…Sun glasses, dance moves and a LOT of fun!
After the previous night with Greater Vision and Legacy Five, it was hard for me to imagine Saturday night getting any better. Then again, with Brian Free and Assurance and Ivan Parker together, there should be no question that it would! The Truthseekers knew what they were doing when they saved these two artists for the last night of their Homecoming…we had so much fun! It was great to see my friends Kim & Bill, who drove over from Missouri. We spent time chatting and catching up on what’s been happening in our lives before the concert. When we heard everyone clapping and so on in the auditorium, we figured we better get to our seats! LOL. It was time to get the party started…and what a “party” it was! I know you are excited to hear about what happened, so let’s get right to it!
…But…first, I have to tell you a little story about Thursday night, that, after you read the rest of this post, will make sense and hopefully cause a chuckle or two. After Triumphant and the Nelons sang, while everyone was exiting the auditorium, I happened to overhear a conversation between two elderly ladies walking behind me as we were leaving. The conversation went something like this… “I really enjoyed the singing tonight, didn’t you?”says Lady 1. “Oh yes, it was good,” Lady 2 replies. “But,” Lady 1 continues, “I can’t wait for Saturday night when Ivan Parker will be singing.” Lady 2 asked, “Who’s he?” Lady 1 replies, “You know … the handsome man with the black hair and mustache…I have a picture of him at home!”
In a flood of red and black the Truthseekers appeared on stage to lead the congregational singing. Jim said, “We look like a bunch of Cardinal fans,” commenting on their matching red and black outfits. Then he asked if anyone knew what #390 was in the red hymnal…and someone from the audience called out, “I’ll Fly Away!” “No,” Jim smiled, “that was last night.” We were doing a new hymn for a new night, and it was none other than Power in the Blood. On the choruses Jim had fun having either just the balcony or the floor sing for a few lines, then, switching to let a different part of the crowd sing. We also enjoyed a local group by the name of the Nehrkorns, which Jim introduced to the audience.
“Help us out with an old convention song,” Justin Nehrkorn said clapping his hands together as they began singing a snappy song called Someday. “What a joy it is to be at the Truthseekers Homecoming,” he said after the number. “Some of you have been by the table and requested this song,” (and after some encouragement for our way, added) “I’m glad to be in the arms of the Shepherd tonight.” His wife sang Arms of the Shepherd, a medium tempo song with a great message of encouragement to believers who are in the midst of trials. Walking over and taking a seat at the piano, Justin said, “Sing this little chorus with us.” – and the room was filled with voices singing Learning to Lean on Jesus. “Listen to a brand new song that just went out to radio…I’m thankful that we have One that will heal and bind up our wounds,” Justin said introducing the ballad which his wife sang, I Have A Friend. Just as the Nehrkorns were getting ready to close their set, someone backstage caught Justin’s attention, and he exclaimed, “Oh, they said we have to sing another song because they’re not ready yet!” So he hit the track for another up-beat tune, He’s Still God. Finally, Justin made the introduction, “Keep those hands going and make welcome Brian Free and Assurance!”
Brian Free and Assurance huddled together and sang Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee as their opening song. The acappella hymn flowed off stage into the audience wrapping the room in a warm embrace. As our ears were enjoying BFA’s rich vocals holding their last note, the track for Go Tell The World added the background music that gave their first two songs the perfect contrast – good up-beat instrumentation and lush acappella singing. Lead singer Bill Shivers was featured on each verse of the song and the audience clapped along to the beat. As the song closed, Bill proclaimed, “Come Lord Jesus!”- then, he asked if it was all right to have church. Another song that featured Bill came next, called, Anything Is Possible. (This is one of my favorite BFA songs and I never tire of hearing them sing it in concert!) “It doesn’t matter if it’s great, or if it’s small, there is nothing impossible with our God!” Bill said summing up the song. When the song ended, Brian Free stepped to the center of the stage to sing his solo, I Believe. This song did really well for BFA on the radio a few months ago, and a good listen to the lyrics will tell you why. As Brian always stages the question, “How many still believe in the Holy, Infallible Word of God?” – The immediate show of hands told the story of why the song means so much to Believers. “Here’s a song that goes back a few years,” Brian said, “If you know it, sing along.” The minute the audience recognized the tune as Glory Road, they applauded… And once Brian hit that first high note, the shouts and screams of encouragement could be heard resonating all over the auditorium! Of course, Bill had to have Brian sing a little bit more, causing an encore – which Brian did, and received a standing ovation! Bill teased Brian after the encore shouting, “Sing it again!” Brian then turned to the crowd and shared that this was his first time back to Marion since the Civic Center was built, and asked the audience if they were glad to have them back. He paused for the crowd to respond, and then teased, “Not everyone clapped!” As you can imagine, BFA had a lot of requests, just like Brian mentioned. He said that they didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking because they knew that we came to hear singing…so they cut Jeremy Lile, their bass singer, loose on Just A Little Talk With Jesus. On the chorus Bill shouted, “Everybody!” and the crowd immediately joined the guys clapping along with the beat. Brian asked the crowd how many were seeing BFA for the first time, then introduced the group beginning with Bill. After Brian complemented Bill on his dedication to the group, Bill wrapped his arms around Brian in a thank you gesture and even pretended to give him a peck on the cheek. Brian contorted his face like a little girl who just saw something very unpleasant and looked at Bill. “Nut!” Brian exclaimed. When the rest of the guys were introduced, Bill announced that the next song is their brand new radio single, The Part Where You Come In. “How many remember the day you got saved?” Bill asked, and then he told us that he did. After that up-beat tune, Brian introduced Derrick’s solo with these devotional thoughts, “We’re not promised that we won’t have another valley, or another trial here on this earth…maybe you’re facing something that you never thought you would face. When we read the Word of God, we read stories of those who came to a point in their lives where they thought that it was over, and that there was no hope…sometimes when we read those stories, we have to turn the page to see how God works it out.” Derrick sang Turn The Page (another fav of mine!!!) which was done back to back with Jeremy’s solo, God Will Close The Door. The sound of a full orchestra filled the theater and Brian’s powerful vocals began singing the verse of For God So Loved. By the first chorus he invited us to sing it with him if we knew the words, and in between a verse and chorus he quoted John 3:16, but stopped at a certain point and asked, “Has what?” – letting the fans answered with a loud, “Everlasting life!” Yes, another standing ovation! There is only one song that can follow that one, and Brian let us know by calling out, “Let’s lift the roof off this place!!!” Long As I Got King Jesus was the song! One by one everyone rose to their feet throughout the crowd in a full swing standing ovation, complete with clapping, shouts and whistles!
As BFA walked off backstage, Brian mischievously exclaimed, “Oh! I get to bring him on – good.” Brian faced the crowd with a sinister smile and said, “There are so many things I can say about Ivan Parker…” then went into this story… “I had so many women come up to me before the concert and ask where that handsome guy was…and I knew they weren’t talking about me! So I said, ‘You mean the one with the dark hair and skin?’ – They said, ‘Yep, that’s the one.’ I replied, ‘He’s probably out in his bus putting on his makeup!’” LOL. (The audience burst out laughing and so did I. I wonder where those two ladies that followed me out on Thursday evening where sitting???) Ivan Parker kicked off his set with A Big Change. “How is everyone in Marion, IL?” Ivan asked. After a poor response, he said, “That was almost pitiful…I said, ‘how are you tonight?’” A louder applause was heard, then Ivan continued with a little humor, “I know that you enjoyed Assurance…and the midget…I know that you enjoyed Brian Free and Assurance.” Ivan began telling us that on his way there that day he was anticipating the songs he was going to sing for us, then he began thinking about Jake Hess, and changed his whole set! Instead, he was going to sing whatever he felt we needed. The next song was one of his favorite “Jake songs” – Then I Met The Master. “I love singing praises and honor and glory to Jesus Christ,” Ivan said leading into the next song, I Am Whatever You Need. “You know what, before we do anything else, I want to do this,” Ivan said, “You people in Marion like to sing. I look out and see you singing the lyrics, you may not think that I can see you, but I can! There’s a Gaither song that everyone knows, when we get to the chorus, everyone sing it.” Because He Lives was that popular ballad, only, the crowd didn’t wait until the chorus to sing with him, they began immediately! “That’s sounded mighty good out there!” Ivan said, and then mentioned something about having his own choir that night. LOL. Best Hallelujah in the House came next – to which the audience shouted “hallelujah” at certain parts of the song. “Ok, hang on just a second,” Ivan said, “How many have been to one of my concerts before?” After a show of hands he asked how many have not, “How many know what I’m going to do next?” What he did next required audience participation. So he asked for everyone to stand to their feet and did a couple more choruses of Best Hallelujah in the House. Between the clapping, the “hallelujahs,” and other shouts around the hall were so loud you could barely hear Ivan singing! What a great crowd!!! Ivan told us about his newest project, Joy Ride. “There are a lot of God’s kids that have lost their joy… that doesn’t mean that you’re not saved anymore, it just means that you’re not excited about your journey anymore,” Ivan said, summing up the theme of his project in a few words. “Folks, it’s time that we stop being defeated – I’ve read the end of the book and we win!” The song that his new CD is named after came next, Joy Ride. After that, Ivan skipped over to where his product bag lay to show us something. He pulled out a pair of sunglasses and explained that when they did the photo shoot for the CD, the photographer had him put them on for a shot or two. (Remember that! It will be important later…) “There are a lot of different things that we face from day to day,” Ivan said, “God holds you in the palm of His hand, and he wants you to know tonight, that He loves you no matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve done, He loves you. This song here is one everyone can identify with…If you’re going through the storm of a lifetime, this is your answer…” The following song was the ballad I Choose. (What a message that song has!) Afterwards, Ivan said, “Sing something with me…” and led everyone in singing He Touched Me. “That’s the best singin’ I’ve heard all night long,” Ivan said as the last note was sung. Then, he sang a chorus of Midnight Cry and asked everyone to stand and sing it with him.
This next part was a favorite of the night. It was absolutely hilarious! Drum roll please…the CD pitch! Ivan Parker told about his product first, and since Ivan was having a little trouble holding all of his product by himself, Brian offered to help him. Suspicious, Ivan looked at Brian to see if he was going to play a trick on him or if he really meant to help. When he saw that Brian was serious, he announced to the crowd, “This is my Vanna White!” Brian, clearly displeased, handed Ivan his product back and walked away – but only for a few moments, then he came back out to “help” Ivan once again. Though, I don’t think Ivan wanted “that kind of help.” First, when Ivan was talking about his new CD and telling everyone they needed to buy a copy, Brian shook his head “no” and began making faces. Ivan continued, while Brian pulled out Ivan’s sunglasses and slipped them on! Ivan made a comment about that, and then told about a Gaither DVD…making sure the audience understood that he was the only artist on the DVD. As he handed the DVD to Brian to place back in the bag, he also made sure everyone knew that Brian was not on the DVD (to be funny). So…in response to that comment, Brian quickly tossed the DVD into the crowd! With disbelief etched across his face, Ivan turned to the crowd and gave a sigh, “I really love this guy.” Wearing a huge grin and clearly pleased with himself, Brian twirls in a circle and performs a little dance! Next, Ivan told about the 100 Years DVD, to which Brian proudly announced, “I’m on that one!” At that moment Ivan turned to Brian and said, “Stop…your voice is annoying!” Brian laughed and replied enthusiastically, “My wife says the same thing!” When Ivan was finished with his product pitch, Brian did BFA’s – to which Ivan more than happily offered to “help” with. I do believe Brian’s words were something like, “Pay-back time.” Ivan was successful in throwing out free product to the crowd as well. LOL. The guys were really having fun that night!
After intermission, Jim gave us the line-up for next year. Thursday night – the Talley’s and Dixie Melody Boys. Friday – Greater Vision and the Mark Trammell Quartet, … and Saturday evening will be Brian Free and Assurance and Ivan Parker again. Sounds pretty good, eh?
BFA kicked off the second set with a song that Bill said…“is an old song, so if you know it, I want you to sing it.” – First Day In Heaven. I love the old quartet songs like that one because they feature each singer on a different line. “Does anyone here tonight remember the day you got saved,” Bill asked. The next song brought to mind that very time, it was You Must Have Met Him. “We have had a wonderful time tonight,” Brian expressed, “We had a 119 songs requested for the second half…we’ll be finished in time to sing tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.” (BFA was scheduled to sing at a church nearby the next morning) One of the requests was Jesus Will Pick You Up. On the “way down” parts, Bill and Brian scooted up close to the edge of the stage where it dropped off into the orchestra pit – then Bill pretended to try and push Brian off into the dark abyss!
Ivan appeared on stage for his second set and asked BFA to stay and sing with him. Ivan introduced the next song by making this statement about those who have served to keep our country free, “We love the men and women who are fighting for our freedom.” He asked the Vet’s to stand and everyone applauded them. Ivan sang God Bless America with BFA as his backup singers. The audience stood throughout the entire song in salute to our nation. “While I have these guys up here,” Ivan said, “Let’s do…ya’ll hang on here a minute,” – and turned away to whisper something in Brian’s ear. Then the two of them scooted over to their 360 and hovered over it a moment. After some teasing, Ivan said, “It’s gonna rain 40 days and 40 nights!” Brian quickly replied, “I’ve got a boat! – It’s a little one, but I’ve got it!”
Ivan asked Brian, “Can you do I Think I’ll Read It Again?” Brian replied with a play on words, “If I think I can remember the words.” The metronome ticked off and the good old Gold City tune filled the air. “Let’s do When I Get Carried Away!” Ivan exclaimed – and so they did that one next! It was neat seeing Bill sing the first verse; however, Ivan was feeding him the words and messed him up at the end, which made Bill give him a friendly shove. Ivan sang the second verse and they encored it. Just as Ivan and the BFA guys were getting ready to leave the stage, several folks from the audience began shouting out random song titles for them to sing! Jim (from the Truthseekers) walked on stage and asked, “So you want to hear them sing Beulah Land?” They agreed, and Ivan asked where the opening group was because he thought that they were really good. He mispronounced their group name and Brian walked over to Ivan, got up on his tippy toes, took Ivan’s ear monitor out and shouted in his ear “the Nehrkorns! – Not ‘far-corns’, the ‘near-korns’!” LOL. The Nehrkorns joined them on stage and they all sang that beautiful ballad together to close the evening.
Conclusion: What happens when you get two original Gold City members together again? – You have a night of side-splitting laughter and fun! Brian and Ivan should not be allowed on the same stage together! LOL. Not even a Gold City reunion could get any better than what we witnessed that night. Brian Free and Assurance were wonderful…they always put on their best! Bill and Brian had a little too much fun with the orchestra pit too! LOL. That was also my very first time to see Ivan Parker sing in concert! You can tell that he loves what he does from the way he handles himself on stage. I loved the way he connected with the audience, talked to them, and encouraged them to sing with him. It felt like he was having a conversation with us over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, rather than a singer on stage performing for hundreds. I want to thank all of the people who were on stage that night for up-lifting our spirits that evening. The Truthseekers for hosting a fantastic, truly first-class Homecoming. The Nehrkorns for getting us warmed up and ready for the evening. Brian Free and Assurance for reminding us that anything is possible with the Lord, and Ivan for letting us be his personal choir for the night!