Meet Frances Fulton
I am a survivor of Lupus. My faith still holds. I was diagnosed with Lupus in 1981, and given six months to live. After two years into this illness, my Doctor told me there were no signs of Lupus in my tests. The battle of uncertainty our family went through for those two years made them seem much longer. Many prayers for me and my faith in God is what I held onto.
I believe God allows difficult circumstances to come into our lives. Don't think it strange when test come. Christian, God knows and He is preparing you. Keep on rejoicing when suffering comes. Consider it all joy. You can rejoice because you enter into the closest partnership with Christ, that you may know the fellowship of Christ sufferings.
There is joy watching God solve our problems. 1st Peter 4:1, 12-13
Everywhere Frances goes her desire is to share her testimony to others, proclaiming God is in total control of her life. Through the testing of her faith, she has emerged still founded, victorious and joyful.
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With vision born in the farming days of old Texas, coupled with a lifetime of singing gospel music, an Athens couple has painstakingly built a music hall on their land in 2006. At the end of August, Frances and Kenneth Fulton opened their Texas Gospel Music Hall with a bang, and hopefully will stay open for a long time. "Music has always been such a big part of my life since I was a little white-haired, cotton-headed kid, singing on the porch of our farmhouse in Mabank, Texas," Mrs. Fulton said. Supervising the hanging of stage lights in the intimate, immaculate 12,500 square-foot building, she said, "We just want people to enjoy family time relax and receive a blessing when they came to Athens, Texas. Gospel music has been such a blessing in our lives."
Mrs. Fulton recalled the good times, back in the 1950's, when her daddy, brother and neighbors congregated on the porch, picking and strumming their guitars and playing the occasional fiddle. "Momma had the upright piano in the house by a window that opened up on the porch and she played along. This was in the days before window-cooling of course, or air conditioning." Little Frances, about 8 years old, would sing. The music they came up with might be a "music special at church the next Sunday", she said. "Texas was a different place back then. We had plenty of time to spend with family and when we did, we played music. Lots of music."
When the family was not "in the fields, picking" she remembered the radio always being on. They listened to legendary country, folk and gospel radio powerhouse XERF, all the way from Cuidad Acuna, just across the border from Del Rio, Texas. The sweet sounds of the Carter Family, the Happy Goodmans, or Florida Boys were among her childhood memories.
"One of my dreams as a little girl was to just sit and look up into the face of Vestal Goodman which she was singing," Mrs. Fulton said. "She was one of the greats." And it's the "greats" we brought to the Texas Gospel Music Hall. The word had gotten out, requests to play the Music Hall in Athens came from around the country.
The soothing, encouraging and inspirational music" was once all part of the rural Texas life, she said. Her father made sure my brother and I had opportunities to sing. "If there was a revival, a wedding, even a funeral, our family members would be there singing." And Frances still sings today with New Grace Trio, a family gospel group with her son and daughter.
"When you're talking about the greats, you have to mention Mark Trammell. "He is an excellent, professional singer. He has sung with the best - The Kingsmen, The Cathedrals, Greater Vision and Gold City - and is one of the best in the nation himself. He has won all kinds of awards. The Mark Trammell Trio was our opening group in August 2006. The group is now called the Mark Trammell Quartet. Trammell was once "just a singer," he confesses on his web site. But "Gospel music evolved from just singing, to a ministry," he writes. "It's evolved from a dream to a life's call."
That's the kind of attitude we are looking for.
There is no "green room" at the Hall. Artists and audience will mingle freely and get to know each other. The events are ticketed, "because you can't get the quality in here that we want for free. If the Hall survives the realities of promoting live music, we will strive to retain that family atmosphere that made gospel music so meaningful to me. All our immediate family works together in some way to make these concerts enjoyable for everyone. Gospel singing is refreshment for our soul after a stressful day. Many people in our city are not physically able to drive a long distance to hear these great groups so we are pleased to bring the greats to Athens. We have folks drive over 200 miles every month to hear these artists sing," said Frances.