It isn’t every day you get to ride atop a bluff and look off into a calm lake dotted with docks, boats and condos as you drive to a Gospel Sing. April 4th was one of those days. The sun wasn’t yet set, though the light of day was beginning to fade as we made our way to the Main Street Music Hall in Osage Beach, Missouri. Thursday evening was the opening night for the Great Lake of the Ozarks Gospel Sing and I for one, was ready to hear Triumphant Quartet and Union Street! I can’t wait to share with you the moments that fill my memories from that weekend…let’s begin!
First, I’ll lay out how the reviews are going to look like from this weekend. They’re called “snapshots” – not really “full blown” concert reviews, but still enough to make you feel like you’re there without getting too lengthy with every single detail!
Secondly, I’d like to set the scene as to what you’d see every night at this Gospel Sing in addition to the featured artists that were scheduled to sing. Tim Parton was present for all three days, and he would play and sing a “pre-concert” performance as fans arrived to be seated. After a few numbers, Duane Garren (popular Mid-West concert emcee) would make announcements, lead some congregational singing and sometimes, like Thursday night, open in prayer. Then, Pastor Todd Foreman would appear on stage and read a Scripture to encourage the audience with the Word of God. That night he read from Psalm 46, the passage containing the famous verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” This one little phrase stayed with me throughout the evening. He said, “Everything about this world is temporary – and everything about the Lord is eternal.”
Union Street is a relatively new group made up of Tony Hitchcock, Ryan Seaton, Andrew Goldman and Aaron McCune. That night they sang a combination of songs from their two CDs, the “teaser” project that featured classic Gospel songs, and then their debut recording. Following their opening song, God is Good, tunes from that debut recording were Another Day in Heaven, Trumpet of Jesus and It Should Have Been My Cross. (Sung in that order too!) What happened next had everyone in the audience rolling in laughter, and is our first snap-shot. Ryan said, “This is our first time for Union Street to be here and we are very thankful for Todd and all they do. When I first came in I thought, ‘I’ve been here before.’” He continued to say that he performed there when he was with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound…then he told a story. “That time, Tim went to park the bus and hit a light pole – and it fell on another car.” The minute he said that two hands on the front row shot up in the air and began waving around. He asked, “Was that you?” (Another pause) “Oh, I wish I haven’t have shared that story.” (The two people who ended up with a light pole on top of their car years ago were there, sitting on the front row!) LOL The next few songs in their set were the traditional tunes from the teaser CD. These included the classic There Is A River (which was a tenor solo featuring chorus, second verse, chorus) and the Old Rugged Cross, sung by Aaron McCune. The next two songs, though one was old and the other new, bordered on Rock and Roll when it came to the style. The first was a new song called Angel On My Back, and the other, a dear classic…the Cathedrals “Boundless Love.” Though, with the intro came a startling, boom-boom-BOOM! The kind of thing you’d hear at a ball game, not a Gospel concert. They encored Boundless Love and a few people stood at the end. After the CD pitch, Ryan shared how in music, ballads move him the most, and that’s certainly what this next one did. To introduce it, he said, “Jesus loves you, He’s there for you – I don’t care what you’ve done, where you’ve been or where you’re going – He still saves.” A song that said just that, He Still Saves, ended their first set, it featured Andrew and Ryan on the verses.
Todd Foreman walked out from back stage and this is the first thing he said, “I was freaking out when Boundless Love started, I thought, ‘This is going back to my rock and roll days!’” He went on to announce that they have been doing the sing at Osage Beach for 15 years now, and then he introduced the second quartet to grace the stage, Triumphant!
Triumphant Quartet began their set with a slow song, I’m Dreaming It Won’t Be Long and followed with Saved By Grace. As the intro to that second song started, Clayton happily announced, “It’s time for your evening Gospel aerobics!” LOL Afterwards, Scotty and Clayton were featured on He Is – that’s one of my favorite songs they sing and I LOVE seeing them sing it live! David and Jeff shared a stirring duet with the harmonica and piano on Amazing Grace. I had never seen them play that one before and found myself riveted to the dynamics. Eric insisted that the crowd sing a few lines when their solo finished, and then said, “That’s the best choir we had all year.” With a frown, Clayton objected, “It’s just April.” LOL After the numbers He Raised Me and Don’t Let the Sandals Fool Ya,’ Eric introduced the group. A request for David to sing Walk With Me (lest mine eyes no longer see) followed…which was followed by a standing ovation. Because He Saved Me came next and Eric said, “Such a spiritual song, and I hate to go from a song like that to a song like this but…for time’s sake.” Well, you know what was coming and so did the crowd, so they did what they do best – they waved those white flags, high! A cheer went up and the Old White Flag began! After, Jeff tried to explain away Clayton’s enthusiasm for the song as Clayton (who was previously drug off stage) came trotting across the second stage elevated behind Jeff, waved his hanky proudly! Jeff played two piano solos, the Hallelujah Chorus and Mansion Over the Hilltop. Coming back on stage, Eric asked, “Is he not a talented guy?” An applause answered him, and Triumphant closed with It Is Well with My Soul.
After a brief intermission, we heard another round of Union Street and Triumphant. Union Street took the stage and sang all “older” songs on this second half. Beginning with the Love of God, transitioning into two Gold City songs, After A While and Cast Your Bread Upon the Water, Who Am I, Had It Not Been an acapella singing of O Come Let Us Adore Him and Then Came the Morning (that last one received a standing ovation). A reprise of Boundless Love ended their set. When Triumphant came back on, it was with their new radio single, Take It From Me Meshach. The guys turned to focus on Jeff, who played a special request – “Last Date.” (Crowd sure liked that!) When The Trumpet Sounds followed, and Scotty took a moment afterwards to talk about his baby girl, Embry. Currently, she is off the heart monitor, off the seizure meds and completely healed of all that as of the first of this year! Praise the Lord! In recognition of that hard trial, Scotty sang of his trust in the Lord in a ballad titled, Only God Knows. Eric followed that tender moment by asking the audience, “Anybody in here have any problems? There are some in here tonight who are hurting – everybody experiences things – I’m just thankful that God knows and cares.” Pulling a New Testament out of his back pocket, Eric read a scripture and presented the Gospel message, followed by prayer. But if you know Triumphant, you know they want you to have a good time, and their last two songs showed that very well. Jeff introduced the first one by teasing, “Well, it wasn’t a request…it was a demand!” LOL That demand goes by the name of I Wish It Would Rain. Moving Up To Gloryland ended the evening.
Conclusion: The first night of any Gospel Sing is usually special, the one that everyone talks about. Personally, I was excited to see a new group (Union Street) and one of my favorites (Triumphant). Union Street thoroughly surprised me. I have never seen a group so out of balance when it comes to personalities. Aaron and Ryan were so professional – you could tell they knew what needed to be done, and they did it. The other two came across a little conceited and unapproachable. The attitude I saw on stage was more focused on “me” and “my voice” than the “Lord” and “His voice.” Sad. Their music also confused me. One moment they were singing the traditional There Is A River and Old Rugged Cross, next the music did a 180 and I thought I was at a Rock Concert, and then they topped it off with some Gold City songs. I know there are groups that do a little bit of everything, but when you’re first starting, I think it’s important to really set a tone and let fans know what they’re going to get from you. Then there was Triumphant, all four part harmony! LOL Triumphant was wonderful. I really enjoyed hearing Jeff and David play Amazing Grace together – that was the highlight for me! Of course, White Flag and I Wish It Would Rain are always a hoot!