A few months ago, Wess and Susan Adams asked me to perform in a Stamps-Baxter alumni concert called "Saturday Night Alive". The original plan was to drive 2 hours east of Nashville and perform the concert in Walling, but as I've written about recently, Ben Speer got involved, and the show moved to Nashville and grew in scope.
Well, tonight was the night! And what a night it was!
We all gathered in the beautiful sanctuary of the First Church of the Nazarene in east Nashville. Huge church! I thought the sanctuary was a great size, til I was told that this was the smaller, older sanctuary, and that somewhere else in the building was the 'real' sanctuary!
Wess acted as emcee for the evening, and he was terrific. He was friendly and natural, and kept the energy flowing. Almost all the performers were current students of the school. Wess himself did a few songs, which was great. The opening act was a quartet called Harmony Sound. They formed a few years ago at the school, and here's the amazing part: They all live in different states, and only meet a few times a year to sing and record, yet they sound like they sing together every week. What blend!
Next, we had the soloists. Miles Pike has such a range that he could sing all 4 parts in a quartet. Jordan James is a young man with a bass voice beyond his years. Michelle Darling is a charming soprano who actually contacted me through my blog before attending school last year. Ben Waites is 'confined' to his wheelchair only physically, as he is a master performer who can reach the back row with his smile. His version of "My Name is Lazarus" became an absolute show-shopper when Harmony Sound spontaneously jumped on stage for the final chorus. Awesome!
Ben, Jordan, Miles, and Ben's grandfather joined together for a quartet, and we had a couple of great performances from pianist Cody Mcvey, who might just be the next Anthony Burger. But the climax of the show went to the Speers. Ben sang a beautiful ballad, and then brought up Miss Mary Tom and her son Tim for some trio stuff. It was Gerald's first time hearing them, and like all of us, he was impressed. I just love it when Miss Mary Tom sings. There's no sweeter sound!
I had space for 3 songs, and since most people were doing covers, I decided to do all originals. I started with "Abide With Me". I thought this would be a good choice since it was inspired by the Buddy Greene concert from last year's school. Gerald then joined me for "The Point of the Song", which was inspired by my first visit to the school (or rather, the aftermath of that visit). In the second set, Gerald took the lead and sang his song "My Child is Dancing With God" with me on harmonies. We got huge response to this song after the show from several of the parents in the audience.
An offering was taken to support the school's scholarship program, and we raised enough to provide almost 2 full scholarships. Ben told us a little of the history of the school and the scholarship program. For the finale, we all gathered on stage for a group song, "What a Meeting in the Air".
All in all, what a fantastic and inspiring night! You look at the Speers and all they've given gospel music, and then you see all this bright young talent and you can't help but think, "It's going to be okay". With all the doom and gloom of the record industry, and the decline of internet radio, and churches contracting fewer concerts, it's easy to think that the Southern Gospel industry may get lost in the mess of it all. But a night like tonight reminds us that singers still want to sing, writers still want to write, and audiences still want to hear the sounds of the Gospel in song.