Does anyone remember the Songs 4 Life series of Christian cds, sold in the late 90's through infomercials? One Christmas, I received the very first in that line of albums, Feel The Power! Thus began my exposure to Contemporary Christian music. I was raised on Southern Gospel, which most of my family still listens to heavily to this day. But there was something different about this "CCM." It clicked with me. Two songs on that album particularly had a large impact on me, "Place In This World" and "Crucified With Christ," by Michael W. Smith and Phillips, Craig, & Dean respectively.
Recently, I was privlidged to attend and photograph the Songs & Hymns Tour, featuring the above artists and Mark Lowry. I knew of Mr. Lowry from my education in Southern Gospel, and he happened to be a favorite of my grandmother's. Mimi (my grandmother) went home to be with The Lord over two years ago, but some of my most vivid childhood memories involve everyone sitting around in the living room and watching The Gaither Homecoming videos, which Mark Lowry was a focal point of.
I'm not going to be too technical in this review, because that's not what this night was about for me. These artists and the songs they were singing were like a homecoming of sorts for myself. I know all three of these acts have huge careers to this day, but to me this was a time of rememberance, enjoyment, and reconnecting with my childhood in a way. Remembering and reconnecting with Mimi. So it's more than the notes, the harmonies, and the songs played. It was the atmosphere.
The night was structered into mini-sets of sorts, with Smitty starting out followed by the PCD guys, and then Lowry with a comedy set. Smith commented early on that he had 240 songs to choose from, and hoped that he played some songs that everyone was wanting to hear. He played some new tunes from his latest album, Soverign, as well as some classic hits. Phillips, Craig, & Dean also hit all of the high notes in their discography. Mark Lowry performed his crossover hit "Mary, Did You Know?" after leaving the crowd in stitches from his comedy act. Everything just flowed beautifully. Michael W. Smith came out once more leading the crowd in a bevy of worship tunes, mostly well-known fare from the 90's that had the whole theatre praising.
After an intermission, all of the singers came out together for about another hour of classic hymns. This was church: The audience engaged and worshipping, the performers with hands lifted high, and the beautiful old-time hymns that have surely graced every church at one point or another.
Sadly, this was a limited engagement, and the tour has since ceased. But I feel like the Christian music world needs more of this. No flash, no style - just open hearts and worship. The Christian music world needs more church. I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to witness and partake in this unique show. (As a side note, I want to mention that the crew of the show was beyond outstanding. I want to extend a huge thank you for this!)-- BJ Smith, 10/7/15
Michael W. Smith
Phillips, Craig & Dean
Michael W. Smith, Phillips, Craig & Dean and Mark Lowry
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