The 11th Hour Brings Harmony
Kara M. Bachman
Amber Eppinette Saunders began singing gospel when she was just a kid. She grew up immersed in gospel music. In her family, everybody either sang or played instruments. They performed as a group called Pure Heart. There were four or five singers and about eight or so musicians.
Then, her father decided to spend his time as a pastor instead. He pulled the group off the road and redirected his life. At age 16, Eppinette chose to continue with this gospel tradition, with the group transitioning into what would be re-named the 11th Hour.
This Nashville-based ensemble has been going strong for over 15 years despite some lineup changes, with Saunders at the helm.
The trio recorded seven records, performed around 200 dates a year in various church settings, and was nominated for numerous Southern Gospel awards. Traveling nationwide, they aim to move congregations toward richer worship, and the devotion to both music and faith rings out through every note. The trio’s harmonies sent a meaningful shiver down many spines during church services and other concerts.
Eppinette Saunders said she loves Southern Gospel music primarily for its effect on people. She sees it as a real force for good.
“It’s literally the only message that changes lives, for the eternal side of things,” she said. “Christian music is the only one that suits the soul.”
The current 11th Hour lineup also includes Victoria Bowlin and Chandler Padgett. Eppinette Saunders had glowing remarks about her fellow performers.
“They are wonderful singers,” she said, “but they are also great musicians.” In addition to high vocals, she plays piano and writes many of the songs recorded by 11th Hour. Bowlin writes a bit as well and plays piano and bass. Padgett contributes skills on bass, drums, and piano.
“We’re working on a music video that’s gonna be coming out soon,” Eppinette Saunders said when asked about the future. She said they will hopefully release another record “toward the end of this year or beginning of next year” and expects the recording to primarily include original music.
She said she is also looking forward to being on the roster of featured performers on a Carnival “Singing at Sea” cruise that offers over 25 Southern Gospel musicians. The cruise sets sail in January 2023.
As usual, the group is open to bookings from churches for the coming year. Things picked up quite a bit for them after the slowdown all musicians experienced in 2020; everything now seems back on track. Saunders said they can add gigs to the schedule on shorter notice, but that 11th Hour “will usually try to book three or four months in advance.” She said they travel “anywhere and everywhere” to share their talents with Christian congregations, and the best way to make contact is through the group’s website at 11thhourgg.com
When asked for one message she’d like to share with gospel music fans, she didn’t hesitate for a second.
“No matter what you do,” she said, “do it full force and unto the Lord.”
do it full force and unto the Lord.”