On New Year’s Eve Day, after the morning session, we had lunch in the Delta and walked the gardens. It’s a tradition for us. Nothing initiates the creative process in me like a camera in my hand surrounded by perfect scenery! We meandered through the walkways and I stopped to snap a photo of a flower. A couple walked past me and I overheard the guy say, “What’s up with women and flowers?” LOL! Well gentlemen, I’m not 100% sure, but would take a guess that admiration for beauty plays a big part.
That evening the doors opened a little later to accommodate the late night we’d spend ringing (more like, singing) in the New Year. The featured guests were the Jubilee Gang who are Legacy Five, Greater Vision and the Booth Brothers. That evening was completely SOLD OUT! There was not one empty seat anywhere in the building! Legacy Five sang first with anticipation in the air knowing we would soon be honored to witness the official “first” concert of the new Booth Brothers!
The Booth Brothers were given a hearty introduction and stepped on stage with their new baritone singer, Paul Lancaster. I was anxious to hear him sing with the BB’s. Their second song was a Jazzy, Big Band rendition of Happy Rhythm, an old quartet song they had arranged for a trio. “This is a historic night,” Michael announced and talked about the character and integrity of Jim Brady. Then Michael introduced their newest member, “Are you glad to see Paul Lancaster here tonight? First night with the Booth Brothers!” The next song was one that Jim had written, Faith Keeps Walking and featured Paul on the verses. I listened closely as he sang, trying to adjust to a new voice and take in the blend. Paul was featured on the following song as well. “I want you to listen very closely to this lyric…what can happen when the Master’s hand touches a life.” Michael expounded, and then Paul sang Touch Of The Masters Hand. To introduce the ballad that came after, Michael pulled out a paper and read Genesis 1:1-5, and John 1:1-3. He exclaimed, “Jesus is the Living Word and the Written Word…and they are in perfect harmony and inseparable.” An upbeat power-ballad called I Am The Word followed. Later, Michael talked about how that was a Couriers song and they’ve been wanting to do it for years…they just had to wait until Jim left. LOL Michael went on and mentioned that their mics were different that night. They had to sing with chorded mics because their wireless ones were being worked on. But according to him, the chorded ones were really wireless…they just had really long antennas. For people (like Michael) who didn’t take their meds, it was fun. Ronnie hollered, “Don’t hang yourself!” A few moments later the joking ceased and Michael told the story behind one of their new songs, Wildflower. The message was inspired by his wife, Vikki, and her journey to bridging the gap of neglect from her earthly father and the tender love and care of the Heavenly Father. “We are supposed to paint the picture of the Heavenly Father’s care to our children,” Michael explained, “But when people don’t do things according to God’s will, things break.” As one would expect, Wildflower featured Michael and was a gentle ballad. Jesus Saves, another ballad with an intense build, closed their set.
“Did you enjoy Paul Lancaster and the Booth Brothers?” asked Scott. “Alright guys, the most awarded trio in Gospel Music is here right now, welcome Greater Vision!” Greater Vision came on stage and kicked off with He’d Still Been God, Come Unto Me, and When They Ring The Bells Of Heaven. When they came to the part where Gerald’s suppose to sing “on the hallelujah morning,” instead, he pointed to a person and said, “You know you aren’t clapping on the right beat?” LOL! “It’s great to be here tonight,” Gerald said afterwards, “and I really liked that!” (Speaking of the Booth Brother’s set.) Gerald went into talking about the BB’s then stopped and started a conversation with a person trying to take a picture of them on an iPhone. Gerald said, “Get ready and we’ll pose like we’re singing a high ending.” Then he, Rodney and Chris held up their mics and pretended to crank out a big ending and the lady snapped a photo. We Are So Blessed followed. Gerald introduced Chris while walking to his keyboard and also featured him on I Know A Man Who Can, which was followed by My Name Is Lazarus. “We were the first group to ever record in Budapest, Hungary, with the Hungarian Symphony,” Gerald stated. The moment we had all been waiting for was about to come – a “Rodney story!” So they were in Hungry and according to Gerald, Hungarian food was not to his liking. He had a few packs of crackers (which he claimed to live off of the entire trip) but in all honesty, he was starving! One day they were on a train, and in Europe, trains don’t use lights when they go through tunnels, you just have to wait out the darkness until you come out at the other end. Well, there was a guy selling food from a basket on the train and he had two bananas. Gerald told Rodney, “If he still has those bananas when he gets to us, I’m buying them.” It ends up, Gerald purchased the fruit and offered one to Rodney, who accepted. Just as Rodney peeled back his banana and took a bite they entered a tunnel. Rodney frantically whispered, “Gerald!” Gerald answered, “What!” Rodney replied, “Don’t eat the banana!” Gerald asked, “Why?” Rodney said, “I took one bite and went blind!” GV closed their set with “The Preacher Song” (Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is) and For All He’s Done.
After intermission we rang in the New Year with a Christmas Jubilee! Legacy Five, The Booth Brothers and Greater Vision stepped on stage with their seasonal program that would have the crowd erupting with laughter all evening. When I walked in Chris was singing his solo on The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, followed by Legacy Five’s, Grandma’s House For Christmas. (Note: Jim Brady sang with the BB’s on this set.) The Booth Brothers did their rendition of Come On Ring Those Bells and Gerald couldn’t help but tease Michael about their “old-fashioned, corded microphones.” He said Michael was causing an insurance hazard! LOL Trey Ivey, Legacy Five’s pianist, was featured on a medley of traditional Christmas tunes on the piano, accompanied by a complimentary video. (Though I do have to say, on the part in the solo when it came to Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, I didn’t understand the concept behind the video showing cars wrecking in the snow. Kind of odd, if you ask me!) Gerald recognized the man who arranged that medley, Steve Maulden, and pointed him out in the crowd. Ronnie Booth sang The Christmas Song next, complete with backup singers! While introducing Ronnie, Gerald made a big deal about wanting some singers who sounded like women…and selected Jim and Michael! Jim moaned, “It’s going to be one of the last songs I sing with these guys and I’m going to sing like a woman?” LOL Afterwards, Gerald told the crowd about their least favorite Christmas song – The 12 Days Of Christmas. So, instead of the traditional lyrics, they sang their own version! About half way through everyone was so tickled the only thing you heard was the track-music ‘cause they were all laughing too hard to sing! “Sometimes it’s good to be done with that tour,” Gerald interjected when they finished. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Grace Has A Face, and Christmas With A Capital C followed. Gerald told about the 2014 Christmas tour for Jubilee and how Greater Vision has never missed a concert due to snow. Then Michael spoke up, “The Booth Brothers have… we missed the whole weekend.” A photo of their tour bus surrounded by mounds of white, immovable snow popped on the screen. Gerald asked, “What did you do?” Michael casually replied, “We ate it until it was gone.” This brought on a special song from the BB’s called, Don’t Snow Me In, a play on words to a Western song they sing by the title of, Don’t’ Fence Me In. Because of the Western influence, they just had to sing it with Cowboy hats! Unfortunately, Michael’s looked more like Jessie’s, the cowgirl from Toy Story. Ronnie’s cowboy hat was a “real” Stetson and poor Jim’s was too big and slouched onto his forehead. When Jim inquired about the size, Michael said, “I thought your hair would take up more room.” (Poor Jim was the brunt of every joke that night!) Gerald introduced the next song, It Came To Pass. The song was written by Gerald and he shared how much pleasure it gave him to have his favorite singer record and sing it. When he introduced who that “favorite singer” would be, everyone stood up, straightened ties and smoothed out wrinkled suit jackets as if they were the one who would be picked! LOL Jim was the voice to be featured but even when he finished such a beautiful song, the teasing wasn’t quite over yet. Gerald shared with the crowd that when the announcement was made that Jim was forming his own trio, that three cousins sent in demo’s and just knew that if Jim could just hear them, they would be picked! Their names were McKinley, Dudley and Percy. To Jim’s great fortune, they just happened to be at the Bass Pro Shop looking for hunting gear and agreed to come over to Opryland and sing for Jim. So McKinley, Percy and Dudley walked on stage decked out in camouflage, blaze orange and a plastic (toy) gun! When the one holding the gun looked at Jim, he said, “You do have pretty hair…where did you get it?” Howie answered for him, “On the 5th day of Christmas!” LOL The song they sang was called I’m Going Huntin’ For Christmas… and the faces they made were beyond hilarious!!! According to the lyrics, they were hunting Santa Claus! (Of course, McKinley, Percy and Dudley were really Chris, Rodney and Scott Fowler in disguise…) *wink* Gerald asked Trey to play O Little Town of Bethlehem and when he came to the “Classical” part, Percy and Dudley returned to the stage and hovered over the keyboard. When Dudley (aka Chris Allman) cocked the plastic gun, poor Trey jumped and made a face! The audience roared with laughter. Carol Of The Bells and Welcome To Our World prefaced Ronnie reading the Christmas story from Luke chapter two and the closing ballad, O Holy Night, which welcomed in the New Year.
Conclusion: The evening of New Year’s Eve is the one I look forward to the most every year. It’s always full of fun and much laughter – and this year wasn’t an exception! Afterwards, everyone was saying how much they laughed during Jubilee Christmas. Chris, Rodney and Scott being McKinley, Dudley and Percy were TOO FUNNY! How they could keep a straight face and do their part is beyond me!!! It was a great night and memorable way to ring in 2015!