John Michael Talbot, Troubadour for the Lord, always sharing the song in his heart

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If you are going to

John Michael Talbot will sing at 7 p.m. tonight at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, 295 Balearic Road, Hot Springs Village. The event is free and the public is welcome.

At 67, Grammy-winning artist John Michael Talbot is “semi-retired,” if you are to believe his website.

If you believe your own eyes, you will realize that he continues to move full speed ahead with the Gospel.

After a two-year “voluntary and enforced Covid-19 sabbatical,” as the website puts it, the Catholic from Berryville is once again performing songs of praise and worship for fellow believers.

At the end of January, Talbot sang in Houston. In February, he took part in a peace concert in Norman, Okla.

After stops in Amarillo, Texas; and Shawnee, Okla., He has given his full attention to Arkansas, performing Lenten concerts at St. Joseph Parish in Conway on Monday and at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Parish in Little Rock on Tuesday night.

After stops in Benton on Thursday and Hot Springs on Friday, he is scheduled to sing again tonight at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Hot Springs Village.

While contemporary Christian music boasts a number of high-profile celebrities, no one in the Catholic firmament can match Talbot’s sales — or his perseverance.

He’s been performing devotional songs for nearly half a century, and he’s sold his music more than 4 million times — on everything from eight-track tapes to Apple Music.

So far, he has recorded nearly five dozen albums. And he’s written a bunch of books, too.

He also founded the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, a Catholic community, and built Little Portion Hermitage, where many members reside.

The community emphasizes apostolic poverty, chastity and obedience, while privileging silence, penance and prayer. Some are single. Others, including Talbot, are married.

While participants can live a spartan life, the music is accessible to everyone.

While Talbot sang across Arkansas this week, he did so for free, although attendees were encouraged to donate at the end of the events.

Those who wish could purchase gluten-free St. Clare’s breakfast cookies, St. Anthony’s Hermit bars or Viola Granola, named after the community’s co-founder, Talbot’s wife, Viola.

In Little Rock, the so-called Troubadour for the Lord sang for about 90 minutes, gently strumming a guitar as he sat at the altar.

Onlookers, many in their 70s and 80s, raised their hands and closed their eyes as he sang the words of the Psalms and saints.

Father John Marconi, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Souls, smiled as the sounds washed over him, sometimes joining in the choir.

It appeared, for a time, that Talbot’s travel days might be over, Marconi said afterwards.

“He just felt like the Lord had called him home to the monastery. … More music and more missionary stuff,” Marconi said.

“I think right now he’s ready to go wherever the Lord sends him,” Marconi said.

Musically, Talbot began as a member of a country-rock band, Mason Proffit. Religiously, he was a Methodist.

Following a spiritual revival, he focused on praise, worship and evangelism.

“He had a major conversion to the Lord, giving everything and living the gospel, living the life of Jesus,” Marconi said.

Transformation was not a fad or a phase.

“He never let up,” Marconi said.

On Tuesday, Talbot voiced his opposition to the war in Ukraine, starting the evening by singing St. Francis’ peace prayer: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is insult, sorry.”

When the concert was over, Talbot lingered, greeting the faithful and engaging in good-natured banter with the stragglers, especially the priests.

Father Warren Harvey, chaplain at CHI St. Vincent’s infirmary in Little Rock, said he knows many of Talbot’s songs and loves to sing them, whether at Our Lady of the Holy Souls or sitting around of a fireplace at the Hermitage.

“It’s really the sincerity of the music that really touches me,” he said.

When asked how he enjoyed his brush as he neared retirement, Talbot called it “wonderful”.

“I don’t seriously tour anymore. It’s local. It’s in my diocese,” he said. “Honestly, I’m just doing this for fun. I’m just doing this for fun.”

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