Toes were tapping and hands were clapping in beat to the American gospel and Christmas songs featured in last Saturday's Cowboy Christmas concerts at Oakhurst Lutheran Church.
Under the direction of Tim Johnson playing fiddle, mandolin and guitar, cowboy band members and vocalists as well as special guest musicians and singers performed a variety of Christmas and gospel tunes.
Eddie and Lisa Guzman sang "Mary Did You Know," an audience favorite. Five members of the Cox family Hannah, Emilie, Scott, Sean, and Tobin made up more than half of the string orchestra which offered a spirited version of "I'll Fly Away."
Local musician Kirk Moulin on the bass guitar performed "I Wonder as I Wander." Rudy Helm played the synthesizer guitar. Jimmy Collier, a local guitar and banjo player, sang "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Jingle Bells." Collier has a reservation at the beginning of February for a try out for the television hit show "America's Got Talent." He plans on offering a western banjo themed performance.
"Life's Railway to Heaven/Orange Blossom Special" was played by Johnson with the sounds of a lonesome train whistle and the clackety-clack of a train coming down the tracks.
Johnson prefaced this number explaining that, "One of the greatest benefits I enjoyed during my developmental years, was observing the undiluted passion my father had during his lifetime in guiding, developing, and encouraging each of his seven children to perform gospel music."
A highlight of "Sleepwalk" was a solo by Bobby Black on the steel guitar. Black has been playing the instrument for 65 years. Growing up, his family insisted he take piano lessons when he was six years old. He admits that was not his favorite thing to do.
"But when I heard the steel guitar on the radio in the 30s and 40s, I knew that I wanted to play that," Black said.
He has made his living performing with Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen, Asleep At The Wheel, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and Barbara Mandrell's Do-Rites.
The special holiday program included Cliff Neufield on keyboard who sang "I'm an Old Cowhand."
Haley and Delaney Beyer sang a duet of "Oh Holy Night."
A poem, "How Far Is It to Bethlehem" by Gail T. Burton was read by Pastor David Sebastian. That poem answers the question in its last line, "It's just half way to the cross."
"We found that a lot of people enjoyed the western gospel music similar to that performed by Sons of the Pioneers that is offered at our church on Sunday afternoons from 4-5:30 p.m. and that is why Tim Johnson decided to put together the cowboy Christmas program for the second year," Sebastian said.
The band will take a break on Dec. 22.