Portal Praise Rocks for Over a Decade
by Jason Hall
Portal Praise is not “a Christian band.” It is a contemporary praise and worship band that enjoys worshipping with all of the bodies of Christ.
Portal Praise is a multi-denominational band that has been around since 1999. They began playing at a coffee shop in Parkersburg called The Fatted Calf.
Toni Holbrook of Portal Praise plays guitar and has played the instrument for about 40 years. She also plays trumpet, piano, drums and banjo. Toni’s first music lesson was on the piano by her mother.
Not long after that her father taught her a few chords on an acoustic guitar. Toni remembers taking piano lessons when she was only nine years old. A solid year went by before her piano teacher realized she didn’t know how to read music and that she was simply playing by ear. At that time, she stopped taking piano lessons and decided to let her ears teach her.
Soon afterward Toni found herself playing at home, and at church by age 11. When she was 16, she wanted to express her love for God and of music, so she joined a church worship band.
These days she plays with her husband and bassist, Darrell Holbrook. “We have played together since 1980,” Toni said.
“Originally I wanted to play piano as a child, but my grandmother bought me a guitar when I was eight years old, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I would play with an old man named Parker Price in church when I was in junior high, I picked up a few things from my aunt as well.
“I learn different techniques all the time and believe I will never stop learning as a guitarist,” Darell said.
Even though his first gig was at Harper Gospel Church in 1968, he has only been playing bass for 12 years.
The drummer for Portal Praise is Andrew Holbrook. When he was 15, he would walk around drumming on desks or whatever.
“I have played bass for 14 years, drums for 12 years and guitar for 11 years. I taught myself by listening to CD’s,” Andrew said. His wife, Courtney, plays guitar, a little bass, and sings.
Courtney joined a band named Autopilot 12 in 1998. She switched to Portal Praise in 2001. She claims she has been singing since she was old enough to talk. “I grew up singing in church,” Courtney said. Courtney’s teacher of bass and guitar is her husband.
Most members of Portal Praise are employed, so they really do not tour; although, they usually schedule 25 to 30 gigs a year. They mostly perform local.
In 2002, Portal Praise released a LP titled Deeper Reason and another LP in 2008-titled Strong God. Portal Praise’s next scheduled performance is May 21 at United Methodist Church in Marietta and, Oct. 30 at Union Valley Baptist in Parkersburg at 7:00 p.m.