The night sky glared down through the glass atrium as I rushed through the Delta to get to the Governor’s Ballroom. Time had slipped away from me at the Opry Mills Mall and now I had to ignore the beauty around me to quickly reach the concert that no doubt had already started. Yet, the soothing sounds of gently lapping water reached my ears as I passed by the boat-ride and up ahead stood the giant Christmas tree decorated with teddy bears and wrapped presents. No matter how big of a hurry you’re in, these things will always bring a smile to your face.
In the ballroom, Buddy Greene was on stage with Jeff Taylor causing the crowd to giggle at a joke. When they finished up their set Scott announced that Buddy wanted to hear L5 sing an old Cathedral tune. So Legacy Five climbed on stage and sang Life Will Be Sweeter Someday and Buddy adjusted a mic stand for his harmonica and played with them. The crowd loved it! Afterwards, Scott said, “Hey! I have to learn how to play the harmonica!” LOL
Getting ready to bring the next artist on, Scott emphasized the ability of Bill Gaither to find amazing tenors. “And tonight, we have one with us, Wes Hampton,” said Scott. Wes began his program with a modern sounding song called A Man Like Me, followed by a slower, Wherever I’ll Go. He introduced his next number, The Difference Is in Me, like this, “Here’s an old Gaither tune, one of my favorites.” Later, he greeted the crowd. “It is so good to be here tonight,” said Wes, “I cannot believe that it has been two years since I have been here.” He showed a picture of his family on the big screens and talked about how they took their youngest son to the Ice exhibit (at the Gaylord) for his birthday. “This next song is one of those Vocal Band songs, when people hear it, they know it’s a Vocal Band tune.” He said of Little Is Much (When God is in it). The crowd loved this rendition! A good up-beat song, You Can’t Hold Me Back, followed with Nothing Can Take You From Me and He Is Here (acapella). Our attention was then taken to the big screens once again where a video of Gloria Gaither introduced the next song, I’ll Pray For You. His last song was one that he recorded with Steve Green some years ago, it was the familiar hymn It Is Well. Wes reminded the audience that if they took the time, everyone in the room could tell of a time in their life when the days were dark but God brought them through. Then he encouraged us by saying, “If you’re still here, He’s still writing your story.” Scott came up and told the crowd how he loves Wes Hampton, but… “What I love most about him is his height.” LOL
Wes descended from the stage and Scott went on to introduce the next group. “Every year we try to bring someone here that you have not heard before,” he began. The platform at Celebration is an opportunity he wants to extend to newer groups. He explained that he heard this group for the first time at NQC…but not in a showcase. “I was walking to the food court,” he said, “and this amazing singing caught my attention. Off in a corner, without a microphone, with nothing but an audience these kids were singing. That’s when you know that it is real – because they sing no matter where they are.” Turning to where the group waited off stage, he said, “Guys, you have 1000 people here who will listen on purpose.” With that, those 1000 people put their hands together and welcomed Southern Raised to the platform. Southern Raised is a family bluegrass group from Missouri (yay!) and they all play instruments that make up a great live sound. They kicked off their set with a fast tune called Good News From the Graveyard and when the lead vocalist played the turn-around on her violin, it was very evident that this was one talented family. They made introductions throughout their set, but for now I’ll mention that the group includes three sisters and a brother. Lindsey, the sister who played the upright bass introduced their second song, Did I Make A Difference. Then they introduced everyone. The lead vocals, fiddle and mandolin are performed by Emily Grace and the following song was one they wrote themselves – The Things I Love Best. It was a very nice tune with a great message and I made a note to check if they had it on CD afterwards. Playing the banjo and singing the high parts was Sarah, as I already mentioned Lindsey plays upright bass and sang the lower parts and finally their brother, Matthew, is the bass vocalist and plays guitar. An easy listening to ballad called Grandpa’s Fiddle came next and talked about leaving a legacy for the younger generation to follow. This song was very touching and I have to admit, brought tears to my eyes on some parts. As I sat there, I expected the song to end like all the others, instead, when they stopped singing Emily Grace stepped up and played Amazing Grace as a solo on the fiddle. It was the perfect way to end the song! “We are honored and blessed to be a part of this and we want to give a big thank you to Legacy Five…” but the applause from the crowd cut off my ability to hear what she said. The crowd enjoyed Southern Raised just as much as I did. Their final song was Angel Swing a Little Lower and the crowd gave a hearty applause afterwards.
Intermission was next on the schedule after we heard a few words from Scott’s pastor, Rick White and before we knew it, it was time for the second half to begin.
“We are going to give you plenty of music!” Scott exclaimed as the guys assembled on stage. “I know you still like the old hymns, this one is pretty pertinent.” It was What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Strike Up the Band followed and I thought it was really cute when Trey came to his mini solo and his family made hollered and cheered for him sitting side stage. “Trey’s got a little cheering squad,” Scott teased and they whistled and bellowed all the louder! Scott mentioned that back there on the front row was Trey’s mom – who is also a great piano player. Turning to Trey, he said, “Play something that your mom would play.” So he played an old Gospel tune. Afterwards, Scott and Trey whispered until Scott announced, “I just asked, ‘Should I?’ and he said, ‘Yes, make her.’” Then he tried his best to get Trey’s mom to come up and play something, but try as they might, they couldn’t get her to do it. Scott shook his finger at her and teased, “Listen to me young lady, if you don’t use that talent God gave you He’ll give it to somebody else!” LOL So, Scott went back to picking on Trey and told how Trey came to sing on the Jubilee 3 CD, then they did that same song, I’m Almost There. Just like he did in the studio with his one take cut, he nailed it live once again. Feelin’ Fine came next. When Scott mentioned that the last to be formally introduced was their tenor, Gus, all of Gaches backstage gave vigorous cheer. “You just don’t find them nicer than Gus,” said Scott in his introduction. A ballad featuring Gus came next. I was so thrilled when it was The Galilean! (It has become one of my favorite songs from the Jubilee 3 CD.) It’s perfect for Gus too! They went into We Shall See Jesus and received a standing O and then Scott introduced a special “surprise” for the crowd. With two tenors in the house and an old Cathedral song on the program…hmmm, why not? “One of the best Cathedral songs ever,” said Scott, “Boundless Love.” So it began, Gus sang the verses and Wes the chorus, until they came to the end and took turns on the last few choruses and battled it out. When the final notes were sung, Scott informed the audience, “Gus said, ‘I can sure get used to having help like that!’” LOL Then he dismissed the evening with prayer.
The next morning dawned with snow in the air and a winter weather advisory for those who just happened to be driving the direction we needed to go to get home. Unfortunately, this kept us from staying for the entire morning session. We needed to get home before the storm beat us there! Yet, as we drove through Tennessee, Kentucky and finally into Missouri my mind couldn’t help but be drawn back to the wonderful time we had at Celebration. Especially the moments from the night before! Wes Hampton singing with Legacy Five on Boundless Love and hearing Southern Raised for the first time…it was one for the memory box!