One local gospel-singing family that got around this area in the ’60s and ’70s is together again.
The Sauers Family, based in Montoursville, started playing occasional gigs together again about seven years ago and are ramping up their playing schedule.
The current lineup is patriarch Jim Sauers (keyboard, harmonica); daughters Denise Barner (guitar, vocals); Yvonne Bauer (digital autoharp, vocals); Amy Hartzell (vocals); son-in-law Dan Hartzell (keys, guitar, etc.); and grandson A.J. Lambert (bass.)
There are eight Sauers children in all – six daughters – and all of them played music as they grew up.
“I wasn’t musical, I didn’t have the opportunity,” Jim said. “I figured if I could get these guys involved I could learn myself.”
“Dad started me out on the mandolin, then I moved to the six-string guitar, then the 12-string,” Denise said. “He always sat in on the guitar lessons.”
“At one time we were all singing,” Yvonne said. “We started playing at the East End Christian and Missionary Alliance, where we went, and played the nursing homes. There was always a combination of sisters singing.”
Mary, the matriarch, serves as coach, public relations director and critic, all in one, to hear her daughters tell it.
“She always would tell them to ‘breathe,’ watch your diction, say ‘I want to hear the words,'” Jim said.
Mary just smiles at that.
The family grew up together on Lincoln Drive and practiced in their basement, like they do in Jim and Mary’s Montoursville basement today.
“I always told people ‘look for the green house with the roof going up and down,'” Jim said. “The cops never came.”
After 1979, as the siblings started to “get married and have babies,” they didn’t play together for more than 25 years. They got back together to play the dedication of a Sauers grandchild, and have played churches, nursing homes, festivals, weddings and funerals – including one on the Hiawatha riverboat – since.
Their closeness comes through on stage.
“Yvonne is kind of our voice on stage,” Denise said.
“You get there and get a feel of the people at the event you’re at,” Yvonne said. “There’s all this stuff in the back of my head I might say – I always love Mom’s panic-stricken face wondering what I’m going to say.”
“Sometimes she makes you cry before you sing,” Amy said. “She says these touching things.”
“We like the old songs and we incorporate new ones, and Amy and Dan write songs,” Yvonne said. “We’ll play country, contemporary, old gospel. We’re flexible like that.”
“Wherever you want us to be, we’ll be,” Denise said. “We had a wonderful Christian childhood – if you have a gift, it’s my feeling, it’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
The Sauers Family is scheduled to play at Antes Fort Historical Days at 11 a.m. Sept. 21.
For more information on The Sauers Family’s schedule and videos of them playing, visit facebook.com/TheSauersFamily, and to book them call Denise at 772-4885 or email her at DenBarner@aol.com.