Night to Remember

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

Hundreds came, from near and far, some driving from as far away as north Georgia to be in the Camellia City Thursday night. They filled the sanctuary of Southside Baptist Church in anticipation of an evening of music and fellowship.

Billed as &uot;A Night to Remember,&uot; it lived up to all expectations.

The concert featured not one, but four acclaimed Christian musical acts:

Squire Parsons and the Parsons Trio, The Talley Trio, pianist Stan Whitmire and The Isaacs. It offered those in attendance more than three hours of inspiring, uplifting, toe-tapping, soul-stirring music, eliciting numerous standing ovations throughout the evening.

‘Pray a little more’

&uot;Why do I sing gospel music? Here’s the answer…I sing because there’s an empty grave,&uot; Parsons, famed as a singer-songwriter, told his audience.

&uot;I tried writing my first gospel song when I was in college in my home state of West Virginia…my friend heard it and told me, ‘Squire, you better pray and think about that one a little bit more.’ It was no ‘Beulah Land,’&uot; Parsons said with a chuckle, referring to the 1981 song that would truly open the doors to his gospel ministry.

After performing for several years with The Kingsmen, Parsons began his solo ministry in 1979 &uot;and it’s been going ever since.&uot;

After performing &uot;’Tis But a Test,&uot; a song Parsons based on a devotional by Charles Spurgeon, he was joined by his fellow trio members, Mike Torrence and youngest son, Samuel, for a rousing &uot;Down Through the Roof&uot; that really started toes tapping.

Naturally, the trio also shared an audience favorite, Parsons’ haunting &uot;Beulah Land.&uot;

‘A gospel music


The Talley Trio of Morristown, Tennessee, features dad Roger, mom Debra and daughter Lauren. The family shared both lush acapella harmonies on songs such as &uot;I Will Sing of My Redeemer&uot; while performing with gusto such up-tempo, blues-tinged numbers as &uot;My God is a Mountain Mover.&uot;

&uot;My goodness, I think y’all like those rowdy ones,&uot; 23-year-old Lauren Talley said with a laugh as the crowd applauded and cheered.

Debra Talley called the event &uot;a smorgasbord of music.&uot;

&uot;I’d be disappointed if I went to one of those buffet places and all they had was chicken or mashed potatoes. You know, you also need a little cornbread, turnip greens, peas, beans…you need all those things. What we’ve got tonight is a big ol’ gospel music smorgasbord.&uot;

The Talleys reminded the audience no matter what problems they faced, &uot;the truth will stand, and truth marches on&uot; as they segued into the last song of their set, bringing the audience once again to its feet.

‘The red-backed hymnal’

Stan Whitmire, solo pianist, sat down at Southside’s grand piano and proved a real virtuoso of the keyboards, performing tunes as varied as &uot;Old Time Religion&uot; and &uot;He Looked Beyond My Fault.&uot; The native of north Georgia played with great technical skill combined with an obvious passion for his music.

&uot;I’m thankful I grew up in a small Christian home, going to church before I was even born. My dad was the song leader at our little Baptist church until I was six years old…I thought everybody had the same red-backed hymnal,&uot; Whitmire said.

&uot;I’m so glad people like Bill Gaither have brought that wonderful gospel music back to the forefront.&uot;

The pianist, who took lessons for 15 years from &uot;the same little piano teacher,&uot; said he grew up loving and appreciating many types of music, from the hymns in the little red book, to tunes by Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and the classics stressed by his teacher.

&uot;Time for the beans and cornbread&uot;

Sonya Isaacs of Lafollette, Tennessee, informed the audience it was time for &uot;beans and cornbread&uot; as she and siblings Ben Isaacs and Rebecca Bowman Isaacs, brother-in-law John Bowman, along with fiddler Jamie Stockman, tuned their acoustic instruments.

&uot;Stan is the filet mignon, we’re the beans and bread,&uot; Isaacs laughed as the acoustic gospel group performed the up-tempo &uot;Unto the Least of These&uot; on mandolin, banjo, guitar, upright bass and fiddle, followed by the tender &uot;All to Jesus I Surrender.&uot;

&uot;I’ve been blessed tonight, haven’t you? We’ve been blessed to be able to travel with our families. Life is not perfect for any of us, but family, including the family of God, makes it better,&uot; Isaacs said.

Sonya introduced the matriarch of the family, Lily Isaacs, a New York native and the child of two Jewish holocaust survivors. Lily performed with the family &uot;Yours and Mine,&uot; saying, &uot;When one in the family is hurting,

others hurt with you.&uot;

The group also performed &uot;Heroes,&uot; as the video created by handicapped Christian writer and artist Joni Erickson Tada in celebration of those with special needs, appeared on the screen behind them.

The audience was also touched by Sonya’s recounting of the story behind the hymn &uot;It is Well with My Soul.&uot; The Isaacs then performed a haunting, harmonic acapella version of the song that likely sent chills down many spines that night.

‘Let’s do it again’

Fans of the groups got a chance to purchase CDs, meet the artists and get some autographs during a brief intermission. Each of the groups then returned to perform a few more numbers before assembling for a sort of &uot;grand finale&uot; to close out the evening.

The Squire Parsons Trio delighted the crowd with &uot;When I Wake Up (To Sleep No More)&uot; and a medley of gospel tunes, while the Talleys displayed their soulful side with songs like &uot;The Lord Came Through.&uot;

&uot;We hope you have been encouraged, uplifted, blessed and challenged to share the good news of Jesus,&uot; Debra Talley said.

Stan Whitmire shared his considerable vocal abilities along with his keyboard skills on tunes &uot;I Could Sing of Your Love Forever&uot; and &uot;how Great is Our God.&uot;

The Isaacs once again thrilled with their acapella harmonies on &uot;The Star-Spangled Banner.&uot;

The next generation of performing Isaacs, Levi and Jakobi Blackmon and Cameron Isaacs, joined their family to each share a tune, including Levi’s energetic version of &uot;Man of Constant Sorrow.&uot;

The ‘night to remember’ closed out with a gospel classic everyone could sing and clap along to, &uot;I’ll Fly Away.&uot;

&uot;I’d like to do this again last year, wouldn’t you?&uot; Southside Minister of Music David Kelly asked the enthusiastic audience, which answered with a responding &uot;amen!&uot;