In the spring of 1997 four men, Ward Hepting, Lloyd Helgeson, Fraser Kent and Kelvin Schapansky were practicing to sing at their home church Strasbourg Alliance Church. Alvin Lofgren was adjusting the sound equipment and the pastor, Glen Lonie was playing the piano.
We had been listening to a videotape of the Cathedral Quartet and had decided to sing the song, Step Into the Water like the Cathedrals. As we practiced at the church there was a wedding rehearsal happening. The visiting Lutheran Pastor from Unity & Wilkie area overheard the practice session and asked if the guys would consider coming to his churches and presenting a concert. Perhaps naively, we agreed to do two concerts on the weekend of June 14th. This meant learning enough songs in two months for a full concert. Furthermore during these two months all of the farm spring work had to be completed. (The group consisted of five farmers and a preacher.) So eagerly and with a lot faith and prayer the task was engaged and by God's grace accomplished. The people at these concerts gave us a very warm and enthusiastic reception. We were launched on a new venture which has proved to be an adventure. Looking back, we can see that God was calling us to 'step into the water' and test His goodness.
The name, Last Mountain Boys may seem strange to some people when they know we are from the prairies of Saskatchewan. The name was chosen because we live in the Last Mountain region of Saskatchewan. The Last Mountain Hills are a range of hills located just to the east of the town of Strasbourg. To the west of us is a 60 mile long lake called Last Mountain Lake, and we live in the Rural Municipality of Last Mountain. So it seemed logical to call ourselves the Last Mountain Boys.
Our home community and our home church have been very supportive of us in this ministry. We have held several concerts in our own church and have often been asked to sing for special events such as weddings anniversaries, banquets and funerals.
Since these beginning days the Last Mountain Boys have sung in many communities across the prairies. We have presented concerts in large churches, concert halls and arenas. For example it was a distinct honor to be invited to sing for three consecutive years at the National Gospel Quartet Convention in Red Deer before crowds of thousands. We have been privileged to share the platform in this and other contexts with many wonderful musicians and music groups. Our greatest joy however is singing in small churches, rural community halls and in our own community of Strasbourg. We have wonderful memories of good times together and we have met many interesting and kind people on our journey.
Early on we were challenged to consider making a CD. This seemed such a big and risky undertaking. (Would anyone want to buy it?) For our first project, Amazing Love (1999) we went to PortTracs at Briercrest to do the recording. The second CD, Walk This Road (2000) was recorded a bit closer to home at Grind Recording Studio in Pense. The most recent CD, As You Travel Along (2002) was done in Regina at Touchwood Studio. Each venture was a stretching and rewarding process for which we are thankful.
Much to our surprise we have sold 1000's of these CDs and tapes. We have been humbled by receiving kind words and notes of thanks from people who say that God has touched their lives through this music.
We count it a privilege to share the good news of Jesus Christ through music. When we meet to practice and whenever we are getting ready to sing in a concert we make it a habit to spend time in prayer together. We ask God to use these songs and our lives to bring courage and joy to those who have come to listen. God has faithfully and wonderfully answered our prayer.
We are thankful that the group was able to stay unchanged for over six years. It is not easy for six men (and their families) to accommodate an active singing ministry within all of their schedules. In late 2003 Ward Hepting, who is now no longer farming but instead managing a business in Regina, indicated that he could no longer be a part of the Last Mountain Boys. We were saddened by this but are thankful that Sheldon Tanner agreed to join and sing the baritone part.
Late in 2004 another change occurred for the group when Fraser Kent, our tenor decided to leave farming and move with his family to Saskatoon to begin a new career. We decided to try working as a trio - first because we had no other choice but then because the resulting blend seemed to work well. So now the harmony is deliberately close. The lead, baritone and tenor parts are often exchanged.
And so by God's grace we continue 'making music with (and for) our friends'.