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I think we’d all agree that it seems like yesterday that CrossWalk held their first concert. Formally, the band has been around since 1992, and several of us played together for years prior to that. We have experienced much change throughout the years but our ministry objective is the same – to share the gospel of Christ through music and song.
In the early 90’s, Don Hicks, the original drummer and founding member was asked to form a worship team at the Wollaston Church of the Nazarene in Quincy, MA. The goal was to present a more contemporary worship service that would appeal to the younger crowd at the church located on the campus of Eastern Nazarene College. Don also viewed it as an opportunity for creative outlet of one of his passions - song writing and arranging. Don would draw on a healthy supply of musical talent local to ENC to populate the group. During this short music ministry, the names and faces would change but it became clear that the core group was called to a music ministry beyond the four walls of it’s local church.
Having been a teenage member of a band which traveled the country, Don Hicks knew just how to get things off the ground. After a practice session one night, he suggested to the worship team that we take the group to the next level by forming a group that would travel New England. It didn’t take any arm-twisting to get people on board. We all had a passion for music and felt that it was a way for each of us to minister. After a short discussion of band names we went with CrossWalk.
CrossWalk’s original members included Don Hicks (drums), Jim Hammer (bass) and Don Sautter (vocalist), Steve Metcalfe (lead guitar), Leslie Martin (vocals), Don Myers (piano) and Charlie Burt (saxophone).
Early CrossWalk music took on a decidedly gospel feel, showcasing Don Hicks’ more traditional writing style and the musical influences of Andrae Crouch and The Archers. These influences are evident in Don’s songs There Will Be Peace and I’m Gonna Make it Over. This gospel feel was accentuated by the driving left hand of Don Myers at the piano. As Jim Hammer began to share in the song writing and singing, CrossWalk’s music began to evolve into a more contemporary and soft rock mix as evident by Jim’s songs Standin’ on the Rock and Offering of Praise. The blend of musical styles of Don and Jim as well as re-arrangements of traditional hymns would become a hallmark of the band that allowed us to play to a variety of venues and appeal to musical tastes of both the young and the old.
In the mid 90’s the faces would change, as would the sound of CrossWalk. Turnover in the group was more often than not the impetus for members to branch out and take on new roles. No stranger to tackling a new instrument, Jim Hammer would take up the keyboard in concert as well as guitar and organ in the studio. It was during this time that other ENC graduates take a role in the group including Jon Andree (bass), Jennie Gorton (vocals) and Tim Knepper (piano). CrossWalk would travel for a number of years in this configuration and record their first self-titled CD, CrossWalk, affectionately referred to as “the white album”, with Dave Spaulding at Double Edge Records.
In the mid to late 90’s CrossWalk would evolve into the five-piece format of today. The new configuration would include original members - Don Hicks, Jim Hammer, Don Sautter, Charlie Burt as well as the energetic bass playing and infectious smile of ENC professor Russ Bedard. Further changes would see Don Sautter continuing to lead vocals, but he would do so at the piano where his formal piano playing abilities would shine. Jim Hammer would also begin to showcase his electric guitar playing on stage in addition to keyboards. Charlie Burt would play saxophone, but also take up a microphone for the first time with the group. With all-male vocals, CrossWalk would develop a signature blend of complementary harmonies as well as each vocalist offering distinctive solos. CrossWalk’s second CD offering, Faith Like A Child, recorded at Long View Farms studios in W. Brookfield, MA would feature a variety of gospel, Christian contemporary and soft rock. Songs written by Don Hicks (Band of Angels, Surely, I Am Determined) and Jim Hammer (Faith Like a Child, Heaven, There for You) would exemplify the sound that is so characteristic of the group today.
Early in the new millennium, CrossWalk would undergo yet another change. After numerous years at the helm, Don Hicks would step back from touring with the band to focus on personal song writing and recording projects. Not ready to hang up the house speakers, the remainder of the band would continue to tour with the capable assistance of Steve Howard (drums), also a graduate of ENC. When Steve relocated to be closer to family, the search was once again on for a new percussionist.
In 2004 Jim Hammer contacted Sands Marshall, a percussionist who had attended Jim’s home church in Uxbridge, MA some years earlier. Sands’ mastery of the drums, his positive, outgoing personality and testimony made him a perfect fit with the group. After listening to a few CDs and attending a few practices, Sands began touring with CrossWalk as if he’d been with us from the start. Later that year CrossWalk would release a third CD, Shine, which included new live recordings as well as re-mixes and re-masters of works from prior CDs. This “best of” CD showcased another talent Jim Hammer had been developing over the years - recording and orchestration.
In 2007 the band released its fourth recording, called “Sight Unseen.” Recorded at “the Lakehouse” in Lakeville, MA, this recording would be the first to showcase the songwriting and singing talents of Charlie Burt. It is perhaps the most contemporary, highly produced recording that the band has released yet, and has been very well received.
We look forward to many more years of testimony through song. The changes we have seen since our beginnings have made each of us better musicians, best of friends, but most importantly, stronger Christians. Don Hicks is fond of saying that music is a powerful tool with which to share the gospel of Christ. Each of us can testify to this and have personally witnessed that live music is the perfect medium for touching souls. We have been richly blessed with musical talents, have considered it an honor and a privilege to minister as a group these many years and look forward to God’s challenge to continue to their use in the furthering of His kingdom. -- Luke 9:23.
CrossWalk 2010: Russ Bedard (electric bass), Charlie Burt (sax, vocals), Jim Hammer (keyboards, guitars, vocals), Sands Marshall (drums, percussion), Don Sautter (piano, vocals).
Once upon a time, Jim married Sue...Sue's brother, Dave, married Jim's sister, Karen... and the "Vatral-Hammer Singers" were born. The group began traveling in 1987, as a public relations singing group for Eastern Nazarene College. Since then, they have appeared in concert at many churches, old-fashioned "down-home" church camp meetings (including Douglas Campmeeting in Douglas, MA, Portsmouth Campmeeting in Portsmouth RI, etc.) and other venues, sometimes appearing as "Rejoice." In 2011, the group was officially renamed to "Rejoice and Sing", and their long-awaited album, "Offering of Praise", was finally recorded.
The members of Rejoice and Sing grew up listening to the great hymns of the church. They were influenced early on by many of the original contemporary Christian artists of the 70's...groups like Second Chapter of Acts, Dallas Holm and Praise, Andre Crouch and the Imperials, as well as many of the other popular secular artists of the time...the Carpenters, Barry Manilow and the Beatles. You can hear the influences of many of these groups in the style of their music.
As times changed, the members of Rejoice and Sing became actively involved leading worship in their local churches, singing traditional hymns and popular worship choruses by artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith and Paul Baloche.
In creating "Offering of Praise", Rejoice and Sing wanted to produce a recording that would not only be fun and easy to listen to, but which would convey a spirit of encouragement, peace and love...something that would speak to the hearts of people going through difficult times in life. They wanted it to be a mixture of recognizable songs that would appeal to a wide range of ages, and a variety of musical tastes. The result is a great collection of uplifting worship and praise songs, including cover versions of popular contemporary Christian songs by Chris Tomlin, Ray Boltz, Newsong, brand new arrangements of some older classics, and a couple original worship songs as well.
This recording features Jim and Sue Hammer (you might also recognize Jim as the singer/guitarist/keyboard player with CCM artists "CrossWalk"), Dave and Karen Vatral (Dave is the pastor of the Trail Church of the Nazarene in New Freedom, PA), with a few vocal appearances by Rebecca Hammer and Lauren Hammer, too. Jim Hammer served as producer/"one-man-band", handling the song arrangements, playing all of the instruments on each song, and engineering the recording.
This CD has something for everyone, lots of great harmonies, and terrific new arrangements of contemporary Christian praise and worship songs!
Here's what people are saying!
"First of all I loved the album, I especially like "Jesus Messiah" ... I think this album should do very well, it's easy to listen to, it's uplifting and you can feel the love and peace that comes from you guys' hearts. Even a "Rough around the edges rocker" like myself can sit and enjoy this music, it's soothing and gives the message of hope and comfort...I love it!!"
"I am enjoying listening to the CD everyday...I play it while I'm getting ready in the morning and I take it in the car with me so I can listen on my way to and from work. I sent one to each of my family members! My family always attended Northeast Camp in Maryland. (70+ years for my Mom!!) After my Dad died, my Mom spent her whole summer at the campground. She helped maintain all of the flowerbeds on the property. My brother and 2 of my sisters rented lots to put their campers on for the summer. Then the district decided to sell the campground. They really miss Family Camp (the 10-day camp meeting). They are experiencing camp again this year with your CD!! The special music was always a big part of the camp experience."
"About your CD, I love the singing and the message of the songs, but I am in awe of the background music and the creativity and work that went into it!! One of my favorite parts is in "Jesus, Messiah" with that strumming bass and percussion background. I think one of my favorite songs is "Arise, my Love." Powerful, to say the least."