Church choir inspires others through song
Canadian gospel musician Terry Henry walked into Mt Zion AME Church to visit a friend — he never expected he would leave with a job.
The Juno Award-nominated entertainer is the church’s music director and an instrumental part in Mt Zion’s Male Voice Choir.
“I came to Bermuda to actually mix an album, my album, in a studio down here,” said Mr Henry, 37.
“A friend of mine who used to live in Toronto encouraged me to come down. While I was working on it I went to go and visit another friend who was the minister of music at Mt Zion.
“After church I started playing the keyboard and immediately the pastor pulled me aside and asked if I’d like to play for the Men’s Day event they had coming up. Of course my answer was yes.”
The rest, as they say is history.
Since 2003, Mr Henry has worked with singer Tony Roberts to get the 26-member choir into tip-top shape.
They have toured the United States, recorded two albums and reached the top of the Bermuda gospel radio chart with their song Grace Saved Me.
The group wants residents to turn out next month for a series of free concerts around the Island.
Their hope is that their music encourages men to reach their fullest potential.
Mr Roberts said: “All of us guys in the choir are saved, sanctified and Holy Ghost-filled people and one of the reasons I believe [ministering to the community] was put in my spirit is so that other men could see us coming from all different walks of life.
“There are teachers, educators, technicians — all sorts of people from various communities. I always felt that at least the image and seeing these guys up there and knowing from where they’ve come could act as an inspiration for other people.”
Mr Henry was also surprised by how much the choir had impacted people’s lives.
“People have told us they were struggling to make that commitment to God and we played a role in making them really think and meditate on themselves,” he said.
“In some cases we’ve inspired them to make a change and that’s why we do this — to try to plant a seed in people’s hearts and minds that will ultimately lead them to live a more Godly lifestyle.”
One of his most powerful moments with the choir came a few years ago.
“We had heard about Gabriel Wilkinson, who was involved in a serious football accident and wasn’t expected to live,” he said.
“We didn’t know him personally, however, given the publicity around the incident we were made aware of his situation and decided to go to the field where he played football to hold a prayer vigil and concert.
“Not long after that we learnt he made pretty much a complete recovery and after he heard what the choir did ultimately began coming to church and joined our choir.
“He has since given his life completely to Christ.
“That’s one example of what this work means to me.”
Mr Henry grew up in a Christian household in Toronto. He realised at an early age he was gifted.
“I just had a natural ability to pick up instruments and just play music by ear,” he said. “I used to listen to a lot of music. Part of that is due to my older brother. He listened to everything.
“When he was 11 or 12 he played almost every style of music you can think of in his bedroom.
“I would hear that in the background and that’s why I have such a huge interest for all kinds of music now.
“That’s kind of what fielded my passion in music and led me to become a record producer. I’ve produced every style of music — from jazz to R&B, rock and polka — but gospel is my main genre.”
The former director of music at the Toronto New Covenant Cathedral was thrust into the spotlight when he was nominated for two Juno Awards for Best Gospel Album in 1999. It was a humbling, yet surreal experience.
“I was rubbing shoulders with people like Celine Dion, Deborah Cox and the famous record producer David Foster. I had a chance to meet all these people,” he said. “It was an out-of-body experience because you are there and you are wondering, ‘How did I get here, how did this happen?’. I was 19 years old.”
Mr Roberts had an early introduction to music through his parents, who were both singers.
“I love to sing and when I found out Mt Zion had a men’s choir I thought I could contribute,” he said. “I enjoyed it a lot and one day the pastor asked me to take on a leadership role and things changed for me tremendously.
“Traditionally, the choir sang on the fourth Sunday of the month, but that wasn’t what was burning within me.
“I thought and prayed about it and the Spirit showed me this is what we should be doing — going out in the community trying to encourage other men and their families and to show guys it’s ok to follow your faith, passion and dreams and include God and your families in those dreams.”
Mt Zion’s Male Voice Choir will perform on Thursday in Dockyard; on July 9 at the Rubber Tree in Warwick; and on July 16 in St George’s Town Square. All performances kick off at 7.25pm sharp.
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