The Gaither Family Resources Fall Festival earlier this month managed to attract more people from out of town than from Madison County. Holding two nights of concerts and a first-time Sunday morning worship in Anderson’s historic Paramount Theatre provided an added attraction this time.
Cameras, phone cams and iPads clicked away as first-time visitors entered the elegantly refurbished auditorium. And again as Guy Penrod walked onstage for the first time since his two Paramount appearances with the Gaither Vocal Band more than a decade ago, the first during the taping of the Back Home in Indiana video.
The Fall Festival concerts traditionally are built around family groups or soloists. This was no exception, with The Nelons, Rambo-McGuire, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Reggie & Ladye Love Smith, The Browns, Buddy Green, Woody Wright, Gordon Mote and Penrod.
Some unadvertised artists were there as well. Logan Smith is now a teenager with a tenor voice replacing his boy soprano range, but he still masters the stylings of the late Vestal Goodman. Jim Hill, the first artist to feature numbers of a young Bill Gaither, is turning 83 but still demonstrated power in singing the song he wrote, “What a Day That Will Be.” And Anderson’s own Lana Ranahan re-created her duet with GVB tenor David Phelps through the help of video.
Bill Gaither himself had a rare free weekend, so he emceed the two nights. Naturally that included the concluding Homecoming sets where the artists perform together, led by Gaither’s typical spontaneity.
Penrod, whose magnificent head of hair appears not to have touched a pair of scissors since he went solo a few years ago, wasted no time getting the audience, which included a preponderance of seasoned citizens, singing along as he performed numbers from his Hymns album. He summed it up with the maxim, “These songs aren’t good because they’re old … they’re old because they’re good.”
Mote, an extraordinary pianist with voice stylings to match, was appearing at a Gaither event for the first time since leaving the Homecoming tour a year ago and going out on his own. After the obligatory jokes about his blindness, he performed several of his most popular numbers, including “Don’t Let Me Miss the Glory.”
As a video of spectacular sights accompanied the latter, I was struck by a realization: While even as a sightless individual Mote experiences life to the fullest, he cannot possibly have a concept of the colors, cloud formations, ocean tides, soaring eagles and natural wonders unfolding above him as he performs.
What does he think about that? “You don’t have to be able to see to experience the glory,” he explained. “Just walk out on the porch in the morning and feel the soft breeze caress your face.”
Gordon Mote doesn’t expect to miss the glory. Indeed, I imagine someday we will meet amid unimagined splendor where he will reach out to shake my hand.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.