The Tuesday after Thanksgiving I awoke in Nashville, Tennessee – that evening, I walked into College Heights Baptist Church anticipating the dinner theater that was being held there at seven o’clock. College Heights is the church that Steve Hurst attends, and many of you know that I’ve attended the Steve Hurst School of Music for the last three years. A lady by the name of Mary Anne Oglesby is a vocal teacher at the school of music and director of the Veranda at College Heights – a respite program that meets the needs of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other debilitating medical issues. Not only does the Veranda give family members and care givers much needed rest and time for themselves, it also meets the spiritual, emotional, physical and social needs of those entrusted in its care. “A Christmas Journey” was designed to raise money for this ministry by offering a dinner theater, where Southern Gospel Artists waited on tables and sang heart-warming Christmas music!
Our table was #25 – each round table seated eight people, and our table consisted of my family, a few friends from the Steve Hurst School of Music and some of their family and friends. As I mentioned above, the tables were served by the artists themselves! Members of Tribute Quartet, Declaration, Roger and Debra Talley, Rebecca Little, Scott Fowler, Trey Ivey, Steve Hurst and a few others were assigned two tables to tend to that evening. Wanna’ take a guess as to who waited our table??? Scott Fowler! He was a wonderful waiter too!
At 7 P.M. we were served the meal beginning with a strawberry salad that was out of this world, followed by pork chops wrapped in bacon, green beans and mashed potatoes. Dessert was on the table when we walked in, so we could eye the wonders of sweetness whenever we pleased! And what a selection we had! The lights were low, letting the glow of Christmas lights twinkle on the wreaths and trees, while candles flickered within the hurricane globes in the center of the tables. Not long after finishing our meal, Gary Casto asked us to welcome our host on stage – Mary Anne, Rebecca and Sheila kicked off the music with Jesus, Oh, What A Wonderful Child. Mary Anne took a moment to thank everyone who came and tell them about the Veranda and how much the ministry there minsters to her too! As she welcomed Tribute on stage, Gary asked Philip (a member of the choir at College Heights) to read the poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Along the wall sat a fireplace and two over-stuffed chairs – our attention was drawn there as Philip’s voice rang out loud and clear… “Twas’ the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” When the poem concluded, Gary brought Ashton Wright to the platform to sing a solo, Jesus Is More Than An Heirloom To Me. Ashton couldn’t have been more than ten years old and though she was nervous, the strong voice she carried floated over the tables and settled in each heart. That little girl could sing! Gary introduced the first group on stage as follows, “All the way down the road from Nashville, Tennessee – Declaration!” This trio stepped on stage and sang a rousing rendition of Glory To God In The Highest. Afterwards, Gary commented, “Oh my goodness, that’s too many words too fast.” LOL Continuing, he introduced the “Queen of Gospel Music” Debra Talley. Debra sang a medium tempo song called A Tennessee Christmas Is The Only One For Me. “Merry Christmas everyone,” she wished all before leaving the stage. Gary then explained how Legacy Five is one of the top groups in our industry and welcomed Scott Fowler and Trey Ivey to the stage. Scott sang two songs with Trey providing the accompaniment, the first being I’ll Be Home For Christmas. “While I was serving coffee a while ago,” Scott teased in between songs, “I was singing along with the artists on stage and one of you nice Grinch’s told me, ‘Keep your day job.’” LOL His second song was one of my all-time favorites off L5’s Christmas CD, Welcome To Our World.
A little “Parade of Pianos” segment came next and featured four of the pianist we had with us that evening; Roger Talley, Dustin Leming, Josh Singletary and Trey Ivey. Roger was first on stage and blended We Need A Little Christmas and It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas together. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Trey Ivey,” Gary introduced. Trey played God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Dustin played O Holy Night. Last but not least, Josh did a medley of Rudolf (the red-nosed reindeer), Jingle Bells, Here Comes Santa Claus and Jingle Bell Rock. As a climax, all four played Carol Of The Bells and received a standing ovation.
Tribute sang next and featured Gary on Come On Ring Those Bells. When they finished the song Gary hopped off the stage and asked everyone to dig out their keys – then, he picked a volunteer from the crowd to stand up front and direct the “bells” when to ring! So they encored the song and everyone rattled their key rings on the designated spots! It was so fun! Rebecca Little sang a fun song called “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” – and let me tell you, she had the expressions to go along with the lyrics! It was humorous and fun, you could tell the crowd loved it! “Would you make welcome to the platform, our host, Miss Mary Anne,” Gary announced. Mary Anne came and sang “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…) Roger Talley provided the piano on this song, and Declaration followed with singing Away In A Manger. “No evening would be complete without a reading of the Christmas story,” Gary mused. So Philip brought a Bible on stage and read the passage in Luke chapter two. Riley’s solo, Mary Did You Know, followed – and received a standing O! Declaration sang Silent Night and then all the artists came on stage and sang an encore of the carol. Scott Fowler led us in singing Joy To The World and O Come All Ye Faithful before praying and dismissing us.