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Gospel singer aspires to 'living room' atmosphere
Allison Durham Speer, who performs tonight, hopes her audience feels like family.
By GAIL HOLLENBECK, Times Correspondent
Published February 9, 2008
Allison Durham Speer sings some of the old Southern gospel classics, such as This Old House and Because He Lives, and also includes some newer songs in her concerts.
BROOKSVILLE - When Allison Durham Speer sings in concert at Brooksville Wesleyan Church this evening, she hopes the audience will enjoy the "living room-like atmosphere" that she tries to re-create.
"I hope they just have a ball," Speer said in a recent interview. "I hope to make great friends and keep those friends, and I hope folks just come out and have a good time."
Talking by phone while visiting her mother in central Kentucky last week, Speer said she is looking forward to the warm Florida weather.
"I can't wait because it's freezing here," she said. "I live in Nashville, and it's cold down there, but I think it's 22 degrees here right now."
Speer, 42, began her singing career professionally in 1985 when she was asked to sing a few songs at a church where popular Southern gospel singer Squire Parsons was giving a concert.
"Squire said to me, 'You know, I think my agent needs to hear you sing. Do you have a tape?' "
So, Speer got a neighbor to record a cassette tape of her singing to give to Parsons.
"The next week, I got a call from Maurice Templeton, who does Christian cruises," Speer said. "Maurice said, 'I'd like to take you on my cruises and let you sing and see if we can't get you some church concert dates.' That was the beginning of my career, and I haven't stopped since."
Besides performingsolo concerts, making recordings and writing lyrics, Speer has sung on the 700 Club and the Trinity Broadcasting Network and performed with Luis Palau, Bailey Smith, David Ring and Johnny Hunt. She has toured with the Bill Gaither Trio and Gaither Vocal Band since 1989 and appeared on Gaither Homecoming videos and live concerts.
It was Gaither, Speer said, who influenced her concert style.
"I'm just so thankful for everything I've learned being around the Gaithers," she said. "I've traveled with Bill and Gloria Gaither for about 18 years and watched them so wonderfully create an atmosphere where folks are welcome. It's kind of like they bring you into their living room and everybody is friends and family. Just sit back and enjoy yourselves. It's low key. It's very personal and very relaxed."
Speer sings some of the old Southern gospel classics, such as This Old House and Because He Lives, and also includes some newer songs in her concerts. Her favorite song to perform these days is Life's Railway to Heaven, which she plans to sing tonight.
"It's not a real typical song for a lady to do," she said. "I was told by everybody that heard we were planning on doing that not to do it because it just wouldn't fit. But it is marvelous. The audience loves it. They sing along every evening that I do it, and it's just a real bright spot in the concert."
The kinds of songs Speer and the other Gaither singers perform are important to the church at large, she said.
"That music ministers and really fills a void that the church had for those great, deep songs of conviction and songs of faith. It has brought countless numbers of individuals back into Christendom because of the friendly and drawing nature of the gospel in that music. Praise and worship music is wonderful, but we need both."
Speer's upbringing in the bluegrass fields of Kentucky makes its way into her concerts, she said.
"I do tell some funny stories. You can't have Kentucky roots without having some funny stories in your pocket."
Speer said being a musician has deepened her faith and made her aware of her role in the church.
"I consider Christian musicians to be of a priestly line within the church," she said. "We have priestly responsibilities to serve the body of Christ. That's a pretty big responsibility."
If you go
Allison Durham Speer will be in concert at 6 p.m. today at Brooksville Wesleyan Church, 8168 Jasmine Drive, Brooksville. The concert is free; an offering will be taken. To hear some of Speers' songs, visit www.allisondurhamspeer.com. For information about the concert, call 799-3066.