Crystal Sea brings message with music Southern gospel trio to perform

February 19, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Crystal Sea mixes old-time religion and modern music theory to deliver a Christian message in upbeat tones.

"God works through music," said Shanne Miller of Hanover, Pa. "We are just helping people along with our songs."

The southern gospel trio, which will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at Manchester Baptist Church, evangelizes with music. Trio members Darlene and Joel Brengle, who sing along with Mr. Miller, said formal liturgy is not the only form worship can take.

"Our purpose is to share the gospel through song," said Mr. Brengle.

"We are not entertainers but we don't mind entertaining," said Mrs. Brengle. "If people don't enjoy what we are singing, they won't get the message."

The Brengles of Hampstead said they take their tunes from old-time religion, today's church hymnals, personal inspiration and "Joel's synthesizer."

"The sequencing is new, but there is nothing new about southern gospel," he said.

Some songs come from childhood memories. "My grandfather sang gospel when I was a little girl," said Mrs. Brengle.

The Brengles invited Mr. Miller to "join in their ministry" in 1988, when they formed Crystal Sea. The three, who all grew up with rock 'n' roll blaring in their ears, haven't given those rhythms a moment's listen since.

Joel Brengle, 30, is the only member with formal music training. His parents always encouraged his talent, he said, and gave him a foundation based on Christian values.

"They never dreamed he would do anything but continue with his music all his life," said his wife.

He stuck with his music -- playing in several rock and roll bands -- but strayed from his childhood religion.

A near-fatal car accident gave his life new purpose, he said.

"I fell asleep behind the wheel after a late gig," he said. "I should have been dead, so I figured there must be a reason I'm here."

The experience renewed his faith, he said, and sent him back to regular church services.

His band background helps him develop "up-tempo stuff with a lot of energy." The rock 'n' roll roots may have added livelier notes to the repertoire.

"Our music has a lot of life in it and really appeals to youth, too," he said.

Mrs. Brengle played the organ and sang in church choirs as a teen-ager. Now, she is as comfortable in front of an audience as her singing partners. Singing has been a part of Mr. Miller's life since he became a Christian, he said.

"The Lord gave me a talent and I am willing to use it," he said.

The trio's name came from Revelations Chapter 4: "And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal . . ."

"All good Southern Baptists have to have a biblical reason for everything," said Mrs. Brengle with a laugh.

"We try to be that reflection of God's light as we go about our business," said Mr. Brengle.

Crystal Sea has also performed outside church at several concerts in the park series in Carroll County and at the Appalachian Jubilee in Pennsylvania. They will be competing in the Ohio State Singing Convention in May.

They recently completed their third album and a single, "Abide in the Ship," made the Top 10 -- on southern gospel charts.

Admission to Crystal Sea concerts is free. But the trio does make demands on the audience.

"We want people to do more than stare back," said Mrs. Brengle. "They have to sing along, clap and stomp their feet."

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