Thousands came to the 119th North American Convention of the Church of God opening concert that kicked off the five-day convention. A man on stage reached into an aluminum suitcase sitting on a chair and pulled out a small harmonica. The case was filled wall-to-wall with harmonicas of different colors, size and pitch. The man, Buddy Greene, said that because he was in an institution of higher learning at the Anderson University Kardatzke Wellness Center, he thought he should play something classical.
He played the “William Tell Overture.” From the crowd’s reaction, few had ever heard it played on a harmonica. At first, a few laughed as they remembered the theme to the 1950s TV show “The Lone Ranger.” Then they hummed and finally cheered as Greene completed the Gioacchino Rossini masterpiece. But he was just getting warmed up and completed his musical set with an acoustic guitar rendition of a popular gospel hymn.
“That harmonica is an ambassador of goodwill,” said Bill Gaither, acting as the master of ceremonies and opening the concert with a set of his own music.
Bill and Gloria Gaither and Sandi Patty were just some of the big names in gospel that drew people to the center well before the doors opened at 6:30 p.m. People streamed from the campground and side streets as early as 6 p.m., stopping traffic at times. They congregated at the doors waiting to get in.
Greene was just one of the many gospel artist who were to perform. Also appearing were Kevin Williams, Brian and Kim Tabor, the CBH (Christians Broadcasting Hope) Quartet, Jay and Amy Rouse, Divine Hope, Charles Myrick and Anthony Burger.
The free concert drew many from Anderson and others from the convention like Ronald Woodman of Sanders, Ariz. He had seen Bill Gaither before but he still came.
“I came to sing,” Woodman said. “The words to the music, they kind of glorify and enrich the music.”
Carol Rains for Austin, Texas, and a 1961 AU alumnus, sat near the stage. She went to school with Bill Gaither and recognized his work ethic then. While others were out having fun, taking a break from college life, Bill was working out the schedule for his group to perform in area concerts.
“I’ve kept track of his career,” Rains said before the performance.
He’s very gracious and considerate to everyone, she said. His music is upbeat.
“It’s all positive,” she added. “I think all of us are looking for a positive tone in our lives.”
Richard and JoAnne Main of Anderson own several of the Gaither’s videos. She also checks a few others out of the Anderson Public Library. But still the couple came to see him again live and listen to all the other performers.
“But I’m also here to see Sandi Patty,” JoAnne said. “I haven’t seen her in years.”
On stage, two large screens projected the images from multiple cameras capturing the singers. A large black boom roamed up and down, pulling images from an elevated view and then moving in close to the musicians playing horns and keyboards. The CBH Quartet drew a huge applause as they came on stage.
The auditorium erupted in applause again as the group hit their four-part harmony.
“We’ve got some amazing talent here tonight,” Bill Gaither reminded the crowd.
The freewill offering at the concert benefited the Church of God Compassion Fund.
— Writer AVON WATERS is a reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin (www.theheraldbulletin.com)