A sunny sky, a light breeze, Gospel Music and the Ozark hills – combined, they are the making of a perfect summer day. Thursday night in Echo Hollow fell under that category, the weather was perfect. Clouds sheltered us from the oppressive heat of the sun and a breeze wafted our way, ah…September had arrived. While we enjoyed Mother Nature in a rare perfected state, we waited for the evening concert with Pat Barker and The Martins to begin.
Pat Barker was the first on stage in the Hollow Thursday night. Duane Garren (emcee for the festival) introduced him as, “The premier bass singer in Gospel Music.” After seeing Pat sing with the Dixie Echoes, Mark Trammell Quartet and more recently, The Second Half Quartet; I was excited to watch him perform as a soloist. As the amphitheater filled and the breeze cooled us with its refreshing touch, Pat came on stage with an up-beat tune called Ain’t God Good. The next few songs ranged in different styles, yet, he mastered them all. It’s A Miracle had a Country swagger to it and then he explained to the crowd that he had “rewritten” a Don Williams song, Lord I Hope This Day Is Good, to fit the release of his new CD. The track played and he began, “Lord, I hope this date is good…I saw some empty seats, I thought I would.” The crowd chuckled as the lyrics talked about things that folks at the park would identify with. Some lines that really made me laugh were, “I don’t need fortune and I don’t need fame, don’t send the thunder and don’t send the rain. If they feel one drop I know they’ll flee…before they buy a package from me. Lord, help them to come buy themselves…I’ve got a new CD I’ve got to sell…” And so on. The crowd broke out in laughter! It was a fun moment! Turning more serious, the next song was a big ballad with a Classical feel; setting up the mic stand, Pat delivered the lyrics with emotion and feeling. The song was I Can See (or Emmaus Road.) If you’ve been following Pat and some of the ministries he’s been involved with since beginning his solo ministry, you might have recognized the voices backing him up on his next tune, Think On The Good Things, featuring the Guardians. As he neared the end of this one, a line of military and law enforcement walked down the central staircase, causing applause and a standing ovation as they walked down to the front and sat down. In the middle of the song, Pat said, “Yeah, let them know it!” Afterwards, Pat shared how he came to sing what is probably his signature song and how it’s rooted in the Southern Gospel Picnic. One of the first events he sang at when he joined the Dixie Echoes was Silver Dollar City; for a newbie, they sang three shows each day for four days. Listing off the songs he knew that the Dixie Echoes sang, Randy Shelnut told him, “You need to know a little more than that.” Then Randy asked, “Do you know How Big Is God?” Pat said he knew a verse and a chorus; so they practiced for fifteen minutes and then walked out on stage and sang it for the first time – at Silver Dollar City’s Southern Gospel Picnic years ago! He’s been singing it ever since and this was the ballad Pat closed his program with.
Brad Thomas came out on stage and explained the appearance of the officers who walked in moments before. Silver Dollar City has named September “Hero’s Month” in honor of the people who serve our communities. In these times, we need to celebrate what is good and right and SDC is doing that by encouraging people to support their local heroes. The perfect example is Officer Aaron Pearson. Earlier this year in Springfield, Missouri Officer Pearson was shot in the head and not expected to live. But…prayer changed everything and that evening Aaron and his family walked out on stage as a testimony to God’s healing power. Every seat was empty as over 4,000 people stood and applauded. At that moment, one of the SDC’s entertainers came and sang a song in tribute to Officer Pearson and all the heroes among us.
After this moment, Duane introduced the final group of the evening – The Martins. They walked on stage singing a chorus a’ cappella and then Joyce greeted the crowd with a, “Hey y’all!” She quickly told us how she, Jonathan and Judy sang their first concert at Silver Dollar City 31 years ago. They sang a lot of hymns that evening, including Count Your Blessings, I’m Bound For The Promised Land a’ cappella and No, Not One with a Western feel. Commenting on that last one, Jonathan asked the crowd, “Bet you don’t sing it like that at your church!” LOL They shared a verse from 2 Corinthians chapter one that speaks of how God comforts us so we can go out and comfort others and then sang the Praise and Worship ballad, I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever. Up next was Somebody Like Me, a song I first heard from Jason Crabb. They closed the first half of the evening with Shut The Door a’ cappella, The Promise and Loves Gonna Drive This Train.
Conclusion: Thursday evening was a special night in Echo Hollow. Seeing Pat sing solo for the first time, the testimony of Officer Aaron Pearson and then the Martins, it was an evening that will be hard to forget! I loved the unique line-up and with 4,422 in the audience and perfect weather – it just doesn’t get any better!