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Popular movie, soundtrack feature voices of Baptist sisters, choir

WHITE HOUSE, Tenn. (BP)–In the recent movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” a river baptism scene features a choir singing the song “Down to the River to Pray.”

While the faces of the choir aren’t familiar, the voices are, especially to members of First Baptist Church in White House, Tenn.

The voices belong to the First Baptist Church choir, which is directed by Michael Peasall, the church’s minister of music.

Peasall, whose voice is among the choir members, observed it’s “an incredible feeling when you hear your voices coming from the screen.”

In addition to the church choir, Peasall and his wife, Sally, who also is in the choir, have three extra reasons to be proud.

Three of their children — Leah, Sarah and Hannah, aka The Peasall Sisters — also are featured in the movie. Well, at least their voices are.

The three girls provide the singing voices for the three daughters of the character played by actor George Clooney.

Actually it was through the girls that the First Baptist choir received the opportunity to perform, Peasall noted.

Because of their connection with the family, the producers at Mercury Records turned to Peasall when they needed “a real-sounding choir” to provide backup to Allison Krauss in the hymn “Down to the River to Pray.” Though the choir did not receive payment for their role, the record company did make a donation to the church that was used to purchase needed sound equipment, Peasall said.

As to how the girls became involved, the three sisters had auditioned for the role of the daughters but were not chosen, yet the producers knew that they wanted the voices of the girls for the singing parts.

It turned out to be a blessing, the music minister observed. Although he described “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” as a good movie, it used profanity throughout, Peasall said. At least one news report described the film as “an Oscar-caliber movie.”

And while he and his wife have seen the movie, they have not allowed their three daughters, ages 13, 10 and 7, to view the film. They also have two other children, Joseph, 4, and Emma, 7 months.

By not being in the movie the girls were kept from being exposed to things they didn’t need to be, Peasall said. After hearing all the profanity, he noted “we knew that was why” the girls were not chosen for the parts. “I think God said, ‘That was not the role I had for them.'”

Peasall readily tells everyone who wants to see the movie about the bad language.

One has to understand they did not set out to make a Christian movie, Peasall said of the film, which is set in the Great Depression era of the 1930s in rural Mississippi.

Yet the film does have some redeemable points, especially the baptism scene at the river that portrays the theme of God’s forgiveness.

“God can use that,” Peasall said, adding that there are subtle moral messages throughout the movie.

The song sung by The Peasall Sisters, “In the Highways,” is featured on the soundtrack CD, which has gained platinum status (over 1 million copies delivered to stores). About 800,000 copies have actually sold to this point, Peasall said.

Even before their role in the movie and sound track, the Peasall sisters had done studio work with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and other producers.

Unknown to Peasall, however, was that his wife, Sally, and the three girls had been praying the “Prayer of Jabez” for the girls and their ministry through music. In the prayer, found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Jabez asked God to expand his territory and that God would be with him and keep him from evil.

As for the Peasall sisters, God definitely has enlarged their territory in recent months.

Since the movie and soundtrack, they have been invited to sing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and a Bill Gaither Homecoming video. Their photos have appeared in New Yorker and People magazines as well.

On April 26, the girls sang at the 32nd annual Dove Awards.

In June the girls will appear on a CBS television Saturday morning show and sing at Carnegie Hall.

“Every time we think things have quieted, something else comes up,” Peasall said. “We pray about what will be next for the girls.”

Yet, despite all the publicity, the girls do not like anyone to call them “stars,” their dad related. He noted they were upset that they had to miss GAs one Wednesday night when they had to leave for the Gaither Homecoming video.

As for the summer events, they do not like the fact they will have to miss Vacation Bible School. Their dad is proud the girls seem to have their priorities in order.

“They are typical girls and have no concept of what they are doing could mean financially for them,” he continued, adding that royalties the girls receive from the album will be used to fund their college education.

As to what the future will hold for his daughters, Peasall said, “We are leaving that to God.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: O SISTER WHERE ART THOU?

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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