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Blackwood Quartet brings gospel side of Elvis to the prairies

By Brian Oliver, The Graphic

The Blackwood Quartet will be touring southern Manitoba  beginning Monday with stops in Steinbach, Winkler, Portage, Winnipeg and St. Andrews. (Supplied)

The Blackwood Quartet will be touring southern Manitoba beginning Monday with stops in Steinbach, Winkler, Portage, Winnipeg and St. Andrews. (Supplied)

A renowned gospel group is teaming up with the King of Rock and Roll to bring a can't miss tour to southern Manitoba.

Mark Blackwood and the Blackwood Quartet - a gospel group from the southern United States that has a rich history in the musical genre - are once again partnering with Steinbach's very own Corny-Rempel, an award winning Elvis impersonator, in a tribute to the King.

"If Elvis was still alive today he would be a gospel singer. That's the kind of music that he loved best," says Casey Shepherd, baritone singer and pianist with the quartet. "The quartet will do the first half of the show, singing the great gospel songs, then we'll take a break and then the second half of the show we'll back up Corny as he sings more of the great Elvis songs with the quartet behind him, just like Elvis did throughout his entire career."

The original Blackwood group formed in the hills of Choctaw County, Miss., in the 1930s and became the first gospel group to sell a million records. Today, now based in Tennessee, Mark Blackwood continues the legacy with tour stops in several different countries.

"We love coming to Canada. It's one of our favourite places to sing," Shepherd adds.

The southern Manitoba tour stop sees the quartet, along with Rempel, perform shows in Steinbach, Winkler, Portage la Prairie, Winnipeg and St. Andrews.

"Elvis loved Gospel music and he had a history with gospel music," said Shepherd. "He only won three Grammy Awards in his career even though he sold millions and millions of records, but those three Grammy Awards were for his gospel recordings."

The foursome are no strangers to Canada, or specifically the prairies, as their touring has brought them to B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba back in 2015 where the group also performed with Rempel.

"The show is a great time, it's an uplifting evening with great music and great harmonies, laughs, all that kind of stuff," adds Shepherd. "We're doing it with our friend Corny, he's a great guy and a great Elvis tribute artist."

The group spends the bulk of the year on the road and following the Manitoba stop, return to the United States with bookings keeping the men busy up until February 2019 and beyond.

"This is what we do," he adds. "Obviously we take off particular time for holidays and family and vacation and such, but pretty much every weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we are somewhere singing this great gospel music."

The quartet is made up of Mark, a third generation Blackwood, Shepherd, Justin Terry as bass singer and Chuck Pettyjohn as tenor singer. The Blackwood name has won eight Grammy Awards, 27 Dove Awards and have been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. 

The tour opens Monday in Steinbach and comes to Portage la Prairie's Highway Pentecostal Church March 15. Tickets are priced at $38 or $40 at the door. Tickets are available at etixnow.com by calling 888 790 1477.

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