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Family band kicks off summer concert series

Free Indeed features, from left: Annie Hendrickson, Hannah Hendrickson, Alice Fuglestad and Josiah Hendrickson. Patt Rall | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - Free Indeed, a three-generation country gospel group, will be the opening act for this year's Bemidji State Park Concert Series.

The concerts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the open-air theater at the park. The Sunday concert series run through Sept. 2.

Attendees will need a current sticker to get into the park and one-day passes are available at the gate.

Monday nights are reserved for rehearsals in Grandma Alice Fuglestad's kitchen in Nymore for this group of musicians and singers. They have taken their name from John 8:36: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," and said one of the purposes of their music is to spread the Good News.

Grandmother Alice and daughter Annie Hendrickson have been playing together for many years; they had a bar band called Country Plus but Annie took time off to get married, move away and have babies.

"When I got back to Bemidji," said Hendrickson, "Mom and I started playing again and, when the kids were taking music lessons, we saw that they could sing. We would say to them, 'Just jump in and let's see if you can play.'

"Of course they were playing by ear but that was good because we didn't always have the music for them in the right key because we have lower voices. So when we realized that the kids could do it, we thought it would be fun to start playing as a group."

Grandma had already picked a name for the group based upon a bible verse way back in 2000. She put quotation marks around the verse and four years later she started the group.

Grandma and mother added granddaughter Hannah and grandson Josiah, who are now young adults.

Another family tradition was going to Bemidji State University, where Fuglestad learned how to play the bass guitar. Annie attended BSU while Hannah received an associate's degree and also graduated from Northwest Technical College as a dental technician in May. Josiah also finished a two-year degree and is working fulltime at Lueken's Village Foods for some business experience.

Free Indeed plays all year round at county fairs, churches, women's groups, company parties, nursing homes and keeps a busy schedule. Their blend of country/bluegrass and gospel music is upbeat and inspiring as they hope to bring their voices together in harmony to keep audiences aware of their fundamental Christian beliefs.

Both Fuglestad and Hendrickson are "born again" Christians and feel that their singing is their ministry. They do mix in some contemporary songs like "Traveling Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks, "Down to the River" by Alison Krauss and Carrie Underwood's wistful "Temporary Home." They have some fun with "Ode to the Little Brown Shack in the Back," "Big Walleye Blues" and blast out with Don Williams' "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good."

They all sing and the younger members switch instruments for different effects. Hannah plays the fiddle and mandolin while Josiah plays the saxophone and strums a Dobro, a resonator guitar that is played on the lap. They all take turns singing the lead with three- and four-part harmony.

"I made a personal decision to be born again when I was 22," said Annie. "My mother was in her 30s and that has changed our lives dramatically. I want to encourage others to follow the Lord because he can change your heart.

"We also play for weddings, anniversaries and funerals. My kids and I sing songs like "Bless the Broken Road" in four-part harmony, which we did for my cousin's wedding. We get invited to sing all over and I get to do a lot of solo appearances. We do take a free-will offering to support our ministry and I love to sing because I love the Lord and I want to share that with others."