The Second Baptist Church was a sprawling building that could seat around 1,000 people. Even as my sister and I weaved our way around the halls to the “meet and greet” room, fans were already seated on couches and chairs passing the time until the doors opened. When the meet and greet ended, there was a long line wrapping around the inside of the building. The “meet and greeters” were given VIP passes that reserved them a seat in the first five rows, but even with the reserved seats, the pews filled fast. We settled into the fourth row on the center aisle. My sister was excited to see two friends that she made at Praisefest Branson, and invited them to sit with us, which they did. (I love that about SGM: you attend concerts, meet new people and develop friendships that are long-lasting.) By the time the promoter came on stage to announce the beginning of the concert the sanctuary was packed –balcony and all! “Let’s open tonight with a song, Victory In Jesus,” announced Promoter Tim Doss. With the piano keeping everyone on pitch, we sang a verse and chorus of the old hymn and then Tim committed our time together to the Lord in prayer. After a few announcements and a special recognition of songwriter Dianne Wilkinson (who was sitting on the front row), the concert began!
As the three groups filed on stage applause filled the air. Gerald shouted, “You can do better than that!” So, the audience let the volume of their shouts and whistles intensify. All the tenors, lead singers and baritones stood next to their comrades in the trade as the first part of Jubilee 3 kicked off with a medium tempo song I Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen. When it came to the first verse, Jim stepped forward to sing it, and Ronnie took the lead on the second verse. Back to the chorus Gerald asked the crowd, “Do ya’ know it?” and after singing another line himself, encouraged everyone, “Sing the chorus.” With all three groups on stage at one time it was hard to know who to watch! Trey was playing the keys of a sleek, long, grand piano, with Michael in the “tenor section” and Glenn being the only bass singer – my eyes kept dancing from one end of the stage to the other and everywhere in between! “We are going to sing some songs you know,” Gerald stated, “but we’re also going to sing some you’ve never heard before, like this new one Chris Allman wrote.” This new song goes by the name of There’s A Better Day and is reminiscent of the old convention songs (to me at least…maybe I imagined it!). “Ya’ like that?” Gerald asked, “Let’s see if we can remember the second verse.” After Chris leaned over and whispered something in Gerald’s ear, a funny look came over Gerald’s face as he exclaimed, “Chris just asked me what the words were!!!” LOL When they came around to the chorus again, Michael wiped his brow as if to say, “Whew!” Gerald spoke to the audience once more, “We are so glad that you are here tonight, there are so many other things you could do than be here,” and after a thoughtful pause continued on with, “You would have to go somewhere besides Union City to do them!” Then he made a random comment about “having us for the next 4-5 hours,” to which Scott Fowler of Legacy Five jumped forward and grabbed Gerald’s sleeve trying to get him to take his comment back. (Little did we know, the concert really was going to be 4-5 hours!) There was something special that Gerald wanted us to hear right away, “You’ve heard Howie sing baritone,” he began, “But he has a deep, rich solo voice and he really can sing lead too. So we got the baritones to form a low trio…and we had to give them a name, so we called them the ‘barely-tones.’” This introduction brought Howie center stage to sing the verses of Had It Not Been. Jim and Rodney joined him on the chorus and towards the very end. Chris also joined them, adding the high part. “On every Jubilee project we’ve recorded a convention song,” Gerald explained, “and one thing we found out was that the way we’ve heard them sung is not the way they were written!” He went on to tell that when they were in the studio recording this next song, he looked at the sheet music and noticed that it was all over the place. They had to record it one part at a time, but when they heard the final product come together, “it just proved how much genius those old writers had.” Gerald said, “You are going to hear a song that you’ve heard, but you are going to hear it exactly the way it was written!” The song was none other than Leave Your Sorrows (and come with me.) The guys even pulled out some sheet music to make sure they did it right.
“Keep those hands going and welcome the Booth Brothers,” Gerald shouted to an already roaring audience. The Booth Brothers came back on stage with a high energy song called I See Grace that featured Jim. When that song concluded, Michael introduced the next one, “Here is a beautiful, beautiful song Jim Brady and Rodney Griffin got together and wrote. Masterpiece of Mercy.” Ronnie sang the verses of this ballad as the thoughts and images of paint and canvas formed in our minds. Michael said, “Here’s another great song written by a great writer by the name of Squire Parsons,” introducing Look For Me. Applause sounded when the first line was sung. I love Michael’s interpretation of this song and how he emphasizes certain words. When he sings, you can tell that he’s thinking about every word and not just singing mere words. On the last line Michael had everyone sing it with him…and received a popcorn standing ovation. More themes about heaven followed with Jim singing Trading This Old Cross For A Crown. Everyone clapped along and gave a standing ovation at the end. Afterwards, Jim exclaimed, “Wow, what a crowd!” As Michael stepped to the side and panted for another breath, he tried to explain to the crowd why he was so out of shape. He turned 40 last October! “I’ve been told that life begins at 40,… well, I’m still waiting for something to happen,” He said. “Well,” Jim replied, “I got news for you, something’s gonna’ happen, but it’s not what you think! Life does not begin at 40 – maintenance begins at 40… And by the looks of you, you need some work.” LOL. Michael then embarrassed his family that came out to see them. His father, mother and aunt were there. He told of how Sunday was Mother’s Day, and since he was going to be gone, he texted his son and said, “Mother’s Day is Sunday – buy mom something.” His son texted him back and said, “I don’t have any money.” (The crowd chuckled at that.) After a moment, his son texted him again and said, “I’ll call mom and get some money!” Michael went on to speak of his grandparents (who are home with the Lord now) and how they gave their grandkids a lot of gifts in their lifetime. But the most valuable gift they ever gave was evidence of a life lived for Christ. Towards the end his grandma’s journey on this earth, she had Alzheimer’s and that is the reason they wanted to record this song next song. They wanted Christians in the same situation to know that “the best thing a Believer can do, is call it what it is, bring it before the Lord, say, ‘I believe it,’ – and He will see you through it.” This preceded another ballad that Ronnie sings, called She Still Remembers Jesus Name. Afterwards, Michael asked, “Isn’t that strong?” Michael went on to introduce their closing song by saying that a group normally wouldn’t end a set with a song like they were going to sing. But since we responded so well to Look For Me, he wanted to do another song written by Squire Parsons. He said, “I have never heard a bad thing said about Squire…now, do you know what I’ve heard about Ronnie and Jim?” Ronnie jumped in and teased Michael a bit, and Michael turned to the center aisle and exclaimed, “Mom! He’s picking on me!” LOL Michael decided that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with what he was saying, so he let Jim come up and tell us the story behind the song that they were going to sing. Jim began by sharing that he was the ripe age of 11 when his parents took him to his first “Squire concert,” and through the years he realized that, “You don’t write songs like that without a personal walk with the Lord.” The song that he sang for us was Hello Mama.
“Well guys, keep those hands going and welcome this great quartet – Legacy Five!!!” exclaimed Michael, bringing L5 out on stage with the title song to their current project, A Wonderful Life. It just so happened, that the second song on their set is one of my grandma’s favorites – I Found Grace. (So glad she was there to see it!) Both Glenn and Gus did an excellent job on the verses they were featured on – they put such energy into what they were singing! When the song ended with much applause, Glenn pointed and shook his finger at the crowd with a big smile. Scott Fowler skipped over to Glenn and announced that their bass singer sounded warmed up and ready to go. Glenn was then featured on what is quickly becoming his signature song, I’ve Been Changed. Without a break or introduction, Trey counted off for the next song – Boundless Love. From the front row, Dianne blew kisses to the guys for singing her song. “I’m so glad that you responded that way to that song,” Scott said happily, “because the writer of it is here tonight sitting on the front row.” Scott took a moment and let everyone know that Dianne penned Boundless Love, and then introduced Ask Me Why. He told the story of Patty and Hana once more: how she accidentally came to their event in Nashville, her honest question, “Why is everyone here so happy?” – and finally, coming to know Jesus Christ as her Savior! Scott executed this story song with a love and passion you’ll recognize as one who has seen what he’s singing about. Between verses he quoted the first part of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…” after another encore of the chorus, the guys faced each other and lifted their voices for one more chorus sung acappella. Chilling. Opening his Bible and setting up his mic stand, Scott read the resurrection account from the book of Luke to remind us that: “One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and one day we are going to see Him just as He is!” I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that they closed their set with We Shall See Jesus. As they sang this outstanding song – hands were raised; fan’s stood and “amens” were shouted. The energy and excitement in the room was electric!!! Scott came off stage and gave Dianne a big hug and said, “Thank you Dianne, for writing that song!!!”
To be continued…