Southside provided a great night for music, memories

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

Last Thursday night I had the chance to be a part of a very special evening in Greenville. Southside Baptist Church truly brought to the city &uot;A Night to Remember&uot; with a wonderful concert treat.

There was wonderful singer-songwriter Squire Parsons and his trio; the powerful, soaring harmonies of the Talleys. Stan Whitmire’s amazing gift as a pianist was a relevation (I listened and thought, &uot;Why, oh why, didn’t I take those piano lessons more seriously?&uot;), and The Isaacs’ down-home acoustic blend of bluegrass gospel, rock and country delighted.

All these performers touched hearts, minds and souls in a special way Thursday night.

They brought back some very happy memories for me, of another Southside Baptist Church.

I first sang the Squire Parsons classic, &uot;Sweet Beulah Land&uot; as part of the Southside (Talladega) Baptist Church Youth Choir back in the early ’80s.

I wasn’t technically a youth anymore, but I and another 20-something, my buddy Rhonda, were invited to share our &uot;mature&uot; voices as an anchor for the teens. Lucky us, we got to sing in both choirs, adult and youth.

Our church’s minister of music, Brother Bob, made sure the &uot;younguns&uot; experienced not only contemporary Christian music from artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, but also traditional southern gospel songs and wonderful old hymns – sometimes with a twist (The youth choir performed a fast-paced version of &uot;When We All Get to Heaven&uot; that left us breathless. Everybody loved it).

My friend Nancy Carpenter, who was a fellow teacher at the Alabama School for the Blind and one of the church’s pianists, was raised going to gospel singings all over north and central Alabama, listening to the trios and quartets sing standards like &uot;Turn your Radio On&uot; and &uot;When I Wake Up (To Sleep No More).&uot;

During the three years I lived in Talladega, Nancy and I would periodically set out for tiny communities, places I’d never been to, or even heard of, before.

We’d visit small churches where energetic fellows in matching suits and pompadours performed southern gospel favorites on Saturday nights. Sometimes she and I would perform together, too.

Once, Brother Bob secretly had a group of us at church form our own girls’ quartet to perform songs like &uot;Sweeter and Sweeter.&uot; We debuted our efforts at a youth retreat at Shocco Springs and apparently wowed our audience, who didn’t know what we had up our collective sleeves. What a jubilant, spirit-filled time!

You see I’d grown up mostly singing the hymns out of the Baptist Hymnal. Discovering all these &uot;new&uot; old tunes was a wonderful thing for me.

Music is a tremendous gift. It can bring us comfort and encouragement. Music has the power to soothe and calm, to energize and invigorate us.

It can provide marvelous food for thought and a sense of great fellowship, bringing us together in the best of ways.

Hey, it can even cause a bunch of slightly crazy newspaper staff members to happily chime in on a chorus of &uot;I’ll Fly Away.&uot;

Thank God for the gift of music, and thanks to Southside Baptist Church for bringing all those gifted Christian performers to our city.

It was truly a night I won’t ever forget – part of my wonderful musical memories.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at