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Providence Quartet to share Southern gospel music in Covington

The Southern gospel group Providence Quartet consists of, from left, Thomas Nalley, Rob Shelton, Rick Coutos and Toby Fricks.

The Southern gospel group Providence Quartet consists of, from left, Thomas Nalley, Rob Shelton, Rick Coutos and Toby Fricks.

A crowd favorite at the National Quartet Convention held each year in Louisville, Ky., the Providence Quartet will appear in concert in Covington Feb. 19, offering those in attendance a taste of true Southern gospel music. The quartet, which has been nominated for the Horizon award for several years, will sing at Community Church of Praise that Sunday morning at 10:30.

The community is invited to attend the concert, which will end around noon. The church seats 150 to 160 people and Pastor Ken Smith said the doors will open at 9:30 a.m. Child care will be available. A love offering will be taken for the quartet, which will pull its bus into town Saturday night then leave Sunday afternoon for another concert in Cornelia Sunday night.

"We've been to Macon and other areas around there, but this is our first time coming to Covington," Providence Quartet member Toby Fricks said during a phone interview from his home near Anderson, S.C. Three members of the quartet are from South Carolina and the tenor singer is from Hendersonville, N.C.

"We'll be doing the whole service that morning," Fricks said. "We want to invite everybody out in this area. We want to meet as many new people as we can."

Pastor Smith has high praise for the group he has known for the past four years. Smith's son, Logan Smith, sings with the Gaither Homecoming Tour and met the Providence Quartet four years ago at a singing. He has since sung with the group on several occasions.

"We're looking forward to it," Pastor Smith said of the upcoming concert. "They're a wonderful spiritual group that just believes in really worshiping the Lord through songs. They have a great quartet style and blend so well together. They truly believe in having church."

Since it began in 2003, Providence Quartet has traveled throughout the U.S. sharing the message of salvation through Southern gospel music. Comprised of Rick Coutsos, Rob Shelton, Thomas Nalley and Toby Fricks, the quartet states on its web site, www.providencequartet.com, that its purpose is to "reach the lost by sharing God's saving message...while sharing the good news to thousands in a never-ending journey of faith."

Smith said after he and his son met the quartet, they "just fell in love with them."

"They're such a friendly bunch of guys...and we thoroughly enjoyed their music," he said.

Fricks was minister of music at his church in Pendleton, S.C., Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, when Shelton joined his choir. The two men started singing together in the early 2000s.

"We decided to get a third person and sing a little bit at nursing homes and other places," Fricks said. "It kept growing and growing and I had to quit my church job. We're still at the same church and I didn't have any intentions of doing it like this, but the Lord opened the door and it kept getting bigger."

Three members of the group have been together since the beginning with the tenor singer joining the group two years ago. Things continue to get "bigger" with more than half a dozen of the group's latest songs making it to the "Singing News" charts.

"It's been really good," Fricks said. "We're in the studio right now getting ready for a new CD."

Providence Quartet is working on its sixth CD and will include it on its website, where people can order its earlier CDs, as well. The group also has CDs available to purchase at its concerts.

"We're pretty much out every weekend somewhere," Fricks said. "I would say 75 percent are churches on Sundays, but there are a lot of Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. We try to set aside one weekend a month to be at home with our families or go to church with our families...It's tiring sometimes and we all have kids and you try not to miss anything, but it is fun and you meet a lot of people and we do enjoy it very much."

Fricks and his wife Susannah are the parents of a daughter and a son, Kennedy and Carter.

Coutsos, the group's bass singer, recalled how his mother influenced the music he came to enjoy. He remembered how one night, as she played the Happy Goodman Family's album, he heard the song, "Looking for a City," and he "fell in love with the music."

That love of Southern gospel continued and Coutsos especially enjoyed listening to his three favorite bass singers: George Younce, Ray Reese and Tim Riley. Coutsos is the father of a daughter, Amber.

Shelton said his father George Shelton Sr., taught all eight of his children to sing and they would go around the country and minister to thousands through song. He said all he's ever known since he was a boy was getting on a bus and going to sing. Singing gospel music is his life's calling, Shelton said. He also sang for a while with the Dixie Melody Boys.

Nalley, the quarter's tenor is from Hendersonville, N.C., said his love of gospel music was realized when he met his wife, Sarah in 1998. She was a "huge fan" of the Cathedral Quartet, he said, and he too fell in love with the music.

Soon after the couple married, Nalley answered a call into music ministry and joined his first group. He has now been singing for 12 years. Nalley and his wife are the parents of Benny and Brianna.

For more information about Providence Quartet's concert in Covington, call Community Church of Praise at 770-787-4311. The church is located at 10 Bird's Crossing on Highway 212 near the intersection of Highway 162 in Covington.

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.