Sometimes, it starts with a snap. Other times, a slow clap of the hand. Occasionally, the beat comes from the thumping basketballs in the gym overhead.
But most often, the beat comes from within for members of the Voices for Christ gospel group, who will celebrate the release of their third CD at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Bethany Baptist Church, 7745 Tioga St., Homewood.
Clustered around a boombox in the hot and humid basement of Ammon Recreation Center in the city's Hill District, the five men wiped their foreheads at a Tuesday evening practice.
But no one seemed to notice the heat once rehearsal began in earnest. Instead, the men shifted from foot to foot, some lifting their hands in praise, while others swayed to the music. An "Amen" often completed each song.
"To be in this [group], doing something greater than myself, that's an awesome feeling," said Penn Hills resident Rick Young.
At first listen, the music sounds like something from The Temptations -- a compliment longtime member Wayne Walker of Wilkinsburg said the group often gets. Between the three- and four-part harmonies and the riffing soloist, the music is upbeat and soulful.
But it's when listeners really begin to hear and understand the lyrics that Voices for Christ gets to share its passion. All songs performed are composed from the words of the Bible, arranged and performed in a way that makes them relevant and interesting, Mr. Walker said.
"It helps us to connect with a diverse audience," said former music teacher Henry L. Biggs of Stanton Heights in Pittsburgh. "Even the younger folks go 'wow.'"
What began in 1986 as a way to sing oldies together slowly became an opportunity to spread the word of God. Life experiences, such as cancer and the deaths of family members, pushed many of the men back to their respective churches. The group has changed over time, moving from a lead female vocalist in the late '80s to the all-male sound of today.
Mr. Walker said the group considers itself a traveling ministry, as many of the songs are taken directly from scripture and arranged for music. More than seven songs on the new CD were arranged by Mr. Walker.
Aside from Mr. Biggs, no other singer, including Mr. Walker, Mr. Young, Jonathan McMiller of Mount Oliver and Bill Hawkins of the North Side, has had professional vocal training, though all cite the help of producers with the Tate Music Group in Mustang, Okla., which produces their music.
After two years in the studio, the men said they believe the album, "More Like You," is ready for release, making it the group's third CD overall, but the first to be released nationalwide.
Mr. Walker added that the music can be found on almost all platforms, including iTunes, Amazon and other music-sharing sites.
Each singer has a distinct sound. Fans sometimes compare Mr. Walker to a crooning mix of the late soul singer Barry White and the late singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, he said.
Others, like Mr. McMiller, have no trouble hitting the higher notes with their tenor range.
Putting aside musical distinctions is an important part of Voices for Christ, as coming together through music is much like the personal act of coming together as friends.
With three group members who are cancer survivors, Mr. Young cited the men sitting around the recreation center basement as his mentors.
"We've all been called individually," he said. "I had no plans on singing professionally and definitely wasn't pursing a career in music."
That might just be what gives the group its character.
Facing the mirrored wall in the recreation room, the men rehearse the steps in the choreography of their final number, joking as the moves arrived a little rustier than expected. As Mr. McMiller finished his solo with tears in his eyes, the men came together, reaching for their water bottles and clapping each other on the back.
Sunday's performance is free and will feature music from special guests the Bridgeville Male Ensemble and mime work from "The 7th Angel," Keenan Young.
Brittany Horn: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1280. Twitter: @brittanyhorn.