The evening began with The Mylon Hayes Family singing their up-beat, One More Opportunity, from their current CD, Devoted. Since I began writing CD reviews in the Singing News at the beginning of the year, I’ve had the privilege of hearing many great projects; one of those was Devoted, which was featured in the March Issue. To watch those songs performed on stage was an extra treat! Some of my favorites were the Love Medley, At the Foot of Calvary’s Cross and their closing song, I Choose to Stand.
We Are So Blessed began the Whisnants set Saturday night. “We believe with all our heart that King Jesus could come get us any minute,” said Jeff as they stepped up to sing King Jesus. After that up-beat tune, he continued, “Here is our new radio song, if you’re not hearing it; we hope you will very soon.” That radio single is currently Grave Mistake, a mid-tempo song that features Jeff. Afterwards, Jeff went on to say, “If you’re here tonight and you’re down, we hope you will be encouraged,” then he introduced his family. Before they could go on, Susan took Jeff by the arm and explained to the crowd, “Jeff introduces me every night but I never get to introduce him. This is one of the finest men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. He’s been a faithful husband to me and a great father to our boys.” She choked up just a little as she went on, “Every morning I get up, he’s reading the Word and drinking coffee.” Susan also pointed out their secretary, April, who had been working for them for 20 years. April has been cancer free for three years after having the most aggressive kind of breast cancer there is. With that testimony of God’s faithfulness in our minds, Susan went on to sing I’ll Trust the Potters Hand. “I want Jeff to sing one with these two boys,” said Susan as Ethan, Austin and Jeff came to sing On the Road To Emmaus. “Hasn’t Ethan done a fantastic job?” Susan asked. Then she put Austin on the spot by going into their song Be Not Afraid, which Austin sang Aaron’s part on. He did an amazing job! “There’s a lady here whose daddy died 11 years ago today,” Susan explained, “and she asked if we could sing a little bit of this… “Even in the valley God is good.” After a chorus of that Whisnant classic sung acapella with the audience, Susan asked her parents to stand and shared about the time the doctors thought her mom had cancer. This led into their powerful ballad All Is Well, which Austin also joined them on. At that moment in the evening, the Whisnants were fired up and sang with everything in them – and the audience soaked it up!
“God is still God, His strength will never fail,” said Jeff, quoting a line from the ballad they just sang. “I hope you will keep that spirit of worship as we make welcome some of our best friends in the industry, The Mark Trammel Quartet.” MTQ kicked off their set with a hymn, Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah. “I appreciate the move of the Spirit of God the way I feel it here tonight,” Mark began after their first song, “we live in a very strange time in history, but I’m convinced that if we’d get on our knees and spend a little time with Him, some of our problems would disappear overnight. How long has it been since you’ve talked with the Lord?” The contemplative song, How Long Has It Been, followed with two others, Coming Out and Moving In and When Compared to God. (Those two are from their recent, Rewind CD. When Compared to God is one of my favorites and I was so thrilled they sang it!) Introductions were next, complete with the story of how Mark’s granddaughter, Tessa, told Santa that he didn’t have to worry about all the things on her Christmas list because her Poppa was going to take care of some of them! LOL! Echoes From the Burning Bush, I Am Free and Wonderful Time Up There came next. Mark shouted, “Bless His name!” between those last two. Their time on stage concluded with The King Is Coming, which brought the audience to their feet. I’ve watched MTQ sing The King is Coming many times and it’s possible to lose the “awe” of the moment after watching so many performances; but not this song. There was something different in the air – the crowd was on their feet before MTQ even reached the climax of “I’m free from the fear of tomorrow…” – all across the auditorium hands were raised and voices cheered their approval. The guys always sing the life out of that ballad, so if you could imagine that spirit on stage increased fourfold you’d begin to understand the atmosphere in the room. Moving doesn’t even begin to describe it! “You’re not supposed to feel the way I feel and be a Baptist,” teased Mark afterwards, “But I do.”
“We are free from the guilt of the past,” began Mark. “The Bible says that he whom the Son sets free is…” and the crowd finished the line by shouting, “Free indeed!” He continued, “We’re not in bondage to this world. I thank God tonight that I realize that I’m nothing more than a pilgrim passing through a strange land. The stuff that you set your eyes on in this world is temporary at best. We fix our eyes on the things of God, on the things that are in the life after that we so much desire – the one that’s just almost here. No wonder why Jesus said, ‘Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions.’ A lot of theologians argue about that phrase right there.” Here, Mark dropped his voice and grumbled like a disgruntled theologian himself, “Well, it actually means rooms and doesn’t mean mansions.” Back to his normal pitch, he answered their argument by saying, “Let it mean whatever you want it to mean hotdog.” Not expecting that, the crowd burst out laughing. “My God is big enough that He can build one room that looks like a mansion to us! But Jesus continued talking, He didn’t stop because of the theologians…have you noticed that? He kept right on talking… ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I, Jesus, go to prepare a place for you and if I go…’ Now in Arkansas, where I’m from, if you want to translate that phrase ‘if I go,’ it’s this: just as sure as I’m a-going, I’m a-coming back! ‘If I go, I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am, there you may be also.’ That’s freedom… It didn’t cost us a thing. But it cost a holy God everything dear to Him. I didn’t come to preach tonight, but I will tell you this: there’s a lot of preaching that goes on in these songs that we sing. Some of the best preaching I’ve ever heard comes out of this next group when they sing. A lot of people talk about the fact that they are, and this is true, they are the most awarded trio in Gospel Music. And they won’t talk about it and I love them for it. What they want to talk about is that one person they saw last week, how the countenance changed on their face when they were singing a song, and the lights came on in their eyes because they realized that they can get through tomorrow because Jesus is still alive and a holy God is still in charge. Let’s bring them out, here they are, Greater Vision!”
Greater Vision walked out on stage and kicked off with a string of audience favorites: He’d Still Been God, For All He’s Done, Preacher Tell Me Like It Is and When They Ring The Bells Of Heaven. I noticed that several folks in the audience lifted their hands when Chris sang his solo, For All He’s Done. “I love coming to Morganton,” Gerald began after greeting the audience. “Truth is. I love finding Morganton. We seem to come into town a different way every time.” LOL! He went on to introduce the group and introduced Rodney with, “Every year since 1998 he’s been gospel songwriter of the year.” The crowd applauded. When Gerald introduced Chris, he mentioned that Chris was from Burlington, NC; not being able to resist, Chris incented the crowd with, “Tar…” and the audience roared, “HEELS!” This went back and forth a few times before Gerald held up his hand and said, “We’re not in that kind of service.” LOL Sitting down at the piano, Gerald changed the subject, “Hey, someone wanted to hear this song, so we’ll go ahead and do it before I forget.” That song was Chris’ feature, I Know a Man Who Can. Put Out The Fire came next, and then Gerald spoke of how he saw the new movie Risen. He shared how there were things in the movie that the writers took “creative license” with, like adding a character that isn’t found in the Bible. Then he likened it to what Rodney did with one of his songs about Joseph of Arimathea. “That is what this song is about,” he said, “what might have happened between the cross and the tomb.” A dramatic track began and Rodney sang the ballad He’ll Carry Me. A standing ovation was the response – between that one and The King is Coming, we had two really powerful moments that evening!
After Greater Vision sang it was time for intermission and then the second round. Each group came back and sang one song, and then everyone gathered on stage for a short hymn sing. Gerald explained, “A lady came up to me at the table and asked what a hymn sing was, well, this is it!” They sang about three hymns before the evening closed.
“It’s amazing to me that songs which have encouraged people for decades and even centuries have been deemed useless because of their age.” – Gerald Wolfe.