Lighthouse showcases gospel music

A venue in Gas provides free gospel entertainment every Saturday evening. A typical Saturday night crowd at the Lighthouse averages about 70, though the venue can seat up to 120.

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May 3, 2024 - 2:59 PM

Eldon Wright has been singing gospel music and playing guitar for about 50 years. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

GAS — Every Saturday night, visitors travel to Gas from near and far to hear songs of worship and praise.

They aren’t going to a church, though. At the Lighthouse Music venue at 1001 W. Chestnut St., there’s no particular denomination or religious affiliation. Visitors come simply to hear gospel music singers from across Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

“I tell people it’s the best-kept secret in southeast Kansas,” Eldon Wright said.

Wright has been singing gospel music and playing guitar for about 50 years. He’s recorded 12 gospel music records.

Each Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m., he welcomes visitors to Lighthouse Music and serves as a sort of emcee. 

The free concerts in Gas began over three years ago. Since then, more than 300 singers have performed at the Lighthouse. Some are included on this wall of photos.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

The free concerts began three years and four months ago. Since then, more than 300 singers have performed. Wright schedules two performers each Saturday night.

Wright is not a pastor and Lighthouse is not a church, although the building is a former church. It’s now used exclusively for weekly gospel music concerts and a Tuesday night Bible study. No admission is charged. A free-will donation helps keep the lights on and help pay musicians, but most expenses are paid by Wright and other supporters. Volunteers like Wright’s wife, Judy, and Billy Beckmon and Ron Thompson clean and maintain the building.

“We were just looking for a place to play music,” Wright said. “It takes everybody working together. We give God the credit and he puts it together for us.”

With, of course, a little help from Wright. He belongs to several country and gospel music associations across the country. He uses his network of connections to woo talented gospel singers. Many have performed or currently offer shows in Branson, Mo. Several have performed more than once, but the concerts are becoming so popular, Lighthouse is already booked through November.

A typical Saturday night crowd averages about 70, though the venue can seat up to 120.

At least 38 pastors, representing churches from various communities across the country, have visited. They come to share the Good Word and enjoy the fellowship. Some of them have been so impressed by the musicians, they brought them to perform at their churches.

WRIGHT grew up in Le Roy. Music was important in his family.

His father played the accordion and his two sisters played accordion and keyboard. In high school, Wright learned the guitar. He started to perform with his sisters, and even recorded an album with his oldest sister.

Later, Wright formed a quartet with friends and his son, Craig, who was just 11 at the time. His youngest daughter, Karmin Thompson, recorded an album with Becky French of Iola. Oldest daughter Kim Beard also has performed with Wright.

“I’m a Christian. Gospel music just blesses me more than any other,” Wright said.

“If a song was not ministered to me, I don’t want to sing it to somebody else. I just want to be a blessing.”

Wright reeled off a list of coming shows. This week, Lighthouse will feature Marsha Sue Mitchell, a pastor at Hope Chapel at Moran, and Beverly Thomas of Buffalo, Mo.

May 11 will feature Sherry Smith of Branson, Mo. Wright will be the other performer.

May 18 brings Wendell Johnson, vice president of the Country Gospel Music Association out of Branson, and Nikki Skaggs Country Gospel Ministries.

May 25 features Earl and Marina Reynolds of Carthage, Mo., and Angela Hendricks of Kansas City.

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