CGMA gears up for convention

New Life Foursquare Church in Cranbrook the scene of six-day Country Gospel Music celebration

Billy and Donna Hale

Billy and Donna Hale

Barry Coulter

For the second time in recent years, Cranbrook is hosting a celebration of music and devotion.

Monday, June 22, is the start of the weeklong Canadian Convention of the Country Gospel Music Association (CGMA), taking place at the New Life Foursquare Church on 10th Avenue in Cranbrook.

The CGMA was founded by Billy and Donna Hale, of Branson, Missouri, who were in town a couple of days ahead of the event, and came into the Townsman to talk about the convention, Country Gospel Music, and the days ahead.

Billy Hale is himself a renowned Country Gospel Artist, having released 17 albums, and having had 15 number one songs on the Country Gospel charts. He founded the CGMA in 1996.

“Going back to the beginning — I spent 30 years as a pastor,” Billy said. “The Lord spoke to me one day — and this is what changed everything. He said I want you to be kind to my Christian country artists. So we started bringing them to town, and looking for ways to be kind to them, and it became obvious was what they really needed was an opportunity to know each other, be kind to each other.

“So we started the Country Gospel Music Association in 1996, to bring them together. We initiated an awards program in 1997, which was a big part of luring them together.”

The association is now in its 19th year, and next week’s convention will the association’s 116th. They typically hold six a year typically, sometimes seven, Billy said.

“This is our second one in Cranbrook,” Donna said. “We were here about five years ago.”

“We seldom go back to the same place, but here we are!” Billy said. “We have a lot of memories here, a lot of friends here.”

Fellowship and networking are at the heart of the conventions.

“It’s bringing them together so they can embrace each other,” Billy said. “As a result of the networking, it advances the cause of Country Gospel Music.”

“And the cause of Christ,” Donna added.

“What every Christian musician needs is to understand is music was created by the Lord Himself,” Billy said. “And music should be something that brings pleasure to his heart. Since the beginning of CGMA, we’ve encouraged the artist to write songs to the Lord and sing unto him so that the outcome of what they do is the advancement of the cause of Christ.”

“We’re not trying to promote the artists’ importance themselves, we’re trying to promote His cause. So the artists who join with us and stay with us are very ministry-oriented.”

“The reason that we move the conventions around to different areas is because its a way to draw in new artists and new talent,” Donna said. “For example, when we were here before, we were introduced to Ed King, who’s become a big part of what we’re doing. He’s been travelling with us ever since. We found artists don’t travel with you if they don’t know anything about you, so if you come to their area, they will get involved.”

The convention begins Monday at 5 p.m., with a getting-acquainted session. Anywhere from 50 to 100 artists will be on hand, and everyone will be introduced.

Over the following mornings, Tuesday through Friday, the days will begin with devotional sessions at 10 a.m. The afternoons will feature classes in ministry and music related subjects. Starting at 5 p.m. each day, artists will perform in their specific categories — of which there are about 40. Judging is done by the artists’ peers, not a panel. After  performances in each category conclude, ballots will be handed out to members of the association, who will vote accordingly. On Saturday night, June 27, th the awards celebration will be held, and the awards in all categories handed out.

The public is welcome to attend, the Hales said. There is no charge. For more information and details on the days’ events, go the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/countrygospelmusicassociation.com.

“Every convention is different, its according to how the spirit of the Lord moves, but we’re looking forward to hopefully meeting other new artists in the area that we didn’t meet before, getting them involved,” Donna said.