For the men of local group Visions Country Gospel, there is nothing like picking up a microphone and sharing their love of music and ministry through song.
The popular trio has two country gospel and Christmas shows coming up in Red Deer – the first runs Nov. 28th at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, starting at 7 p.m. Proceeds will support various missionary endeavors. Tickets are available by calling 403-346-3798 or 403-342-4729.
The other performance is set for Dec. 14th at the First Church of the Nazarene, starting at 7 p.m. as well. Proceeds will benefit ‘Gleanings for the Hungry’. Tickets are available at the door or by calling 403-347-1191.
Vision’s history extends back to the spring of 2001, when Garry Raabis and Dennis Oster met in Jim Escott’s basement here in Red Deer. They tested out some harmonies, liked what they heard and the group was born. Over the years, members have come and gone but the vision – to entertain, minister and in general just brighten up people’s lives – hasn’t changed.
Today’s line-up includes Escott, Brian Snow and Ted Hiscock. These days, they enthusiastically take their music to many venues throughout the year – sometimes it’s a concert setting, other times they minister in seniors’ facilities and local hospitals. But wherever they are, they want to both inspire and entertain.
“Our music is our ministry,” explains Escott. The guys sing everything from old-time favourites to cherished hymns to traditional classics and standards. Intricate harmonies essentially define much of their sound, which Escott said it is also strongly influenced by legendary country artists such as the Statler Brothers.
Meanwhile, Christmastime brings of course a wonderful opportunity to share the ‘sounds of the season’.
“Our Christmas program has been the same for about six years now – 30 to 40 minutes of the finest holiday pieces around.” As Escott explained, it’s tough to improve on what is already so exceptional. Plus audiences often don’t care for significant changes to traditional and beloved Christmas tunes. “People love it, and if it isn’t broke – don’t fix it.”
For Escott, a love for music was sparked when he was about five and started taking piano lessons. He also had accordion lessons during elementary school years.
He attended Holy Trinity Sunday School and Church in the Pine Lake area, and in his early teens played with a couple of local bands. After living for a while in Calgary, and playing with a band there for a time, he and his family settled in Red Deer in the late 1970s.
Snow hails from St. John’s Newfoundland. After living in Toronto for many years, he and his family moved to Calgary in 1970. Snow started out as a ‘single’ entertainer and for over 28 years entertained both in Toronto and western Canada. He joined Visions Country Gospel in 2002 and considers the group one of the ‘mainstays’ in his life. He grew up in a musical home, and of course music was a key part of his parent’s ministry in the Salvation Army.
Hiscock, who is also originally from St. John’s, was always involved with music as was his father and involved in many living room and kitchen parties playing and singing.
In late 1973, he applied for the RCMP and was accepted and sent to Killam, Alberta after his training in Regina. As for his earlier years, he recalls growing up listening to lots of classic country artists such as Jim Reeves. He played guitar and bass with his first band when he was 17.
After serving in several communities, in 2005 he retired from the RCMP after 32 years of service and moved with his wife back to Red Deer which has always been his home since moving to Alberta.
Meanwhile, Visions Country Gospel has performed extensively throughout Alberta with invitations to perform in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and several states.
Part of their purpose is to entertain at hospitals, nursing/seniors homes and for those less active and fortunate. Those can often be the most fulfilling times for the guys, said Hiscock. “After virtually every show, someone will come up and tell you, ‘I didn’t know if I was going to come tonight. I was feeling really down, but over the last hour, you guys have made me feel so good and so loved’.”