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Twila Paris has a message for Hagerstown

April 16, 1997

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

Twila Paris said she doesn't have a list of cute phrases to turn to when she wants to write a song.

The contemporary Christian recording artist, who will perform at Hagerstown Junior College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center Friday, April 18, at 8 p.m., said sometimes the music comes first, sometimes it's the lyrics. Ideas can come from something she read in Scripture that morning or from a Sunday sermon.

"Out of nowhere, an idea will come," Paris says.

After 17 years of composing, Paris still depends on a spark of inspiration. That's scary, but she's glad, because it helps keep her relationship with God, she said. And that is what the music of the 38-year-old Arkansas native is all about.

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Paris has written or co-written all 22 of her No.1 singles and has been recognized for her talent in writing as well as singing. She took Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards for Song of the Year in 1995 and Praise and Worship Album of the Year in 1992. She was nominated for the Female Vocalist of the Year Dove Award for 11 of the past 12 years, and won it in 1993, 1994 and 1995. Her latest CD, "Where I Stand," was released last spring. With the exception of one song co-written and performed with fellow contemporary Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman, Paris wrote all the songs.

Her 70-city "Where I Stand" tour has been on the road since last fall. Paris is joined by Avalon, a new pop vocal group consisting of Nikki Hassman, Jody McBrayer, Michael Passons and Janna Potter. "Give It Up," their No.1 single, is from their debut album, "Avalon," which was released in December.

In a phone interview from her Fayetteville, Ark., home, Paris noted that there are only 11 cities left on the tour.

Her preferred method of travel is in her bus. It's easy to finish a performance, walk onto the bus and get in your bunk, she said. Bunks are stacked in the center of the bus, with lounges on either end; she compared it to a submarine. With 17 people in the company, Paris said it took some getting used to the road tour.

Family tradition

Paris' great-grandparents were traveling preachers, whose mode of transporation was a covered wagon. They stopped, along with their daughter - Paris' grandmother - and son, in small towns, setting up open-air worship meetings in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. They'd stay until the people established a church, then they'd move on.

Being able to get home for a few days several times between performances has helped Paris cope with the rigors of the road.

Paris and her husband, John Wright, who doesn't tour with her, like to do simple things, including family cookouts and walks in the country. Paris said sometimes she will collapse for a few days or just sit in the back yard and listen to the birds.

Paris said she has seen a gradual growth in the popularity of contemporary Christian music. She believes people who are not churched or who may have been away from church are starting to listen, feeling they're in trouble and not knowing what to do about it.

Many people have rejected the one central thing they need to listen to one more time, she said. In the song "Hold On," Paris wrote of holding on to money, fame, pain and anger.

"But if we hold on to Jesus, We are holding on to hope," the song continues.

Contemporary Christian artists should not change their message to appeal to a new audience, Paris said. They are called to declare Jesus' message, she explained. It's the message her great-grandparents carried in their covered wagon. It's the message she will bring to Hagerstown.

To get tickets for Twila Paris

Tickets are available at area Christian bookstores and WCRH Radio Station in Williamsport. For information, call 582-0285.

All seats are general admission. Bleacher seating is $8 in advance, $10 at the door and $6 for groups of 15 or more.

Chair seating is $10 in advance, $12 at the door and $8 for groups of 15 or more.

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