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Christian singer lifts 2,900 fans

April 19, 1997

By TERRY TALBERT

Staff Writer

Contemporary Christian recording artist Twila Paris answered more than a few prayers Friday night when she brought her 70-city "Where I Stand" show to Hagerstown.

The 38-year-old Arkansan enraptured a crowd of approximately 2,900 fans at Hagerstown Junior College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center with her music and inspirational message.

Paris, a perennial winner of the Gospel Music Association's coveted Dove awards, drew concert-goers from around the Tri-State area.

"I love Twila Paris. She has a beautiful message to sing about," Hagerstown resident Cheri Zello said. "Her songs mean a lot to me. In this day and age we need hope, and Twila sings about hope."

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Bobbie Harmon, 23, of Hagerstown, was at the concert with other female members of the Hagerstown Bible Church. "It's girls' night out," she said. Harmon felt the concert would be "spiritually refreshing - spiritually uplifting."

Andrew Caldwell, 25, of Hagerstown, said his mother wanted him to join her at the concert. She had come from Cumberland to hear Paris sing, he said.

Emily Mayhew, 11, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. said, "I think it will be a nice concert." She said she first heard Paris when her mother listened to her on the radio. "Mom has her tapes now," Emily said.

Dan Hill was with a group of 27 Salem United Church of Christ members who came to the concert from Fairfield, Pa. He said they liked contemporary Christian music, and Paris in particular.

Paul Mast, 25, of Lancaster, Pa., said he and his friends started listening to her music when they were about 12 years old. Mast was wearing a T-shirt that reflected his beliefs. On the front it asked what happened to people who don't believe in God. On the back was the answer: "Bad things, man. Bad things."

Most who went to the concert were Paris fans who knew her music well, and felt blessed to have the opportunity to see her in person.

One Hagerstown teen who had never heard of the gospel music artist also found herself there - onstage with the star's band - praying she wouldn't make too many mistakes.

St. Maria Goretti High School graduate Becky Blank, a violinist, got a call from the Paris organization on Thursday, asking if she'd stand in for another musician. They'd gotten Blank's name from one of her former music teachers.

"I don't have the music yet," Blank said Friday afternoon, just hours before the show. She said she was told she might have a chance to run through the music with the band before going on stage.

A classical violinist who has been playing since she was 41/2 years old, Blank said she would be sight reading during the performance. "I never heard of Twila Paris," she said. "I've never even heard this kind of music before. I don't know what to expect."

The daughter of Charles and Nancy Blank, Blank will major in violin performance in college. She said she has filled in at the last minute before with orchestras. This, however, was a different story.

Blank admitted to being a little nervous, especially considering the size of the crowd. As it turned out, she and three other string players from Hagerstown got a public thanks from Paris.

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