The Times, They Were A-Changin’

The Song Folk, a late '60s folk ensemble from Messiah College (Courtesy of "The Bridge")

The latest issue of The Bridge, Messiah College’s alumni magazine, is running a short article on the Song Folk, a music ensemble from the College that featured several Brethren in Christ voices.

Here’s a taste of the piece:

Dwight Thomas ’70 started . . . the Song Folk . . . in 1969. “During the late ’60s, the church was only beginning to embrace contemporary styles in worship, and prior to the Song Folk, Messiah had no formally endorsed music group of the sort,” says Thomas, who is now an assistant professor of music at Messiah. “We took our musical inspiration from a popular group of the time called the Seekers.”

The article makes no explicit connection between the Song Folk and the Brethren in Christ Church — though it stands to reason that the group performed at more than a few church-sponsored events, as Messiah College singing groups were (and still are) known to do.

It would be interesting to know how conservative Brethren in Christ audiences responded to the seemingly “worldly” musical stylings of the Song Folk.

Read the whole article here. Listen to a song by the Ethnics, a similar folk group from Messiah College, here.

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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4 Responses to The Times, They Were A-Changin’

  1. Beth Mark says:

    I remember this group as well as one with a previous membership ( a year or two prior). The earlier one also had Dwight Thomas but, in addition, had Connie (Engle) Hoffman in it.
    They visited our church in Toronto & played for a coffee house that we set up in the basement of our church (picture a darkened room with candles on the table). My sister Karen & I were older teenagers & were quite taken with the group. The coffee house did pull in teenagers from the area who had never been in our church.

    I can’t say there was much immediate influence (from folk groups) in worship services, at least in our area. However, music at youth events at Gen. Conference, camp meetings, camps, etc., were definitely influenced by these groups.

  2. Harriet Bicksler says:

    I remember the earlier one with Dwight and Connie. I think Ray Dourte might have been in it for a time, and perhaps Donald Wingert (from Chambersburg area). I don’t specifically remember hearing them in churches, but then I was at the Grantham Church right on the Messiah campus where we had easy access to anything on campus.

    BTW, my husband has some interesting slides from a folk concert at Messiah back in the late 60s.

  3. Elaine Byer Reed says:

    All comments are fascinating. Devin, are you related to the Thomas singers?

  4. Devin Manzullo-Thomas says:

    @Elaine: I’m not related to these Thomases — my parents grew up outside the BIC Church and came to it later in life. But I do get this question quite often!

    @Harriet: I’d love to see those slides, if he has them scanned/digitally available. Some day I’d like to digitize some of the audio recordings available in the BIC Archives (old radio sermons, Roxbury preaching, singing groups, etc.). Would be fascinating to compare them to some of the Jesus People music / secular folk recordings of the ’60s and ’70s.

    @Beth: Thanks for the story. Your last point is a good one: perhaps these groups themselves didn’t play a significant role in the gradual changes in BIC music — but their influence on the younger generation, who eventually took over the church music, probably had a major effect.

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