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True to their beliefs: Collingsworth Family back on tour with Christmas season concert

After 22 years of concert touring, the Collingsworth Family is seeing audiences come back from COVID social distancing in larger numbers than they’ve ever seen.

The Collingsworth Family, an inspirational gospel vocal band with “a lot of Broadway flair,” will present a concert, “A True Family Christmas,” 7 p.m. Dec. 1, Bethany Wesleyan Church (BWC), 675 Blue Mountain Drive, Cherryville, Lehigh Township.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown forced postponement of the group’s concert at BWC in December 2020.

“Folks are realizing how important [gathering for live music] is for their psychological well-being, especially in the Christian gospel world to have that association with others in the faith,” says Phil Collingsworth Sr., patriarch of the family singing group, in a phone interview.

“They didn’t know how important that was when they could take it or leave it. But when it was taken away, they’ve come back so strong to come together for encouragement and hope. They’re coming out in force.”

At a recent concert in Lancaster, where the group has been singing for 16 years, the largest crowd ever turned out at more than 2,000 attendees.

“We’re very grateful,” Collingsworth says.

Audiences can expect an upbeat, harmony-based concert featuring traditional festive songs, secular and sacred.

“We like to provide a lot of visual variety, musical variety, different timbres of voices, different instruments,” says Collingsworth. “People tell us we remind them of ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ [seen 1965-82 on TV] in terms of variety, as well as stylistically.”

The concert will feature songs from the family’s 2019 album, “A True Family Christmas,” which reached No 1 on the Billboard holiday genre chart.

“Billboard doesn’t differentiate between genres for holiday albums, so we were up against Michael Buble and everyone else. We could have been up against Led Zeppelin,” Collingsworth says. “So, we were very pleasantly surprised to reach number one.”

Sometimes called the Von Trapp Family of gospel music, the Collingsworth Family is made up of parents Phil Sr. and Kim, daughters Brooklyn, Courtney and Olivia, and son Phil Jr. They sing together in various vocal combinations accompanied by orchestral recordings as well as live instruments played by family members.

The family has performed in all 50 states in the United States, all provinces in Canada, and in five countries in Europe.

Phil Sr. and Kim have been performing together in the music ministry for as long as they’ve been together. They met while Phil was a trumpet performance major in college and Kim was a piano player for a private Quaker school in Indianapolis.

“My sister was the choir director,” says Collingsworth. “She said, ‘Oh! You need to meet my piano player!’ And now we’ve been married 35 years.”

The family, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has been touring for 22 years, with all four children having been raised and home-schooled on the road. The siblings have gone on to receive secondary educational degrees online, touring through it at all, and meeting their spouses on the way. They’ve added six grandchildren to the family, ages six and under, who all come along on tour.

“Our kids run the operation now,” Collingsworth says. “It’s wonderful.”

Throughout their touring history, the family has released 28 albums and 16 video albums. Recordings are often quite complex, using full live orchestras for accompaniment.

“There’s a lot of investment that goes into our albums,” says Collingsworth. “We’re very grateful to produce music at this level.”

Kim, a concert pianist who plays a grand piano that travels with the group, does a lot of the songwriting and music arrangements.

“My wife was captivated by ‘The Sound of Music,’ Collingsworth says, so her arrangement style has been largely influenced by Rodgers and Hammerstein.”

While on break from touring for about seven months during the early stages of the pandemic, the time off was incredibly valuable, spawning a lot of new things for the family.

“Kim wrote a book about her journey becoming a concert pianist. She wrote a lot of songs for the new album,” Collingsworth says, referencing the family’s latest album, “Just Sing!,” released Nov. 19.

All of the downtime gave the family the “scriptural renewal and fuel to give out,” Collingsworth says. “If you give out constantly, your sponge gets dry, so we needed to soak some for a while.”

Since getting back on the road in fall 2020 with a partial tour schedule and crowds about half the size the group was used to, Collingsworth says they began to notice audiences started coming back at full force around May of this year.

“It’s been a busy year since getting back,” says Collingsworth.

The family is already planning their next album for 2023, a hymns album with the London Symphony Orchestra.

“We never foresaw 22 years ago that it would build to this,” Collingsworth says.

“We prayed very strongly that God would open the doors where we can be effective and close the door where we’ll stumble. That particular philosophy has kept us on the pathway for 22 years. We plan to do it for at least eight more [years] and then evaluate,” says Collingsworth.

“Who knows? Maybe another five more [years] after that. The whole family is on board to stay together to at least 30, maybe 35 years, so we can all retire at once. We’re very grateful.”

Tickets: www.itickets.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The Collingsworth Family, “A True Family Christmas” concert, 7 p.m. Dec. 1, Bethany Wesleyan Church, 675 Blue Mountain Drive, Cherryville, Lehigh Township. Above are, from left: Brooklyn, Olivia, Phil Jr., Kim, Phil Sr. and Courtney Collingsworth.