Acafest 2012 Review

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.

Acappella Reunion

Reunion - both groupsWe 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.

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Acappella Memories: Entertaining Angels Unaware

Acappella 1989

Duane Adams, Gary Moyers & George Pendergrass

I debated with myself quite a while about posting this story. I’ve told it to very few people. I figure it’s time I shared it. Some of you will think I’ve lost it. That’s okay. I’m past being concerned about that. It’s an occurrence that Danice Sweet and I will never forget.

Before the story can be told, a little background is necessary. Early on in my Acappella career (circa early ‘89), we had a concert in northern Alabama. I think it was Florence, but it might have been Huntsville. Wayburn, George and I were still pretty new to the whole Acappella experience. Rodney was the old pro and we were learning fast.

Our concert that evening had been a great success. The house was packed and the crowd was very responsive. We finished our last song and left stage. The crowd was having none of that and called us back for an encore, which we didn’t expect in the least. What artist does? Sorry, I digress.

Just as the four of us reached stage and started setting up our mic stands for the last song, we heard Rodney over on the far left of the stage saying something like, “Please, don’t do this…” As we looked over, we saw a man, about our age, forcing his way to the microphone. It turned out that this was an old acquaintance of Rodney and he had a bone to pick with us.

He spent the next 5 minutes berating us in front of the packed crowd for our unscriptural approach to gospel music. I won’t go into the theology of it all at this point. Suffice it to say, he was greatly convicted and felt compelled to show us the error of our ways in front of everyone.

Looking back, it was pretty humorous. As soon as he started talking, our sound engineer promptly reached up and turned off the mains, leaving the monitors on. This fellow could hear himself very well (as could we), but the crowd had trouble making out what he said. Good move.

Anyway, it was like a bucket of cold water had been poured over everyone’s head. Talk about quenching the Spirit, this guy had grabbed him by the collar and slapped hard several times.

When he had said his piece and left stage, Rodney called him by name and quoted Matthew 18:15 – “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” He countered this guy’s near-rage with the Word of God. The crowd became re-energized, we sang Well on My Way and the evening ended on a somewhat somber up-note. We spent the next 90 minutes speaking with audience members and encouraging one another.

And thus the story begins. Since we we’re in northern Alabama and only a few hours from our home in Tennessee, we opted to drive home after the concert. That was unusual in itself. Our norm was to spend the night and move on the next day.

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Acappella Memories: The Seat of Questioning

Acappella Classic

photo courtesy of Keith Lancaster

We (Acappella Classic) had a reunion concert in Amarillo last week. It was a wonderful time, and more events like this are planned. Most people probably don’t realize that these concerts are much more fun for us than for the crowd. Or, at least, that’s what we think.

When we get together, old stories and habits start popping up quickly. Most of the habits and antics would be senseless to you, as they are the product of so many years together on the road. Many of them are just plain stupid, but they made us laugh.

But the stories… there are countless stories to remember and share. For instance, one former member (who shall remain nameless in this entry) shared his approach for the ride home with the people who would be hosting us.

Some explanation is probably required. For the first few years of Acappella’s existence, we stayed almost exclusively in homes, usually members of the church where we sang. This continued from the beginning (1984) until somewhere around 1992. At that point we slowly started adding in hotels, until it became nothing but hotels a few years later.

Staying in homes was usually a great experience and I firmly believe that is one of the reasons we enjoyed such success early on. Some of those hosts have become lifelong friends. Still, it was tough in ways you wouldn’t expect unless you’ve experienced it. Every host home fed us like it was our last meal. I would wager I gained 200 pounds and lost 170 over my time with the group, due in large part to the fabulous food our host families offered us. Along with this, every host would want to talk to us until late into the evening, long after the concert was done and most sane people were long since sleeping. Between the lack of sleep and the food, we had to make some changes which is why the hotels started coming into play more often.

But I digress. Let me share about the “ride home.” This would vary somewhat, depending on whether or not the host knew who we were (oh yes, there were a good number who thought we were college kids or who didn’t come to the concert and had no clue). In general, the person who sat in the front seat took the brunt of all the questions. We would take turns being in the front – the seat of questioning. The guys in the back would relax and snicker at the Inquisition happening up front.

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Acappella Memories: Lost in Holland

Dutch_windmillsBefore I begin this story, I admit that my memory is a bit sketchy on the facts. Certain parts of the story stand out vividly, and parts are very fuzzy. I will try to connect the facts as best I can and you guys can fill in the rest.

We were invited to a festival in Holland, which was very exciting for us. It may have been our first International foray, but I’m not entirely sure. This would have been around 1990. The concept of Acappella Missions, our new outreach organization, was new and this was one of the first times (if not THE first) that we had a chance to do something for it.

We knew we were flying over, expenses paid, for the big event in Holland. Since our flights were taken care of, we decided to extend our time in Europe and go on a mission-based tour, singing in cities connected with local missionaries. This was the trip that we had our East German experience, which is another story entirely.

Anyway, our plans were to meet Tom and Margaret Kincannon, the directors of Acappella Missions, in Holland at the conclusion of the festival. But first, we had to make it through the festival itself.

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Acappella Memories: Kathisophobia or I’ll Stand, Thank You

Acappella: The CollectionAs I mentioned in my last Acappella post, I performed over 1,400 concerts in the space of 11 years. That does not take into account church service performances, radio stations, bookstores or mission trips. I couldn’t even begin to remember even 1/3 of those. That said, there are a few that stand out with vivid recollection. South Bend, Indiana is one of those.

The South Bend / Elkhart / Goshen area was a good place for Acappella and AVB. Both groups appeared there many times. Radio airplay was good to us as well. We consistently charted quite high in that local market. AVB’s The Victim stayed #1 for months in 1989-90. Needless to say, we were in that area annually for a concert.

Sometime in the 90’s, around 1998 I believe, we released a “best of” album called The Collection. There were far too many songs requested for the album. As it was, we included 17 and the CD was full. As a means to include more songs and pay homage to some of the older tunes, we put together a medley. It was just short of 12 minutes and covered many tunes. We then worked up a slightly edited version of the medley and added it to our concert repertoire. To make the presentation of the medley more intimate (and give us a slight break), we used tall stools for the medley.

You can probably guess what’s coming.

As I recall, it was the late Spring of 1999 and we were singing at the ELCO Theater in Elkhart (now renovated and called the Lerner). The house was full with just short of 3,000 people. The concert was going very well and we were in our 2nd set, after intermission and nearing the end. It was time for the medley and we pulled up our stools and started in.

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