PORT RICHEY — For the Peyton family, expressing faith through music is more than just entertainment. It's about sharing what's in their hearts and feeling the support of their audience.
Singing and church have always been part of their lives, but it was only recently that they combined the two into an outreach mission — largely because of encouragement from others.
"I believe it is something that we have been called to do," said Joey Peyton, 34. She has been singing with her parents, Don and Karen Peyton, since she was a child, though it started as something they did around the house while cleaning up the kitchen or just hanging out.
A couple of years ago, Don was at a jam session in Spring Hill, and he brought along his wife and daughter to sing with him. The audience was impressed. One man in particular was especially moved.
Wayne Barcomb, a retired sound technician, approached Don and encouraged the Peytons to share their music with others. He even researched potential venues and opportunities where they could perform.
"I told Don, 'You've got a message that you need to get out there,' " Barcomb said.
They felt like they weren't ready yet, so they spent the next year preparing music, practicing and putting together a CD.
In the meantime, Barcomb, who spends part of the year in Florida and part of the year in North Carolina, visited churches, telling them about the Peytons.
Their first real gig was last summer at a North Carolina church, and they've done about a dozen concerts since then there, in West Virginia and in Pasco County.
"Every place they go there is at least one person in the audience that makes an altar call and feels compelled to testify their life's story and their love of Christ," Barcomb said. "It's not just entertainment with them, it's a ministry through music. They sing from their heart and their soul."
And the audience can feel it, he said.
"You can't help it … I've seen big, strong coal miners down on their knees crying," he said. "The Peytons bring something that I've never felt."
The three Peytons, who live in Port Richey, work together during the week at Don's law firm in New Port Richey.
Don, 67, speaks lovingly of his family, and their bond is evident.
"Joey and her mother are really the backbone of this group," he said.
For Joey, the music has given her life purpose. She said audience support and faith inspire her to keep to doing it.
"They come for entertainment, and we get the love and support from them," she said. "There's not a day that goes by that we're not grateful."
Don used to play the banjo, but he pinched a nerve in his elbow which affected his ability to play. Now he uses a Bilbro Resonator guitar, which he lays in front of him. The sound is gospel mixed with country and bluegrass. Karen, 60, grew up in West Virginia in a family of 10. She often attended church revivals.
"It wasn't just being religious, it was a lifestyle," said Joey, who attended Gulf High School and now works as a paralegal at her father's law firm.
"My parents set a good example for me. We were a church-going family," she said. "This has added a layer to the closeness, a common goal that we have, to share what we feel with other people. We're very blessed to have that happen."
Don is touched by the outpouring of support he has received during their concerts.
"We're trying to present something that will be an inspiration and touch the hearts of other people," he said.
Joey is passionate when she talks about the music and compares what they do to old-time revivals.
"For us, this is what we sing because this is what's in our soul … it's what we feel," she said.
"There's a lot of times we look out and people are crying, or clapping, or saying 'hallelujah.' We've had shows where we've cried. We feel so much what we're singing; there's no way the Lord's not in that room," Joey said.
"It's always nice when you get a family together that can worship and praise God through music," said Glen Pratt, principal of the school at Grace Bible Church in Hudson, where the Peytons performed recently. He said the music touched some of the people in the audience.
"They're very, very inspiring, and quite moving," said the Rev. Mark Hamilton of Community Congregational Church-United Church of Christ in New Port Richey. The Peytons performed a free concert at his church recently.
"It was very uplifting and inspirational," he said. "They sing their hearts out."
Joey Peyton is thankful that someone encouraged them to do what they're doing.
"It was someone else that came to us and said 'Your singing has said touched me; you should share it with others.' "
One of her favorite songs on their CD is called Thank You. As the song says, "Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed."