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Grand Forks Gospel Sing -- a family affair

Judy and Paul Durocher had six children in college this past year. David, 25, just graduated with a law degree, and Susan, 23, graduated with a degree in nursing. Daniel, 21, is in premed.

Judy and Paul Durocher had six children in college this past year. David, 25, just graduated with a law degree, and Susan, 23, graduated with a degree in nursing. Daniel, 21, is in premed.

Triplets, Naomi, Jesse and Jeremiah, 18, just graduated from high school, but through post-secondary credits, Naomi has earned her licensed practical nursing degree, and Jesse and Jeremiah already are part way to college degrees, too.

"We have this thing," their dad said, "let's get after it."

The six older ones are setting excellent examples for the six younger ones: Lydia, 15; Abby-Jo, 12; Gabrielle, 9; Selathea, 7; Melanie, 5; and Austen-Myles, also known as "Lost in Smiles."

"He's one sure-fire bundle of joy," Paul said of the 3-year-old.

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The 14-member Durocher family lives on a farm near Cohasset, Minn. They heat with wood, grow all their own food and, in their spare time, sing.

Spare time?

Next weekend, they're putting their violins and mandolins in two vehicles and heading our way.

We get to hear the Durochers on June 7 in UND's Chester Fritz Auditorium, thanks to Judy and Harold Lee, Reynolds, N.D. The Lees have secured the Durochers as one of eight musical groups on the program for their second annual Grand Forks Gospel Sing.

The event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 7, with the Durochers singing at 11 a.m. and again at 4 p.m.

Building and music

Paul Durocher, a native of Massachusetts, graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and ended up in Minnesota, where "we love it," he said. Along with being a pastor, he and Judy operated a home-building business.

Last fall, they closed their 20-year-old construction company and went full time into family music ministry, which includes speaking in churches and at conferences and family seminars. During their bluegrass gospel set, the Durochers "do a fair amount of storytelling," Paul said, "to try to turn people's thoughts to the Lord."

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Among the songs we'll hear them sing are "Old Rugged Cross," "I'll Fly Away" and "An Unclouded Day."

Family singing began only a year ago.

"We had a Southern gospel group who was supposed to come to our church (Grace Bible Church, Grand Rapids, Minn.) and they couldn't show up, so one of our deacons asked if we could put some music together," Paul said. "The kids have taken classical piano and violin, and we just got going."

Fritz program

In addition to the Durochers, there's much more fine music on the Gospel Sing program:

n Todd and Michelle Allen, Corunna, Mo. In full-time music ministry with their eight children (who captured our hearts last year), the Allen family will be on stage at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

n Higher Ground, Bismarck, 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Members are Gerold Albert, Larue Shaw, Tim Davidson, and Marlin and Leslie Peterson.

n Roy Hope, Sinai, S.D., well-known in these parts, will sing at 11:30 a.m. and again at 4:30 p.m. Roy moved me last year with his version of one of my favorites, "Ancient Words," as well as his patriotic songs.

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n Master's Call, Fosston, Minn., will sing at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Members are Ken Buchanan, the Rev. Don Vanklompenburg. Bruce Johnson and Bob Overmoe.

n The Overtones, Roseau, Minn., are on at noon and 3 p.m. They are Neil Vagle, Randy Holwell, Keith Sandland and Dale Billberg, with Joyce Hulst on piano.

n Special Delivery, Hampden, N.D., will sing at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Members are Chuck and Alice Damschen, their daughter, Naomi Damschen, and Cathy Anfinson.

n The Rusty Chords, Grand Forks, comprised of Marilyn Lee, Cecil Malme and Noah Chelliah, will sing at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Between 600 and 700 people attended last year's Gospel Sing, a gift to the community from the Lees, who for several years have attended such an event in Henderson, Neb. They enjoyed it so much that they stepped out in faith renting the Fritz and lining up the musicians so that we also might "enjoy the message in song that is so powerful," Judy said.

'There's a need'

Out of their own pockets and hearts, Judy and Harold, who are retired, not only rent the Fritz but pay additional fees for sound technicians, custodians, piano tuning, etc. And they supply food.

Because it's a daylong event, Judy is making cinnamon rolls, and coffee available in the morning in the Fritz's lower level.

About 11 a.m., she's offering scalloped potatoes and ham, Polish sausage, rolls, fruit, chips and beverages. "And I'm baking bars," Judy said, "between 60 and 70 pans of bars. I do have three people who will help with bars."

Morning and afternoon freewill offerings will be taken to help defray expenses. Judy hopes enough will be gleaned to reward the musicians. None of them charge a fee, which is "remarkable," she said.

Why does Judy do all this?

"I feel there's a need," she said. "People really enjoyed it last year, and it was so worth it. For me, it's a challenge, and it makes me feel like I have contributed something. If it wasn't for Harold, I wouldn't be able to do it. He helps a lot."

Eldwyn Vanbruggan, Valley City, N.D., will serve at morning emcee, with Eldon Hetland, Shelly, Minn., taking afternoon duties. They'll give away music CDs as door prizes.

Eleven ferns, donated by All Seasons Garden Center, will beautify the stage, and Best Buy is providing a television set for the lunchroom, so those who go to eat won't miss a minute of music.

The gospel event in Nebraska that the Lees never miss happens to also fall June 7 this year. "But, the Allen family chose to come here," Judy said, "which is an honor."

As for me, I'm looking forward to meeting two more Naomis who apparently love Christian music as much as I do and whose last names also begin with D: Naomi Durocher and Naomi Damschen.

Dunavan is a Herald columnist. Reach her at (218) 773-9521 or naomiinthespirit@aol.com .

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