Duet partners find harmony



June 23, 2011 - 12:00 AM

From the first beat, Janet Nichols and Lloyd Houk sing together as one.
Janet’s strong and silky smooth alto is a perfect complement to Lloyd’s tenor, “which can be a baritone if needed,” he said.
The two will perform at 6 p.m. on the grounds of the Moran Christian Church in keeping with its longstanding July 4 celebration.

FOR A LONG time, Janet and Lloyd were each other’s secret admirers.
“I had wanted to sing with him forever,” Janet said. “Finally, after seeing him perform I said as much.”
Turns out the feeling was mutual, Lloyd said. The two have been performing together for the past several years. For Sunday’s performance they’ve been rehearsing during the noon hour for the past couple of weeks.
Janet works in the advertising department for the Iola Register. Lloyd works for Waugh-Yokum Funeral Home and also moonlights as a pastor.
Both go “way back” in their musical roots.
As a teenager in Admire, Janet grew up playing guitar, accordion, and trumpet as well as singing. She and her sister, Sue, had a band. Sue played the drums and sang backup.
“We had a ball,” Janet said of those years. “We sang all over Lyon County. Wherever we sang, mom and dad came along and danced the night away. My kids are envious of those years, saying that could never happen today.”
When she was 17 she entered a singing contest on the Wichita radio station KFDI. “I almost didn’t do it, I was so nervous.”
It was a life-changing experience. Not as much for her first-place finish, but it’s where she met Max, her husband of 36 years, whose father was a DJ at the station and managing the contest.
From that initial meeting the two practically were inseparable, she said.
“We got engaged the night I graduated from high school.”
She also had her sites on a professional singing career.
After graduation Janet and Max headed to Nashville where a friend of Janet’s was also pursuing a professional career.
But the city was not for Janet.
“I was so homesick I was sick,” she said, and the young couple packed their bags and came back to Emporia where they started their family and Janet and Sue resumed their band.
Even that wore itself out, she said. “It got to be a struggle with a young family and me being away. Pretty soon we called it quits.”
When Janet and Max moved to Iola in 1984, Janet laid low.
“I didn’t sing a note for 10 years,” she said.

HARD TO BELIEVE when you see the serene look on her face as she so melodiously brings out the beauty of “You Raise Me Up,” or “Amazing Grace,” or the Booth Brothers’ “At Jesus’ Feet.”
Janet and Lloyd share a deep understanding of God’s love and their role as Christians.
“I think we can sing like this because of our faith,” Janet said. “We hope it’s a blessing to others. If even one person feels that way Sunday, it’ll be worth it.”
The partnership has also provided Janet and Lloyd with an endearing friendship.
 “We are so blessed because our spouses get it. They understand what music means to us. They also have a love of music and are our greatest fans,” she said.
Singing provides a welcome break in their lives, they said.
“We both come in from busy jobs and the minute we start to sing, the stress just falls away,” Janet said. “I’m transported to a different world.”
“An hour seems like 15 minutes,” Lloyd said.
 They also are thankful of the gifts they say God has bestowed upon them. 
“I’ve heard that if we don’t use our talents, God will take them away,” Lloyd said. “I surely don’t want that, so I work to keep them sharp.”
Lloyd is so adept at the piano he frequently plays without music.
Neither has any formal training in voice.
“It amazes me what God gives us,” Lloyd said.

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