Led by Tim Johnson on fiddle, mandolin and guitar, a Cowboy Easter Concert will be presented at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 19 at Oakhurst Lutheran Church at the intersection of Road 426 and Black Road.
“This is the most sacred time of the year on the Christian calendar,” Johnson said. “We attend church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The concert is an exclamation point to these services and reminds us of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through a collection of powerful songs performed by a band of musicians who have performed these songs for many years.”
Special guest musicians and singers will be Jimmy Collier on guitar and banjo who will be featured in “Were You There,” “Balm in Gilead,” “In That Great Getting Up Morning” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and Lisa Guzman singing “They Could Not,” popularized by Sandi Patty.
Joining Johnson will be Cliff Neufeld on keyboard and vocals, Rudy Helm on guitar and synthesizer, Arnie Johnson on guitar, Eddie Guzman on drums and harmonica, Lawrence Bohanon on bass guitar, Bobby Black on steel guitar and Linda Champion on violin.
The concert will feature not only gospel hymns performed instrumentally and vocally by members of the band but also cowboy poetry readings by Helm and the Rev. David Sebastian reading John Pierce’s “A Cowboy’s Easter.”
“Moonlight Sonata,” “He Turned Water Into Wine,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “He Lives,” “Back in the Saddle Again,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” will be included in the program.
Johnson, who performed with the Sons of the San Joaquin from 2000-2007, has been influenced by many musicians and composers ranging from Bach to great jazz violinist Stéphane Grapelli. From many influences, Johnson has developed a musical style that blends a classical, jazz, blues, cajun, bluegrass, sacred and gospel repertoire into his own. Both he and his brother, Arnie, were raised in a home surrounded by music.
“In our early development years, my dad and mom, Howard and Berneice, had a genuine love and desire to serve Christ, especially in music,” Johnson added. “They both saw to it that I and my siblings performed in church every week. They led by example and were always faithful to God, each other and to us. Through their example, we developed a love and desire to perform music for life. My mother is now 85 and plays the piano for the weekly services at the Salvation Army, the Fresno Rescue Mission, and her church, The Gospel Lighthouse, in Fresno. Mom has played the piano faithfully at these places and many churches. . .since the age of eight.”
“I believe the chemistry of our band of gifted musicians is transparent on the stage,” Johnson continued. “This transparency is not only inspirational to the musicians while performing, but the audience is also inspired in visualizing this experience. Arnie and I have performed Gospel music together our entire lives and we know instinctively what each other will do before we do it. This cohesive bond has now transcended into the rest of the band, Eddie, Cliff, Rudy, Jimmy and Bobby. We have now performed together for the past three years and have developed a camaraderie, both musically and spiritually. Most importantly, we all have a love for Christ and willingness to share the musical gifts God has blessed us with.”
Band member, Black, got his first steel guitar at the age of 14, and now in his 70s, was a member of the country rock band, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.
Collier blends folk, blues, gospel, country, western and soul. He worked as a staff entertainer for the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He has also performed as the opening act for Pete Seeger, has played Carnegie Hall and appeared on “Sesame Street.”
Eddie Guzman plays with the Sierra Cowboy Riders and he is the bandleader, lead singer and drummer for the Fresno area band, Wild Hare. He performs a wide variety of music ranging from pop and rock, to rhythm and blues, blues, jazz and country.
A donation of $20 is suggested for the concert. Additional information and tickets are available by calling Oakhurst Lutheran Church at (559) 683-4673.