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Local singers announce first duet album

Bill Strom, left, and Gordon Gathright released their first duet album, "Songs We Love to Sing" this past weekend. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)

After about 30 years of singing together, both formally and informally, Bill Strom and Gordon Gathright have finally produced their first album.

The album, "Songs We Love to Sing," is a collection of 18 religious songs ranging in style from traditional to modern. It features the vocals of Strom and Gathright, both in duet and as solos. It also features the talents of their wives, Sara Strom and Linda Gathright, on piano; Sara Strom on harp and Strom's son, Pete, on guitar. Gathright's son, Andrew, did all the technical recording, engineering and remastering work that went into the CD.

"It's amazing that we've been able to incorporate our families," Gathright said.

The recording was done in the nave of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, selected for its sound quality. The photography for the CD cover was done by Marcus Sarazin, a young man in Gathright's youth group.

The recording is a project many years in the making.

"We've both been talking about this CD project for a long time," Gathright said.

The duo met back in the 1980s. Both have spouses who play piano, and both quickly earned local reputations as soloists by singing for church services and various events such as weddings or funerals.

"I think word got out," Strom said.

Their fans suggested they team up and sing together, so they did.

"We started singing duets just kind of on the fly," Strom said.

Then Strom, a baritone, and Gathright, a tenor, got a new idea.

"After we'd sung several times we thought it'd be good to do a concert together," Gathright said.

Their first concert was back in the mid-1980s, and they continued performing formal concerts together until about nine years ago, when they put on a standing room only performance at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church that raised funds for Hastings Family Service.

Although they haven't given a concert recently, Gathright and Strom have continued to sing together, and their fans have continued to ask when they'll produce a recording. The decision to make a CD was partly for their audience, but it was also something they wanted to do for themselves.

"I really want something to hang onto," Gathright said.

Recording started about three years ago in the fall. It's been a circuitous route to the final product, Gathright said. In 2015, he suffered a stroke that forced them to set the recording project to the side. This year, though, they got serious about the effort and managed to see it finally finished. Two weeks ago, the newly made CDs were delivered.

The songs are a collection of the songs they both have loved singing over the years, Strom said. They are religious songs, some familiar and some less so, as those are the songs they've been best known for singing, Gathright added.

No strangers to performance

While "Songs We Love to Sing" is their first recording as a duo, both Strom and Gathright have extensive experience as professional singers. And, as members of larger choirs, they have been part of a few group recordings.

Both grew up in musical families, Strom said, and they're both what he calls naturals when it comes to singing. Still, they've put in considerable practice. Strom said he's been singing since his mother gave him his first lesson as a child. He has studied with a number of professional voice trainers, and in recent years, has often gone for listening sessions with others, where he could get feedback on his performance.

Gathright said he studied with voice teachers in high school, and although he didn't sing much in college, he has recently done more formal study and training.

Both are members of the Augsburg Centennial Singers; Gathright is also part of The Couriers ensemble, which is part of the choir. Gathright is a chaplain at Augustana Care in Hastings and also in other communities.

Strom is a retired pastor and formerly the senior pastor at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Hastings. Besides the Augsburg Centennial Singers, he has performed with the Dale Warland Singers and Exultate. He has performed with other ensembles short term as well. He also sings in the Our Saviour's choir.

And, of course, they still sing with each other as regularly as they want, Gathright said.

Release party

Now that the CD is finished, both singers are eager to see it in the hands of their audience.

"It's just real good to have it done," Strom said.

"And (we are) excited to be able to share it," Gathright added.

To present the new album to the public, Strom and Gathright held a CD release party Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Hastings Arts Center. Strom and Gathright were there as well, and performed a selection of three or four songs from the CD.

They are working on getting the album available for purchase online, as well as finding a local retailer.

Information about the CD is available on Facebook; look for "Gathright & Strom."