The doors of Old Bethel Baptist Church stood open (as you will soon find out, in regards to the title of this review, that’s NOT a good thing!) Anyway, the church sign stood tall reading, “The Whisnants in concert – 7 PM.” I parked my vehicle and joined the others in our march towards the door. Inside, I slipped into the second row on the left in the center and looked around. It was just as I’d remembered it. A glossy black grand piano sat on the left side of the stage, three microphone stands stood in the center and a power point slide flashed on the wall off to the right. (Okay, maybe the power point was new.) The last time I had been in that church was February 24, 2007 – for a Kingsmen concert. That was back when they still had their band traveling with them…wow; does time really pass that quickly?
Where I live, Southern Gospel Music either comes in a drought or a flood like periods. For weeks and weeks life will go on without a concert in sight…then the flood hits, and you have to pick which one you want to go to! Such was the case with the third week in May. A concert with the Whisnants in Sikeston at the Old Bethel Baptist Church opened the floodgates for what I’m going to call the May madness “mini-SGM marathon.” This concert was held on a Thursday night, two days later on Saturday we went to see the Mark Trammell Quartet and on the following Tuesday, Brian Free and Assurance. Three concerts in six days! All the groups were wonderful and I was refreshed by each one. The following is the first installment of my “May Madness Mini-SGM Marathon” – The Whisnants!
The pastor walked up to the stage and simply announced, “I’m not gonna stand up here and talk, I’m gonna turn it over to the Whisnants…”
“How many know that we’re blessed tonight?” asked Susan as the intro for their opening song, We Are So Blessed, began. The rich tones set a definite mood across the church, as the next song kicked off Jeff said, “Here’s an old song you probably know, if you do, sing along with us!” Well, I didn’t hear anyone singing I’m In The Gloryland Way (we were happy to hear them sing it), but the crowd sure did clap! It was that moment that assured me we had a good audience that wouldn’t be afraid to participate! Jeff was featured on a song called One Day I Will, and the crowd really responded to the closing lines of the second verse by calling out encouraging phrases…King Jesus followed. “I can tell right now that ya’ll are gonna sing us to death,” Jeff teased with a smile. “Let’s enjoy Jesus tonight,” he continued, “There are a lot of places you could be right now, but you chose to be in the house of the Lord.” As he prepared to introduce the group to the audience, he took a moment and explained a little bit about their last name “Whisnant.” The Whisnants travel all over the country and as you can imagine, a lot of folks mispronounce their last name. They’ve been called “wise-nut,” “whizz-nut,” “wish-nat” and the like. One day Jeff asked his dad, “What’s up with the name?” His dad said, “It’s a German name, when the brothers came over they were called the “vhee-shoo-nuants” – so be happy with what you’ve got!” LOL The crowd really chuckled over Jeff’s pronunciation of that last one! Introductions came, at this point on the calendar; it was five days ‘til Aaron Hise’s wedding, and speaking of weddings, Jeff and Susan are celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year!
Before singing her acclaimed solo I’ll Pray For You, Susan recalled a phrase her mom always said, “If you’re going to worry, don’t pray – but if you’re going to pray, don’t worry.” When she came to sing the second verse, Susan asked the crowd, “Does anybody believe prayer changes things?” Raised hands and “amens” answered. Towards the end of the song they asked the audience to sing the chorus with them. Afterwards, Aaron was featured on Be Not Afraid. “Thank you so much for coming out on a Thursday night,” Susan said, “You’ve been introduced to all the Whisnants but one,” and then their son Ethan came up on stage to sing a song called Walk The Talk. “I want you to listen to one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard,” said Susan. Next, she shared that her father was a pastor and how some of the kids at school would tell her, “Oh, you’re a PK (pastor’s kid), you’re missing out. You’re sheltered.” But this song Austin sings is like an answer to that argument and simply says, I’ve Been Sheltered By His Grace. Following, Susan asked, “Would you like to hear the three Whisnant boys?” Jeff, Austin and Ethan sang as a male trio with a song called On The Road To Emmaus. (That was a lot of fun!) The audience enjoyed it. Before they went into their next song, Susan began singing God Is So Good acapella. Soon the crowd joined her and everyone transitioned into Oh, How I Love Jesus. “I heard a preacher say one time that if God had refrigerator, your picture would be on it,” Susan said. Continuing, “Maybe you’re holding onto a thread tonight and nobody knows but you. God specializes in brokenness – He can’t fix us if we’re not broken!” This lead into I’ll Trust The Potters Hand and with this powerful ballad the air in the church room just stilled and the reverent mood flowed over into He’s Living Today. By the end of this barn-burner the energy was so high, well; we couldn’t stay in our seats anymore. Standing ovation! They encored it – the crowd just loved that song! “Friends,” Jeff exclaimed, “If I didn’t believe He’s alive and well, I wouldn’t have wasted the fuel to drive up here this weekend!” LOL He went on to introduce the next tune by reminding us how important the blood of Jesus is in the Gospel message. He told of the year 1970 when he trusted in the blood. “Without the blood, we’re without hope,” he said. Aaron’s feature, I’m Trusting the Blood came next. “How ‘bout we do a little bit of New Day Dawning and then we’ll take a break?” Jeff asked. They began New Day Dawning and I’ll tell you, the crowd didn’t want them to stop! The audience rose to their feet and the Whisnants encored the chorus three times at least!
Nodding to the pastor, the Whisnants slipped off the stage while he came up and asked the ushers to gather at the front. After a few announcements, prayer and the offering, the Whisnants told about their product and shared that on June 13th, they’ll be going into the studio to begin a new CD. Until then, their current project is called Hymns and Harmony. They were singing with a “struggling” trio called Greater Vision not so long ago and struck up a conversation with Gerald Wolfe on how there are churches that don’t know hymns. So, the Whisnants went in the studio and recorded some hymns! Thus, Hymns and Harmony was born.
“Only four more songs and then we’ll leave!” Susan said as they began singing a hymn from that Hymns and Harmony CD, Jesus is the Sweetest Name I Know. The next song was a request, one that featured Susan, called Even In The Valley. The Ready Medley followed back to back and then Susan introduced their closing song with a story about her parents. Her mom and dad are around 73 years of age and have never been sick but a common cold. But a year and a half ago, her mom received a call from the doctor that said they thought she had cancer. Susan said that news crushed her, they prayed without ceasing and when the time came to drive up to the doctor’s she asked her mom if she could drive her. Before they reached the clinic, Susan asked her mom, “What are we going to do if we go up there and they say you have cancer?” Her mom replied, “All is well, Susan, all is well.” When they went into the doctor’s office the doctor burst through the door and said, “I don’t know what we saw a couple weeks ago, but it is gone now!” Her mom said, “Doctor, all is well…God is still God, His strength will never fail.” Then Susan sang their number one song, All Is Well, by the time they came to the lines that transitioned into “It Is Well” hands were raised, folks began to stand and applause broke out. The evening closed with an invitation and prayer from the pastor.
Now…about that black snake. Once again, the church doors stood open as the people left the building. About two feet from the entrance, right in the center of the walkway, slithered a six foot black snake dangerously close to the doors! LOL A few gasps of, “OH!” filled the air and a crowd gathered at the entrance. Eventually, a gentlemen picked it up by the tail to take it across the lot and release it in the grass. The big black snake didn’t really like that and became very fussy to which he dropped it. Unfortunately, the shovel came next.
Conclusion: The Whisnants don’t always get to come to this part of Missouri often and getting to see them in full concert was a joy! When this family takes the stage you can see the unity in their ministry with every smile, song and story. They’re a wonderful group! If you see a concert with them advertised in your area, I highly recommend going! (And be on the lookout for our next installment of May Madness Mini SGM Marathon with the Mark Trammell Quartet!)