Next event in:

  • 00 DAYS
  • 00 HR
  • 00 MIN
  • 00 SEC

The Latest

A cool breeze caressed my face as the tram shot forward and whirled around the curvy road to the “City” entrance. Squeaky brakes brought our ride to a stop and then we hopped off and walked through the gates. A smiling worker dressed in a long cotton dress and a bonnet scanned my season pass and admitted me to the park. Southern Gospel fans milled around the square listening to Son’s Of The Silver Dollar croon old spiritual’s until the rest of the park opened. At 10:00 a.m. the stampede began… Line’s quickly formed in front of theaters for the morning shows…this was Silver Dollar City’s Gospel Music Picnic!
The first day of the festival began on Friday the 24th. Throughout the morning, there were different shows to attend within the park, but only one captured my attention – the 11:00 a.m. slot at the Red Gold Heritage Hall with Brian Free and Assurance! Standing under the red and white striped canopy, BFA fans anxiously waited for the doors to open. I was there with my family and good friend, Kim Gremminger. Brian Free and Assurance were performing three shows (or concerts) that morning, and we were ready to hear ‘em all!
Inside the Heritage Hall, tiered seating filled the back of the building and a small section of chairs sat on the floor near the front. We rushed in and claimed second row seats. The first thing that caught my attention was how close the first row was to the stage. There had to have only been a foot between the stage and the front row! Looking up, the platform was framed by two proud sets of double Roman columns, wrapped in green ivy. A sheer white curtain hung in silence as the crowd filled the auditorium. Soon, our emcee Duane Garren appeared from the right side of the stage and told us about the Singing News until everyone found their seats. Then, he pointed out how appropriate it would be to open the festival in prayer, and did so.

Brian Free and Assurance!

“Thank you for coming to my birthday party,” Duane interjected lightheartedly. (That day was his birthday!) Then introducing the group, he announced, “Let’s give a big Silver Dollar City welcome to America’s number one quartet! – They have been on the Today Show, the National Quartet Convention and have won numerous awards – Brian Free and Assurance!” BFA kicked off their show with I Keep Looking Up while the fans shouted out their greeting to what our emcee titled, America’s number one quartet. The upbeat music charged the atmosphere with an electrifying buzz – for one who has attended many of their concerts, I sat there watching, mesmerized by the high the singing created. They kept it going with another fast tune, Go Tell The World, and just before the chorus, the stage lights suddenly went out, leaving the guys in the dark. A few seconds later and after the crowd laughed, the lights bounced back on to reveal Brian, Bill, Derrick and Jeremy grinning the largest smiles you’ve ever seen on a Gospel singer in the morning! LOL “How many today still believe in the Holy, Infallible Word of God? – let me see your hand,” Brian asked, introducing his solo, I Believe. And before the second verse, he encouraged, “If you know it, sing along.” When that ballad ended, Brian let us know that the following song was going to take us back a few years and feature their bass singer, Jeremy Lile. The song was Just A Little Talk With Jesus. As soon as the chorus turned upbeat, Bill cried, “Everybody!” – and the audience clapped along with them. Taking a moment to tell everyone how happy they were to be back at Silver Dollar City, Brian asked for a show of hands regarding those who were seeing BFA for the first time. Because the lights were dimmed, the crowd clapped their response – and with it, Brian’s eyebrows shot up. After a joke about “the product sales being good” that day, he introduced each member quickly. Another cheerful number, Anything Is Possible, featured their lead singer, Bill. Before the second verse, Bill asked regarding the message, “Does anybody here believe that today?” Stepping to the center of the stage, Brian mentioned their new cd and asked if they could sing their new radio single. A weak applause responded and Brian teased, “That’s only a couple hundred of ya’, so the rest of you will have to suffer through it.” He went on to say that when he first heard this song it made him think of his father – and how it reminded him of the great leader and Christian man he was. Then he asked us to do one thing, “Listen to the words of this song and let it touch your heart.” The song was called I Want To Be That Man, and spoke of a godly man who’s example motivated his son to be the same. (How touching it is to know that Brian’s son, Ricky, penned those lyrics with his co-writer, Lee Black!) “Alright!” Brian exclaimed afterwards, “As long as we got King Jesus we don’t need anyone else.” So the song began…Long As I Got King Jesus. Bill snapped his fingers and Brian shook his head “no” on the appropriate lines, before long, the crowd was on their feet, and the first show was at its end.

As we were ushered out of the building, we jumped back in line for the next show. Since BFA essentially sang the same set, I’m going to take a few lines here and tell you about the things that happened that were unique to that show. First of all, Mr. Bill Shivers was in a mood! When he introduced Brian, he spoke of how B’s a grandpa now and told the joke about his nick-name, or rather, the newer version “Paw-Pa Precious.” But when it came time for Brian to bow, Bill exclaimed, “Are you glad to have Brian Precious Free here today?!” LOL After the introductions Derrick was featured on a new song, Revival. (Which he nailed, BTW!) But the other highlight of the set had to be when the guys were finishing up with Long As I Got King Jesus and there was an old man sitting in the front on the other side of the isle motioning for everyone to stand up! LOL Needless to say, they received a standing ovation!

The third show was a completely different set. Brian Free and Assurance performed some of their older songs that round, to give a quick list, they sang: First Day In Heaven, Anything Is Possible, O What A Savior, Just A Little Talk With Jesus, You Must Have Met Him, For God So Loved and Jesus Will Pick You Up. The crowd was very responsive for this set and clapped, whooped and just made a lot of noise to encourage the guys. After Bill sang You Must Have Met Him, Brian said this, “There better be a change if you get saved – the Scripture tells us we are a new creation.”

BFA’s last show began at 1:00 o’clock, and when it ended, we were hungry! So we skipped back to the room for a late lunch and entered the park a second time later that day. We were set on making it to The Whisnant’s last show…but, when it took 30 minutes for the trams to get us in the gates, we came into the show a little later than expected. Anyway, The Whisnant’s were also singing in the Red Gold Heritage Hall, and when we entered, the beautiful harmonies of I’ll Pray For You met our eager ears. I’ll admit, I didn’t take notes on this concert because I thought it was almost over when we got there, so I don’t remember all the songs they sang, but I’ll tell you about the ones I do recall! The “Ready Medley” was one of the faster tunes they did, featuring three old SGM favorites: Getting Ready To Leave This World, Goodbye World Goodbye and Ready To Leave. Their son, Austin, plays bass guitar for the trio, and Susan brought him out front to sing a special song, Sheltered By Grace. Susan’s solo, I’ll Trust The Potter’s Hand and New Day Dawning closed out the set.
Conclusion: The Southern Gospel Picnic is the festival that has the highest attendance each year at Silver Dollar City, in Branson, Missouri. That in itself bears proof that SGM is in no way dying! (Yay!) As for the first day of the Picnic of 2012, it had a great start. We didn’t stay for the Echo Hollow concert. (Echo Hollow is the evening concert hosted in an outdoor amphitheatre that holds 4,000 people!) By that time, fans are quite tired from the full day and a little grumpy, so, we left them to enjoy the McKameys while we headed out. I thoroughly enjoyed BFA and the Whisnants, not to mention hearing Derrick sing one of his solo’s from the new cd! It was great!

Author: lynnschronicles

Leave a Reply