Fourth of July in Gatlinburg is busy. In the daytime hours, the streets are packed with people walking up and down them – enjoying the sights and sounds of the Smoky Mountains. Down by the Ober Gatlinburg Air Tram a group of cloggers tapped to Rocky Top…up in the Space Needle people gazed at the mountains…and some on the strip were squeezing through the crowds to reach the Pancake Pantry, Best Italian or other restaurants serving delicious dishes. It was a holiday in a major tourist destination – and I tried to soak up as much of the wonder as I could.
When the afternoon slowly turned toward the evening, it was time to point myself to the convention center. The line-up was stellar! The Wilmington Celebration Choir would sing for us a while and then we would hear The Mark Trammell Quartet, Whisnants, Ivan Parker, Legacy Five, Greater Vision and preaching from Phil Hoskins.
Since it was July 4th, everyone seemed to be wearing some equivalent of red, white and blue; the Wilmington Celebration Choir was among them. All wore black bottoms and white tops – the men accented with red, white and blue bowties and the ladies wore red scarves of the same color scheme. Once on stage, they warmed the crowd up with I Go to the Rock, “The Horse Song” (or more commonly called We Will Ride) and For Thou Oh Lord.
“When I think of this quartet the first thing I think of is class,” said Greg Cook, the event emcee. “One of my best friends, I love his heart for ministry and Gospel Music, put your hands together and welcome the Mark Trammel Quartet.” As MTQ came on stage and took their mics they experienced some technical issues and Greg interjected, “A good quartet can sing around one microphone!” Mark answered, “And you’ll hear a good quartet in a little while!” LOL Finally, their track started and they kicked off with Meet Me Over on the other side, To Know He Knows Me and I’ll Take it to the Grave. Mark took a moment to say a word concerning that last song, “The joy and the peace that Christ gives to us is something we can take to the grave and go on to glory with. I heard my dad preach you won’t see a U-Haul behind a hearse but I have to respectfully disagree: when our life stops here, the junk we have to deal with is over but all the things we have in Christ will go on with us through eternity.” After introducing the group and the next song, they sang Your Walk Talks and closed with The King Is Coming.
“It’s about to get good up here,” said Greg, “we’re gonna have church before the nights over.” After a pause he went on to introduce the next group, “I love family harmony and I love to see families travel together, this is one of our board members, the Whisnants…” The mixed trio ascended the stage and Susan asked the audience, “Have you ever felt broken? Like you’ve made a mess? Aren’t you glad the potter knows the clay?” That ballad, I’ll Trust the Potter’s Hand opened their set and He Can Move that Stone followed. Jeff took a moment and talked about that week in Gatlinburg . “I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate you being here.” He went on to introduce the group and then Susan jumped in and added, “I have had more requests for these two young men to sing with their daddy.” At that moment, Ethan jumped on stage and joined Austin and Jeff on The Road to Emmaus. After a round of God is so Good, led by Susan and the audience joining in, Jeff asked the crowd, “Aren’t you glad for that tonight? Friends, we live in a world I’ve never seen before, a politically correct society where the blood of Jesus is old-fashioned, out of place. But I’ve come to believe that the popular opinion does not change the word of God.” I’m Trusting the Blood followed and then an encore sung acapella. When Aaron began the second verse again (for the encore) tears glistened in his eyes and he choked up on a line or two. Those lyrics meant something to him. New Day Dawning immediately followed and people popped out of their seats in no time. On the encore Ivan Parker and Karen Peck joined them on stage. It was a riot on stage! And it wasn’t over, another encore came and went before Ivan and Karen left the stage so the Whisnants could perform their last song. “Ain’t God good?” asked Susan. “Pray for these artists; pray for us that God would ever keep His arms around us.” Then they closed out their part of the program with All is Well… (and a standing ovation!)
“I’m almost at a loss for words,” Greg began, “and that doesn’t happen very often!” Ivan Parker was up next and kicked off with his up-beat 24 Hours a Day. “Boys, are y’all ready for a little fun?” Ivan asked the band. The song was Sail On. “It thrills my heart to stand on stage and see church people with their hands in the air…that’s as much as some of you moved in 35 years!” Ivan teased. LOL He told the crowd how thrilled he was to have the live band with him that night and how the Lord kept dealing with him about a song he wasn’t planning on doing, but it was obvious that was supposed to sing – I’ll Do the Miracle. He sang the second verse to the artists sitting off on the right hand side of the stage. It had been a while since I’ve heard that song and I really enjoyed watching him sing it live. The spotlight was shifted to Ivan’s son, Josh, as he played Days of Elijah as a guitar solo. Because KPNR was still in town, all of Matt’s (Karen’s son) instruments were on stage as well. So Ivan went and helped himself to Matt’s Ukulele! Afterwards, Ivan exclaimed, “I want to know how many cups of coffee he had before he played that!” LOL Then he added, “I’m going to end up driving the bus for them!” There was no way to follow that performance, but Ivan couldn’t finish up without singing Midnight Cry and God Bless the USA…and so he did!
Phil Hoskins had the next segment of the evening where he preached on “Three Men on a Mountain.” Three men died on Calvary – one died indifferent, one in innocence and one to inheritance. One died justly, one justified and one the justifier. One died in rejection, one to reception and one in redemption. One man was found a thief in the morning, but a converted soul in the evening. He scoffed in the morning but surrendered in the evening…and he died a saint because one man died a Savior.
Legacy 5 began their set with Great Day and Blood Washed Band. Scott Fowler asked the crowd if they liked those old songs. “Then you are going to love this collection,” Scott said, “Listen to Matt and Gus.” The Great Medley followed and featured a selection of hymns about God’s greatness. “Don’t you love a preacher that isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect and tell it like it is?” Scott asked the crowd, referencing Phil’s sermon. L5’s pianist, Trey Ivey, went on to play a mix of classical music and a hymn as a solo. Now, we all know how Howie likes to tease Trey about the classical piece and “what it’s called.” When Howie asked the offical name and Trey shyly said, “Movement #2,” the other guys grabbed Howie’s mic and Scott turned to Trey, “If he asks you that tomorrow night…lie!” *wink* Life Will Be Sweeter followed. Scott went on to say that one thing he loves so much about the people he sings to is they understand the politically correct movement paralyzes believers. “Have you ever thought to give Jesus a try?” Scott reasoned. “I’m going to do what Joshua said, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Their closing song followed that theme, Christ is Still the King and featured Gus. (Standing ovation.)
REMEMBER! Next year the Gatlinburg Gathering is moving to a new weekend – August 19-22, 2015! Third week in August, not a holiday weekend and that means you’ll enjoy the lowest hotel rates of the year!
“One of the most awarded male trios in Southern Gospel Music, please put your hands together and welcome Greater Vision!” Greg exclaimed, bringing on the last group. Greater Vision began their set with He’d Still Been God, Come Unto Me, For All He’s Done and My Name is Lazarus. At this point in the evening, it was getting late, later than most nights at the gathering and so Gerald just had to tease them! “I shaved three times waiting to get on tonight,” said Gerald, “We are running a little behind.” He went on to talk about his physical therapy treatments and as he talked I heard the fireworks in the background. No GV program would be complete without teasing Rodney as well, and this time Gerald told a story I had not heard before. It all began on the bus, Gerald noticed Rodney’s boots were a little larger than normal and so he asked Rodney about it. Rodney explained that he went to buy new boots and saw that the price for a size 13 was the same as a size 9, so he bought the bigger ones ‘cause… “I thought it was a better deal.” LOL Rodney was then featured on his “Preacher song,” Preacher Tell Me Like It Is. I Know a Man Who Can ended the evening with a standing ovation.
As Gerald mentioned, the time did run over for the evening and it was very late when GV finished their set and broke for intermission. Though the second set wasn’t very long, it was worth the wait and very enjoyable!