A mixture of gospel and bluegrass, the music of Rescue Junction will fill Floradale Mennonite Church during a free-will concert January 27. Organizers also hope to fill the coffers of MennoHomes courtesy of donations from those in attendance.
“There’s no ticket price for the actual concert,” said Nichelle Bauman, who works with the church’s music ministry. “We’re asking people to make a free-will donation to MennoHomes, and then our church is going to match donations up to $5,000.”
Providing the entertainment for the evening is the Millbank-based band Rescue Junction, playing their strong acoustic-driven ballads. The music is a fusion of gospel and bluegrass, blending the vocals and spiritual resonances of the former with the rhythms, instrumentations and harmonized singing of the latter to create a sound that’s simultaneously soulful and meaningful as well as catchy to listen to.
“The genre is bluegrass music: it’s all acoustic with your standard bluegrass instruments,” explained Kaitlyn Gerber of the band’s style.
“And then we sing what is closest to our hearts, and that happens to be the gospel,” she said, adding the band does like to venture outside the religious genre at times.
Gerber founded the band with her brother Kyle back in 2009, she on guitar and he the mandolin.
“It started with me and my older brother Kyle just sort of doing some gigs here around the area, and then as we got invited to do more we started adding band members.”
Joining them on the banjo is Roger Martin, Dallas Roth on the upright bass and recent addition Nick Huber on the dobro guitar (played across the lap with a slide and finger picks). The group perform the vocals together, with different band members taking the lead at times.
The music itself is bluegrass, but not in a strictly traditional sense, said Gerber, as the band members pull their respective influences, both old and new, into the music. Both Gerber and her brother grew up performing music at church, but it was not until later in their life that they discovered bluegrass. And from there, they were hooked.
“All of us in the band have been involved in music in one way or another since we were little kids. But as far as bluegrass music, Kyle and I got into that when we were in [our] late teens, early 20s. We didn’t grow up with this music, it’s something that we discovered in our teens and really got into,” she explained.
“Which is kind of weird music for teenagers to get into,” she added with a laugh. “But it happened to work with us.”
Amongst her musical inspirations, Gerber counts the likes of Alison Krauss & Union Station, and Cherryholmes. She credits Nickel Creek, the Grammy Award-winning contemporary folk band, with first pulling her and her brother into bluegrass scene to begin with. From there, they were led backwards to the old-timers like Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley.
Since inception, Rescue Junction has been touring mostly within the province: local areas from Waterloo to Tavistock, and to the GTA, but the band has ventured south of the border too. Gerber explains that the members of Rescue Junction have strong Mennonite roots, which has made them popular with those communities based as far away as Pennsylvania and Indiana. Of the band’s plans, Gerber notes an upcoming gig in Florida, while she says she’s also hoping to tour out east in the Maritimes.
It’s the second time Rescue Junction is playing to benefit MennoHomes after performing over a year ago in Elmira; but this year’s concert will feature some new songs from their upcoming album, so it’s sure to be a treat for fans and newcomers alike.
For Dan Driedger, executive director of MennoHomes, the involvement of both the band and the church are a tremendous boon to the organization.
The funds raised will help go towards mortgage payments on the new Foundry apartment building in Elmira. The Foundry offers affordable housing in the community that is, uniquely, also elevator accessible. The building began receiving tenants from the middle of last year, whom Driedger noted happily, were really beginning to settle in and form a community.
Driedger notes appreciatively that people who donate at the concert will be able to take advantage of the hurch’s offer to double those free-will donations.
The concert starts at 7 p.m. on January 27 at Floradale Mennonite Church. The music is also preceded by roast beef dinner at 5:30 p.m., for which a meal-ticket needs to be pre-purchased to catering expenses. Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for children 10-and-under, and can be purchased by calling the church office at 519-669-2861.