There are many ways one could spend the first hours of the day on the 4th of July, especially in Gatlinburg…there are trails to hike, mountains to climb and tasty restaurants to sample; but when you’re at a Gospel Sing, there’s only one thing on your mind – music. This year, I spent the early hours (now remember, this is SGM so early is more like 7 AM!) of July 4th getting ready for a hymn sing! At this point in time, this hymn sing was the Friday before the official taping at Gerald Wolfe’s church, so we can probably say that this session was a trial run for the artists.
“How many have been involved with a hymn sing?” Gerald asked the audience, “Okay, five. How many have sung a hymn?” That time hands raised and folks applauded. “There we go!” exclaimed Gerald happily. Turning around, he spotted Mark Trammell, who had just walked on stage. “The old man got up!” Gerald teased. Seeing Ivan Parker behind Mark, he added, “And the older one!” Gerald moved to the middle of the stage and unbeknownst to him, Ivan followed behind him trying to get to his seat on the other side of the stage. When Gerald noticed he cried, “Oh Lord! He’s on the war path!” LOL
“113” – Glory To His Name kicked the morning off and “52” – Jesus, Hold My Hand followed. Gerald took a moment to talk about the hymnals themselves. “I’ve seen some of the purses you women carry,” said Gerald, “Surely, you have room for one of these!” LOL He went on to say that Karen was going to sing the next one when they film the taping in a few days (in Morristown) when Karen interrupted him and asked, “Can I wear my glasses?” Gerald looked at her and replied, “You are.” Poor Karen bent over in her chair and laughed so hard. (Now, because it was morning and I wasn’t all that awake either, I failed to make a note as to which song Karen sang…)
“345” – Where Could I Go? was next. To set up the hymn, which the Whisnants were about to sing, Gerald told a little story. When he e-mailed everyone the list of songs and who would sing them, Jeff Whisnant thought this next part meant that the Whisnants would sing this song and they had never done it before. So Jeff drug Susan out of bed to rehearse early in the morning. The hymn was Where Could I Go? and the Whisnants sang the first verse and then the “original” line-up of Greater Vision (Chris Allman, Mark Trammell and Gerald Wolfe) took the next verse. Afterwards, Gerald couldn’t help but tease, “and we old guys over here didn’t even practice…” LOL
“181” – Blessed Assurance (in the key of C!) On this one Gerald had the pianist “tip toe” around the Pentecostal version. Once, when he had the women sing the first part of the second verse, Melissa Brady mentioned that he shouldn’t ask the ladies to sing “perfect submission.” LOL Without missing a beat, Karen Peck took a mic and asked permission, “Gerald, is it okay if I put my glasses on?” Everyone chuckled. So Gerald had the men sing it instead of the women!
“I wonder what would happen in your church on Sunday morning if you tried that?” asked Gerald. (Meaning the energy in the song, not that the women didn’t sing that one part.) J “125” – He Keeps Me Singing. The audience started singing without “conductor Gerald’s” permission and he had to stop them and get them on beat with the music. When the hymn ended a guy hollered, “Do another verse!” Gerald said, “You weren’t singing the last two!” The crowd laughed and Gerald went on, “No seriously, which one you want…there’s five (verses). Feasting? Well, that figures…mostly a Baptist crowd.” LOL So we sang “Feasting on the riches of His grace…” After that verse Gerald asked the crowd, “Anything else?”
“341” – What A Friend We Have In Jesus. “I have someone singing on this one,” pondered Gerald aloud, “Ivan!” Then Gerald asked Ivan if he had a book? Ivan answered, “Yeah I have a book, and my glasses.” 😉 Ivan sang the second verse. “What a great lyric,” said Gerald, “I would have written that if I would have thought of it first.” (LOL) Then he quoted the verse that says, “O what peace we often forfeit…O what needless pain we bear.” He explained that the forfeit meant: give up, surrender. “How many of us are guilty of that?” Gerald asked, “Worry yourself into a frazzle? There’s a pill for that – but right here’s the answer, here’s the reason your worried sick – it’s because you don’t take it to the Lord in prayer. You can apply that to everything that happens in life. Does that mean it will go away? No, but you won’t have to bear it alone. The Bible says, ‘there’s a man that stays closer than a brother’.” Then Gerald sang that verse again and added some add lib at that part, “All because I resist, I don’t surrender” everything to God in prayer…” The choir (all the artists on stage) gave him a standing ovation. Mark Trammell stood up and quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” He gave the Hebrew word for pray and said, “It means this,” then he kneeled on the stage. He stayed there for a few moments then looked at Gerald and said, “You can do that one more time.” So they sang another verse. “If you follow that prescription the Great Physician gave, then you can sing this one!” Gerald exclaimed.
“120” – Victory in Jesus. “Karen Peck is gonna show us how it was written,” began Gerald. “She traveled with Alphus LeFevre and Rex Nelon and when you traveled with them you sang it right…” The up-beat hymn began and then Gerald introduced the next song. “Mark and I sang this song every night 27 years ago with Glen and George.” But that morning, it was going to be Mark, Rodney, Chris and Gerald. “I’m the only one on this platform who ever sang bass with the Cats,” Gerald boasted. Rodney exclaimed, “Soooo!” LOL The song was Wonderful Grace of Jesus and when they began Gerald reminded Rodney, “The words Rod, not the shapes…” Either way, they made it through the song and received a standing ovation.
“Where we at Mark?” Gerald asked, as the others returned to their seats. “359” – Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. Gerald asked the crowd if they were tired yet, then turned to Susan Whisnant, “How bought you Susan?” Instead of answering, Susan just looked at him and Karen handed Susan her glasses and Susan put them on. (They kept bringing “the glasses” up again and again!) “393” – When We All Get to Heaven.
The next hymn featured the Mark Trammell Quartet and so Gerald asked Mark, “Are you all here?” Mark answered, “I don’t know, I’m the only one who got up…” Since MTQ is a male quartet, Gerald took that moment to tease the Memphis Quartet Show about the “segregated singing down in Memphis”. “No women were allowed, no trios,” Gerald ranted, “I was down there with a picket sign protesting and got arrested three times.” (Of course, Gerald wasn’t really in Memphis and never was arrested, but he did have fun pickin’ on it.) The Mark Trammell Quartet sang Leave Your Sorrows.
“390” – Power in the Blood. Gerald began explaining they were gonna sing it, but when Rodney heard he was going to sing the second verse he stood up and interrupted, “In English?” he asked. Without hesitating Gerald replied, “No, in Portuguese.” Nick Trammell was assigned the third verse and Aaron Hise the fourth. Once more, Rodney stood up, “The jury has a question,” he began, “does Nick’s verse follow mine or is there a chorus between them, and is it in English or Portuguese?” Again, Gerald replied (as if these questions are perfectly normal!) “No, I want Nick’s in French and…” Before he could get any more out Karen interjected, “Pig Latin,” from the front row. Gerald exclaimed, “Who said that?!” Mark held up his hand and said, “Don’t go there…” So they just sang Power in the Blood instead.
“139” – At Calvary. Mark Trammell and Jeff Whisnant each sang a verse on this one. When the next song was introduced, Gerald pointed out that though it is not in the Red Back Hymnal, it’s a classic that should definitely be included at a hymn sing, it was It Is Well With My Soul and featured Ivan Parker on the second verse. Next, Gerald called all the bass singers down to the front where they were featured on page “92”, Just a Little Talk with Jesus. There were seven in all and afterwards Gerald bellowed, “Give it up for the bull frogs!” “There’s a pond across from my house and every night for the last few weeks I heard them bull frogs singing just like that,” he teased. Love Lifted Me followed and then Mark Trammell and Susan Whisnant were to sing the Haven of Rest. Of course, Gerald had each one assigned verses and when he asked Susan if she ever sang it she said, “No, not until this morning.” When he asked her to sing the second verse Susan replied, “Good, I practiced the fourth…but I will submit and do whatever you want.” LOL (The ladies were really rubbing the “submission” theme in!) LOL Karen followed singing a beautiful acapella version of Amazing Grace and then Mark took about fifteen minutes to talk about a verse of Scripture. When things were getting ready to wrap up Gerald began singing, “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave it there…” Soon, everyone followed in sweet harmony. “Hasn’t this been a wonderful way to spend your morning?” asked Gerald. “I wouldn’t trade a check for what we felt in this room today.” As the ushers gathered, he prayed for the offering and then the band played while the buckets were passed. “333” concluded the morning session. “We couldn’t close without this song!” said Gerald. I’ll Fly Away…
Well, after skipping breakfast that day I planned on “flying away” to the nearest restaurant! All that singing worked up a good appetite! The morning was excellent and a highlight of the week in Gatlinburg.