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Long IslandLI Life

VITAL SIGNS / FAMILIES / Gospel Truths

Growing up in Hempstead, the seven children of Willard and

Priscilla Meeks were always facing the music in one form or another.

The chords sang, coming from their mother's piano. The notes wailed from

their father's saxophone. And music was the very calling of the choir at the

Kings Temple Church in Hempstead, where the five boys and two girls grew up

very musically indeed.

"We had a Hammond organ and a grand piano in our living room," said Angela

Shella, 25, of Middle Island. "Now, how many people grow up with a Hammond

organ and a grand piano there?"

The Meeks kids have long since grown - and so has their sound. Five years

ago, Willard Meeks Jr., 44, who still lives in Hempstead and serves as music

minister at the Kings Temple Church, struck a chord for family harmony.

A classical piano graduate of the Manhattan School of Music who had a

career touring with musicals and entertainers, Meeks decided to get down to

business - not business as usual, but God's business:

Now, Willard Meeks and Company, featuring the siblings' vocal and

instrumental talents, and those of about 10 family friends, tour gospel events

and other cultural festivals throughout the region.

"The gospel is more than an art form; it carries the message of good news

because it uplifts the spirit," Meeks said. Many songs are his original

compositions.

Members of the group, which rehearses once a week in Hempstead, often pray

before they play, he said. "We pray that we be effective" in carrying God's

message and in being heard, he said. It's all about God's love and support, he

said.

"It's good to have family support," he added. "Even when you mess up, they

are always there."

Ah, now that's some real good news.

Listen to songs performed by Willard Meeks and Company online at

www.newsday.com/lilife.

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