Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Torchmen Quartet: A Little Country, A Little Class, Completely Canadian

Southern Gospel isn’t that easy to find in Southern Ontario, but if you look hard enough, you can find it in fairs, parks and Christian campgrounds during the summer months. Triple C Camp, on the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, hosts homegrown Canadian talent nearly every weekend during the warm season. Almost every year the camp ends their concert series with one of Canada’s most-awarded quartets, The Torchmen.

This Labour Day weekend I was privileged to be among the crowd that filled the small dining hall to laugh, sing and smile with the legendary quartet. My family and I joined the many who were filing into the hall and were welcomed by Torchmen patriarch, Mike Moran. Mike has been with the group almost from the very beginning, which was over 40 years ago. No longer a do-wop teenager, Mike takes his role as mentor and spiritual leader very seriously. The solid Christian men that make up the quartet are a testament to his faithfulness to God.

Mike Moran quickly explained that this concert would be a little different than Torchmen concerts of late. Popular lead singer, Dave Randall, was not with the group that evening as he had to escort his daughter and her horse to a University. Mike assured us that the education was for Randall’s daughter, though it was possible that her Percheron might get a small diploma. Jeff Tritton, former tenor and general utility singer for the group, was filling in at the lead position and we were excited to hear this talented gentleman once more.

Sandy MacGregor, current tenor with the Torchmen, also welcomed us to the event. Sandy is a fixture in Canadian Southern Gospel and has leant his talents to several Ontario groups over the years. He is currently on his third term with the group, as many Torchmen alumni return to sing with Moran after they have officially left. The final member, Josh Friend, is the group’s current bass singer and the youngest member at age 29. Josh’s family came out to the event and helped to encourage this talented vocalist.

The concert began on time with a short welcome from the camp administrator and a great song by the Torchmen, “I’ve Enjoyed the Journey”. Although Jeff Tritton wasn’t as familiar with the group’s newest songs, his experience shone through as the group performed a few numbers from their latest CD. Friend’s clear, melodic low bass was a treat on “Take Me to That Mountain”. MacGregor brought his soul voice out on “There’s a Testimony” and brought us to tears with “Heaven’s Joy”.

The Torchmen showed their solid quartet style from the country-flavoured “He’ll Do It Again” to the traditional “Cast All Your Care”. The crowd was silenced by the calming comfort of Friend’s “Under Control”, while Moran spoke to our hearts as he urged us to put ourselves in God’s care. From the knee-slapping “Glory Bound”, to the worshipful “How Great Thou Art”, we were invited into the courts of the Almighty.

One of the evening’s highlights was a beautiful rendition of “No Longer A Stranger” by Tritton. His strong vocals and powerful delivery brought the message of the song to each heart. It is a loss to Canadian Southern Gospel that this gentleman is no longer traveling with a group.

The Torchmen followed this beautiful song with something they’ve done since the first time I heard them: the light-hearted comedy section of the program. This time it was a return to the ‘50’s, from the traditional London Parris styles of “Zion’s Hill”, done well by Friend, to the do-wop, shade-wearing presentation of “No One But Jesus Knows”. The quartet brought humour along with the message and produced laughter within the appreciative grey-haired audience.

Ending the program with the Torchmen’s signature song, “Canada” and the familiar “Getting Ready to Leave”, Mike and his boys proved once again why this quartet has had such longevity in the Southern Gospel industry. Solid lyrics, strong vocals and a practiced presentation are only the package that allows these men to reach hearts with the message of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

There are Christian artists on the road today who are looking toward the next gig, the bigger stage and the brighter lights they think are just ahead. They need to take a page from the Torchmen and understand what it means to present the Gospel in a simple, straightforward manner. The Torchmen have sung on the big stages, under the bright lights and are just as professional in front of 200 as they are in front of 20,000.

These Canadian gentlemen have learned to be themselves despite the venue, and are secure in the knowledge that their music, performed to the best of their ability, is the greatest gift they can offer, to the greatest Audience. It is obvious that The Torchmen perform to an audience of One. They give their best for their Lord and as a result, their audience is blessed and drawn closer to Him.

My personal thanks to The Torchmen for an uplifting and encouraging evening.

Photographs Courtesy of Colleen Brotherton

*** SGNScoops would like to express appreciation to The Torchmen for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in song and to Lorraine Walker for sharing her concert experience! For more information about The Torchmen Quartet, vist their website at:

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