History: Music Groups Glorify God through Recordings

October 14, 2020

This year, as we celebrate Emmanuel’s eightieth anniversary, we will be posting monthly articles on the history of the College.

Over the years, Emmanuel students have been part of many different kinds of music groups, such as choirs, gospel quartets, and rock bands. These groups have ministered within and beyond the school community, playing in church and Chapel services and sometimes travelling far and wide to lead people in musical praise and spread the word about the College. As noted in an earlier article, the Emmanuel choir was even present at the official launch of the Good News Bible in Toronto. On a number of occasions, Emmanuel and its students have decided to share the ministry of music in a different and more enduring way: through recordings.

In the 1960s, the College produced a vinyl record, called Jesus Saves, that showcased various musical acts on campus. On the A-side, the choir, led by Fred Lehman, performed songs such as “Blessed Assurance” and “Lead Me, Guide Me.” The B-side featured smaller student acts such as the Harvesters, who sang in four-part harmony to the accompaniment of a piano, and the trumpet duo of Bob Trulock and Harold Faw. Tracks included “I Shall Not be Moved” and “God Is Love.”

A follow-up album came in the form of There Is More to Life, released in 1970. The choir, then led by Gerhard Wall, performed again, as did a number of other groups from the first album. Two news acts were present: the Salesmen and the duo of Judy Kress and Cherry Addenbrooke.

Under the auspices of Emmanuel, the Harvesters quartet also created their own album, God Made a Way. In a message on the back cover of the LP, Lloyd Wilson, Emmanuel’s Christian service director, stated that he had travelled “thousands of miles” with the Harvesters as they had toured and even performed on television. Emmanuel student trio the Joybelles also made an album in conjunction with the College. Their eponymous theme song exclaimed, “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart.”

Years after There Is More to Life, the Emmanuel Chorale, with Wishart Bell as conductor, recorded How Excellent Is Thy Name at Emmanuel Missionary Church in Elmira, Ontario. The back cover reflected on the value of music for the Christian life: “It invades our lives, refreshing us, causing us to delight in its sounds. To the Christian, music is a reminder of all that is beautiful. It helps him to see the very God in Whose image he was created. . . . At times the beauty of God, and the delight we take in Him are too profound for words to express. For such times the higher expression is purely musical. In His wisdom God made it so.”

Further recording projects took place in the late 1990s. In 1997, Emmanuel Bible College released the CD Living Beyond, which featured a range of performances, from traditional choral numbers to contemporary worship songs performed with electric instruments and drums. The school also recorded two student groups, the upbeat Clear Perception and the Celtic-themed Ceili. Contributions from both acts were featured on the 1999 album Love Like No Other.

Today, innovation continues at Emmanuel Bible College. Since in-person interaction is currently restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students have started live-streaming events, including ones that feature live music. Thus, fellow students can participate real-time in musical worship from the safety of their own home. Like the initial Emmanuel recordings, this step represents an important adaptation to a changing world and demonstrates the students’ determination to lead others above mere speech and into an even loftier mode of praise.