Archive for the 'Music' Category

A Band Called Carrollton

Last night, I took a road trip to Yorkville, IL.  The city had a festival at the park.  There were the usual carnival rides, and carnival food.  A band called Carrollton was playing too.  They are a Christian band that you hear on Christian radio a lot.

I arrived a little over an hour early.  There were tables around, but they were reserved for the sponsors of the festival.  There was one unmarked table with someone sitting at it.  We started talking and I found out he was there to help the band unload and load the trucks.

Soon the concert started.  Time for action.  I grab camera and went on a mission.  The band started playing while it was still light out.  There was the evening glow as the sun went down.160902_287_n1_p_wp

I love capturing facial expressions of the band members.  The put a lot of effort into their music.

As the sun set below the horizon, the lights started coming up.  that is when I have the most fun with camera.  It can be difficult with the changing light intensity, but the mood and expression is what I look for.



The group sings Christian music and tries to make people think more about God, and bring Christ centered family time for people to enjoy.


Shooting somewhat from the side, I was able to capture this one.  I was shooting between all sorts of support rods for the set.  Time and patience pays off.


This was a small venue for the band.  Hopefully I will be able to see and photograph them at a bigger venue some day.

Carrollton, thanks for a great night of music and Praise.

Time of My Life Tour Pictures and Announcement of Carrollton Concert


Last fall, I was able to photograph another concert.  Again, it was at First Christian Church in Clinton, IL.  Four groups played this day.  “The Afters”, “Chris August”, “Unspoken” and “Among The Thirsty”.  It was a great time for sure.  Lots of great music.  Music that gave honor to God.  And proceeds going to a great cause.


“Fan the Flame Christian Concerts”  tries to have the monies going to the bands be donated from local business and individuals.  The ticket sales then go to different charities.  This is a win win situation for the people wanting to see the bands and for organizations that are supported from that performance.


There will be more concerts in the future.  The next one will be Sunday, January 31, 2016 @ 5:30 PM in Clinton, IL.  The band will be Carrollton.  I will not be able to make it this concert, unfortunately.  But, I know those who are able to be there, will not be disappointed.


Just as in past concert, like the one I am showing pictures for now, the next one should be great.


I appreciate that Randy and Ann Anderson, have the vision to bring bands like these to central Illinois.  I am looking forward to many more.  I thank the Andersons, Fan The Flame Christian Concerts, and First Christian Church in Clinton for bringing these band in for us to see.  If you get a chance to go this weekend, enjoy.  Sing a song, tap your foot, and take a picture for me while you are there.  And remember, to God and Jesus Christ be all honor and praise.

Matthew West Concert

150404_874_n1_p_r_wpSaturday was a good time.  Matthew West came to play in Decatur.  Matthew is from Downers Grove, IL but spent his college years in Decatur at Millikin University.  150404_441_n1_p_wpMatthew has won many awards in the music business and has written songs for many top musicians.  He uses his talent to spread the Gospel of Christ with his Music.  To listen to his music is a treat.

150404_491_n1_p_ss768_jThere is another Decatur connection in his band.  The drummer also attended Millikin.  That says a lot about the quality of musicians that Millikin University produces.  Another strong Decatur connection is the guitar player Jake Widenhofer.  Jake is a Decatur native, and his father is the head of the Music Department at Millikin.  As Matthew mentioned in the concert, it was a great time returning to Decatur.  He even mentioned his favorite burger from Kreckel’s.

150404_576_n1_p_wp Before the scene below, Matthew talked about how our sins and heart aches can be taken away by God.  He took several pages of paper with lists of heartaches that people have written to him about and tore them into shreds.  Then falling from above were tiny pieces of paper to represent all of the things that God can remove from our hearts.  To know you are forgiven and to know he can heal the broken-hearted, is the joy that Christians know.  To know the hope of heaven waiting for those who love Him is a comfort that God gives.

150404_945_n1_p_ss768_j  I did not make the beginning of the concert.  Colton Dixon who was on American Idol also, performed.  I did hear him play some with West’s band.  There was a lot of talent in Decatur that night.  It was a fun night of entertainment with other Christians and the presentation of a great message.


Great Concert Last Sunday

Sunday night was an evening of Music.  Three Christian Bands performed in Clinton, Illinois at the First Christian Church.    The concert was coordinated by “Fan the Flame Christian Concerts”.   Fan The Flame Christian Concerts is a husband and wife team that is bringing Christian Bands to central Illinois.  They are creating a ministry via the events, by contributing all monies from ticket sales to benefit charities.  This is a great thing they are doing, I pray much success for them.

J. J. Heller at First Christian Church in Clinton, IL.

J. J. Heller at First Christian Church in Clinton, IL.

J. J. Heller was the first band to come out on stage.    They are a husband and wife team.  She is a song writer and has some children books to her credit.  The music is easy-going, and seems to fit in with their “coffee shop” venues in the past.  They met while playing coffee shops while in college.  They projected some pictures from a book she has written during the concert to add to the show.

The Band Selah

The Band Selah

Selah is a band formed by three members, two of which have lived in Africa.      They shared songs and testimony of struggles in their lives and showed that many in the audience have shared in the same struggles.  Amy has a powerful voice which combined with the other two great musicians has brought their songs to be number one on the charts and allowed them to win many Dove Awards.

Mark Schultz Getting Everyone Ready for the Finally of the Concert

Mark Schultz Getting Everyone Ready for the Finally of the Concert

Mark Schultz played a couple of times during the concert by himself and also joined the other bands.     His message was powerful and he shared a video to about veterans and asked all U.S. Veterans to stand to be recognized.  He shared songs of praise to our God and also shared some pictures of  his family.  Someday his son will appreciate his father showing those pictures with the world.  Hopefully he won’t be too embarrassed.  It is just one of those things that proud parents do with their children.

First Christian Church did a great job hosting the event.  Fan the Flame Christian Concerts did a great job in bringing in top artists.  The artists were fantastic in bringing words and song to praise God and encourage those attending.

It was a very enjoyable night.



Strings Attached band at Joe Sippers Cafe

A week ago on Saturday I headed for Effingham, IL. to a little coffee shop called “Joe Sippers Cafe”.  I have to tell you, coffee is not my thing.  But just to please those of us that don’t enjoy coffee they offer much more to drink.  Having tasted smoothies at other places, I thought I would try one here.  It was quite a delight.  They have probably the best smoothies I have ever tasted.  I started off with the “Strawberry Bomb”.  My taste buds exploded.  I spent a while sipping the smoothie while listening to some music and talking with other sippers there.  Soon, thirsty again and not wanting to pass the opportunity, I headed back for another.  This time it was the “Mango Mania”.  Crazy and great are all I can say.

Now for the real treat of the whole deal.

"Strings Attached" band at "Joe Sippers Cafe" in Effingham, Illinois

The “Strings Attached” band was playing that evening.  (Listen here for one of their songs that Marty put on a website )   This band is made up of some great musicians.  Gratton is three-time Illinois State Banjo Player Champion and two-time Missouri State Champion.  Melody is an Illinois State Fiddle Player Champion.  Marty plays guitar for a Chicago band called “Hello Dave”.  More on Marty can be found here.   and     Marylynne is a great bass player and keeps the band together.   Melody, Gratton and Marty also teach music lessons for several instruments.

The evening was a real treat.  Great clean fun and some Great Sounding Music.

Joe Sippers Cafe brings musicians in to perform on Saturdays.  If you have a chance, stop by for music and a tasty drink.  And if you ever have the opportunity to hear Strings Attached you will be quite impressed.

Big Brothers Big Sisters – Festival of Church Choirs

Sunday January 29, I had the opportunity to photograph an event to raise monies for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Illinois (BBBS) .  BBBS is an organization that pairs kids that can use some encouragement with an adult as a mentor.  This can be classroom time helping with school work or one on one time weekly doing things the kids enjoy doing.  The adults (Bigs) commit to an 45 minutes to an hour weekly at school with the kids (Littles) .  Not only do they help with school work but spend time as friends playing games, talking and doing things that friends do.  The Bigs that spend community time with the Littles play ball, video games, ride bikes, go to the zoo or concerts together.  They usually spend a few hours 2-3 times a month together for at least a year.

Richard Dechert has been a big part of BBBS.  Richard is the president of BBBS for this area.  He and his wife Marilyn have also set up a fund for BBBS.  The concert Sunday was a dream that Richard brought together.  He brough church choirs from the community to raise monies for the organization.  It has been a great success not only for BBBS, but has provided great entertainment for those attending.

Richard Dechert introduced by Zack Shields of BBBS

Some of the choirs teamed up to sing together.  The songs they sang sounded great in the Kirkland Fine Arts Center at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.  This was an enjoyable event that will happen hopefully for many years to come.

First Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church Choirs


Julie McClarey (Three time winner of Old Time Piano Playing Competition) and Bruce Gibbons (also a bassoonist with Decatur Municipal Band) - Both are adjunct professors at Millikin University and Christian Artists.

These Littles like all of us need some encouragement at times.  Most have come from single parent families, and are struggling with school and other things.  Many of the kids have improved at school and to on to college which very well may not have happened without the involvement of the Bigs in their lives.  The Bigs say they get much from participating also.


One of the many kids and her mentor that have benefited from BBBS
One of the Bigs and Littles having fun on stage with Mom standing by.

New Salem Baptist Church Choir

Not only did the adult choirs have a voice, but so did the Childrens Mass Choir.  These kids had fun singing “In The Love Of God”, Ancient Word”, and “This Little Light Of Mine”.  Children singing has a sound that is a joyful noise to everyone listening.  I imagine God had a smile on His face, also.

Childrens Choir At Big Brothers Big Sister Benefit Childrens Choir Singing"This Little Light Of MIne"


Big Brothers Big Sisters Children's Mass Choir Singing "This Little Light Of Mine"

 Growing up can be difficult for anyone of us.  The kids in this program receive extra attention and encouragement to help them on that journey.  Many have gone on to be doctors, ministers, teachers, musicians, engineers, carpenters, and business owners.

Tabernacle Baptist Church Choir


Band for Main Street Church Of The Living God Choir


Main Street Church Of The Living God Choir


Central Christian Church and First Baptist Church Choirs

 I know, you might say lots of kids become some of the people listed above.  Sometimes kids need some extra attention to develop into responsible people.  It can be difficult for them and their parents reach out for some help.  That is where BBBS comes into play.  There are others waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister.  It can be rewarding to make a difference in someone’s life.

First Christian Church Choir


Applause for the First Christian Church Choir


Big Brothers Big Sisters Adult Mass Choir


Adult Mass Choir Big Brothers Big Sisters

A great concert for a great cause.  Making the difference in a child’s life is priceless.  Some of these people may or may not be working one on one with one the children.  But they all did come together to raise money and awareness for a very worthy cause.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Adult Mass Choir


Adult Mass Choir With Choir Directors Standing In Front

Next year hopes to be better and bigger.  If you have time, enjoy the concert and help benefit a child’s life by joining in letting these kids know they are special.
For more pictures of the event, visit 

Imagine Christmas

Imagine Christmas at Tabernacle Baptist
Earlier this month Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, Illinois performed a musical called Imagine Christmas.  The music, dancing and lighting were all great.  I was able to photograph the dress rehearsal.  The message was great about the birth of Jesus Christ.  A couple of days later I went to watch the play.  It was great and they had a good crowd.  We get wrapped up in all the shopping and gift giving of the season, but it really is about Jesus and his becoming a part of our world.  It is good to remember that in the many ways it can be shared.
Imagine Christmas – Tabernacle Baptist – Decatur, IL.
Imagine Christmas – Tabernacle Baptist – Decatur, IL.
Imagine Christmas – Tabernacle Baptist – Decatur, IL.
Imagine Christmas – Tabernacle Baptist – Decatur, IL.
Imagine Christmas – Tabernacle Baptist – Decatur, IL

A message so simple.

Salvation so strong. 

Grande Levee – Harvest Festival and Riverview Band

Friday and Saturday of this week Vandalia, Illinois had their yearly “Grande Levee – Harvest Festival”.

There were many activities for all.  Homemade ice-cream was a must to try.  Friday night ham and beans were the dinner being offered.  That included a hotdog, slaw, fruit and a drink.

Ham and beans at the Grande Levee – Harvest Festival – Vandalia, Illinois

There was some great music to listen too.  The “Riverview Band” from Vandalia brought on some Bluegrass Music.  Melody and Phil Freeman from Vandalia along with a musician from Effingham and one from Teutopolis, Illinois played. 


 Another musician from Effingham also joined in for a time. 
 Saturday there was much more going on.  There was a BBQ cook off, more music, and food for all.  Both nights there was a carnival for the adventurous, too.
Family entertainment was enjoyed all night long.

More From the Bluegrass Jam Session In Effingham, Illinois

More info about Saturday night in Effingham.  I have the original post below.

Banjo Player From Achen Back String Band (Neoga, IL.) At Bluegrass Jam Session In Effingham, Illinois

I did not get to the jam session till after 6 pm.  I was able to listen to two more bands.  Achen Back String Band was the first band and the Flat Mountain Band was the second band.  Both were good.  Everyone enjoyed the music and the bands had  a great time playing.  There was a lot of toe tapping going on while both of the bands played.

Flat Mountain Band From Olney, IL. Playing At Effingham, Illinois

For more on the jam session see post below. 

Strings Attached Band – Great Bluegrass Music

Last night was a night of some great music.  Taking to the road I headed to Effingham, IL. to listen to some great bluegrass musicians.  There were several bands playing throughout the day.  From 1 pm till 9 pm bands were around the courthouse lawn playing and there were some on the stage also. Chesnut Family Music store in Effingham  put the jam session together and did a great job.  My cousin Melody Freeman was playing in the “Strings Attached” band, so that was the reason for the trip.  She did a fantastic job, as did the other musicians.

“Strings Attached” Band at Effingham, Illinois – Presented by Chesnut Music Store

Great music is an understatement.  People travel to Chicago for this quality music and it was right here in Central Illinois.

To give you an idea how good the music was, Melody (Staff) Freeman won the Illinois State Fiddle Competition one year.  She also won the State Fair Fiddle Contest one year.  She has played with numerous bands and gets calls to play when bands need a great fiddle player.  She enjoys playing the organ for her church and leads their music worship service.  She also has played with the house band at Nashville North in Taylorville, IL.  Melody will also play with various people at The Grand Levee at the Old State Capitol in Vandalia.  Dates will be Sept. 23rd from 4:30-6:00 pm and Sept. 24th from 4:30-8:00 pm.  On December 10th Melody will be playing at Greenup, IL. with Tony Booth.  Tony won band of the year three years from the Academy of Country Music.  He also was involved with the Buck Owens and Hee- Haw TV shows.   Melody plays twelve instruments and teaches music to around 50 students each week.  Her Dad owned “Staff’s Music Store” in Vandalia, IL for many years.

The banjo player, Gratton Toliver won the Illinois State Banjo Contest three years.  He also won the Missouri contest two years.  Gratton plays six instruments including playing ragtime piano.  He also has given banjo lessons for over 20 years.

Marylynne Toliver the bass fiddle player is quite talented also.  She also plays the rhythm guitar.  You can tell she really enjoys what she does and brings much to the group.  She and Gratton make a great team.

Marty Williamson plays the guitar for the group.  Marty has developed into quite a musician himself.  He also plays for a Chicago based band called “Hello Dave”.  Visit their website to hear some great music.  Marty enjoys playing a variety of music and plays solo for many venues.  When back in the Effingham area he also teaches 30-40 music students.

These musicians also play Civil War Era music at reenactments.  That band is called the “Salt Creek String Band”.  Gratton plays the claw hammer during these sessions.  They dress in clothing from that era.  They will be playing as this group in Princeton, IN. Sept 10th for the 4th annual Civil War Days.   They will play for the dance or ball for the soldiers and their partners.  All the music will be from prior to 1865.  Playing at this Reenactment will be Melody Freeman, Phil Freeman, Gratton Toliver and Marylynne Toliver.  They will play from 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm.

If you ever get a chance to hear this group, don’t pass it up.  A night of enjoyment will be yours.