In Southern Missouri, winter should have be over and “done with” by the end of March. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Bitter temperatures still clung to the air and cut through our jackets. Yet, what we call the “desolate winter” concerning the amount of Gospel concerts one can attend between Thanksgiving and Easter was breaking. For example, March marks the return of the concert series at the Meramec Music Theater in Steelville, Missouri – hosted by promoter Rosella Roberts. The first Southern Gospel group to kick off this series? – The Whisnants!
Comfortably in my second row seat, my gaze was drawn to the dimly lit stage where the emcee was getting ready to begin the night. When Austin, Jeff, Susan and Aaron walked on stage I couldn’t help but notice how the blue and yellow stage lights matched the colors of their suit & ties and Susan’s skirt. The Whisnants opened their concert with a few classics like We Are So Blessed, Gloryland Way, We’ll Meet Again and the Ready Medley. “Mercy!” Jeff exclaimed, and then went on to joke about how they sing that song (Ready Medley) and then make him talk while they catch their breath. “That song has a lot of words,” he teased. After telling a little bit about the group and where they are from he introduced everyone individually. Susan was the last to be introduced, and so she spoke to the crowd a little before she began her solo. There was one thing she said that stayed with me, she said, “I like a crowd that talks back.” (I did notice that the crowd was exceptionally interactive in responding to jokes, applauding and such.) Susan’s feature, I’ll Pray For You, and Aaron’s new solo, In the Depths of the Sea, followed. The next part of the concert featured Austin and Ethan singing. “You’ve heard him play bass but I want you to hear him sing a song that was written just for him,” Susan said as Austin stepped up to center stage. The tune he sang was a snappy one called I’ll Make Heaven Home. When Austin was finished with his solo, Ethan came on stage and Susan requested that he sing a certain song. “Well, I wasn’t planning on doing this song but mother said so…so we’re doing the song!” Ethan said with a grin. That impromptu solo change was a Christmas song called Strange Way to Save the World. Before Ethan left the stage and Austin went back to playing bass they sang On the Road to Emmaus with their Dad. The audience did their best to clap along on the off-beat. It seems like no matter where The Whisnants sing, the next part of their set always ushers a sweet presence into the room. Susan began singing God is so Good and O, How I Love Jesus a capella with the crowd joining in. I’ll Trust the Potter’s Hand followed and I love how Susan reminds us that, “He (God) can’t fix us if we’re not broken.” He’s Living Today and I’m Trusting the Blood closed their first set.
We had a brief intermission and then gathered back in the theater for another set with The Whisnants! He Keeps Me Singing and a new song He Can Move That Stone kicked off the second half. Susan said, “Y’all have been the best to sing to! Does anybody have a birthday or anniversary?” No birthdays, but there was a couple celebrating their 52nd anniversary! “You have to clap for that,” said Susan. Then she set up a song that was requested by asking if we’ve ever had a time where you pray and pray and the harder you pray God says no? If anyone was in that situation this song was for them – A Greater Yes. After Be Not Afraid and King Jesus, Susan went on to set up All Is Well. She told us how that Tuesday her grandfather passed away and she wasn’t able to make it to the funeral because of their schedule on the road and how much she wanted to be there. She also shared how Jeff’s father passed away last December. As I sat there listening, moisture gathered at the back of my eyes and formed into tears. This family has been through so much in such a small amount of time – and here they were, singing God’s praises and thanking Him for His goodness. When they sang All Is Well everyone was on their feet worshiping the Lord. While everyone was still and contemplative Jeff prayed and then they closed the evening with I Believe He’s Coming Back Just like He Said.
Conclusion: The Whisnants are not in Missouri often and for that reason I’m so thankful that Rosella keeps a steady flow of SGM coming into the Meramec Music Theater! It was a perfect evening and I enjoyed seeing them sing a full concert themselves, since we see them do “short sets” at sings all the time. I’ll mention here, that if this review seems a bit abbreviated compared to others, it is not due to the artist. The mini netbook that I carry around to type notes on at concerts refused to turn on and so I was forced to make a decision – don’t review the concert or take notes on my i-phone. I took notes on my phone, though I tried to only write song titles and comments down every three songs so it didn’t appear that I was being rude! All in all, it was a great evening!