From the funeral to the fair

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The five woman singing group Alleluia has made the complete circle from the funeral to the fair.

Alleluia members are Gena Alberda, Carolyn Parrish, Pat DeFries, Donna Barnes and Judy Perrin. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)

Northeast Arkansas District Fair Manager Jerry Reece heard the musical group sing at the funeral of Evelyn Markin, at Gregg Funeral Home in Monette, earlier this year. Reece was so taken by their performance that he asked Alleluia to sing at this year's fair on Gospel Night, Sept. 18, with the Martins.

"Mrs. Markin has always been one of our best supporters," Alleluia spokesperson Gena Alberda said. "She and her friends came to see us wherever we were slated to sing. She was always promoting us and trying to get us bookings in the northeast Arkansas area. She would take great pride in knowing that we were asked to sing at the fair because we sang at her funeral."

Alleluia was organized more than 20 years ago by Judy Gipson of Monette and included Mark Prince, Tony Prince, Donna Barnes, Carolyn Parrish and Pat DeFries. As members moved away and left the group, Gena Alberda and Judy Perrin were added to fill the vacancy. They are all members of the Assembly of God Church in Monette.

"We have always wanted to sing at the fair in Jonesboro but never thought it would be possible," Alberda said. "Mr. Reece called Pam Littlejohn, Mrs. Markin's daughter, when he got back to Jonesboro following her funeral and asked if she thought we would sing at the fair. Pam called Carolyn (Parrish) to ask. After talking with the rest of the group, Carolyn assured Pam we would be proud to sing at the fair."

The Alleluia group consists of singers Ms. Alberda, Ms. Perrin, Ms. Barnes, Ms. Parrish and Ms. DeFries. They are well known throughout northeast Arkansas for singing at homecomings, festivals, school functions, church functions, Fourth of July celebrations and in theatres at Paragould, Leachville, Monette and Blytheville.

"We sing at a lot of funerals," Alberda said. "So many of our fans request us to do so. The songs they list as their favorites include Old People, I Remember the Day," and "Saved by Grace. We consider our singing as a ministry and are honored to come when asked. We have never been in it for the money, as we all have jobs and active lives to lead. We just find pleasure in singing together. We have all been friends for a long time."

The group practices every week, usually at the Alberda home.

"Our harmony has just evolved through the years," Alberda said. "We sing together at church every Sunday. We try a lot of different songs, but our fans always expect us to sing some of their old favorites. Carolyn keeps us in tune by telling us to sing out, slow down, speed up and come in at the right times. We are close enough that we can speak honestly with each other as to our strengths and weaknesses. We always end up just laughing and learning from new challenges. We just learn to sing off of each other and make the harmony work. Music is important to all of our families and us.

"We all loved Mrs. Marking so very much. Who would have ever thought that even at her funeral she was getting us new bookings to sing?"

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