On a Monday morning I woke up in a hotel room in Nashville, Tennessee. The weather was less than kind the night before and I was still trying to convince myself it wasn’t the weekend – you could say that I’m still not use to attending Gospel events on a Monday! LOL However, I was still excited. That very night at the Trinity Broadcasting Network a dozen artists were coming together to pay tribute to one of Gospel Music’s greatest arrangers, writers and produces – Lari Goss.
After getting together with a couple of friends from the Steve Hurst School of Music, we headed out to TBN – the lot was so full we ended up parking in the grass! LOL The group that we were with sat in the balcony and stretched across a row in the center section. Because the evening was being broadcasted on television live, there were many, many announcements! There would be no intermission, if you were sitting on the floor you could not get up and leave during the performance, and most of all – smile, clap and look happy to be there! Well, that doesn’t sound so hard, eh?
“I have one empty seat…no two! I need to fill these seats in the front, we’re starting in two minutes!” a guy in a black polo shirt and khaki pants called out from on stage. As those seats were quickly filled, the audience was told that in a minute Lari Goss would be introduced, then brought out on stage as the orchestra played an intro – and we were to smile and clap very loudly! And we did! After that, our host, Gerald Wolfe, appeared from the right side of the stage and exclaimed, “You can already tell this is going to be a great night for Gospel Music!” Adding that Lari’s career spans four decades and that he doesn’t even know how many records he’s played on, Gerald introduced the first group to sing that evening, “To kick it off as only they can, my buddies from just down the road – the Booth Brothers!” As Lari sat at the glossy black grand and accompanied, the Booth Brothers walked on stage and delivered the first song of the night – I See Grace. Michael took a moment and spoke to Lari about how God created each and every note as the audience looked on. “Truth, with God’s creation of music in our lives is powerful,” he said. Then the powerful notes of Ronnie singing I Met The Master filled the hall in three part harmony.The crowd stood to their feet in ovation. Our attention was then brought to the screens mounted on the side of the stage for a special word from Bill Gaither to Lari Goss. Gerald shared that the first time he heard Lari play on an album was, “Atlanta Live” by the Cathedrals. How fitting that the next artist also sang with the Cats in his career? The group was Ernie Hasse and Signature Sound, and their first song was Glory To God In The Highest. As the upbeat tune played on, they didn’t fail to add their dance moves. (Though I must admit, it looked more like bunnies hopping, than dancing, but that’s okay…LOL) When they finished singing Ernie stepped over to the piano and greeted Lari, but turning to the crowd added, “What people don’t know about Lari is that he taught us all our dance moves.” He also recalled the night that he auditioned for the Cathedrals and how Lari was present for that. Gerald asked the crowd, “Do you want to hear Ernie sing Oh What A Savior?” The audience replied with a thunderous applause both before and after the ballad. As Ernie and his group walked off stage, Lari came to the center and gestured towards the orchestra, “These people have worked with me for 30 years – these are the ones you’ve heard on our albums…the Nashville String Machine.” A soloist by the name of Babby Mason followed Ernie’s performance with a tender song called He’ll Find A Way. She sang this ballad with the piano as her only accompaniment and her strong voice was spectacular. As the applause died down, Gerald remained by the grand piano with Lari as he read a note from Larnelle Harris, who wasn’t able to be there. When Lari heard it, he chuckled and mentioned, “He didn’t say anything about our relationship on the golf course.” Nope! He sure didn’t! LOL So far, we heard a trio, quartet and soloist, it was time for a family group – and the Hoppers appeared on stage to fill that void. Marriage of the Lamb was their first song. In the moments that followed, Lari’s daughter brought out the ORIGINAL score for Jerusalem to show the audience. And they couldn’t walk out of the building without doing that one, so they did and received a standing ovation. Succeeding, Clark Beasley came on stage cradling an award in his arm. He explained how special it is for the NQC to award individuals with an accolade and then honored Lari with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The audience, who was once silent, now stood and cheered their approval. All Lari said was, “All honor received goes to the Lord Jesus Christ.” What a precious sentiment.
Following this momentous occasion in SGM, was the Mark Trammell Quartet singing their #1 hit I Want To Know. This quartet sang and stirred up the crowd with two encores and a handsome bass singer who was milking it for all he could get! LOL MTQ couldn’t leave without featuring their leader and baritone singer, Mark Trammell, so he took the lead on the classic It’s Almost Over. A person doesn’t know who they’ve impacted in their lives, and the next two men who came on stage are just a small portion of the ones that Lari has touched. Jarin Davis and Bradley Knight work in church music and brought a little of their choir from Christ Church and sang The Great I AM Is Enough. When they completed their number, Gerald came out and mentioned all the guys who were there who sang with the Cathedrals over the years. “You don’t ever get this many former members of the Cathedrals together in the same building,” he said. So an impromptu reunion was called for! It was the Cathedrals most requested song of all time – Champion Of Love. Ernie, Mark, Scott, Gerald and Glenn gathered on stage and brought the crowd to their feet in memory of the great group they represented – the Cats. Afterwards, Gerald said, “I hope they recorded that – that was history!” He went on to introduce some guys whom he called his best friends in the world, because, when you travel the amount of days they do together, they have to be friends! Greater Vision came on with Rodney singing Faces and Gerald made sure that message applied to Lari’s life. He said, “Lari’s life has been spent in a tiny room with a piano. He never sees the faces of those whom his music has touched, but one day he will.” Then he told a humorous story about the time GV went into the studio to record a hymn project. Gerald made sure everyone knew what that meant – a low budget CD with a piano, drum, bass and rhythm guitar. What did Lari say to them? – “I’m gonna’ get you a good record if it costs you every penny you’ve got.” The following medley of hymns was on that project, which Gerald noted, they are still paying off!
Chris and Rodney walked off stage leaving Gerald to introduce the next artist when he stopped and said, “I don’t remember what I’m supposed to do next.” After thinking a moment, he went into an intro then a crew member came out and whispered something in his ear. “Oh!” he said, and then informed us that on live television the viewers were seeing Jason Crabb sing I’d Rather Have Jesus (because he couldn’t be there that night) and in a few seconds they would fade back into TBN and we would all clap for the performance we didn’t see. LOL Our beloved Legacy Five followed with their snappy song Thankful For The Change and TaRanda Greene performed a powerful ballad, Today I Walked Where Jesus Walked. (Can that girl sing, or what?!!) The big screens started rolling again and this time it was the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s turn to say “We love you,Lari!” Another family group graced the stage and brought an accapella rendition of On Jordan’s Stormy Banks and a few other hymns to our ears. Before they started singing,Lari hit all the F’s on the keyboard and Gerald exclaimed, “Accapella means you don’t play!” Lari replied, pointing at Jonathan Martin, “But he said to play all the F’s and I did!” Both songs the Martins sang were accapella arrangements and their last one was called the River Medley. Gerald announced that they were going to do another impromptu song. This one was a modern version of Midnight Cry sung by Jim and Melissa Brady, Julie Goss, Michael Booth and another lady and gentleman whose names I didn’t catch. Standing ovation again! One of the final groups to perform were the Nelons, bringing back members Karen Peck and Charlotte Richie on the first half of Robe and Crown. Then they switched to their current line up for a song named after the hymn, Oh, For A Thousand Tongues. We couldn’t leave without knowing who the driving force was behind the program. Gerald announced, “The man who thought of this was Jim Brady.” Jim came out and sang a new song that he wrote called All In All – a beautiful ballad with stirring lyrics. The final song of the evening called for all the singers to be present on stage, so Gerald wooed, “Come out, come out wherever you are.” With these words, the final song was introduced to the audience and viewers across the nation, “This is what we believe in – this is our statement of faith.” That 8-9 minute song featuring Kim Hopper, Scott Howard, Ronnie Booth, Dean Hopper and Gerald Wolfe closed out the evening with a building full of fans on their feet, soaking up the truth of the words being sung. “I believe that Jesus, was the perfect Son of God…”
Conclusion: Wow! A lot of “firsts” happened that night for me. First time to a live taping, and first time to see an orchestra play live. Both were amazing and fun to experience. Though I must confess…I watched the orchestra more than the singers. LOL