It was in 1990 that Dale Stoltzfus, a teacher at Fairview Christian School, put together a choir consisting of approximately 25 youth from Fairview Mennonite Church. Dale had picked a couple of the young men to sing a song or two as a part of the program. That experience was both the beginning of a journey that no one imagined it would take us, and also the fulfillment of a dream of 4 very young men.
The original lineup was comprised of Keith Gehman on the 1st tenor, Byron Wolfer singing lead, Brian Fox adding the low notes, and Marcus Fox, the only member still singing his original part, rounding out the harmony singing baritone.
Original members, Brian and Marcus Fox, having grown up in a singing family, listening to their father, Jay Ervin Fox, sing on his old LP’s, and participating in quartet singing in various school programs and conventions, the formation of a male quartet was literally a dream come true. From singing two or three songs at some of Jay’s revival meetings, to singing at local youth events, created a demand to hear more of these guys. Their energetic style of singing gospel songs from the heart with very simple arrangements produced quite a demand for more opportunities to minister in churches.
Five years of singing with this lineup produced two recordings, “Life’s a Battlefield” and “Bound for the Kingdom.” They never suspected the demand there would be for these recordings and were surprised at how often orders were being placed to restock. With the call of Byron Wolfer into the ministry coupled with Keith Gehman’s desire to “come off the road,” change was inevitable. A final program was given at the Myerstown Mennonite Church in 1996 closing the chapter of one part of the Garment of Praise and ushering in another.
In order to accommodate the vocal needs within the “GOP,” Brian gave way to younger brother, sixteen-year-old Jason, at the bass end and moved over to the tenor spot. Daryl Petersheim, the seventeen-year-old brother-in-law to Marcus, became the group’s new lead singer while Marcus continued as the baritone.
Their first recording with the new lineup, “It’ll Be Joy,” recorded in 1998, produced several songs that they still sing frequently to this day. A song that may be considered their signature song, “Come Get a Drink,” is one that was recorded on this project.
On the heals of this recording came a Christmas album that added a brand new dimension to the GOP–the emergence of Daryl’s craft as a songwriter. “I Want to be a Christmas Light“ was the first of many songs that would come from the pen of Mr. Petersheim.
They have sung all the way from Florida to Maine, New York to Michigan, Canada, Grenada, and where ever else God has given opportunity. Recordings have been sent to Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Lord knows where else. God has blessed abundantly as the quartet has continued to make their recordings available on a donation basis while supporting local missions with the proceeds.
With 18 years of singing behind them and a renewed vision to see souls won for the Kingdom, it will be exciting to see what God has in store for the group as they prepare themselves for their third decade of ministry.