As many of you know, I’ve recently traveled back to Tennessee for Acappella’s 30th anniversary concert which happened during Acafest 2012. It was a wonderful, albeit exhausting, time for all of us. I was fortunate in that I was able to bring my family with me. It’s been far too long since my wife has been able to see some of her old friends. My quickly growing kids have recently rediscovered their love of a capella music. It was fun to see it all come together.
The schedule was very full and I was not able to make every event. This time around it was much more than an Acappella reunion. Several other groups celebrated with returning members as well, including Vocal Union, AVB, Acappella Children, Durant, His Image and the New Life Quartet. I thought I would take a few moments and comment on some of these things for those of you who could not make the event.
We split this event into two days. The first evening, Saturday, was the Acappella Classic concert. This is something that we’ve done several times before, both in the U.S. and Internationally. Acappella hosts the event and Acappella Classic joins them. Classic usually sings about 30% of the concert by themselves and another 20% with the current Acappella. The line up varies slightly for each event. This time around it was Keith Lancaster, Rodney Britt, Duane Adams, Robert Guy, Kevin Schaffer, Steve Maxwell and me. It was loads of fun, especially the “battle of the bands” with Everybody Said. My personal favorite was Robert Guy singing lead on I’m At Your Mercy. That is one amazing song.
The reunion continued on Sunday afternoon with the Heritage Concert. It was once again hosted by Acappella. Classic also sang a few songs. This was a concert designed to bring in some of the other singers who had not been able to sing as of yet. Ken McAlpin sang Abba Father. Tim Storms came out with several other basses and they all shared Roll Jordan. I had to go out and pull Kevin off the stage. Always the ham. Robin Brannon and Jordan House joined the current group for several songs. During a particularly touching segment, Allen Brantley joined his wife Kim Lancaster-Brantley as she reinterpreted her lead on Water From the Well… 23 years later.
It was a wonderful event that was captured on video. Hopefully, it will be released on DVD sometime in the future. I certainly hope they release a few nuggets as a free preview on YouTube, but that’s just me talking. I don’t know what their plans are.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to sing with VU again. I was only part of the group for a little over a year, but they made me feel like part of the family. I won’t even start to list the names of all the guys who were there, as there were easily 25+ guys on stage. This event, for me as well as others, was overshadowed by a missing member.
Gary Miller, the heart and soul of VU, passed away about a year ago. It was hard to hear VU without seeing Gary up there. Tim Storms filled in and did an amazing job on bass for the concert. For me, the highlight of the evening was the song Once Upon a Tree.
This fabulous song was written by Gary Miller and he always sang lead on it. Vocal Union had apparently been recording their concerts for a while. They were able to go in and pull out Gary’s lead to make a solo-voice track for this song. For that evening, the mass of guys on the stage parted in the center to leave room for Gary as his voice filled the room. We then joined him in song and performed Once Upon a Tree one last time with Gary. It was a beautiful moment that I will not soon forget.
This is the concert my family was most excited about. It was hosted by the most recent AVB, the complete group of guys from the Real album… Todd Dunaway, Tony Brown, Chris Lindsey, Chad Bahr and Jeremy Swindle. It sounded like they had never stopped touring together. They did a fabulous job. Tony even did his vocal percussion solo song and about blew the doors off. These guys are uber-talented (there you go Austin… just for you).
AVB walked their concert through their entire history, first album to last. To assist that, some of the “old” guys returned and sang together. Brett Testerman, Jay Smith, Terry Cheatham and Wes McKinzie did a wonderful set of songs from the early days. They even added a few I don’t think they had planned to do. My lovely wife was one of several who threatened them with bodily harm if they didn’t sing Lamb of God. They did. All is well.
His Image & New Life Quartet
This was a concert that was simply amazing. For NLQ, their reunion signified not 30, but 35 years. His Image started the afternoon concert with a set of several songs that brought back great memories. These are the guys that I listened to when I was coming up through early college. Tim Tripp, Randy Hatchett and Keith Lancaster brought the house down with songs like Sing With Our Hearts, ‘Til He Comes and Water in the Plan. Rodney Britt helped out a bit with bass. After they had finished, the New Life Quartet, the guys who started it all, came out and did an amazing job, especially considering they had not done this together in 35 years. Dave Yarbrough, Ron Norman, and Phil Dalton can still rock.
It dawned on me, for the first time, what a serious impact Williamstown Bible College had on our ministry. I knew of the history, of Keith first singing with the New Life Quartet at Williamstown. I just don’t believe I had ever realized that, were it not for this Bible college, Acappella Ministries might have never existed. God works his way through the most unexpected routes.
I did not have a chance to make it to the Acappella Children / X-Changed / Durant reunion. I was passed out back in the dorm. Fortunately, my wife got to attend and she said it was a wonderful concert as well. I would not expect any less.
Much more happened during the week, including a Lancaster Family concert, several round-table discussions with different members of the group, a fabulous worship service on Sunday morning, and much more. Time and space prohibits me from going further.
So, what next? Lord willing, Jesus will return and we’ll all have a reunion very soon.
Short of that, look for us in the summer of 2017 for our 35th reunion. Or… you can see Acappella Classic in Oklahoma City this coming Oct. 7th!