Water lay in puddles where the rain had left it on Monday afternoon. Though some have mixed feelings about rain and outdoor events, I was thankful for the afternoon’s downpour at Silver Dollar City’s Southern Gospel Picnic. For one, if you were in a theater, you were safe and sound from the rain and two, the temperature dropped 20 degrees for finale concert in Echo Hollow! For August in the Ozarks, that ain’t bad!
This year, Silver Dollar City invited the Gospel Music Hymn Sing to take over Monday and Tuesday night in the Hollow. When the gates opened Monday night, folks trickled in for night number one of the Hymn Sing.
When emcee Duane Garren welcomed the Hymn Sing to the stage, Gerald Wolfe walked out as the band kicked off for “He Keeps Me Singing.” A little ways into the song, Gerald told the crowd, “You have to sing louder!” He especially wanted to hear those who were up in the “roost,” so much so, that he had the chorus repeated again with just the upper balcony singing it so he could hear them. The Hymn Sing’s next song was “Blessed Be The Name,” which kept a steady, calm pace to the music until Gerald smiled and said, “Now, for all the Pentecostals and Nazarene in the house…” Then he turned to Stan and exclaimed, “Pick it up!” Needless to say, the last half of the song had a much bouncier beat than the first! “Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul” followed, and was the first tune of the evening to feature a group. The Whisnants sang a verse and then the Kramer’s were featured on the first verse of the next hymn, “Nothing But The Blood.” Afterwards, Gerald shared with the crowd how last year at this same event, someone gave him a hard time by saying, “You don’t sing enough Convention songs.” So right then and there, Gerald took a pole. “How many of you go to a church that has less than 200 people?” An overwhelming majority of the people raised their hands. “Then you should know this one…” and rattled off the page number for “Heaven’s Jubilee” in the Red Back Hymnal. It would only be appropriate for a male quartet to sing this tune, so on the second verse, the Mark Trammell Quartet came up and was featured. Following, came the popular Easter hymn, “He Lives.”
Gerald paused to share how the famous hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, wrote over 8,000 hymns under several different pen names. He also mentioned how in a few weeks, NQC will be doing a Hymn Sing dedicated to just the hymns of Fanny Crosby. “If I had to pick a favorite, it would be this one, ‘Blessed Assurance’!” After singing that beautiful lyric, Gerald introduced Sandy Peyton and shared with the crowd how she’s supposed to be retired. So retired, that she led three church services in Charlotte, South Carolina the day before (Sunday) and then flew to Branson for the Hymn Sing. Gerald asked Sandy if she sang a certain song during those church services. She replied that she did. Then, Gerald asked the crowd, “How many of you were there?” Of course no one was at the services in Charlotte, so Gerald turned to Sandy and said, “See, they missed it so you have to sing it again!” That song was “Sweet, Sweet Spirit,” and by the last chorus, everyone – both fan and artist – was on their feet. Gerald exclaimed, “That old woman still has it!” Going from one great moment to another, Gerald handed the microphone to Mark Trammell and says, “Sing a little bit of this…” The band launched into “Plant My Feet On Higher Ground” with Mark singing the first verse and Melissa Brady the second. “Put me in the key of F,” Gerald requested, and then turned to the crowd and grinned, “I bet you know this.” The hymn was none other than “Amazing Grace.” “Victory In Jesus” followed and Kennedy Hayes, Maria Wolfe and Wendy Hayes sang a verse. On the last chorus, folks were standing to their feet and if you listened carefully, Sandy really did some magic on the B3!
At this point in the night, the program broke for a 20 minute intermission, but soon enough, it was time to get back to the hymn sing. Gerald kicked off the second part with “Oh, How I Love Jesus.” Next, Gerald gave Stan a key and then started into “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.” After, Gerald exclaimed, “That’s good!” Then asked, “How many of you were transported to a different place and time when you heard that? Gospel music is the only thing that sticks like that.” He went onto explain the effects of Dementia and how even when all other memory fails, the hymns are still instilled in the mind of those who suffer from the disease. Gerald also talked about his father and shared how on the days he couldn’t remember Gerald’s name, he could still sing those songs. This introduced the hymn, “Precious Memories,” which was sung by Conner and Bailey Hayes; and Austin and Ethan Whisnant. The next hymn was “Wonderful Grace Of Jesus” and afterwards, Gerald asked the bottom half of the Hollow to stand and face the “roost” so those up above could hear what he just heard on stage. With no music behind them, the crowd sang all the parts in a beautiful harmony. It made me smile that something so simple could sound so wonderful. There were only a few more hymns to sing before the evening came to a close, and as you could say, they saved the best for last. Hymns like “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” “It Is Well” sung by Jon Epley and “How Great Thou Art” featuring Rodney Griffin filled the Hollow until the final number played. As the singers and fans sang “When We All Get To Heaven,” it was the signal that the evening had come to a close. The band continued to play a few moments after the artists left the stage and folks started the trek out the front gates.
Conclusion: After being to many Gospel Music Hymn Sings, I still enjoy every minute of hearing the artists and crowd sing those great songs of the faith. The Hymn Sing in Echo Hollow is a favorite of mine and I’m glad I was able to be there for both nights, even though this post only covers night number one. A big shout out to all the artists who sang both theater shows and then turned around and performed at the Hymn Sing in Echo Hollow both nights – y’all are the best!