I’ve often teased that “mornings” and “Gospel Sings” don’t belong in the same sentence, yet alone, in the same day; however, the Praisefest Branson crowd soaked it up! That audience was at its best in the mornings, and this particular morning, they liked standing ovations. (I’d challenge you to count just how many they gave the artists in this session! It was amazing!) Speaking of artists, not only did we have our host groups Greater Vision and Legacy Five with us, but Ken Davis and the Mark Trammell Quartet. Yep, it was just as good as it sounds! So without further ado, this is Friday morning, second session of Praisefest Branson…
Gerald Wolfe led the crowd singing There’s Something About That Name as Stan Whitmire stroked the keys. That one ballad made up the congregational singing, and then Gerald opened with prayer. As he spoke to the Lord, this one phrase really gripped my soul, he asked that we would, “Try to forget about the things that trouble us, and for a few hours, focus on Your (Jesus) name.” (I just had to mention, in the four sessions that weekend the Lord wove a specific theme together and looking back, I see that prayer as one of the threads.) Anyway, after saying good morning to the crowd, Gerald announced next year’s dates for Praisefest Branson – March 13-15, 2014 – and who they booked to sing with them! Of course, Legacy Five and Greater Vision were a part of the line-up, but also the Hoppers, Tim Lovelace, the Mark Trammell Quartet, Gordon Mote and the Freedom Singers!
Just as he was getting ready to bring out the first group, two men walked down the aisle and sat down on the second row. Gerald turned to look at them and without saying one word, everyone started laughing…which ended up making Gerald laugh too. (Everybody knew he was going to pick on them!) Gerald laughed, “Scott said I couldn’t introduce them until everyone is seated.” LOL “Please remain seated, fasten your seat belts and welcome my friends, Legacy Five!” Gerald shouted. Legacy Five’s opening number was Wonderful Life, after which, Scott welcomed the audience with, “Well good morning! Aren’t you glad Jesus loves you this morning?” Then they sang about that love in an old Imperials song called He Loves Me So. “Isn’t that good news?” Scott asked, referring to the lyrics. Their next song featured Gus and they sang it with just the piano backing them – I Stand Redeemed. This one received the first standing ovation of the morning! The up-beat I’m Still Amazed followed, but interestingly enough, it was another ballad that had the crowd back on their feet. One that you’ve heard introduced like this many times by Scott Fowler, “So the angels said unto them, ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, He is living’…and one day, we are all going to see Him, just as He is!” We Shall See Jesus was that song – standing ovation #2!
“One day we’re gonna’ see Him,” said Scott, “but right now, we’re gonna’ see Greater Vision!” Moving quickly to center stage, Gerald exclaimed, “That’s pitiful! C’mon!” (Referring to the applause – which grew in intensity with the slight reprimand.) Stan sat down at the keyboard and GV began their set with a hymn, Tell Me the Story of Jesus. He Is To Me, a good up-beat tune, followed. “Hey Stan,” Gerald teased afterward, “with you playing that had a little Pentecostal/Church of God feel…be careful with that, most of these folks are Baptist.” LOL The next song was a request, and Gerald was sure happy that someone asked for it. It’s called No Longer Chained from their “The Only Way” project. “Well,” Gerald interjected after, “I knew you’d like that song.” Then he asked how many were hearing that for the first time. Squinting to see the raised hands, he added, “That tells me how many don’t have that CD.” LOL Hallelujah Square closed out their set. Chris is featured on the verses of this song and I have to make mention how happy he was singing it. Actually, all three of them were quite joyful during this ballad – towards the end, both Rodney and Gerald laughed. The joy on stage must have overflowed into the theater because once the last note was held, fans popped out of their seats for another standing ovation!
Gerald introduced the special guests for the morning session, the Mark Trammell Quartet. With the assurance that we were “gonna’ love them,” MTQ kicked off their set with Meet Me Over On the Other Side and I Sing the Mighty Power. “Praise the Lord, what a joy it is to be where ever this is we are this morning,” said Mark in the most serious manner, fudging his grammar on purpose. Mark went on, “Me, nine in the morning and possum hunting lights don’t do well.” Pat’s laughter came a little delayed, and Mark couldn’t help but tease him, “You just got that, didn’t you?” LOL Introductions were next. Mark continued to ask how many people in the crowd were “morning people.” (Bass singer Pat Barker was lumped into this crowd…and according to Mark, Pat was a little too happy that morning!) I don’t think Mark was expecting the loud scream and applause that echoed in reply to his question; with big eyes and hands raised in surrender, he said, “I think there’s someone sitting next to you that wants to slap you.” He went on to inform the crowd that he was NOT a morning person in the least bit! Anyway, they did a few requests, one being I Thirst and another Echoes From the Burning Bush. When the intro for that last one began Pat said, “Oh, I like this one!” *smile* Mark set up another request by telling the audience that he was 13 when he first heard it, and though he didn’t know much about the message then, he does today. That ballad was Too Much To Gain To Lose – Wonderful Time Up There followed. Turning to the tenor filling in for them, Mark said, “Well Dustin, I have to admit, you’re doing good for nine in the morning.” Then he asked Dustin if he would sing something for them. It was a well-known hymn by the name of Tis So Sweet. After the familiar tune was sung, to Dustin Mark added, “I like you…there’s not many young people I like, but I like you.” The crowd got a chuckle out of that. Now pay attention to this next part ‘cause it was funny! Mark explained how he always gets one of two requests for Pat to sing – one is How Big is God, and the other is I Want To Know. The first one takes a piano player…which Mark didn’t have. When the crowd realized that How Big is God was out of the question, they signed, “Ahhhh.” Then, it dawned on a few that, well, there were other pianists in the building! Suddenly, a loud chorus of, “STAN!” rang out in the auditorium. But still, Mark went with the second request, I Want To Know. Explaining that this was their very first #1 song, Mark added emphasis that it was special because it took them 10 years to get a #1. On the other hand, Pat couldn’t help but point out, “It only took me 3 months.” Mark grinned, “Don’t you love his modesty and humility?” LOL They ended up singing I Want To Know, encoring it and getting a huge standing ovation. (The crowd loved that song!) Their closing ballad, The King is Coming, also received a standing ovation.
We had one more time slot with Ken Davis before we went into intermission. He spoke on “having life more abundantly.” Also, Scott made special mention of a sweet lady by the name of Mildred, (ya’ll may remember her from last year), and in ten days she was having a birthday and would be 98 years old! I’ll tell you this; she doesn’t look 98 at all! Before the second half began, Gerald walked out on stage with a set of car keys. Someone found a white vehicle with the keys in it and running before the session began and brought them to L5’s table. Gerald said, “If you’re from Kansas and you’re white, you might want to come to L5’s table.”
Then, calling everyone on stage, Gerald exclaimed, “Welcome Mark Trammell, Scott Fowler, Matt and whoever wants to come out!” LOL This segment was the Cathedrals Remembrance tribute. With Matt singing bass, Mark lead, Scott baritone, Chris tenor and Gerald playing the keyboard, they kicked off with Plan of Salvation and Master Builder. If you’ve seen them sing Master Builder recently, you’ll recognize the part where Pat drops a low “yeah” in on the verse and surprises Mark. Well, the line up this time was Chris, Scott, Mark and Matt – so I guess Mark wasn’t expecting Matt to pull that off on him, but he did, and boy did Mark make the face! As for Pat, he was having too much fun laughing in the background! LOL Before they went into the next song, Scott took a moment and pointed out something some of us may not have realized. When Mark left the Cathedrals, Scott took his place – that means they both sing the same vocal part – which also means that when they get together like this, someone had to sing a part they’re not familiar with. Scott pointed out that Mark is always the one to volunteer for that, and in Scott’s opinion, he’s the best at hearing the notes for each part. Scott casually added, “Thanks for leaving the Cathedrals.” After a pause, Gerald asked, “Do you have a rebuttal for that Mark?” Mark replied, “At this age, it takes too long to rebut.” LOL Switching bass singers for the next song, Pat came on board as they sang There’s Just Something About That Name. Gerald complemented the harmony by saying, “That’s good.” Without stopping to decide what song was next, they went right into singing I Will Serve Thee and finished the ballad acapella. The crowd was impressed with that! So was Gerald, he made sure everyone knew that what the guys just did was HARD. Then he added, “We’ve got some requests for some songs we’ve never run over…they’re about to be run over.” Recognizing that the following material would be something they’ve not done before, Pat quickly offered the mic to Matt. Matt, however, politely denied. In the end, they ended up with a truce and “tag-teamed” singing the bass part. Watching the exchange with interest, Gerald informed the audience, “This is why we (GV) don’t have a bass singer – it takes two of them to make one singer!” The crowd BOOED at Gerald for that comment! Not shaken in the least bit that the crowd disagreed with him, Gerald replied, “You can boo all you want, but you’re about to witness it.” The song that made such a fuss was Moving Up To Gloryland. Matt sang the first verse with them and Pat sang the second. On the last chorus, when Chris was getting ready to do the “wha-ho-ho-ho” part, Pat jumped up and did it just like George Younce use to! The crowd loved it. “Now that was fun!” said Gerald. Scott added, “You don’t have to be an idiot to sing in this group, but it helps.” Gerald went on, “Ya’ll have picked some great requests…some we would never consider.” (Just that thought caused the audience to laugh.) The next two though, were pretty well-known and popular – Wedding Music and Boundless Love. While contemplating what their next tune would be, Gerald held up the request list and laughed, “Someone requested ‘Step Into the H2O,’ that’s the contemporary version, apparently.” Then he mumbled something about guessing on a key. When Chris heard it, he said, “If you’re gonna’ miss, miss low.” Immediately, Pat hollered, “No! Miss high!” Chris turned to Pat, “Sounds like you need to tag team it out!” LOL Well, they did sing Step Into the Water, and Scott was so impressed he said, “Let’s do some more we don’t know!” At the mention of the word “acapella” – someone in the crowd called out Wonderful Grace of Jesus!…and then the controversy began. The guys knew they wanted to do either Wonderful Grace of Jesus or the Heavenly Parade – but they couldn’t decide which one, and after that, the deliberated over who knew the words and parts to either song. Gerald, satisfied that it was an acapella song, sat at his keyboard and said, “I know my part,” and rolled a chord. Now, you have to get this picture in your mind – these guys were in no hurry to figure out what they were going to sing. Nor were they agreeing with each other! This led up to a very frustrated Rodney Griffin, who, with hands outstretched, hollered, “WOULD SOMEBODY JUST SING!” LOL As they concluded which song to sing, Gerald was drug from the safety of his piano to sing the lead (cause he was the only one who knew the words) and replaced by an all too happy Scott Fowler who proudly announced, “I know my part!” and rolled a chord on the piano. Unfortunately for Scott, no one was paying attention to his “part” because the others were still going on about something. When he finally got their attention, Gerald said, “Scott, that’s not Bb!” LOL They ended up singing Wonderful Grace of Jesus with Chris, Gerald, Mark and Matt. The result? A standing ovation! After that Gerald announced they had time to do one more and immediately voices from the crowd began calling out requests. Unsuccessful at getting the crowd to settle down, Gerald finally called out, “HUSH!” There is only one song that could close out a Cathedrals tribute, and that is Champion of Love. Scott sang the first verse with conviction and just as I was anticipating Gerald stepping forward to sing the second verse, low and behold, Nick Trammell was given the spotlight! Not only did Nick do a stellar job on his verse, I have to point out a little detail I especially enjoyed. You may have noticed when Gerald sings the second verse, he changes up the lyrics a bit. The original is, “to raise His hands in victory for me…” but Gerald sings it, “to raise His hands in victory for you and me.” Well, when Nick sang it, he sang it the way Gerald does, and when Gerald recognized that, he grinned from ear to ear. The moment was priceless! The crowd was on their feet clapping, whistling and hollering their hearts out!
Conclusion: Did you catch how many standing ovations the crowd gave this session? Personally, I counted seven. (I also happen to think that’s a lot…for a morning!) On the other hand, if you were there, I’m sure you would have been on your feet too! It was a delightful two to three hours. There was so much that happened that I couldn’t fit it all in this review, but if you’ve been to a concert where L5, MTQ and GV get together like this and sing those old Cathedral songs, I’m sure you understand what I’m saying! There’s never a dull moment! To say we had fun and heard great singing is an understatement…we had a blast!