Two weeks ago, the Gospel Music Hymn Sing went on their Fall Tour and I was thrilled that one of the dates was in Nashville. I don’t know about y’all, but when the tour comes within driving distance, it spells road trip! And I couldn’t think of a better reason to hit the road than supporting the work of the Hymn Sing. In fact, the final concert at Christ Church in Nashville was a benefit for a local care center called The Veranda. Plus, being a Monday night in Music City, the Talleys and Tribute Quartet came over to join Greater Vision, Mark Trammell Quartet, Jim and Melissa and the Mylon Hayes Family for the night. The more the merrier!
Just like every Hymn Sing, the band came out and played ten minutes before it started. Folks milled around while Trey (piano), Ben (drums), Sandy (B3 organ) and Mylon (bass guitar) kept a peppy beat going until Gerald took the stage and welcomed everyone to Christ Church. “We have a bunch of friends with us tonight!” Gerald exclaimed as the artists came to the stage. While all the groups found their seats, Gerald led the crowd in singing, “When We All Get To Heaven” and “He Lives.” He had everyone sing the last chorus of the Easter hymn A Capella and couldn’t hide his smile while listening to the result. “I can tell there are a lot of good singers in here tonight,” Gerald said complementing the crowd. He asked how many folks went to a church with a Sunday night service and a bunch raised their hands. Satisfied, Gerald explained, “This is a Sunday night song and you can’t sing it without smiling!” The tune was “Heaven Came Down And Glory Filled My Soul.” After that song, Gerald went on to say that they had a wonderful family group with them tonight. “If you’ve never heard them before, you’re gonna love the Mylon Hayes Family.” For a few moments, Mylon stepped away from the bass guitar to join Wendy, Conner, Bailey and Kennedy for “The Way That He Loves Medley.” At the end, the crowd gave their first standing ovation of the evening. As the family made their way back to their seats on stage, Gerald asked Kennedy how old she was and she replied, “Almost 17.” Chuckling, Gerald said, “How many ladies do you know that would say ‘almost and then the next number’ when you ask their age?” The crowd chuckled and then Gerald led the crowd in “O How I Love Jesus.”
Next, Gerald introduced Sandy, the lady behind the B3 organ and explained to the crowd that she was a choir director for 30 years in Atlanta. Ever since the very first Hymn Sing, she has gone everywhere with the Hymn Sing Tour since! Turning to Sandy, Gerald said, “I want you to do an old song and make the Hammond talk to us.” That song was “I Must Tell Jesus” with Mark and Chris singing the harmony. I don’t know how to describe it, or why that night it was so different from other times I’ve heard them do this song on other tours, but those three brought the house down with another standing ovation. They were really belting some notes on that one! Following, Tribute sang a verse of the old tune “Where Could I Go?” and an old convention song, “Standing On The Solid Rock.” After, Gerald mentioned that the songwriter of “Standing On The Solid Rock” had Alzheimer’s later in life.
Moving on, Gerald took a few moments to tell the crowd about a hymn writer we’re all familiar with, Fanny Crosby, and how she published hymns under 200+ names. (We most likely know a lot of great songs she wrote without even knowing she was the writer!) “But,” said Gerald, “her most well known hymn has to be this one…” None other than “Blessed Assurance.” While everyone sang, Gerald had the ladies in the crowd sing one verse and then the men the next one – it was one of those feelings you just had to experience to understand. It was beautiful. After, Gerald shared that when they first talked about doing this benefit concert, they knew they had to have the Talleys come because they know first hand what the ministry of The Veranda is all about. This led into the Talleys coming to sing “I Love To Tell The Story” and then everyone sang “Showers of Blessings.” Gerald mentioned that Nick Trammell wanted to sing that last song, and asked the crowd, “How many of you haven’t sang ‘Showers of Blessings’ in the last five years?” Lots of folks raised their hands in agreement! LOL! At this point in the program, Gerald took a few moments to share how much songs about heaven mean to him and why Gospel music has so many of them. He ended with the thought that since heaven is going on right now, we shouldn’t be afraid to celebrate it or meditate on it. “For the next three minutes,” Gerald added, “I want you to think about heaven. Listen…” Jeff Whisnant, Nick Trammell and Aaron Hise came to the stage and started to sing “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be.” A sweet spirit came over the room during those verses and both Sandy and Mark had lifted their hands just thinking of that heavenly promise.
“You know when this style of music first started,” Gerald began, “quartets would go around singing in order to sell songbooks. Well, we are so blessed to have one of the best quartets here tonight AND one of the original guys who rode around selling songbooks! The Mark Trammell Quartet!” While the crowd chuckled at the joke about Mark, MTQ came and sang “My Faith Still Holds.” When they finished, Gerald added, “You know, Mark has a really good rhythm to his voice” and then had him sing the first verse of “Lord, Plant My Feet On Higher Ground.” After Mark’s verse, Melissa Brady sang the second stanza. Following, the Whisnants came on stage with their popular ballad, “All Is Well.” It was a curious addition to the program and the first time I heard a song that wasn’t a hymn sung on the tour. When the Whisnants finished their song, Gerald used the tone it set to go into “It Is Well With My Soul.”
As we know, there is a lot of Gospel music done with a track so sometimes, live music is a rare thing in concert. So next, Gerald asked Chris, Rodney and Jon to grab some mics and do something live. Before we knew it, Gerald was at the keyboard and Greater Vision was singing “I Know A Man Who Can” – which received a standing ovation of its own. Of course, all the hymns sung during the tour are with the live band and the following tune we sang was “Victory In Jesus.” Susan, Kennedy and Wendy came to sing a verse and then half way through, Gerald stopped right in the middle of the song and exclaimed, “I see a few of you think we’re lagging a bit.” Turning to Trey, he added, “Let’s take it up a notch.” Needless to say, the crowd perked up real quick with the new beat!
At this point in the evening, the program was starting to wind down, but it couldn’t end without a special word about The Veranda. Gerald called Mary Anne, the founder of The Veranda, to the stage to share their vision and work. Mary Anne ascended the platform and briefly spoke about how The Veranda got started and their mission to be a respite care center for elderly suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s during the day so family care takers can run errands or take a rest themselves. But she didn’t just speak of their work, but the people they serve. She listed names of sweet people who come to their center and changed their outlook on life and what the Hymn Sing DVDs have contributed to their times together. Mary Anne turned to the artists seated on stage and personally thanked them for being a part of the Hymn Sing and how the music has brought joy to so many. She mentioned how some are at the age where their memory may not be perfect, but they know that Josh is crazy and Mark is old. LOL! After thanking everyone for coming, she handed the mic back to Gerald, who pulled her into a hug before she left the stage. Before the offering, Gerald went on to share that all the money given tonight would go directly to The Veranda. “It cost every one of these artists on this platform to be here tonight,” he said, “and I want you to know that.”
The offering plates were passed and then Gerald led the crowd in some more great hymns such as, “Love Lifted Me,” “How Great Thou Art,” “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and “Precious Memories” by the young guys on stage – Conner and Bailey Hayes, and Austin and Ethan Whisnant. “How ‘bout those young guys?” Gerald grinned afterwards. Continuing on, he said, “Jim and Melissa have a song Aaron Wilburn wrote about heaven. Sing me a little bit of that before we go home tonight!” Jim and Melissa took the stage and sang “That Sounds Like Home To Me.” Right after that tune, Gerald went to the edge of the stage and sat on the steps, sharing from his heart about his father’s own battle with Dementia. This deeply touching story not only inspired the idea for Operation Sing Again, but was a very personal moment in the evening. Because of Operation Sing Again, there have been 10,500 full sets of the Hymn Sing DVDs placed in nursing homes all across the US. After Gerald’s testimony, the evening closed with two of the most well known and well loved hymns of all time – “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away!”
Conclusion: At one point in the evening, Gerald mentioned how they plan the songs they’re going to sing but sometimes, God steps in and changes it. This was one of those evenings and I can’t close this review without saying how special that night was. I’ve been to a lot of Hymn Sings – whether they on the tours or at events like NQC, Singing In The Sun or Silver Dollar City – never have I seen an audience give so many standing ovations to these beautiful hymns. The crowd in Nashville knew what they were singing about and the impact these songs have on the elderly who have forgotten other memories from their life. If you would like to donate to Operation Sing Again to help place DVD’s in a nursing care facility, you can donate on the Hymn Sing’s website here —> Donate Here!
In closing, the last stop on the Hymn Sing Tour in Nashville was a special night. I know it meant a lot to The Veranda and all their staff and volunteers for folks to come support their work and hear how the Hymn Sing has made its mark in Music City. Until next time!