From the time I was a small child I had a natural attraction to and ear for music, especially vocal harmony. No one ever had to teach me how to sing the harmony parts. If any harmony part was missing, my ears just naturally detected the missing part or parts, and my voice naturally gravitated to whatever would fill in the gap. When I was 8 or 9 years old, my mother had me take piano lessons. From this I learned to read notes and how to sing the harmonizing parts according to written music.
Two months before I turned 11 years old, music took on a whole new meaning to me. While our family was attending the General Southern Assembly Meeting of the Church of God at Hammond, Louisiana, the Spirit of God convicted my soul of my need of salvation. On Friday night, November 24, 1967, I bowed at the altar, telling the Lord I was sorry for my sins and asking Him to forgive and save me. About one minute into my prayer, something glorious happened! I felt a powerful surge of heavenly life come into my bosom that spread through my whole body from head to toe! The peace and joy that filled my soul can never be described in words! I arose from that altar knowing that I was born again.
About the time I walked back to my seat, the congregation was singing the song, “Spirit Holy,” written by C. W. Naylor. Never had the music of vocal harmony sounded so beautiful in my life! As D. S. Warner expressed in one of his songs:
“My soul is saved, it must be so, I feel a holy peace,
Through all my heart a tranquil flow, Oh, this is Heaven’s grace.
“My soul is saved, I truly see My name enrolled on high;
My heart and will and God agree, And Heaven seems so nigh.
“I hear an anthem pure and sweet, The song of all the blest;
Redeemed, redeemed at Jesus’ feet, They sing in endless rest.
“Redeemed, redeemed, we sing below, Oh, wondrous grace, that song we know;
Redeemed, redeemed in Jesus’ blood, We can but sing the love of God.”
From that hour on, a world of heavenly song opened to my soul. The Holy Spirit began to comfort, cheer, and bless my soul with the inspiration of songs on a regular basis. As the Scripture says, “He will joy over thee with singing” (Zeph. 3:17).
I’ll never forget how that, about one week following my conversion, the devil came against me with a flood of accusations, discouragement, and depression. My peace left me, and I began to feel like I was no longer saved. I was confused and didn’t know what to think or what to do. But the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against the enemy by inspiring my mind with a song. The song was #186 in the Evening Light Songs hymnal, “I’m Redeemed,” by J. C. Fisher. Verse 2 says: “I’m redeemed by Thy blood, From the power of the grave, And the vict’ry I have over death; Oh, that wonderful flood! Oh, I felt its pow’r to save, When I plunged in its fathomless depth!” When I got to that verse, the glory of heaven flooded my soul again just as sweetly as it did the night I got saved and I knew then the devil was a liar! The Spirit of God moved through the words of this song and gave me sweeping victory over the devil who was trying to steal my joy and peace.
As I pursued my Christian journey, I soon learned that the Evening Light Songs are saturated with Holy Spirit inspiration! To me, they became the next best thing to the Bible itself. As I advanced into my teenage years, I began to develop a deep desire to record these wonderful songs and share them with everyone who would listen. I started doing some cassette tape recordings at various camp meetings I attended and occasionally I would share them with my classmates at school.
After graduating from high school in May 1975, the idea came into my mind about starting a radio program and sharing these wonderful songs on our local radio station. About a year later, we got a quartet together which consisted of my mother, Carol Sorrell, my brother, Dennis Sorrell, Aquilla Sorrell (the wife of my father’s cousin, Joe), and myself. Carol sang the soprano or lead part, Aquilla sang alto, Dennis sang bass, and I sang tenor. We called our group “The Sorrell Quartet.”
I believe it was around the end of the year 1976 that my dream of a radio program materialized. I named the program “The Ministry of Holy Song.” It was a 15-minute program that aired each Sunday afternoon around 1:00 p.m. Our quartet got together each week and recorded four songs, which was just about enough to fill a 15-minute program for each Sunday. I would then put the program together with comments and/or scripture readings relative to the subject of the songs we recorded and take the final version to our local radio station at Thayer, MO to be aired. We had many positive responses from listeners near and far. This ministry was continued for about the space of two years, as I recall, and all the songs we recorded were archived.
In 1980, I decided to resume radio broadcasting again. This time, our program was called “Songs of the Evening Light,” and it was aired on three radio stations: Thayer, MO, Doniphan, MO, and Pocahontas, AR. Again, this effort went forward for about two years, and many people expressed their appreciation for the program and the songs. And again, many recordings of the Evening Light Songs were archived. On a few occasions, there were others who assisted The Sorrell Quartet in singing some of the songs.
During these years of recording for the radio programs, it was my pleasure to discover that there were many more “evening light” songs in existence than what I knew. I began to research and found that there were volumes of songs published by the Gospel Trumpet Company from 1885 through 1940 A.D. that have been long out-of-print and forgotten. I began to seek to acquire a copy of every songbook ever published by the Gospel Trumpet Company. I was blessed to be able to acquire almost all of them!
After this, I began learning many of the songs I had never heard and didn’t know and tried to record all of them that I had time for learning and recording. Since it was difficult and time consuming to learn them then teach them to the quartet, I decided to record many of them myself by singing all the parts. I purchased a 4-channel cassette recorder for that purpose and began my mission of reviving the old out-of-print songs.
In 1983 I decided to make my many recordings available on cassette tapes. So, I began a cassette tape ministry. Again, I titled it “Songs of the Evening Light.” I advertised the tapes through the Church of God publication, Faith and Victory, of Guthrie, OK. During the first 2 years of this tape ministry, the orders that came in for the tapes was almost overwhelming! There were a few times that I had to have relatives help me with the orders – addressing and packaging, etc. For the first two years, or so, I was mailing out around 200 or more cassette tapes per month on the average. The tapes went into 42 states across the U.S. and about 10 to 12 foreign countries. Just knowing that these wonderful, Holy Spirit-inspired songs were spreading around the world made all the work and effort well worth it.
After the turn of the century, cassette tapes began to fade out and compact discs (CDs) began to be the going thing. So, I had another task to do, which I haven’t completed even yet! That was transfer all my tape recordings onto CDs! Although I still have many songs that I need to transfer, I am happy to make available on CDs the ones that I have.
Now that technology has advanced so much farther than CDs, it is my present endeavor to make these recordings available to the whole world via internet for listening and downloading. I hope that a yet larger collection can be added in the future. That souls be blessed, and the name of the Lord be glorified is my aim, my hope, and my prayer.
— Harlan Sorrell