Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



In the Spirit: Gone Fishin' baits its hooks with God's love

About three years ago, Dale and Nancy Zenner were watching and listening to the gospel music of Bill Gaither on television in their home in St. Cloud, Minn.

About three years ago, Dale and Nancy Zenner were watching and listening to the gospel music of Bill Gaither on television in their home in St. Cloud, Minn.

That night, they heard that Gaither was bringing his "homecoming" musicians to the Target Center in Minneapolis.

"We should go to that," Dale said to Nancy.

And so they did.

They loved every minute of the four-hour musical extravaganza, which I can totally relate to because I've been to Gaither concerts.


Now Nancy and Dale are singers from way back. But in 29 years of marriage, they had only sung together once -- for a wedding.

On their way home from Minneapolis that night, Nancy said to Dale, "we should do that."

And so they are!

They're singing gospel music, Gaither Vocal Band style, with Nancy's sister, Barbie Schoenleben, and friends, Bob Jungel and Marc Kelash. All are from the St. Cloud area of central Minnesota.

Nancy feels the organizing of their group was ordained by God because everything fell together almost effortlessly.

"I thought my sister would be too busy, but she said it was an answer to prayer," Nancy said. "It's been a special season in our lives. Our children are grown and we are able to do this."

Nancy meditated on the words of the Great Commission (Matthew 28) and on the words of Jesus in Matthew 4:19: "Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men."

"OK," Nancy said, "this is our fishin' mission. We've gone fishin'.


The group, Gone Fishin', in its second year of music ministry, will be on stage tonight at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. Tickets are $10. Their self-titled CD, released in July, will sell for $15.

Dale, who during the day is a factory representative for a vinyl siding manufacturer, was in Grand Forks last week. He stopped by the Empire.

"I fell in love with it right away," he said. "It's the perfect size. I love to go to towns and visit their theaters. I love the way communities have their own intimate place."

Inspired not only by the Gaither Vocal Band, but also the gospel music of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, The Isaacs, The Booth Brothers, The Hoppers and the Cathedrals, Gone Fishin' uses soundtracks to accompany their up-tempo, high-energy voices.

"There's a whole group of Gaither fans out there," Dale said, "and we certainly appeal to that crowd. We do a little bit of everything. People ask me, 'what is Southern gospel?' It's a mix of music, traditional gospel, country flavor and a little bit of barbershop. It covers a lot of area."

The five rehearse once a week if schedules permit. Dale travels a lot with his job. "I sing a lot when I'm driving," he said. "We rehearse on our own. We all have vocal discs that we work with individually that help with tone and breathing. I sing all day long."

Dale is lead singer. Nancy and Barbie do alto and soprano, Bob sings bass and Mark sings tenor.

"Mark used to sing barbershop, and he jumped at the chance to get involved with us," Dale said. Barbie's husband, Jeff Schoenleben, is the group's sound technician.


Barbie works in administration with the St. Cloud Public School system, and Nancy teaches at St. Cloud Christian School. The two women grew up in a family of musicians.

Their father, Roger Barrett, was a professor of music at St. Cloud State University, and their mother, Darlene Barrett, was a vocal teacher as well as a vocalist. When they were younger, Barbie, Nancy and another sister became quite well known as the Barrett Sisters singing group.

Mark owns and operates his own design/construction company, which among other things, builds churches. Described as the "spark" and the "prankster" on stage, Mark and his wife have four children and a brand-new grandson.

Bob, who is in the printing business, always has loved music, but put it aside for years because of school, sports, marriage and children. When he got back into music, he first sang with his church choir and then led music for church services and sang with the praise band. When he's not singing and working, Bob enjoys being a volunteer firefighter in his community.

In his late teens, Dale was a featured vocalist for a group that performed at a supper club near St. Cloud. He went on to start two other groups before hanging up his vocal chords in 1994. As his faith deepened, however, Dale got more and more excited about forming another group whose aim would be to spread the Gospel through music.

His dream came true through this fishin' mission.

Sure, all five enjoy fishing on Minnesota lakes. Sometimes, they do cast out for walleye, northern pike, crappies, perch and bass.

But their most fervent desire is to bait their hooks with God's love and to be effective fishers of men.


"Our motivation is not to become rich and famous," Dale said. "It's to spread the Word. We're just out there fishin' for souls."

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

What To Read Next
Get Local