Community choir

The Harkers Island Community Choir will perform a special concert with proceeds going to the Bring Back the Lights project, which aims to light up Harkers Island for Christmas. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Free Grace Wesleyan Church. (Contributed photo)

The Lights of Home Benefit Concert will help light up Harkers Island this Christmas.

The concert is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Free Grace Wesleyan Church, and proceeds benefit the Bring Back the Lights program.

The Harkers Island Community Choir is led by Derek Guthrie, who is assisted by Brooke Toler. The choir’s first concert was held in April 2014, and it grew from there.

“Our first concert/event was held at the Harkers Island Elementary school in April of 2014 for an Easter concert, so that was the first time we assembled the choir to perform for the public,” Ms. Toler said.

Since then, the choir has appeared at Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center summertime events, Easter Sunday sunrise services, the lighting of the tree during Christmastime, an Easter celebration concert held April 18, 2014, the Thinking About Home concert Sept. 18, 2015, The Nelsons Christmas Concert held Dec. 1-2, 2016, and the upcoming The Lights of Home Concert.

“The choir is extremely important to Harkers Island,” Ms. Toler said. “It represents the people as a united community – as you know, H.I. has 9 total churches and to be able to gather people from the entire area despite their denominations, despite their differences and history and backgrounds, to come and practice and strive and to create beautiful music for our Lord as one unit, one mind, is a testament to not only our faith but to the people of the Island. We are truly one big family.”

Ms. Toler said the organization celebrates faith and the community in general. Anyone can join.

“It is a great organization of people that come together and fellowship and sing for God and that is all,” she said. “No recruitment for going to church is happening, no hidden agendas from anyone. We are simply having a good time doing something we all love.

“The people of the Island will always unite for 2 things: their heritage and their faith. This choir embodies everything this Island stands for and will continue to do so I hope for many years to come,” she said.

 The choir, like many on the island, feel lighting up the island for the holidays is important for the community.

“After the Hurricane (Florence), so much devastation was everywhere you looked,” Ms. Toler said. “The Bring Back The Lights program had lit up our Island with (the) beautiful anchors you now see everywhere. What once was a very dark place at night was brightly lit with the symbol of our community.

“They had such great plans to bring even more lights to the Island during Christmas and unfortunately, Florence destroyed it all. We want to bring it back. We as a choir all love Christmas and believe the Island should be as beautiful as it can be during the most wonderful time of year.”

 During the concert, attendees can expect to hear a wide variety of music.

“I won’t be divulging too much info because we want to keep most a surprise for the concert, but I will tell you we are singing ‘In the Sweet Forever’ which is an absolute favorite,” Ms. Toler said. “And we are also bringing back ‘Elbow Room,’ which features the men of our choir.”

The concert will feature The Nelsons, Grace Holiness Trio and Touch of Grace. Performing a duet is Guion and Vonda Willis, with Kay Collins, Buddy Willis, Allison Guthrie, Belinda House, Kim Lupton, Cathy Guthrie, Jimmy Nelson, Yvette Baker, Ms. Toler, Christina House and Craig Guthrie performing solos.

The musicians for the concert are Pastor Clinton Nelson on piano, Tracy Merkley playing steel guitar and keyboard, John Eldred on electric guitar, Alan Baker playing bass guitar and Derek Guthrie and Asher Murphy on drums.

Della Brooks, chairperson of the Bring Back the Lights committee, is looking forward to the concert.

“We love our community choir. They have such dedication and passion to sing and minister to others,” she said. “We can always count on the choir to be part of whatever our community is doing.

“As a young child growing up on HI, I can remember attending church, every time the doors where open, the strong sense of family, fellowship and love that the music would bring. As my grandmother says, ‘old time hymns are good for the soul,’” Ms. Brooks continued.

“One of my favorite hymns has and will always be ‘The Anchor Holds.’ It’s been surreal to see how our vision for BBTL has grown. It has really taken off this year.”

Ms. Brooks said the 12 Days of Christmas in July raffle was a success, and now the focus has shifted to lighting up the island.

“We have a dedicated committee, our ole timers and the rest of the ‘Islanders’ that are anchored in our heritage that have been and will continue to be a huge support,” she said. “Hurricane Florence took so much from our Island, yet the Anchor held. We endured the storm, we pushed through and we persevered. We are ‘Island Strong.’” 

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