The clock struck six. Emerging from backstage, I was happy to see a small group huddling over the Singing News table that I had been manning during the week. It was the last night of the Great Lake of the Ozarks Gospel Sing and closing the weekend were the Lesters and The Mark Trammell Quartet! With the lights dimmed and Tim Parton jamming on his keyboard, it was time for the evening to begin!
The Lesters were the first group on stage that night, and they did so with some hymns; In the Sweet By and By and When We All Get To Heaven. The Lesters have been known and are very popular as a family group based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Last winter, the trio went under a major change – Ginger Pitchers resigned to be in full time ministry with her husband, and for the first time ever, this family group has developed into a male trio. After singing some newer songs, a re-written version of Love Lifted Me and His Redeemed followed, Brian spoke of that change. Someone asked him, “How are you going to replace your sister?” Brian’s answer? “I’m not – we’re just going to extend the family.” This led into introducing their new tenor, Justin Wells. The Lesters sang their popular, Rocks Droppin’, to which Brian declared, “I’m glad He doesn’t give up on us!” A few more songs from their hymns project, Foundation, followed. After Revive Us Again and the Blood Medley, Brian pretended to be out of breath and turned to his son, Jonathan and said, “Go ahead son, I’d sing it again, but I’m out of breath.” Jonathan scratched his head and contemplated out loud, “He’s gonna let me talk?…Guess I’ll start at the beginning. I was born on…” Brian interrupted with, “You don’t need to do that!” So, Jonathan shared some “special” news – he was an only child! (The crowd giggled because, well, everybody already knew that!) “You know what the best part about being an only child is?” asked Jonathan, then grinned as he announced, “I have the final decision in which nursing home he’s going to.” (It was meant to be funny and the crowd burst out in laughter! You may want to remember that little statement, ‘cause it’s going to be important when Mark Trammell is on stage…)
Switching to a serious note, Jonathan explained that they had an opportunity to sing at a penitentiary, said they wouldn’t have missed that for the world. Jonathan shared, “They’re just like me and you – sinners saved by grace.” While at the prison, Jonathan shared this little story that came about while they were on the bus one day. They actually didn’t have a concert to sing at one night, so he and Brian were on the bus watching a movie on the Hallmark channel. It was around Christmas time and the Salvation Army was running a commercial – the commercial was centered around the hymn Amazing Grace. But the Salvation Army changed the lyrics to read like this…
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a drug addict, an alcoholic, a wife beater…
I once was lost but now I’m sober, drug free, my family is healed…etc.
They asked the men at the prison to sing Amazing Grace with them and Jonathan said he has never heard that hymn sung like that in his WHOLE life. They didn’t care about what so-and-so thought about their voice, they just opened up their hearts and sang. Think about that. What a moment. Justin then stepped forward and sang Amazing Grace, with Brian and Jonathan each featured on a verse. They closed with I’ll See You Again and We’ll Understand It Better in the By and By. That last one had the crowd on their feet at the beginning! Tim slipped out and played with them also – no surprise that they encored it!
Before the next artist came on stage, the Lesters quickly told about their product. Brian pretended that he couldn’t see the titles on their current CD, so he asked Jonathan to read them. After rattling off great hymns like Amazing Grace, Revive Us Again, In the Sweet By and By and such, he abruptly ended with Elvira. Brian shot him a stern look and Jonathan squinted at the back of the CD once more. As if on cue, Justin pushed a button and the track for Elvira which started to play. (That ended as suddenly as it began! LOL)
The Mark Trammell Quartet was the second group to be featured that evening and opened their set with Guide Me Oh, Thou Great Jehovah. “It is a joy to be back in Osage Beach, Missouri,” Mark said greeting the crowd, “but I have yet to find a beach here.” LOL Mark went on to make a joke about how his hair color indicates that sometimes, he can’t remember the name of the song he wants to sing next. Bass singer Pat Barker, couldn’t resist the opportunity he saw. “I think it goes like this!”…and began to sing the bass line of Elvira that goes boom – bop – a – boom – bop – a – bow – bow. Just as Pat finished his impromptu bass solo, Jonathan scooted out from behind the curtain, took a mic and addressed Mark, “I know a good nursing home for you too!” The crowd burst at the seams!!! Acting like it was the most natural thing in the world to say, Jonathan turned around and walked backstage. Mark, on the other hand, couldn’t let that go – and so he asked Jonathan to come back out on stage and gave him a thorough teasing. And all this happened before the second song! The quartet’s following selections were How Long Has It Been, Echoes From the Burning Bush, Wedding Music, and Testimony. Introductions followed and then they let Pat loose on Wonderful Time Up There. Yet, they didn’t just sing it once…they didn’t just encore it a few times…MTQ actually sang the WHOLE SONG twice! When Nick began the track for the third time, Pat rushed over to shut it off. Mark grinned in Pat’s direction and casually added, “You said you needed to exercise.” LOL Their first set closed with the King is Coming.
When intermission ended both groups came back out and sang a few more songs. The Lesters were up first with I’ll Fly Away and the Old Rugged Cross. Brian shared with the audience how Mark teased them that afternoon when they arrived at the theater. Mark told him, “All you need now is a bass singer.” Mark stuck his head out from behind the curtain and when Brian noticed him, he said, “Oh! Are you still awake?” LOL With a comment like the previous one, the Lesters couldn’t leave without singing at least one song with a bass singer! So Pat came out and sang We’ll Understand It Better in the By and By with them. They encored that one around three times! They were so into it, the fun and joy was written all over their faces! During the standing ovation encore], Jon ran across to the left side of the stage and reached between the curtains to “shake my hand with the elders” – and a certain elder named Mark Trammell …. Well, I’m just gonna let you watch the video to see what happened! 🙂 “The Lesters ended with their signature song – He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away.
The Mark Trammell Quartet opened their second set with Meet Me Over On the Other Side and Tis So Sweet. The 70 year old song I Want To Know (and most played song of 2012) came next. While they were singing this upbeat song, the house lights brightened a bit and the disco ball shimmied silver reflections all around the room! Mark asked, “Do you want to hear some more?” Nick encored the track and Pat shook his head “no.” Someone from the audience cried out, “C’mon!” Pat turned to where the voice came from and hollered back, “HUSH!” Well, Pat didn’t get out of singing that night, for the next song was I Thirst. The night ended with the upbeat Boundless Love and the powerful Too Much To Gain To Lose. In honor of the last song and who (Buck Rambo) sang it, Mark shared how as a young man that song impacted him because, “He proved to me what he was singing about, Who he was singing about and that he had been where he was singing about…and by God’s grace, had made it through.” The ballad received a standing ovation.
Conclusion: From all the concerts that weekend, this one was my favorite. When two groups get together and have this much fun AND can encourage Believers with the Word, well, it’s something special. It was so fun to watch the banter between Mark Trammell and Jonathan Lester, see Pat sing the same song twice back to back and then watch Jonathan sing We’ll Understand It Better in the By and By twice too – once as a trio, and once as a quartet!