Two years ago we attended the Master’s Voice Homecoming in Bristow, Oklahoma. It was a powerful evening with the Hoppers, Talleys and of course, the host group, Masters Voice. Though we didn’t make it out last year, this year was a must! With Karen Peck & New River and Brian Free & Assurance being the featured artists, we couldn’t miss it! So, we crossed over the state line, drove under the “Largest McDonald’s in the World,” and cruised into the Freeland Performing Arts Center where two big buses were parked. Yep, we were in the right place!
Ricky Capps, tenor and owner of Masters Voice walked on stage to greet the audience that evening. After an announcement or two, he asked, “Did you know that a Baptist can raise their hand and still go to heaven?” Laughter rippled across the crowd. “And if you decided to run a lap around the edge of the auditorium, we’d know you’re from the Pentecostal church in Bristow!” LOL He wanted everyone to know that they could worship in any way they wanted. Once the audience settled down, Ricky prayed, and then introduced our MC for the night, Duane Garren. With Duane singing and the promoter pounding on the keys, we were led in congregational singing of When We All Get To Heaven. After, Duane asked the crowd to remain standing while Karen Peck came out and sang the national anthem. As she sang acapella everyone stood with their hands over their chests. “I love America!” exclaimed Karen when the audience applauded. She disappeared backstage and Duane said that they gave him a lot of announcements. “But,” he said, “Foo with announcements! Let’s get to the singing!”
Karen Peck and New River kicked off their set with Mighty Big God – their #1 single on the Singing News Charts for the month of July! “We are so glad to be here again this year,” Karen expressed, “it’s so good to see everyone.” Their second song was one of my all-time favorite KP&NR songs, I Want To Thank You. When Karen was in the middle of the second verse and sang the line about the “DJ who played songs to reach the non-believer,” she stopped and said, “let’s give the radio station a hand.” Everyone applauded for Bristow’s radio station. After the ballad Karen told the crowd about the phone call she received from New York City about playing a part in a movie with Dolly Parton, and how she accepted. “If God opens the door to be a light,” she said, “we are going to step through it.” In the movie, the choir she sang with was called the Mighty High Choir. “Well, we don’t have a choir…so guess who gets to be the choir?” Because no one in the audience responded, Karen added, “I see you’re so excited!” LOL KP&NR sang the song from the movie called “Ride The Mighty High” and the “choir” did the hand motions in parts of the chorus. After that fun song the group was introduced. Karen introduced her sister Susan first, then their tenor vocalist, Jeff. Once Karen informed the audience that Jeff was originally an English Teacher, she shared a funny story about an 85 year old lady who came up to her and said, “I never had a school teacher that looked like that!” LOL Last, but certainly not least, Karen introduced her son, Matt, who’s been on the road with them playing guitar. He is currently taking online courses for his Religion Major and playing in his band, the Parachute Parade. “I’m a proud mama here tonight!” Karen exclaimed. As Matt picked up the Ukulele, Karen introduced the next song by saying that she and Susan grew up singing it in the 70’s… “Poor ‘old’ Jeff wasn’t even born yet.” Jeff affirmed, “Nope.” The song was It’s Gonna Be A Bright Sun-Shiny Day. In the middle of the tune Karen walked over and stood next to Matt, and after a moment exclaimed, “Somebody take a picture!” The audience went “Ahhhh” for the mother and son shot. A moment later, Susan strode up to Jeff and said, “Somebody take a picture!” LOL On one of the last choruses Karen asked the “choir” to sing along with them and exhorted us by saying, “As long as we have Jesus, it doesn’t matter what you face in life. If you have Jesus, you always have sun-shiny days.” Jeff was featured on the next song, This Is What Mercy Does, a beautiful ballad about a prodigal coming home. Following, Karen began On The Banks Of The Promised Land, with Jeff and Susan coming in on different lines of the verse. This up-beat song really had the crowd going and KP&NR encored it acapella. But when Four Days Late began, the crowd really burst out in applause – they LOVED it!!! Standing ovation! When that number was complete and Robe and Crown came on, I don’t believe anyone even bothered sitting down, everyone remained standing, clapping and shouting!
Duane came back on stage and made an announcement about the Singing News magazine and mentioned that Masters Voice was taping their set for a new DVD. Masters Voice came out with a good up-beat song, Old Time Feeling, which featured their lead singer. Ricky (tenor vocalist) introduced their second song like this, “No matter what you see on CNN or how bleak things look in your life, understand that God is still in control.” A big ballad with a progressive sound, God Is Still God, followed. By the time Joey came forward to sing Never Get Over The Blood, the music was way too loud. (I’m usually pretty tolerant with loud music, but just then, the thought of plugging my ears came to mind a time or two!) “Ain’t it good to be a Christian?” Ricky asked before introducing the trio. Masters Voice is made up of Ricky Capps – tenor, Jonathan Drew – lead, Joey Johnson – baritone and pianist David Harring. Once we were acquainted with names, parts and a brief history of how Masters Voice was formed over a decade ago were shared. Ricky said, “We hope we do Bristow proud,” and let their pianist, David, play a solo. Applying just the right amount of pressure to the ivory keys, the auditorium was filled with musical notes that make up one of the greatest hymns of all time – How Great Thou Art. Ricky went into a ballad by revealing that they didn’t get to sing this one last year, a song featuring Joey called, All You Need Is Jesus. He introduced it by telling the story behind how it was written. In Virginia, there lives a five year old boy named Levi. He’s blind. Radiation from terminating a tumor did the damage. The writer of this ballad met Levi at a revival her husband was preaching at – she was so touched by the little boy, that she prayed all week that Levi would be healed and receive his sight. When it didn’t happen she asked God, “Why?” Her answer was this; the Lord seemed to tell her that, “Levi sees things better than you do.” Though we may not understand everything that comes our way, all we need to do is trust Him – all you need is Jesus. It was a very powerful song! “How many Bluegrass fans do we have here tonight?” asked one of the guys, “Well, we don’t do Bluegrass, but this is the best we can do.” An up-beat song called Come To The Fountain was sung along with a track of fiddles and banjos. “We’re going to close our set with this song,” Ricky announced, “it may be the greatest song we’ll ever sing.” He went on to say that we are to know whether or not we are saved and beckoned all to listen to the lyrics, because that night could’ve been the last chance for everyone sitting in that room. Drew sang This Same Jesus, and the audience was brought to their feet by the sheer power of the lyric and music.
“When the rubber meets the road,” Duane announced, “it all started with male quartets, and there isn’t a finer group of guys than Brian Free and Assurance!” BFA walked on stage, took their mics and let their voices blend on What A Beautiful Day. Before the second verse Brian asked, “How many believe that tonight? Let me see your hands.” The track for Go Tell The World came on and the crowd clapped along as lead singer Bill Shivers sang. Introducing the next number which he would take the lead on, Bill tested the crowd, “Is it all right with ya’ll tonight if we just have a good time in the Lord?” Anything Is Possible followed. Brian took center stage to sing his solo, I Believe, and inquired how many in the room still believed in the Holy Word of God. Afterwards, Brian exclaimed, “What a song!” and said that they were going to turn their bass singer loose on an older song, Just A Little Talk With Jesus. The crowd enjoyed the low notes and familiar lyrics from days gone by. “That’s nothing,” Brian teased when they finished, “I could sing just like that before my voice changed…” LOL “…Have you enjoyed all the singing tonight? – give ‘em a big hand.” Then Brian asked how many were seeing BFA for the very first time. Lots of hands went up and a mischievous smile crossed Brian’s face as he said, “Praise God, the sales should be good tonight.” LOL Right then he introduced the group: Bill Shivers singing lead, Derrick Selph – baritone, Jeremy Lile – bass and of course, Brian Free – tenor. Bill was featured on the next song, The Part Where You Come In. As the energy from the up-beat song came to a close, Brian brought the crowd’s attention to a weightier subject. What follows is what he said of one of the song that his son Ricky wrote with Lee Black, which you will find on their brand new project. “My oldest son, Ricky, wrote four songs on our new cd,” Brian explained, “When I listen to songs, I actually try not to know who wrote the song or where it came from – I want the song to stand on its own merit. When I first heard this song, I immediately thought of my father. My father passed away two years ago, went home to be with the Lord, and my mom passed away a few months after that. My dad was a great example for me and my brothers growing up. A wonderful Christian man I will never forget and I know I’ll see him again. In this day and time, men, fathers, husbands, – more than ever – it’s so important that we understand the legacy that we leave behind, and what we do on a daily basis with our children – the things they see, the things they hear, the things that we do, how we respond…I’m far from perfect, make many mistakes … a work in progress, but tonight, I can truly stand here and tell you that I want to be a man who would be an example to my sons, and that’s what this song talks about. Listen to the words of this song and I challenge you men, listen, it’s a beautiful song.” The ballad is named I Want To Be That Man and features Brian. Though, that doesn’t diminish the passion that Bill, Derrick and Jeremy put into the song. When they were singing this ballad, every word, gesture and note was filled with expression that only comes from the heart. You could tell that each individual meant every word they were singing. Following, were two fast songs, You Must Have Met Him and God Will Close The Door. When it came time for the final song, Brian shared that they usually end with a barn burner, but tonight they were going to do something different because he had about 30 requests for this one – Oh, What A Savior. Gauging from the standing ovation they received, they had many who were more than pleased to hear the old song once again!
A twenty minute intermission was next on the line up for the evening – and fans flooded the product tables of the artists searching for that special song. While waiting for the second half to begin, Duane spoke these words to the audience, which inspired the title for this review, he said, “If we don’t keep our kind of music alive – it’s gonna’ be lost.”
On the second half of the program each group was allowed to sing one song, and Masters Voice kicked it off with their single Funeral Plans. Karen Peck and New River followed with Karen’s favorite song off their Reach Out project, Sustaining Grace, which features Susan. Last but not least was Brian Free and Assurance with their barn burner Long As I Got King Jesus – can you say standing ovation? LOL And then … the fun began. With everyone on stage, they began singing I’ll Fly Away, but … after that, Brian and Karen were pushed out to the front for the inevitable “duel” of Looking For A City. “It’s not fair!” Brian pretended to whine, “She’s a girl! It comes naturally to her…I have to work!” Karen looked shocked and added a complaint of her own, “But he’s so high!” So the duel began…but not without its instigators. Bill Shivers, for one, made sure Karen and Brian kept going higher and higher and higher! At one point, Ricky Capps was thrown in the center for a chorus, and if you paid attention to what was going in the background, the BFA guys were literally pushing poor Jeremy up with Brian to sing a chorus (which he did) too! It was hilarious! Finally, Brian and Karen sang the last chorus, matching note for note, and receiving a thunderous applause and standing ovation.
Conclusion: First of all, I’ve always wanted to see Brian and Karen duel Looking For A City! It was fantastic!…and quite funny to watch everyone else’s antics. *smile* I really enjoyed seeing Karen Peck and New River again. They are one of the artists that I don’t get to see very often, so, for them to be there too was a real treat! The last time I saw Master’s Voice was at NQC and I was very curious to hear their new songs. As I mentioned above, the music was really too loud, but other than that their set was enjoyable. The highlight was definitely “This Same Jesus” and “All You Need Is Jesus” – powerful, powerful songs! Last but not least, Brian Free and Assurance! As always they did an excellent job, I was so excited when they sang one of their new songs, “I Want To Be That Man.” Even though it features Brian; Bill, Derrick and Jeremy poured their hearts into the message as well…this group was on fire that night! The only thing I would have changed would have been the second set – it was very odd that each group was only allowed to sing one song each. Then again, Looking For A City was well worth it, but I still think they could have let everyone sing at least two or three songs and still fit the group singing in at the end. 🙂 Other than that – bravo! Bravo! – to all the artists that did such a great job that night!