The band played as I and a stream of other people walked from the exhibit hall to the main auditorium. Four thousand people would be in that room for Friday night’s concert at Singing in the Sun. Right then, the voices of those thousands were singing a medley of both old and new songs lead by Greg Cook. While everyone joined in with, “I never shall forget the day…” I began the ascent to the top of the bleachers. A grin couldn’t help but spread across my face. Last year when I attended Singing in the Sun for the first time, there was one night I had a seat on the second row right in front of the stage, this year every seat in the building was sold and my seat was at the top of the bleachers. How ironic! I wasn’t worried though, every seat at Singing in the Sun has a great vantage and I really enjoyed my bird’s eye view from up top.
Ray Flynn (President of Abraham Productions) stepped on stage, “Down on the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach the doors to the bars are open and they’re full with people who are jumping and making noise for the devil. But here at Singing in the Sun the doors are open, the house is full and we are going to lift our voices in praise to the Lord tonight. Can you imagine 4000 people praising the Lord?” He went on to say that over 40 people gave their lives to the Lord the opening night. “God hath met with us this week,” Ray said, then he opened the night in prayer.
The first artist to come on stage was Josh and Ashley Franks, a husband and wife duet. A few years back I went to a sing hosted by Josh and Ashley that Josh emceed, so I was interested to hear them sing though their time on stage was brief. Their first song was an upbeat tune and afterwards, Josh introduced themselves to the audience. Ashley followed with a ballad called I’ve Not Seen a Mountain that He Can’t Move. Then they sang another fast tune, I Know My God Can Do It. The crowd really enjoyed this song and it was encored before they left the stage.
“In 1988 I joined the Florida Boys Quartet,” said Greg Cook, “and I was as green as green can be. I didn’t know anything about singing, but the gentleman in this quartet became my closest friend and took me under his wing. I don’t know a finer gentleman than this man right here and I want you to welcome The Mark Trammell Quartet.” Greg turned and walked over to Mark and gave him a hug. While the track cued up for their first song Mark asked the crowd, “If you’ve enjoyed Greg, let him know it.” Polite applause followed. Strings gently provided the background for the tender song that MTQ opened with, How Long Has It Been. As I sat there, I knew that this would be the last concert I would see Pat Barker sing with the quartet. They went into Nick’s solo, Don’t Stop Running, and then Mark mentioned how that song was from their new CD, as was their next one, God’s Been Faithful. After that stirring ballad Mark exclaimed, “Amen! Yes, He has!” Wonderful Time Up There, Pat’s solo, followed. Getting ready to introduce the group, Mark chatted about Myrtle Beach for a few moments. “This is my favorite place in the entire world to vacation. I tell you that I would come here and sing if there were only one of you in the building. So welcome to my favorite place!” After introducing each member quickly, he mentioned how he heard what a great week we’ve had so far. Introducing their next song Mark turned to Pat and told the audience, “Not a finer man has ever walked on a bus.” Then Pat sang How Big Is God. This song, the one Pat will forever be known for, has escaped MTQ’s set for quite some time and I can’t begin to explain how special it was for me to see him sing it one more time before he left the road. Would you be surprised if I told you he reviewed a standing ovation? Mark and Pat shared the feature on their latest single, Your Walk Talks, which came next. “Let us do this and then we’re going to finish.” Said Mark. “I had this request from Barbara. We’ve been singing this song all across the country and we watch folks sing along, then wonder if they should. If you want to, go ahead. You say, ‘We don’t do that at our church.’ Well, we’re not at your church, we’re at this one. Here’s the answer the Barbara’s request.” The King Is Coming. People were out of their seats before Mark could sing the line, “Heavens choir is now assembled.” If anyone wasn’t standing then, they were by the end of the song.
“Could be tonight,” Greg commented as MTQ left the stage, “I’m packed and ready to go, how ‘bout you? If you enjoyed them let ‘em know it one more time, The Mark Trammell Quartet.” Then he began to introduce the next singer, “When you think of this man you think of first class, songs like Midnight Cry, When I Get Carried Away and I Can Only Imagine…Welcome Ivan Parker!” Ivan came out with his snappy tune 24 Hours a Day. “Lord have mercy, this is going to be a fun night!” exclaimed Ivan, “Since I went solo this is the very first time I’ve had the privilege of having a live band.” At the mention of the musicians on stage the crowd applauded. “The interesting thing about looking up here,” said Ivan, “is I have socks older than most of these kids.” LOL Ivan sang Big Change next and joked about going into Pastor Hagee’s time (who was scheduled to preach that night.) As he was talking about his next song, he shared with the audience how he was sitting out on his bus that day with all the requests that have been collecting at his table all week. He decided he should call it his “Greatest Hits” program. No wonder then, when God Bless the USA was next! He had all the veterans stand, and when they did, he said to the rest of us, “This is why we’re free.” Then he asked his son, Josh, who played lead guitar in the band, to come play a solo. When Josh began and the backup vocals sang, “These are the days…of Elijah…” – but when the second verse came around, Josh turned to the riser where Matthew Gooch began playing the next part. Together, these two finished the instrumental. The audience loved it and began standing long before Matthew came up to play, but what I loved about it was the unity on stage. Ivan put Josh in the spotlight for a moment, but Josh gladly shared it. As everyone was sitting back down the music for I Can Only Imagine began, which was Ivan’s next song. Applause broke out after the first few lines. By this time, the atmosphere in the room was very worshipful and Ivan asked everyone to sing What a Day That Will Be with him. “How many have loved ones on the other side?” he asked. Taking a moment to talk about heaven and the eternity we have to look forward to with our loved ones and Jesus, he spoke of the Lord’s return. The time when, “Jesus, the centerpiece of all that we’ve ever accomplished in this world – He’s gonna’ say, ‘Welcome, welcome thou good and faithful servant!’” Then he had just the ladies sing the chorus of What a Day once again. Another ballad followed, called Thank You for Giving to the Lord, a popular CCM song from the 90s. Then he said, “One more song…we cannot leave tonight without the Midnight Cry.” With that song, Ivan concluded his “Greatest Hits” program at Singing in the Sun.
I certainly did not plan on leaving at that point, but my legs did need a good stretch. So I thought to kill two birds with one stone and visit some friends in the exhibit hall. You can imagine my shock as what seemed like only moments later, intermission began. What’s the saying about time flying when you’re having fun? How could I have missed both the McKameys and the Booth Brothers and Pastor Hagee? (I still haven’t figured that one out!) Either way, it happened. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Like I mentioned before, this was my last time to see Pat sing with MTQ and I thought their set was perfect! From Your Walk Talks to How Big Is God and Wonderful Time Up There, each song that featured him was a wonderful tribute to the years he spent with them. We’ll miss you Pat! Ivan Parker’s set was great too! I loved hearing all of his popular songs and Josh’s guitar solo was a hit. With a night like this, it was hard not to be excited about Saturday evening!