Over the years we’ve all seen God’s leading in the quartet’s existence. There have been many miracles and providential circumstances that just can’t be explained away and we know without a doubt that God is leading us and is in control. When we needed a new lead singer, and had no idea where to look, God showed us once again that He has a plan for The Emmanuel Quartet.
Gary Sewell has been a friend of Ryan’s for many years and providentially was moving to Collegedale to accept a position at Southern Adventist University at the exact time we needed someone who could sing second tenor, or lead. In 2008 we’d gotten to meet Gary briefly when he was visiting. He recorded our first practice session as the newly formed group with Ryan and Tim. When Ryan found out that Gary may be moving here, he suggested that we audition him and see if he was a good fit musically. He told us that Gary had sung in groups and with his family for years, so he had vocal experience.
The audition went well and, after praying about it, we asked Gary to join. We had only about three months of one-day-a-week practice sessions to teach Gary 15-18 songs to be prepared for our first tour. We decided to set a date of September 8 so that we would be motivated to learn and get back in the saddle of touring. Gary learned very quickly and spent lots of time on his own listening to our CDs and practicing on his commute.
A little over a year ago, we had performed at two churches in middle Tennessee, Jackson and Leach. Both are pastored by John Baker, so I called him and asked if he’d like us to come back in September. He was happy to have us, so we put it on the books. I also contacted Pastor Hadley from the nearby Dickson SDA Church about an evening concert. Meanwhile, we worked hard teaching Gary his notes and he worked hard memorizing notes and lyrics.
The week before the tour, we met at the Collegedale Community Church and set up the sound system so we could run through the entire concert and get used to the sound with Gary. It turns out Gary is very knowledgeable about audio and sound systems. Our 15 year-old microphones were in the frequency range now reserved for emergency services, so Gary found us some new mics at a good price and helped us update some of our other equipment. Our rehearsal went well and we worked out the kinks and bugs. We all felt more comfortable with the music afterward, and less nervous with the upcoming concerts.
On Friday we had a 4.5 hour drive to Jackson and we spent the time working on trouble spots in the concert. When we arrived at the church, I called pastor Baker and he helped us get into the church. The temperature inside had to be over 100 degrees! We instantly started sweating as we brought in our equipment. The pastor made a call to get the A/C unit repaired and within the hour, it was feeling much cooler. It was a relief to know that we wouldn’t be roasting during our first concert with Gary.
Our first concert was at Leach, and it went well even though Gary missed a few words here and there. Afterward we complimented him on how well he did. The timing and memorization of all the words and notes will work themselves out naturally as we spend more time singing together. The congregations at both churches laughed at our “blame it on the new guy” jokes and Gary took it all in stride. I could tell he was relieved when the first concert was over because, even though we’d sung special music as a group several times, there’s nothing like that feeling of accomplishment and easing of tension after your first full concert in public!
After the Jackson concert, Pastor Baker and his wife invited us to the fellowship dinner and we had a good time laughing at his jokes and talking about our time on the road. We already have a standing invitation to come back each year.
At Dickson that afternoon, we met with Pastor Hadley who was glad to have us back for a vespers service. He and his wife Carly were there to open the church for us. They have small kids and Carly told me while we were setting up that the kids like our music. They certainly seemed interested during sound check!
There was a good turnout for an evening concert and Gary pulled off his first full-length evening concert in which we sing about fifteen songs and have to stand on stage for about an hour and twenty minutes. For those who’ve never performed for that length of time before, it’s a strenuous job. Here’s a list of what you have to do and remember:
1) Remember all of the words to 15 or more songs
2) Remember all of the notes to 15 or more songs
3) Remember when to breathe and when to hold
4) Smile and move in an animated manner
5) Make eye contact with fellow musicians and audience
6) Remember when to take your microphone in and out of the stand
7) Know what to say when it comes time to speak
8) Keep your composure when you or someone else makes a mistake
This was a great way to get our feet wet as a group and we were encouraged by Gary’s abilities and the response from the congregations. We look forward to many more opportunities to sing for the Lord in the new year with the “new guy!”