Ha! You thought I’d never do it! Well, HERE. I apologize for the atrocious amount of time it took me to put this together. I have no idea why it took me so long. Mea culpa.
This really was a good concert experience, even though the concert took a while to get started for some reason. However, it was entertaining to hear Mr. Riegsecker himself drone on. Mom and I were cracking each other up making broken record gestures. But in a sense he was very endearing—like a beloved character from a novel. There aren’t many characters of his type anymore.
I got to mingle with the Signature Sound guys beforehand, and amazingly all of them remembered me. I especially enjoyed touching base with Ernie again. He told me that he was changing his philosophy of live song selection a little bit after having experienced a Franklin Graham revival where numerous people made first professions of faith. He said it really had an impact on him, and if I understood him correctly, he was saying that he wanted to be a little more missional in how he ordered the songs. I really wish I could have gone a little deeper with him on this because it sounded interesting. He also gave me a free review copy of their new DVD, which was super-nice of him. (Speaking of, I haven’t reviewed it yet, so that’s on my to-do list.) Later I bought their new T-shirt partly as a gesture of appreciation for his generosity (but also because it’s just a really cool shirt!)
Seating was another somewhat problematic issue (as you can tell from the fuzzy slideshow). It was sub-optimal for the entire first half. We actually got to move forward a whole section or so once it became clear that there were empty seats closer to the front. However, I still had trouble craning my neck around the people in front of me. But at least we escaped from the elderly gentleman who was tapping his foot directly behind my seat (originally my mom’s seat, but I switched with her in a burst of generosity which I quickly regretted). It was like Chinese water torture. So that was good. And I found a better seat for the second half, and that made a huge difference in my enjoyment of the concert. I was able to relax and really get into the music. Unfortunately, the first half was significantly longer than the second, so that meant I was rather tense for the majority of the concert. But I got the whole thing recorded so I was able to go back and pick out highlights.
The Collingsworth Family came out first, as they did in 2010 when I caught this same double-billing. They didn’t do quite as much new material as I had expected, but they hit a lot of favorites. Highlights of their set for me:
*“Holy, Holy, Holy” – Their acapella sound keeps getting deeper and fuller. This performance was pitch-perfect.
* “I Know” – This song never gets old live, and every year it seems like some new national or global catastrophe happens for which it becomes relevant all over again. (Ah well, what do you expect with an Obama presidency…)
* Fiddles Segment — I always love to hear what the Collingsworth girls have cooked up on the fiddles. They played a country/bluegrass-sounding “Power In the Blood,” and I loved the way one of them plucked her fiddle to make it sound like a banjo. It took a little while for the staid Shipshewana audience to get their hands together, but they finally got going around the back half of the song and were in full swing by the encore. Then they played “The Prayer,” which I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do before. They showed great classical technique, and things got really dramatic in the part where the song switches to Italian (or whatever other language it is). I must say I prefer this instrumental version, without the distraction of the song’s canned, generic inspo lyrics. The melody alone is very beautiful.
*Kim Collingsworth’s Emceeing — Kim is always a really refreshing, genuine presence on stage. We know her as a power-house piano player, but her talent is complemented by a sweet, winsome spirit that shines forth whenever she opens her mouth. Not only is she sweet, she’s funny! She shared her theory on why women speak 50,000 words a day and men speak 25,000. One day she had a flash of inspiration, turned to Phil and said “I know why… because I have to repeat everything I say to you!” (This provoked some “Amens” from the audience.) Of course, the punch-line: “And you know what he said? He said, ‘Huh?’”
It’s always a good moment when she shares about Phil’s brain surgery as well. It’s very moving to hear her talk about being forced to a point where she had to be completely dependent on God’s grace to uphold her. Anybody who’s suffering from something can really be encouraged to hear what she has to say, even if their story is completely different, because she makes her point so universal.
*“I Want Jesus More Than Anything” – Kim led into this song after talking about Phil’s surgery. It’s one thing to hear this song on a recording, it’s another to watch the huge sound they create with just a few members of the family for most of the song before bringing in everybody on the dramatic conclusion.
*“How Great Thou Art” – I know, I know, Kim pulls this out every time, but it’s always huge, and it’s always a highlight. It brought the house down to close their first set.
Next EHSS came out, and they gave a great concert. However, I was a bit concerned to hear that Ian’s voice wasn’t as smooth and velvety as I remembered from the Grand Rapids concert where I first saw him in 2011. It seemed a little choppier and harsher this time. I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend. Previously I would have placed him on a par with Tim Duncan. Now I’d have to say I prefer Tim. Ian still did a great job though, and I know he is capable of that fruity sound, it’s just that this particular night he didn’t seem to use it as much. Highlights of EHSS’s first set were…
*“Since Jesus Passed By” – Interestingly, they chose to open with this calm number. I like their new arrangement. They added some great extra dynamic touches. Unfortunately, I was distracted while they sang this one, because I was trying to sit on my tote bag to get a marginally better view, which resulted in dropping and breaking a CD case, which led to some whispered back-and-forth with Mom, and… yeah, let’s just say I was glad I was able to re-visit the recording and enjoy it properly.
*“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” — Their cheeky, old-school arrangement works even better live than in the studio. It was fun to watch Wayne accompany them by himself on piano. The “mouth instruments” also elicited some laughter and applause.
*“Get Away Jordan” – I can remember a time when I was luke-warm to this arrangement. Now I look forward to seeing them perform it whenever I see them in concert. It tears up the stage.
*“Sometimes I Wonder” – This was my favorite song off the new project, and I hope it becomes a new concert staple. I like the fact that the stripped-down arrangement make it easy and tasteful to perform with a completely live band. And the emotion of the lyric makes a moving moment. Their harmonies were just as lush as they are in the studio. Doug was crying, as always.
*“We Shall See Jesus” – They led right into this immediately after “Sometimes I Wonder.” Great sequencing! There was applause when Devin sang the first few lines. It was in Shipshewana that they debuted it live with Devin in 2010, and I still have that recording. Like then, they let Devin carry it all the way through. I was so glad to see them do this, because I think the usage of “Glen video” worked only in the immediate aftermath of the Cats’ Tribute release. It’s time now to move on and let Devin leave his unique stamp on it. I think his vocal technique has improved in the last two years, and this performance was great.
*“Walk With Me” – I loved this performance, but I especially liked Ernie’s sharing beforehand. He was visibly emotional as he shared from his heart about his struggles with anxiety and trusting God. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get this choked up on stage before. It was very personal and completely sincere, and it lent added feeling to his performance of this song. Let me quote verbatim:
When you get up in the morning… let me re-phrase that, when I get up in the morning, I got a decision to make. And lately it’s been harder than any decision I’ve ever had to make. And that decision is, I’m gonna take God at His word, and I’m gonna really try to live it today and be at peace… or I’m gonna let any circumstance come my way today—and they’re gonna come no matter what I do—and I’m gonna let it rob me of my joy, rob me of my peace, I’m gonna walk around in tension and turmoil. God did not call us to be victims. He called us to be victors through Him. And that only comes though walking with Jesus. And I found out He ain’t going anywhere. Worry took me down a path where Jesus could not be heard or found. And praise, praise God, He was just a prayer away.
They did something they’ve done before, which was sing an encore without microphones. We had trouble hearing at first, but Ernie’s voice carried surprisingly far without any amplification. Afterwards he led us in a chorus of “In the Garden.”
*“Love Carried the Cross” — Ernie set this up by talking about how there are so many great “cross” songs out there that it could almost make a writer intimidated to write yet another one. But he didn’t let that stop him from making his own contribution along with Joel Lindsay and Wayne Haun. I don’t think we can ever have too many cross songs, so I’m glad he did. This was a highlight of the night, and it lent itself surprisingly effectively to crowd singalong for an encore.
At intermission I recorded my duet with Doug of “In the Garden” (inspired by Ernie’s choosing it for a “Walk With Me” encore). I also chatted some with the artists, as did some of my family separately. Mom told Ernie that he needs to revive “I Want to See Jesus,” and he instructed her to go tell Wayne. Wayne, in his usual reserved fashion, simply nodded professionally and said, “Yes, I like that song. I like that song a lot.” I told Ian that he needs to cover “My Mind Forgets a Million Things,” and he said, “We’ve thought about it…” I then mischievously said, “Well stop thinking about it and DO IT!” He seemed shocked and said, “Oh! Well okay then!” We shall see if it accomplishes anything.
It was also great to chat with the Collingsworth Family. I learned a little more about how the older girls combine their married lives with life on the road (their husbands travel with and work for the family), and talked with Phil Jr. about who some of his favorite singers are. I asked him to give me a top five, and he named Michael Buble, David Phelps, Wes Hampton and Gary Levox, then had a hard time settling on a fifth. I suggested Doug Anderson, and he said, “Sure! Why not?” His girlfriend was with him that night. Marriage number three may be in the works.
By this time it was around 10:00. I would have liked to hear a few more songs in the second half, but it was so late that I can fully understand why they didn’t do more. The Collingsworth family picked three light numbers: a trumpet medley, “Nothing’s Worrying Me” and “Just Another Rainy Day.” I particularly enjoyed watching Brooklyn strut her stuff on the bluesy “Nothing’s Worrying Me.” However, I thought it was a shame that they didn’t get around to singing any numbers like “I Found it All” or “Resurrection Morn.” “Resurrection Morn” in particular would have been a great way to finish off their set. But perhaps they felt they couldn’t fit it in.
I loved all three of Signature Sound’s 2nd half selections: “This Ole House” was the first time I’d heard Ian sing the classic, and I especially enjoyed hearing him ham it up on the narration. Secondly, believe it or not I actually got into “Everytime,” the song I had previously been dreading! But I think it was the fun of watching the live band go at it on stage, plus the energy. I was clapping and singing along in no time flat. What had been an “always skip” on the CD for me transformed into a great concert moment. And finally, I got to hear Ernie sing his signature song “Oh What a Savior” in full voice. The first time I saw them he left it off the program, and then the second time he was still recovering from a nasty respiratory illness and wasn’t quite himself, involving the crowd more. This time he really belted it out, and he even sang some of the extra high frills that he did more of when he was younger. A great, great performance. I can die now.
Finally, the whole gang came on to sing “Amen.” I like it that they try to assign the “See him in the garden” verse to somebody different each time. I saw them give it to Phil Jr. in 2010. This time Wayne got it and did great. Then Ernie blew the roof off for the climax. This always works to finish off their concerts.
Afterwards I hung around a little bit more, and I got to meet Doug Anderson’s sweet wife and kids. I recognized her and touched her on the shoulder just as somebody else began to strike up a conversation with her, at which point I withdrew and started walking away. She was so sweet, she followed and caught up with me after finishing her conversation. I just wanted to tell her how much we all love and appreciate her husband, and I informed the kiddos that Daddy is super cool, as if they didn’t already know.
So there you have it. Once again, I apologize for putting this off so long. I hope you enjoyed it anyway. As always, thanks for reading! Here’s a full set list:
2. Goodbye World Goodbye (piano instrumental)
3. “Holy, Holy, Holy”
4. Tell the Mountain
5. How Great Thou Art
6. Fear Not Tomorrow
7. I Know
8. Power in the Blood (fiddle instrumental)
9. The Prayer (fiddle instrumental)
10. I Want Jesus More Than Anything
11. How Great Thou Art (piano instrumental)
1. Since Jesus Passed By
2. Glory to God In the Highest
3. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
4. Reason Enough
5. Movin’ Up to Gloryland
6. I Believe
7. Swinging On the Golden Gate
8. Get Away Jordan
9. Sometimes I Wonder
10. We Shall See Jesus
11. Walk With Me
12. Love Carried the Cross
1. Trumpet Medley
2. Nothing’s Worrying Me
3. Just Another Rainy Day
1. This Ole House
3. Oh What A Savior