“We make 1700 pies every year,” said the lady at the concession stand. For a moment I thought I missed what she said, surely she said 700 instead of 1700. Then she continued, “We begin making them in March; once a week twelve of us get together at the church and form an assembly line to make pies. We make 200 at a time and then freeze them so we can cook them fresh each night here at the sing. All our food is homemade from scratch.” She wrote down our order on a slip, sent it into the “kitchen” and said we could scoot down the line to wait for our name to be called. As I watched the volunteers inside the concession stand I noticed that everything was run in an orderly fashion – a tray was passed down where it would pick up food, then drink items. When our name was called we were given our tray which we slid down to the next window where we paid. I couldn’t wait to try one of those pies! And I didn’t have to wait long either, for as soon as we sat down at a table, there it was… a parchment tote that enveloped the crescent shaped pastry I would soon partake of – Sweet Potato Pie!
Folks milled around the tent until the singing began. Some visited the concession stand or with one another, others talked to artists or passed the time in a different manner, such as crocheting. About ten minutes before starting, Danny Jones would have the artists come up and tell about their product. On Friday night Brian Free & Assurance, Karen Peck & New River and Mark Bishop were singing, so Bill Shivers and Mike Rogers were the first to pitch their product. We all know that Bill is a little mischievous, and the first thing he did on stage was ask everyone to stand up. So the good folks in the crowd stood up, waiting for further instructions. “Now,” said Bill, “I want everyone to do this!”…and he began doing jumping jacks! If you can, picture this – it’s about ninety degrees out, there’s a tent full of folks in their later years and yet, they obliged Bill by jumping up and down with their limbs swinging from the sides up to the top of their heads and back! Now that’s what I call working a crowd. LOL
The first group of the night was Karen Peck & New River – they kicked off their program with Ephesians One, I Wanna Know how it Feels, On the Banks of the Promised Land and I’ll Fly Away. “Are y’all glad to see my sister, Susan Peck Jackson?” asked Karen. Susan was featured on Sustaining Grace and during this one Karen stood off to the side as her daughter, Kari, sang with Susan and Jeff. Towards the end of the ballad Karen got the crowd’s attention and motioned to clap, mouthing the words, “That’s my baby!” After, Karen encouraged the crowd with a verse from Ecclesiastes to set up for their next song. She said, “God is not through with you. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘What in the world? I can’t even get out of bed!’ There’s a lot of living to do between now and heaven, how are you living that life? When we get to the end of our lives, may we be able to say we finished well.” With an introduction like that, it is no wonder they received a standing ovation at the end of their power ballad, Finish Well.
When you see KPNR, you know you’re going to hear a good story or two and that’s what followed. Karen mentioned that they just returned from singing up north and how they sang one night in New York and the next night in Minnesota (or maybe Wisconsin – I can’t remember which!) The night they were in New York they had a time of testimony and a lady from Italy stood up and shared. “I’ll be honest with you all,” said Karen, “the only word I recognized was ‘Thank the Lord.’” The following night, a man came up to their table and said to Karen, “I like you’re singing.” Karen replied, “I like you’re accent, where are you from?” He said, “Mexico.” Excited, Karen replied, “C’omo est’a usted?” He said, “What?” She asked, “What did I just say?” He answered, “I don’t know!” (He couldn’t understand the Spanish with her southern accent!) Karen informed the crowd, “It feels good to be in Georgia where people know how to talk!” LOL Revival and Robe and Crown followed. After a standing ovation and one encore, Karen asked the crowd, “You want to hear some more of that?” So they sang another round of Robe and Crown. After another new song, Everybody’s Going Through Something, Karen said, “We love y’all, God bless you!” They closed their set with Four Days Late. Another standing O! When Danny walked on stage and asked, “How ‘bout it for Karen Peck & New River?” the crowd roared.
Before Karen left the stage, Danny had her tell a little about their TV show on WATC in Atlanta, Georgia. There was a moment when Danny cracked a blonde joke and the crowd booed him. Karen took that moment to interject, “We know who these people like!” Danny pointed to Karen’s head and said, “This is real!” LOL
“It always tickles me that God has allowed me to work with some great artists,” Danny began, “not only who can write songs, but put their thoughts on paper. I always look forward to this next gentleman’s article every month…America’s greatest singer and songwriter, Mark Bishop.” I Can Rejoice was Mark’s first song of the evening and he asked everyone if we would rejoice with him that night in-between verse and chorus. “Kick back, relax and let me sing to you,” he said before going into I’m Gonna’ Make It If I Can. After that song, Mark went on, “We’re not here to glorify any man tonight. Some folks love Rock Music, Country, Classical or Rap…stuff. I like Gospel Music because it has the Gospel in it and is like a medicine. I hope you can get some of that medicine tonight.” He took a moment to introduce “the group.” Looking around him at the empty stage he exclaimed, “ta-dah!” in his humorous fashion. He laughed, then explained that he sang with The Bishops for a number of years and when the group left the road his wife wouldn’t let him retire, so there he was bugging us! LOL How ironic that his next song was I Got Here as Fast as I Could. “Folks, if you don’t like that kind of song right there, then I won’t have anything else for you the rest of the program,” said Mark half teasing, half serious. He was excited to tell the crowd that he received his new CD on Tuesday and then asked if he could practice some of those new songs. The first was a medium tempo song called The Devil’s Playing Chess. His next tune was Listening For the Call. “That song was a #1 last year,” he said, “They give ‘em to most anybody these days.” LOL The next new song was a big ballad called Pray on the Little Days. I heard that one on the Gospel Greats the previous week and fell in love with the message. Others must have liked it to, ‘cause afterwards someone shouted out, “Loved it!” from the back. Another new one, Tonight I’ll Mention You in My Prayers, followed. “I’ve got time to do one more,” said Mark, “A few years ago I went into the studio with some of my friends and recorded this song. Anybody know of a struggling singer by the name of Ivan Parker?” LOL To introduce the message and thought behind the song, Mark continued, “We know Him as a personal Savior, but they knew Him as a personal Friend. He was taken from them so violently, I wonder what it was like for them to say goodbye…” My Name Is Jesus closed his set with hands raised high, whistling and a crowd on their feet.
The offering was next and Danny had the audience applaud for Dean, the sound technician who played the keyboard while the buckets were passed. Then Danny and Bill explained that they were going to take a picture of the crowd for Facebook and they needed everyone to say cheese when Pastor Bill counted to three. After the first attempt, Danny said, “That was pitiful! Can’t you all say the word cheese in Georgia?” The second shot was much better…
Brian Free & Assurance were the last group to sing before intermission. As the music for What a Beautiful Day began, lead singer Bill Shivers did a jumping jack and the audience erupted in laughter. LOL BFA then launched into If the Lord Says Do It, Revival and Just a Little Talk with Jesus. Now, Brian wasn’t feeling well that night, and though you couldn’t tell from his stage presence, I did catch a rather humorous moment when he was telling the crowd how glad they were to be back at “Indian Trail.” (Of course, he meant Indian Creek.) LOL Brian introduced the group and when he came to Jeremy he explained that Jeremy believes, “While a fool chatters, a wise man listens.” At the mention of that Proverb Mike took a step away from Bill and Bill looked at him and shrugged his shoulder as if to say, “Who…me?” The crowd whistled and whooped for Jeremy as he took a bow. Mike was featured on Tell It Like It Was and then Brian introduced their next song. “This song has truly blessed us as a group. The Word of God didn’t promise us that we’d never have a problem. No matter what we go through on this earth know that He has you in the palm of His hand.” Their new single, Say Amen followed. I love hearing the crowd echo “amen” in the chorus. When they reached the bridge and sang, “Just stand and testify…of the greatness of God in our lives!” the audience stood. It was a powerful moment! After singing another new song, Little Bit of Me and You, Brian introduced their last ballad. “We live in a time when we hear so many things.” Continuing to speak, “We hear them mock the name of our Lord and curse the name of our Lord. We are in the last part of the last days.” The audience agreed with those thoughts and they closed their set with the moving ballad, He Still Saves.
Before they broke for intermission Karen walked by the front row and stood by the aisle with the stage behind her. She talked about how we are where we are now because of the first song, then she explained that yesterday morning Pastor Bill called and asked her to give the invitation that night…and she did. She talked about our trials; the impact the cross has on our lives and explained how we need the Lord not just as a Savior, but as a daily companion on the road of life. When she prayed, she asked everyone to pray with her…and then they sang Because He Lives.
When Danny announced that the second half was going to begin folks began to make their way back to their seats. Each night, Danny and Pastor Bill did a drawing and tonight they had a little extra game they wanted to play with the folks who won the prizes. The first two winners just happened to be a man and a woman, and this gave Danny the perfect platform to conduct his contest. He called both of them down to the stage and said, “They say it’s been proven that women are smarter than men, so we’re going to find out tonight if that’s true.” To the lady he said, “This is going to be easy. Ma’am, spell the word ‘love.’” The lady took the mic and spelled, “L-O-V-E.” Danny thanked her and then turned the man, who everyone knew as Bruce. Danny said, “Alright Bruce, all these men are counting on you! All I’m going to ask is for you to spell a word…you word is Czechoslovakia.” Bruce just shook his head. Danny announced, “There you go folks, women are smarter than men!” LOL
Danny began the second half with a blonde joke to tease Karen, but Karen came up on stage and said, “Y’all know why dumb blonde jokes are so short?” After a pause she said, “So people with the name Danny can understand them.” The crowd roared with laughter. Karen added, “The crowd knows who they like here…” Danny looked at Karen then explained to the crowd that he was an only child, “If I ever had a sister, I would like her to be just like your sister Susan.” LOL Danny went on to tell a true story about Karen and a poor gentleman by the name of Bob, but I fear to re-tell it here for length, suffice it to say…it was funny! Then Danny had “Big Bird” (i.e. Karen’s jacket was bright yellow) lead I’ll Meet You in the Morning. Well, they came to the verse and not one, no, not one knew the words. Mark Bishop took a whack at it but stumbled over a few lines. Danny hollered to the others, “Y’all help them out, K?” After the song, Mark said, “We didn’t know the words and so I turned to him (Mike Rogers of BFA) and he said, ‘That’s before my time.’” Danny asked Mark to sing his “water bottle song.” I’m telling you, that was the funniest rendition I have ever heard with all the other singers adding in comments and remarks here and there. It was a wonder Mark could get through it without laughing! Afterwards, Karen exclaimed, “We’ve had a request to sing one!” Then the guys on stage explained that BFA had a song titled “One” and that’s what that meant, so she turned to the crowd and amended her statement, “We’ve had one request to sing One!” BFA sang that ballad next and I really enjoyed it because I haven’t seen them sing that one live yet. (No pun intended.) It was a powerful song and received a standing ovation. “Would y’all like to sing a little bit of I’ll Fly Away?” Danny asked. They did and when the second verse rolled around they had Mark sing it. After Brian and Karen battled it out on Looking For a City, Danny asked Karen to close with a special song. “Okay, Karen, this is probably the only time we’ll be serious this week,” he said. Then she sang My God Will Always Be Enough. After the song everyone was on their feet and Pastor Bill dismissed us in prayer.
Conclusion: Oh, did we have a good time that evening! I guarantee what you just read is only the beginning…and what a perfect pairing of artists! Karen Peck & New River and Brian Free & Assurance are always fun together, but I never knew that when you threw in Mark Bishop it added another dimension. If you are keeping your eyes open for a good Gospel Sing to attend, I highly recommend this one. If you visit their Facebook page HERE, you can check out that photo Danny took of the crowd and while you’re there, why don’t you “like” their page so you can keep up with what they’re planning for next year? 🙂 Remember, Saturday night is still to come!