House visit www.markhouse.ca.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Mark House, Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, London Ontario Symphony Orchestra MUN Chamber Choir Canadian Bible Society MacDonald and House

Geographic location: St. John's, Broadway, Penzance Bowring Park North America

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