February 23 '08
Volume 612

Gaither Concert On Being There

After being told our seats for the Gaither concert were on the mezzanine, not the main floor, I explained our options to Miss Virginia and Barbara, none of which seemed doable at the time. The elevator option would have required far more walking than I felt Miss Virginia could handle in the relatively short time we had to get to our seating before the show started. And, while walking downstairs for the elderly is easier than walking upstairs, I considered the danger of one falling down stairs far riskier than one falling up stairs.

Of course, had there been a couple of strong young men, willing and able, I might have considered them locking arms to form a seat for Miss Virginia, and asking them to carry her up to our row of seats. In my mind I could picture myself carrying her piggy-back up the stairs, but I doubted either of us was up for the task. Upon due consideration, Miss Virginia decided to try walking up the stairs.

We exited the main floor and made our way to the stairwell area nearest our seats. I didn’t count the steps, but there must have been twenty or more separated by a short landing. Miss Virginia took her time and made it up the main stairs using the railing and the support of Barbara and me. Reaching the steps that led upward to row eight, we were intimidated by the sheer distance and the fact there was no rail for support beyond the first couple of rows. Yet, with Barbara holding one arm and me holding the other of Miss Virginia’s, the three of us slowly ascended.

Respectfully, all the occupants on our row stood or moved into the aisle to allow Miss Virginia and us to get by. Our seats were nearest the stage, and we were as far down the row as was allowed. A tarpaulin was draped across the extreme end of our row in an area that would have left anyone seated there viewing the backs of the performers.

I shared with Miss Virginia, my idea of how Barbara and I ended up on the receiving end of her Christmas present.

"Yeah, I know what happened with the tickets. When your family saw the seats weren’t on the floor, they didn’t want any part of getting you up and down stairs. That’s how we got ‘volunteered.’"

Miss Virginia laughed and said she’d have to tell them what I said.

As auditorium seats go, ours were comfortable though somewhat cramped for those of us a certain size and beyond. The lady to my left was in the beyond category and parts of her violated my space, leaving me with only one armrest and sharing my folding seat with a portion of her thigh. I often chit-chat with strangers seated by me, but this time I avoided doing so until the end of the program, as I felt I already knew her only too well.

In the final moments before Bill Gaither made his appearance, guitarist, Kevin Williams, played two instrumental numbers for our entertainment. The tunes, "Are You Washed In The Blood" and "I’ll Fly Away" were familiar to the majority of folks present, and were beautifully done. As he finished, soundman, Rory Rigdon, joined him to promote Kevin’s CD "Guitar Homecoming" and a few other items on sale in the lobby. In that brief time, we glimpsed some of the humor the two would inject throughout the evening.

In his opening remarks to the near capacity crowd of gospel music lovers, Bill Gaither commented about the great music before us and how he’d, "try to have us out of here by ten-thirty."

As everyone applauded or laughed, I did the math and hoped he was kidding. My bottom gets mighty tired of sitting for four and a half hours, regardless how much the rest of me is enjoying itself. Three hours later when we broke for a fifteen minute intermission, I realized he wasn’t kidding.

For a number of years Bill Gaither’s music company has focused on what I believe to be a lucrative venture, that of performing before a live audience with a talented group of musicians and singers across the broad spectrum of a mostly gospel music genre, blending voices of the youthful and the mature. Known as "The Homecoming Series," the larger of these ventures are taped and millions of copies are sold to adoring fans, who watch them again and again through the miracle of home entertainment – video players, or DVD players connected to a television set.

The performance in Tupelo, "Bill Gaither & Homecoming Friends Give It Away Tour 2008" was a scaled down version of the Homecoming Series, but the voices of twenty singers was sufficient to be fully appreciated by all.

One verse of Give It Away states, "If you want more happy than your heart will hold, If you want to stand taller, if the truth were told, take whatever you have and give it away."

"Give it Away" was not only the theme song for their 2008 tour, but it was the catch-phrase of the Gaither’s seed-sowing goodwill effort.

As Christians we are truly blessed, not always materially, but certainly with a faith that carries us through the trials and tribulations of life and a faith that compels us to share with others. The Gaither’s have taken this to a new level by giving away at least a thousand dollars, two hundred dollars to five persons in the audience whose names are drawn after intermission. The recipients are challenged to "give it away" to someone else. Bill said they’ve received incredible accounts from individuals all around the country of how some multiplied the gift and gave away even more than they received.

During intermission I took our three forms and placed them in the box for the drawing, but our names were not drawn. So, my lifetime record of not winning anything at a drawing remains intact. I gave some thought to using a men’s room during intermission, but apparently that was on the mind of all the other men in the building who had left their seats at intermission. However, the lines extended from the doorway and so far down the hall that I decided I could wait a spell longer and returned to my seat.

There wasn’t any part of the concert that I didn’t enjoy. The singing of the Gaither Vocal Band, the songs by Jeff and Sheri Easter with Charlotte Richie, Linda Randle, Signature Sound, Ben Speer, Janet Paschal, Kevin William on guitar, Gordon Mote on piano, and Greg Ritchie on drums were all nothing short of spectacular. Of course, Bill Gaither kept the show moving along and the humor bordered on comic genius.

Mississippi was well represented on the stage in that the phenomenal bass singer for Signature Sound, Tim Duncan, hails from Corinth, and the drummer for the Easters, Greg Ritchie, is from Pontotoc. During one skit, Bill asked Tim how much he weighed.

"Wet or dry," Tim responded, to the delight of the audience, before sharing one hundred and thirty-five pounds.

As to Greg and Charlotte Ritchie, they’re expecting a second child in April and will be leaving "The Easters" to live in Nashville, where they will be closer to family.

While, as stated above, there wasn’t any part of the concert that I didn’t enjoy, I believe my favorite part was the last hour, in which all the singers sat on stage, homecoming-style, singing gospel favorites and inviting the audience to sing along, too.

Four hours fifteen minutes after the entertainment, or should I say worshipful experience, all began we were standing and applauding until the stage was emptied.

Note:This is the second of a three part series based on a thoughtful Christmas present Barbara and I received through the generosity of Miss Virginia Dillard and family. Last week, we shared the getting-there phase of our concert going adventure. This article has dealt with the concert itself and those on the program. Next week, the adventure concludes with what may well be the most entertaining part of our adventure-filled outing.

Inn Trouble Best-Laid Schemes...

My son-in-law has a history of thwarted good intentions. Three years ago, his idea of an anniversary gift for his wife wasn’t deemed personal enough by Rayanne. Neither the portable phone nor the alarm clock earned him any points with my daughter. At that particular point in time, Rayanne had admonished Anson they didn’t need to spend any money on each other for their anniversary, as money was in scarce supply for their household. The flowers sent the next day, an atonement effort, proved as futile as did the less-than-personal gifts he’d given to his wife, and it took a surprise birthday party days later to get him out of the doghouse.

Anson’s parents celebrated their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary on February 9th in Belmont, Mississippi. Barbara and I attended the affair to congratulate them on their marital milestone.

While we were there, Anson pulled us aside to share, "Next Friday night, I’m taking Rayanne out to a nice restaurant in Alabama for our Twelfth Anniversary. What she doesn’t know is we’re spending the night in a nice motel. That’s the surprise."

How priceless was the look on his face. His pleasure in his secret plans could not be contained. Something so well thought out had to express itself, and it virtually erupted as a broad smile across his face.

As a guy, I admit to admiring his scheme and could only imagine that his every expectation for the grand evening would be realized. What could possibly go wrong? Arrangements had been made for his parents to keep the children, dinner and motel reservations were made, and there was surely a plan in place to sneak the luggage for the overnight stay unnoticed and into the family van. It was beautiful, I tell you, beautiful.

But as the Burns stated, "The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men...(are often thwarted – in today’s parlance)."

I don’t know at what point in the evening Anson shared with Rayanne his scheme, but I would imagine it would have been near the end of dinner.

And, I can picture him leaning toward her in a candlelit Kodak moment and exclaiming, "Guess what? We have the rest of the night to ourselves. The girls are spending the night at Gran-Gran’s, and we’re sleeping at the Starlight Inn, the swanky new one up the street."

And I can equally envision my daughter’s reaction. "I don’t have my makeup or a change of clothes. You know I don’t like surprises, and I especially don’t like sleeping in a motel bed somebody else has slept in. It freaks me out."

"Don’t worry, honey," he surely must have said, "I’ve packed everything you need right down to your favorite jeans. Our bags are under the blanket in the back of the van. Anyway the motel is almost brand new; the bed may never have been slept in."

I have no official word on what transpired in the waning hours of the evening and really no official word until after nine o’clock Saturday morning. That’s when Rayanne phoned her mother to give her an update.

In that conversation Rayanne stated much of what I attributed to her above, adding, "Anson didn’t pack my hairbrush so I’m stuck here with a wet head until he gets back from Wal-Mart or wherever he finds one. And, my ‘favorite jeans’ he brought have bleach stains all over them."

The gist of it was Rayanne was not the happy camper one might have expected.

When Barbara pointed out what a nice gesture it was on Anson’s part to have planned a special time for them, Rayanne stewed, "You’re taking his side, just like his mother did."

To which I would’ve asked, "What’s wrong with you, girl? For most women, Anson’s sort of thoughtfulness would have been joyously received had their husbands done the same for them!"

Alas, I can’t be too hard on my own child. I did help with her raising, and her gene pool does have a few of my ornery genes in it. So it’s not like she’s perfect, which is something Jason will be proud to know I said, but I admit to being a little perplexed by her response to the situation.

Perhaps, it’ll be as Barbara said, "You need to write this down, Rayanne, so in ten years or so, or when y’all celebrate your Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary, you can read it and laugh about it."

For me, I don’t have to wait; I can laugh about it right now.

Bodock Beau Things Mother Taught Me

Relavites forwarded these our way. Thanks to Lamar Carter and Ken Gaillard, respectively.

My mother taught me LOGIC.
"You are going to get it when you get home!"

My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.
"If you don't stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way."

My mother taught me ESP.
"Put your sweater on; don't you think I know when you are cold?"

My mother taught me HUMOR.
"When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don't come running to me."

My mother taught me GENETICS.
"You're just like your father."

My mother taught me about my ROOTS.
"Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?"

My mother taught me WISDOM.
"When you get to be my age, you'll understand."

My mother taught me about JUSTICE
"One day you'll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you."

Irish Discretion

Six retired Irishmen were playing poker in O'Leary's apartment when Paddy Murphy loses $500 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead at the table. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the other five continue playing standing up.

Michael O'Conner looks around and asks, "Oh, me lads, someone got to tell Paddy's wife. Who will it be?" They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don't make a bad situation any worse.

"Discreet? I'm the most discreet Irishmen you'll ever meet. Discretion is me middle name. Leave it to me."

Gallagher goes over to Murphy's house and knocks on the door. Mrs. Murphy answers, and asks what he wants. Gallagher declares, "Your husband just lost $500, and is afraid to come home."

"Tell him to drop dead," says Murphy's wife.

"Right you are Mrs. Murphy, I'll go tell him." says Gallagher.


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