WHAT'S ON

Elvis' love for gospel music at the forefront of Gospel Service

REHEARSAL: Members of the Elvis Gospel Choir, from left, Joseph Bondareff, Michelle Jelbart, Louise Moore, Neil Naveau, Tom Rivett, Pamela Ward, Mal Westcott, Bob Strickland, Eileen Bradley, Joan Paul, Dawn Wakefield and Neil Westcott. Photo: Christine Little
REHEARSAL: Members of the Elvis Gospel Choir, from left, Joseph Bondareff, Michelle Jelbart, Louise Moore, Neil Naveau, Tom Rivett, Pamela Ward, Mal Westcott, Bob Strickland, Eileen Bradley, Joan Paul, Dawn Wakefield and Neil Westcott. Photo: Christine Little

The Gospel Service is the Parkes Elvis Festival's second biggest event and organisers are looking for anyone who's keen to get involved.

Every year the mass gathering attracts up to 5000-6000 people, out-growing its former locations of the Parkes Uniting Church and the Parkes Big W car park over the years to now being held in Cooke Park.

And its ultimate attraction lies behind the King of Rock and Roll.

"Gospel music was Elvis' first love and it continued throughout his whole life," Elvis Gospel Choir member Neil Westcott said.

"That's what's at the forefront of our service.

"It's the greatest opportunity to dive deeper into the man and who Elvis was. Tribute artists love singing his gospel songs because Elvis loved gospel so much.

"A hidden fact is that the Gospel Service is the second biggest event at the festival after the street parade.

"The service highlights the gospel songs of Elvis."

Story continues after video.

Rehearsal for Elvis Gospel Service

Last year's festival marked the first year the Parkes Ministers Association decided to take the service back on after a three-year break.

The move allowed the association the opportunity once again to raise money for local causes and international efforts locals are involved in, such as the East Timor projects that Parkes has been part of for several years.

"The Gospel Service was initially organised for that reason," Neil said.

"For me, organising the 2019 service felt like we were returning to the roots for the Uniting Church.

"It began as a very simple philosophy and it grew from there.

"It's a church service that seems a bit like a concert and for others it's a concert that feels a bit like a church service.

"Its popularity continues, people who don't otherwise go to church attend this."

Last year's service also raised money for the scripture and chaplaincy in Parkes schools.

Neil said the top tribute artists of the festival are involved in the service every year, with Dean Z, gospel singer Francine Bell, Mark Andrew and Roydon Donohue returning in 2020.

"They're all going to be there - the biggest stars of the Elvis Festival will be involved and they're always keen to be," he said.

"Our committee has worked hard to bring another great service for 2020."

Neil said if the choir is something you're interested in, you are invited along to the next rehearsal on Friday, January 10 at 7pm at the Parkes Uniting Church hall, ahead of the big day on Sunday, January 12.

The 2020 Parkes Elvis Festival kicks off on Elvis' birthday this year, on Wednesday.

Keep up-to-date with all our Elvis Festival coverage here.

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