I think it’s pretty safe to say that not every Gospel Sing you attend has a whale painted on the side of the building…but the Myrtle Beach Convention Center does! If you’re in Myrtle Beach, SC in mid-April, you can walk right in that convention center and enjoy Singing in the Sun. This five day Gospel Sing is presented by Abraham Productions and offers the finest artists in Southern Gospel Music. Groups like The Whisnants, Talleys, Mark Trammell Quartet, Ivan Parker, Brian Free and Assurance, Greater Vision, Jason Crabb and many more can be seen at this event over the course of the week. For Lynn’s Chronicles, experiencing this Gospel Sing for the first time began on Wednesday evening. The night played out as follows…
Stepping onto the stage, Tribute Quartet opened the night with a new, up-beat song called Thank the Lord. I grimaced as a microphone squelched loud and long…being the first group to sing does have its disadvantages, doesn’t it? They handled the issue well and by the time they came to their second song, It Always Gets the Darkest (Just Before Daylight,) the problem was pretty much taken care of. The first ballad of their set featured Josh Singletary with a song called Through Me the Cross Lives On. Though Josh is usually the comedian of the quartet, when he gets his hands on a song like this, you see a different side of him that thrives on the meaty message he’s singing about. Through Me the Cross Lives On was filled with meaning as he conveyed the message to the audience. “Are you glad to see Anthony Davis tonight?” Gary Casto asked, rushing along the introductions, “How about Josh Singletary, Riley Clark?” Anthony stepped forward and added Gary’s name as the intro for Homesick Angel began. I don’t know about you, but I certainly enjoy that tune! The next two songs brought the crowd to their feet both times…the first was Riley’s feature Homecoming Day and the second was Good News From Jerusalem. That last encore had the crowd excited!
“I don’t know of a more awarded male trio than these guys right here,” said our emcee, “please put your hands together and welcome Greater Vision!” A song from their new CD (which wasn’t released yet at the time) opened their set, He Was Seeking For Me. This slower song featured Gerald and Chris on the verses. After they sang He’d Still Been God, Gerald began one of his many stories, “Well, it was three years ago tonight I was sitting over hear listening to the Whisnants sing and Tony Greene sad down next to me and said, ‘Hallelujah Square.’” We all know the story, Gerald told Tony it was Chris’ first night back and they only practiced eight songs, they were not singing Hallelujah Square! Patting his suit jacket, Tony looked at Gerald and said, “I have your check in my pocket…” The rest is history! Overnight, Hallelujah Square became GV’s most requested song and they couldn’t come back to Myrtle Beach without singing it! So Chris sang Hallelujah Square and Gerald accompanied him on the keyboard. The result? A standing ovation! My Name Is Lazarus followed. All this time, Gerald was standing in the spot where Chris usually stands and vice versa, so Gerald said, “I’ve gotta’ come over here, I normally don’t stand over there, it doesn’t feel right…I don’t like being on the far left side of anything.” Boy, the crowd sure hooted and hollered when he said that! Grinning, Gerald said, “Don’t get me started!” Then he introduced their next song, “Rodney wrote a new song that I want you to hear,” he said, “it’s about a very familiar story…but you may not have thought of it like this before…” That story in song was a ballad named This Is Mercy, which featured Rodney on the verses. GV’s closing song came back to back, it’s their new radio single – I’m Looking for the Grace – this one was well received! The guys encored it and everyone stood in ovation. Gerald hollered, “God bless ya’ll!” as they left the stage.
The emcee used a portion of Scripture (Philippians 4) to introduce the Primitive Quartet. Outside of NQC, this was my first time to see these guys in person. They perform all of their music live and are great musicians! Their opening numbers were My Home’s A Sight To See and I’m Going There. That last one they encored acapella and then their bass player sang a tune called I’m No Longer An Orphan. Another acapella song came next – He’s the Same God. After a stirring tune called Thank You For The Roses, they told the crowd that they have been singing for over 40 years and appreciate all the times they get to perform. That’s the Way I Was When He Found Me and Didn’t He Shine ended their program.
Romans 8:35-39 introduced Gold City and they kicked off their set with Cast Your Bread Upon the Water and When He Blessed My Soul. “Thank you so much,” Danny said greeting the crowd, “isn’t this a great event?” Then he went right into introducing Bryan, Jerry, Tim and their tenor Robert. Danny mentioned that they recently found out that this year, Tim will be inducted into the SGM hall of fame! Anyway, Danny wanted to sing their new radio song, but it featured Tim and Tim didn’t know the words! So Danny walked over to Bryan, who pulled a folded sheet of paper out of his pocket and said, “I figured since he’s old and can get away with it, here’s the words to the song…good luck.” The audience chuckled as GC began singing When I Get Down. Sure enough, Tim was reading and singing along! That one was back to back with That Little Baby – which they encored. Jerry introduced his solo by sharing his testimony, “I’m glad that at the age of eight I knelt down at the altar and accepted Jesus…I haven’t been the same since.” A soft “amen” rippled through the crowd as he began to sing Lord of Life. Their final song couldn’t be anything but I’m Not Giving Up! The crowd soaked this classic up…they also soaked up the encore with a standing ovation.
The last group to take the stage that night was the Whisnants – they began their program with I’m in the Gloryland Way. Susan introduced their next one like this, “I love this song right here, if you’re broken, the potter knows the clay and He’ll mold us and make us what He wants us to be.” I’m sure you can guess that Susan’s feature, The Potter Knows the Clay, came next. Be Not Afraid and the Ready Medley followed and then Jeff spoke of how thrilled they are to be a part of Singing in the Sun. “We never do a concert without requesting the Holy Spirit to be present,” he said. After the introductions, Austin came and sang I’ve Been Sheltered By His Grace with Susan and Jeff. New Day Dawning followed – if there was any chance the crowd was sleeping before, they definitely were NOT when this track started playing – the audience tore it up! (Standing ovation!) “We normally end with that song, but I want to end with this one,” Susan explained. She went on to describe how she’s a “fixer,” yet, there are some things we cannot fix, only God can – and He still answers prayer, it’s not hopeless!” Their closing song was All Is Well…and it brought the crowd to their feet.
At Singing in the Sun, you couldn’t have a complete night without preaching! Dr. Larry Brown from North Augusta, GA was the man for Wednesday night. He began his sermon by explaining that, “There are some things we are supposed to keep.” There were three of them in his message and they all began with “H’s!”
- Hallelujah that strengthens me – We have a joy that came with our salvation and sometimes there are things in life that want to take it away. Our joy should not be “for sale!” Nehemiah 8:10, “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
- Hope that sustains me – the “ministry” won’t provide hope for you…you’ll give to others and they don’t give back. But there is a place you can pray and get hope from. What do you do when you need hope? – Run with the right people, say the right words, and go to the right places. 1 Samuel 30:6, “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”
- Humor that satisfies me – Everyone needs to find something, every day that makes them laugh. It takes just as much energy to be happy as it does to be sad. Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Pastor Brown called for an invitation before intermission – anyone could come down to the altar and pray about anything, but he specifically encouraged those who had lost their joy, to come pray. Now, I don’t know about you, but most of the concerts I attend, the altar remains empty at this point in the program. But not at Singing in the Sun! Slowly but surely, folks walked down the aisles to pray at the edge of the stage. Everyone remained standing for a few moments while prayers were lifted up and when everyone finished, we were dismissed for intermission.
After intermission, Josh and Ashley Franks sang a song while everyone returned to their seats. Gerald Wolfe was our host for the second half and when he popped up on stage, he was dragging someone with him – Josh Franks! “Have you ever heard this guy introduce someone?” Gerald asked the audience, then turning to Josh said, “Introduce me!” – and ran back off stage leaving Josh Franks up there all alone with a mic. So, Josh began this elaborate introduction beginning with, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s an honor and thrill to be in Myrtle Beach for Singing in the Sun…” Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with my notes to get the whole thing, (which I’m terribly disappointed in,) but I caught the important part, the end! “And now make welcome to the stage…the great little, Gerald Wolfe!” LOL
Anyway, while all the singers climbed on stage Gerald had the crowd busy singing Victory in Jesus…a string of hymns followed in a grand medley. After the medley, Gerald looked back at Chris and accused, “Are you talking?” A look of alarm passed Chris’ face at being caught by the emcee and called out. Of course, Gerald reprimanded him, but just as Gerald was ready to say something to the audience, he looked back and asked, “What were you talking about?” Chris pointed to Gold City’s tenor and said, “I was leading him to the Lord.” On cue, Robert knelt down on stage and Chris laid his hand on the top of Robert’s head and pretended they were praying. Two seconds later, Chris looked up at Gerald and said, “Go on, we’re good.” LOL
Primitive Quartet was the first group to sing. They did another acapella song, at Gerald’s request, called My Home Is Anchored in His Blood. (Forgive me if that title is wrong, I’m not very familiar with their music.) Well, with all of the bass singers on stage, Gerald was determined to use one of them! After he gathered Tim Riley, Josh Singletary, Jerry and Chris, he moved over to where Bryan was at the keyboard. Looking as if there was something terribly wrong with Bryan, Gerald asked him, “How old are you?” Bryan answered, “27.” Confused, Gerald exclaimed, “And you’re wearing a hearing aid?!” (It was actually his ear monitor…but we all know that Mr. Wolfe can’t pass up a joke!) Without letting on to the songs name, Gerald announced, “You’re going to do page 93 in the Church of God Hymnal!” It ended up being Just A Little Talk With Jesus.
Now, from here on out, things just became funny and funnier. Gerald mentioned that he really enjoyed hearing Ashley Franks singing and wanted her in the next “group” he was forming on stage. It ended up being Ashley Franks, Aaron Hise, Gerald and Tim Riley – the song was What A Lovely Name. Well, Gerald decided that he liked it so much that he wanted an encore AND he wanted Ashley to sing it! So Bryan began playing for another round, but no one knew where they were supposed to start singing! Quickly, Gerald went over and gently pushed Bryan off the piano bench and shouted two words, “Lovely name!” and began playing his heart out. Ashley, on the other hand, looked at him like he was a madman speaking Chinese – poor girl had no idea what he wanted her to do. Finally, he shouted, “The chorus!” and they sang it through. (That song gave them so much trouble.)
The next little segment involved piano solos – Bryan Elliot was up first. Gerald asked him if he played a solo earlier and Bryan answered no. Then he asked him if he had any CD’s with him and he still said no, so Gerald told him to play something. Bryan took off on Goodbye, World, Goodbye with lightning speed. Gerald hovered over his shoulder the whole time and when it ended he said, “I’m telling you…I’ve been doing this for 33 years and I have never seen a piano player use all the keys in one solo.” (Then turning to where Tim Riley was standing, he said.) “Tim, this boy is entirely too young to be drinking coffee.” LOL Josh Singletary was Gerald’s next victim…Josh looked very hesitant about it too! Gerald said that his only request was that it would be slower. Slow it was, Mansion Over the Hilltop was what Josh picked. Yet, even though it was slow, Gerald still looked confused as he gazed over Josh’s shoulder while playing. When Josh finished and insisted that it was Gerald’s turn to play something, Gerald said, “But I can’t play two songs at the same time like you did…I knew the first one, but that other one you were doing with your left hand I didn’t know.” The crowd really chuckled over that because Josh didn’t really play two songs, he just used some Jazz improvising in a few places! Then, Gerald played a duet with Josh – Keep On the Firing Line. It was so hilarious! You know, Josh is kind of tall…and Gerald is kind of short…and the piano bench can only be situated to accommodate one of the two! After adjusting and re-adjusting, Josh went to sit on a speaker case and missed – landing on the stage with a sound, plump! Everyone on stage and off was dying with laughter; yet, Gerald managed a lopsided grin and said, “Now we’re the same height.” Sometime after that, they finally got around to playing the song.
By this time, they were getting ready to close. As Gerald sat at the keyboard playing chords, he spoke about George Beverly Shea. (This was the day after Shea had passed.) He spoke on how many people George Bev sang too, but more importantly, how he never changed who he was. “The only thing that changed about him was his age,” said Gerald. Before we were dismissed, Gerald led us in singing I’d Rather Have Jesus and closed with this prayer…
“Lord, help us to run the race faithfully like George Beverly Shea. Help us to never compromise the Gospel, to stay faithful to You and the calling You have on our lives.”
Conclusion: If first impressions are important as folks say they are, this one couldn’t have been better. Singing in the Sun was a blast! I didn’t realize that this event was the one that brought Hallelujah Square into GV’s program permanently – but knowing that now, paints a whole new picture in my mind when I hear Gerald tell that story. The second half of the evening had to be my favorite part! Everyone was having so much fun! Yet, even with all of the good times we had during the evening (like Josh falling off the speaker case) what really impressed me was how open everyone was to the Spirit of the Lord. When Dr. Brown gave the invitation a lot of folks went down to the front to talk to the Lord and I thought that was wonderful because I don’t see that happening at a lot of the concerts and events I’ve attended. It was so refreshing to see both artists and fans that weren’t afraid to be transparent in their walk with the Lord!