By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian
Years ago, the Rev. John Snyder enjoyed listening to Mark Bishop sing with his family’s band, The Bishops.
Starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Snyder and his guests will have an opportunity to witness his performance in person right in the heart of Monongah at Sunrise Chapel. There is no admission fee, but an offering will be accepted.
And it’s all thanks to a member in his congregation who has ties with the chart-topping singer. Mark Shaver was invited to play music with Bishop around a campfire at a West Virginia campsite and was able to organize this concert for the chapel.
“We’re pretty pumped,” Snyder said. “One thing I learned about southern gospel artists is that they’re so down to earth. Just talking to him and texting him, he’s a normal person that hasn’t let it get to his head, and he is willing to come to our church.”
Evenings spent on his front porch sharing the day’s events and singing song after song escalated Bishop’s music career into an impressive, award-winning 25 years in the music industry. His talent for music has allowed him to minister and entertain audiences all across the United States and Canada.
Starting with The Bishops, he and his family enjoyed tremendous success, producing 27 Top 40 songs, 12 Top 5 songs and three No. 1 songs. As the group’s primary songwriter, Bishop had a knack for being an effective and compelling storyteller. Of the Top 10 songs in which they were recognized, Bishop had written 10 of them, including songs like “When Jesus is All I Have” and “You Can’t Ask Too Much of God.”
In 2000, he was honored by the Gospel Music Association (GMA) with a DOVE award for his production of The Bishops’ “Kentucky Bluegrass” album. Named the “Best Bluegrass Album of the Year” by the GMA, the album was recorded for Homeland Records.
Once The Bishops retired in 2001, his family, friends and peers encouraged him to pursue a solo career, and since then he hasn’t looked back. Eight albums in eight years have set the mark for this award-winning solo artist, who was honored with 16 Top 40 songs and five Top 5 songs. Of the highest honors, he enjoyed back-to-back No. 1 songs in 2004 and 2005 with “Can I Pray for You” and “I Got Here as Fast as I Could.” In 2005, he was named Singing News magazine’s “Soloist of the Year.”
To sum up Bishop, his website’s biography describes him in this way: “Audiences across the country have been blessed by Mark’s performances and have discovered that a concert with Mark is indeed an uplifting event. His voice is instantly recognizable and familiar to fans of southern gospel music; his beautifully crafted songs are encouraging and insightful; his presentation is engaging, endearing and multifaceted.
Although this isn’t the first time Sunrise Chapel has invited musicians to perform, this is the first time they have enjoyed someone of Bishop’s caliber.
“He’s just inspirational,” Snyder said. “He’s so down to earth. He’s such a common person that I just want people to see that you can attend church and still be normal.”
And with Bishop coming from such a modest, down-to-earth background, the audience will be able to enjoy a down-to-earth show. Bishop will stand around and talk to the audience as well in the same storytelling fashion.
“I Got Here as Fast as I Could” especially strikes a chord with Snyder. A story of two brothers, the one brother falls ill at a young age and dies. The other brother went on to live a full life, and when he got to heaven, his brother was there waiting for him. That’s how the song’s title “I Got Here as Fast as I Could” was created.
“They usually have a story that you have to listen to the whole song to get it,” Snyder explained. “His songs are a little different than most southern gospel. They really tell a story, so that’s why I kind of thought he would fit in very well here.”
Hoping the audience gets just as much out of Bishop’s music and his open heart, Snyder is inviting everyone in the community to attend this one-of-a-kind event.
“I want it to be uplifting and for folks to have a great time,” Snyder said. “We accept all faiths. We preach Christ, teach grace and show love. Everybody is welcome. Anybody can come, and it would be comfortable.
Seating is limited for this much-anticipated event, with only 180 seats available. Casual attire is appropriate. Offerings collected from the event will assist in funding Bishop’s traveling expenses. For any questions concerning the event, please call the Rev. John Snyder at 304-376-7257.
Email Nicole Lemal at firstname.lastname@example.org.