Since I first began attending Southern Gospel concerts, I have been afforded numerous opportunities to attend many of the great Gospel Sings, like, The National Quartet Convention, Singing In The Smokies, Praisefest, Legacy Five’s Celebration, The Brumley Sing and many more. As we drove the first leg home from the Steve Hurst School of Music on Saturday, we made a stop in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee for another great Gospel Sing – The James D. Vaughn Festival.
This festival of great music was held at the Crockett Theater in the downtown area. If it weren’t for the music carried on the wind from the Rock ‘N Roll band a few blocks down the street, I would have thought I stepped back in time. The quaint little theatre was built in 1950 and is one of the few from that time period still operating in America. As I walked down the asphalt towards the building in the heat of July, I was thoroughly surprised to see the artists product tables set up OUTSIDE on the street! When I entered the theater, I realized there wasn’t enough room in the lobby for all the quartets. I smiled, in all my years of concert going, this was the first time I saw CDs sold in the middle of a road! LOL At the same time, something else that seemed to be very popular this year was having a Gospel Sing without air-conditioning! ***frown*** Nevertheless, I found my seat in the center section about half way back and admired the interior of the building painted in oranges and reds.
After the mayor opened in prayer, a local group called The Kelly’s kicked off the Sing. The first tune of the night was a soothing Gaither song by the name of There’s Just Something About That Name. The quartet followed up with a fast number titled My God Can Use You, and then they introduced each other. A gentleman by the name of Eric sang bass, Keith sang baritone, Paul sang tenor and John took the lead part. As John introduced the next song which Keith would sing, they huddled in the background to let him have center stage on I Ought To Know. “Thank you for asking for this song,” John expressed, “I love this song.” The request was Rock Of Ages, but to be honest, I couldn’t hear them sing it because the choir backing them on the track overpowered their voices. (Maybe that was how it was supposed to be?) Without further comment, the promoter of the Vaughn Festival came out and accompanied them on their final song, Beautiful City.
“For 53 years this group has been traveling, make welcome the Kingsmen Quartet!” announced the promoter. The Kingsmen began their set with Traveling Home, a good old snappy quartet song. “Listen to this!” Baritone singer, Randy exclaimed as an intro to the next upbeat number, God Sits On High. Before their third number, Randy turned to Ray Reese and mentioned that it was an old song. Ray lit up, “I like old songs!” LOL That oldie was called After The Sunrise. At that point Ray came forward and communicated how glad they were to be there that evening. He recounted that they were at the Vaughn Sing three years ago and have looked forward to coming back, then he introduced the group. After an update on Ray’s health (which was good!), they sang their new radio single, Loving Shepherd, Gracious God. The Kingsmen’s tenor, Chris, is the newest “kid on the block,” in Randy’s words, and the next song, I Can Hardly Wait, featured his high vocals. Randy introduced their new song that went to #1 a few months ago, “This is the song that we were talking about earlier,” and kicked off That’s All I Need. “That’s good stuff! I don’t care who you are, that’s good!” Randy exclaimed afterwards. He then changed the subject and asked if his parents were in the building. A moderate “woo” came from the
back – they were there! He went on to give his testimony – in December he had heart surgery, it was very serious, but now he is 100% better and has no restrictions and takes no medications. On the other hand, during the surgery his left vocal cord was paralyzed. The doctor told him he may never sing again and it would take him nine months just to be able to speak. However, neither Randy nor his family believed that. One day, his pastor visited him and recommended some verses to read out of the Scriptures. When he came to the Garden of Gethsemane, he believed that the Lord showed him that he had to pray, “Not my will be done,” and mean it. “When you do that Christian, you will do things that you thought will never be done and go places you never thought you would go,” said Randy. Yet, he didn’t stop there, he went on to emphasis that even though he was healed, it would mean nothing without the blood of Christ applied to his life, erasing his sin. “When He looks at us,” Randy reminded, “He sees a justified soul, listen to this song.” His signature solo, Justified, was what met our ears. After Chris sang O What A Savior and received a standing ovation, the guys performed their final song, Stand Up. The audience even stood up too! Between the encores Randy exclaimed, “I can tell we are in a building full of men and women who aren’t afraid to stand up for the name that is above every name…the name that heals, the name that provides, the name that saves…” As the encores kept coming, Les Butler came out and accompanied the on the piano.
Before the next group came on, the promoter noted that the bank donated the beautiful piano that was sitting on stage…leave it to a bank to get the best! – a Steinway!
“How ‘bout it for the Mark Trammel Quartet!?!?!?!” MTQ eased into their stage time with the soft, inviting ballad “Gentle Shepherd…come and lead us.” Then turned the beat around with an up-beat Old Convention Song, sung back to back with Echoes From The Burning Bush. The classics continued with Wedding Music, until Mark set his bass guitar aside and Dustin rose from the piano to come sing Testimony. As the photo on the power point changed, Eric, Nick, Mark and Pat began the familiar hymn, Tis So Sweet. Equally, when I saw them sing this ballad, it dawned on me that it wasn’t just a hymn this quartet sang, it was a meditation that the singers presented with a challenging thought – “oh, for grace to trust Him more.” After a brief introduction of each group member, Mark reminded us of the reason we are here on this earth. “Communication,” he said, “that’s the reason we’re still breathing…we are here for Him to talk to.” Going on, he presented a challenge for the following song, “This is the number one song in the nation right now, but I don’t believe everything out there. So if this really is the number one song, tear the lights out of this place! Have a Baptist spell!…for some, I know it will be the first time.” Pat sang I Want To Know, and on the encore, he was so filled with excitement, I believe I saw him almost skip across the stage. A standing ovation was what that bass singer received, not only for his great singing, but for being the one who was the most handsome wearing that burgundy tie. (Hey Pat, pretty clever, eh? Ya’ll were wearing the same ties!) LOL Mark made a comment about being out of breath on that fast quartet song. Pat interjected, “Try being fat!” LOL But Mark ignored his bass singer’s comment and went on to introduce their last song, “If there has ever been a time when this song was true, it’s right now.” That song was a medley of The King Is Coming and I’m Free – two of the most popular Gaither ballads. Standing ovation!
At this point in the evening the reality of not having air conditioning was catching up with me (hot + humid = extremely fatigued), so I didn’t stay for all of Gold City’s set, but I enjoyed what I saw. GC came on stage with He’s Everywhere I Go and Peter, James and John. As most of the other artists, Gold City sang most of their songs back to back with no talking in between, and these next titles were some of those: In The By And By (I think that’s the name!), Cast Your Bread – then they introduced everyone quickly and Bryan played an impressive piano solo of Just Over In Gloryland. They also did one by a black Gospel group called the Dixie Humming Birds, It Won’t Be Long. Tim was fun to watch on that one, he snapped his fingers and swayed a bit, but the other guys didn’t show any emotion or attitude to match the song. (I learned that at the Steve Hurst School of Music – black Gospel needs sung with attitude to get the “feel” across!) Tim was featured on some oldies, We’ll Soon Be Done and Rainbow Of Love – and this my friends, is where I about passed out and needed to get some air…which was outside, unfortunately. Once outside, (where it was surprisingly cooler even though the temp was near 100 – how hot was it INSIDE???) I felt my clothes sticking to my body and drank in the humid, hot air. Indeed, it has been an unusually hot summer. I wonder why so many of the SGM concerts weren’t air conditioned this year??? Have mercy! LOL