Paul Brandt adds spirit to Graham festival

Winnipeg Free Press
October 20, 2006
Lindsey Wiebe

Lindsey Wiebe Hundreds of singers, including Canadian country music superstar Paul Brandt, warmed up Thursday for this weekend's Central Canada Franklin Graham Festival.

A thousand-voice choir is preparing to sing Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the evangelical Christian event at the MTS Centre. The massive choir is composed of singers recruited from the 200 Manitoba churches participating in the festival.

Although Brandt will perform at the festival independently and is not scheduled to join the choir, he is with them in spirit -- the Christian spirit, that is.

Brandt will perform Friday night at the festival, which is free. The musical line-up over three days includes an A-list of Christian performers, including Rebecca St. James, Casting Crown, Newsboys and Michael W. Smith.

On Thursday, Brandt was visiting the Safeway on Dakota Street in support of Operation Christmas Child, a project that sends gifts to needy kids worldwide. The program is run by Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham.

The country crooner's performance might have surprised some shoppers picking up a quick lunch at the St. Vital supermarket, but not the hundreds of fans who heralded Brandt's appearance with screams and camera flashes.

Roughly 300 people surrounded the tiny stage, tucked between the produce department, checkout stands and floral counter, for a half-hour performance. There were a few cowboy hats and plenty of outstretched camera phones at Thursday's show. Customer service clerk Diane Sinnock stood on the floral counter to get a better view.

"He's a very nice person, and this is a very nice cause," she said.

Between songs from his latest Christmas album, Brandt encouraged his fans to support Operation Christmas Child, which collects shoe boxes full of donated presents to send to children who might otherwise not receive gifts.

Brandt rolled into town in a semi-trailer filled with 4,500 shoe boxes, collected since his cross-Canada tour began.

"It's been wonderful," said Brandt. "Fans have come out in droves, and been very supportive."

The musician said he learned about Christmas Child two and a half years ago, and has traveled to Cambodia to help deliver the shoe boxes.

Brandt said he was thrilled to be part of the event.

"I have heard Franklin Graham before, and I really support his message," said Brandt. "I'm very pleased to be a part of it."

BBB Festival of Hope My Hope with Billy Graham

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada

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