LEWISBURG — The Hoppers, a huge name in southern gospel music for more than 60 years, will bring their award-winning voices and music to the stage at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Lewisburg this Sunday evening.
Member Dean Hopper said the concert will be part of a tour that has spanned the eastern Carolinas, east Tennessee, and western South Carolina, and will be the last concert before they head into a busy season of very popular gospel music shows in Pigeon Forge, Memphis, Branson and Myrtle Beach.
The Hoppers were formed in 1957 in rural Madison, North Carolina. Dean credits his parents, Claude and Connie Hopper, who are still part of the group, for the group’s continued success.
“My parents worked really, really hard in those early years to establish a foothold in the industry,” he said, adding that during that era big names in southern gospel music had found popularity not just in the gospel music industry but in secular shows as well.
“To be able to stand on the same stage with some of those great acts was really cool in the early days,” Dean said. He was just a kid at the time, but he has loved the opportunity to keep that momentum going for the group through his adult years. Even in the changing times of social media and readily available music videos, The Hoppers have continued to draw crowds out to their live concerts, and Dean said it’s a thrill as performers to be able to “feed off that energy” that comes with live performances.
Today, The Hoppers is comprised of Claude and Connie Hopper, their son Dean and his wife Kim, their son Mike, and Dean and Kim’s daughter Karlye. The group has received a number of coveted awards and honors, including being inducted into the GMA Hall of Fame, and for multiple years were named Favorite Mixed Group, Mixed Vocal Group, and received “Hearts-A-Flame” Mixed Group Award. They have sung for presidential religious inaugural ceremonies and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and have been a favorite group on the Gaither Homecoming videos and tours. Their recordings are frequently heard on the top of the BILLBOARD sales charts and The Singing News radio charts. They have performed throughout the United States and in Israel, Europe, and Africa. In addition, individual members received high honors. For example, Connie is recipient of the Marvin Norcross Award, along with numerous industry and fan honors, and was also inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, while Kim found previous success with her nationally acclaimed music family, The Greenes.
When asked what all of those accolades mean to him, Dean was grateful, but humble, calling it a blessing.
“Somewhere along the way, God gives you a little pat on the back to say ‘you’re moving in the right direction,’ or ‘here’s something for you in this life,’” he said. He credited a lot of their success to continued production of “good music” over the years.
“It’s all about the songs,” he said.
Their concerts always include the hits they are known for, and a diversity of song styles to meet everyone’s tastes. But Dean said intertwined in their concerts is also lots of laughter and a message that is aimed at connecting with and encouraging the crowds.
Personal noteOften, The Hoppers will share their own struggles with the audiences. Such as Connie’s multiple bouts with cancer, Claude suffering from strokes, and several family members’ dark journeys through depression.
Dean said it’s important to show the people that just because they sing gospel music, “it doesn’t mean they’re exempt from hard times. As a family unit, we’re able to draw strength from one another, and you can feel that strength that comes from that.”
But it’s not just about connecting with the crowd on the levels of shared difficulty. It’s also about sharing hope.
“We try to make sure that we point them in heaven’s direction,” Dean said, “and what Christ has done for us — how we lean upon Him, and His promises never fail.”
“Everything that we are, all we have done or will ever do, all the honor will go to the Lord,” he said. “It’s not about The Hoppers anyway; it’s all about Him.”
Robert E. Rutherford, pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, said one of the church’s board members is a personal friend of the Hoppers, as well as of many other southern gospel groups. His connections and passion for music has been behind the church offering at least one concert each year at Cornerstone. Rutherford said the demand for such concerts in the area is even bigger now, since The Country Cupboard in Lewisburg, where many have been held over the years, has closed.
“Cornerstone enjoys serving the community by having a group like The Hoppers come for a night of southern gospel music,” Rutherford said. “They are called ‘the first family of southern gospel music.’ Those in our community that are aware of who they are will greatly enjoy this spin on their music.”