It probably seems incredibly odd to be talking about the 4th of July in October, but I have purposed to write and review every sing I’ve been to this year no matter how many months ago those events took place. This event we are about to travel “back in time to” was The Gatlinburg Gathering hosted by Abraham Productions over 4th of July weekend.
The first evening we attended was Wednesday night; my! was there a great lineup of artists awaiting us in the main auditorium! The Erwins, Brian Free and Assurance, Perrys, Triumphant and Daily and Vincent were among those scheduled to appear on stage. If I told you we had an absolutely awesome concert you would know I’m not exaggerating, right? Well, let me tell you just how good it actually was…
The night began with Greg leading the congregational singing on stage; then Ray Flynn (President of Abraham Productions) ascended the stage and said hello to the crowd. He reminded us that, “God has promised that if we praise Him, He will fill this place with His presence.” Then Ray asked us to bow our heads while he prayed…
The Erwins were the first group to appear on stage that evening. This young group of siblings from Texas kicked off their set with an upbeat song called Well Done. “I know this is a convention center but I believe it will turn into a church house tonight,” said Keith. Before they went any further in their program Keith introduced the family. Kody was on the far left and sang bass, next in line was Kris who sings baritone, Keith takes the lead part and their little sister Katie (who is 13 years old) takes the ladies part. Keith shared with the audience that Katie just began wearing makeup, which he doesn’t like too much! Then, with over 1000 folks as his witness, he promised her that as long as he lived she would never have a date. LOL Kris jumped in and talked about the time he was run over (his legs) by a driver who wasn’t paying attention and experienced a miracle medically. The ballad they were about to sing meant a lot to him, it described the source of his healing – There’s Power in Prayer. Another, The Very Moment He Saved My Soul followed and Keith quickly shared when that moment happened in his life in 1999 while the song turned around for the second verse. Till We See Christ was sung as a trio by Keith, Kris and Katie. This went into the hymn Face to Face (I shall behold him) with Katie slipping out and Cody taking the lead till the tune went into Until Then, which put the feature back on Katie and ended their set.
“Amen, amen, amen!” hollered Greg. Bringing up the next group, he said, “Probably one of the most awarded tenors in all of Gospel Music…I guess I can’t call him a young man anymore ‘cause he’s a granddaddy now. I want you to put your hands together tonight and welcome Brian Free and Assurance.” As the lights in the room dimmed, focusing in on one spot on the stage, I expected BFA to come on stage with all the gusto and energy the group is known for. Instead, that spotlight illuminated only one microphone as it stood center stage. The music for Never Walk Alone began as Brian walked into the spotlight and began singing this solo …“because of Me, you’ll never walk alone.” As the song went on more lights individually turned to add to the brilliance shining down on Brian. (The simple lighting effects had a profound effect on how the song was delivered.) “It’s so great to be back in Gatlinburg!” Brian exclaimed, “How’s everybody tonight?” A moment later, Mike stepped forward to sing Tell It Like It Was and A Little Bit of Me and You followed as the lights danced to the peppy music. Brian went on to introduce the group and at that time, he was still picking on Bill about the new addition to the Shivers family, Bill’s son. “If it was okay for Abraham it will be okay for you,” Brian said, trying to console Bill. The look on Bill’s face when compared to the age of Abraham was priceless! LOL Their next song was another new one from their Unashamed project and had a powerful message. “If you’re a born again child of God you are a truly blessed individual. I know we go through a lot of things in life but we have the problem solver as our Friend,” began Brian. “When you find out the times in our life when you’ve truly met with God, when you think back on the times He’s healed your finances, saved your marriage…you have every reason to say amen.” Their song, Say Amen, came next and I loved the few add libs Josh Parker added on his guitar. When they went into He Still Saves, Ivan Parker came and took a photo. “Amen,” Brian whispered, “that’s my Savior.” Long as I Got King Jesus signaled the end of their program and everyone stood, some bopping to the music. “Have you enjoyed the guys tonight let them know it!” Brian exclaimed as they were about to exit but Greg hopped on stage and said, “Oh no! We’re not done yet! There’s a quarter of a million people in Gatlinburg right now…they need to hear some more of this good stuff!” cried Greg, and they sang an encore. But one encore wasn’t enough; they went on to do three. Ivan Parker joined them on stage and Bill crossed the stage at one point shouting, “One more time! Are you glad to be praising Him in this place?” Afterwards, Greg teased Brian, “Not bad for a Grandpa…”
“Right now I want you to put your hands together for a family group that a lot of prayers have gone up for. The Perrys,” announced Greg. I Got a Hold Of God this Morning, How Long, How Long and Potter Knows the Clay opened the Perrys set. “Everybody put those hands together like this!” exclaimed Brian Walker, for their next song, I Know It Was the Blood. “What an honor and privilege it is to be back at the Gatlinburg Gathering,” Brian said after that last song. He went on to explain to eager fans that Tracy wouldn’t be appearing on stage because there wasn’t a ramp for the wheelchair, and then he introduced the group. “When things start to come against us the devil likes to kick us when we’re down,” Brian preached, “sometimes he tries to remind us of our past and maybe those sins might be the reason why you’re in the place you’re in, but no matter what Satan lies to you about, they’re lies, ladies and gentlemen. Calvary answers for me.” Andrew stepped forward and sang that powerful ballad, Calvary Answers For Me, which closed out the Perrys time on stage.
“The balm of Gilead was a sap extracted from a tree – they would gash the tree and cut it and from that place the sap would flow and they would collect it to cure snake bites. We’ve all been snake bitten by the serpent. Is there not a balm in Gilead? Is there not a cut on His back, a thorn on his brow to cure the snake bite of the Devil?”
“The quartet that’s getting ready to come on stage doesn’t live far from here,” said Ray, “I want you to stand to your feet and welcome the Triumphant Quartet.” Triumphant began their set with Because He Loved Me, Saved by Grace and Somebody Died For Me. “We’ve been together for 12 years and that’s my favorite song,” said Eric. Then he asked the guys to sing another chorus acapella in case someone missed the words. “What a great time we’ve already had, I love brother Herb and his preaching,” Eric went on. With nothing but names and a wave of the hand given for introductions the quartet went onto another song, I Can’t Help But Smile and All over God’s Promised Land. For a few moments Eric paused to talk about how they love coming to Gatlinburg because their families get to drive over and hang out them. With their schedule on the road being so full, this is the only place they get to do that. A story introduced their song, This Blood and then the Ole’ White Flag stole the spotlight. I loved the folks on the second row who had actual white flags they were waving around! With a flourish and Clayton shouting, “BLUEGRASS RULES!” Triumphant left the stage…
Now, if we want to talk about “Bluegrass ruling” the next group certainly was the definition of that! Daily and Vincent have to be one of the most popular Bluegrass bands in demand today, and on July 2, 2014 – they were next on stage at the Gatlinburg Gathering. “I know you are waiting to hear these guys,” said Greg. “How many are ready to hear some good bluegrass music?” So Dailey and Vincent came on stage with their band and started picking. (My largest challenge, being that this was my first time to see them ever, was I didn’t know who was who or any of their song titles…so bear with me please!) “Alright boys,” said Daily, “let’s do a little pickin’.” A number of tunes were performed back to back when they began, these were: Cross Over to the Other Side, Loving You, We’re Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, Altar of Prayer and finally, some acapella Bluegrass that featured a tune both Daily and Vincent grew up around, When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder. After a much encouraged encore and some introductions, Daily sang a ballad called And I Believe and Vincent followed with the Family Bible. They talked about recently playing in Carnegie Hall and particularly what tune they picked there – which they seemed quite amused with BTW! – and the number was…Foggy Mountain Breakdown! Afterwards, their newest addition, Christian Davis, sang Thanks to Calvary. “If we have any veterans in the audience tonight would you please stand?” asked Daily. “In 2007 we were invited to Washington DC to sing to veterans and their families – this song is for all of the names on the wall and for those who risked having their names there.” The tribute song was called More Than a Name on a Wall. As moving as that tune was, nothing compared to the response when they sang This Old House! The crowd was on their feet!
…and that all happened before intermission! Which meant there was still more to come, but I wouldn’t want anyone thinking this is the post that never ends, so I’ll cut it off here. But I will say this, I so enjoyed sitting and listening to all the artists that came on stage that evening. It was my first time to hear the Erwins and Daily and Vincent – and I enjoyed them both immensely! Also, it was my first time to hear Herb Reavis speak. Wow. I can’t say how refreshing it was to see a pastor stand up and say he will preach the truth no matter what. Pastors are under a lot of pressure these days and such a statement of faith is beginning to be a rare thing. Last but not least, it was quite the treat to see some of my favorites too – BFA, Perrys and Triumphant – and all in one night! It just can’t get much better, can it?