Breana (Crist) Henderson Departs Crist Family

In a press release this afternoon, the Crist Family have announced the departure of alto Breana Henderson. Here’s the press release:

After traveling full-time with The Crist Family for the last eight years, Breana Henderson (formerly Breana Crist) is leaving the road.

Here is a quote from her farewell letter, which can be read in full at “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under Heaven… a time to plant and a time to uproot… Now, after eight years and over a thousand concerts later, I am writing this letter to tell you that the time has come for me to ‘uproot’ from this ministry and follow God with my husband to the next stage of life He wants to take us through together. I am so excited to see where God takes Josh and me as we seek to follow his leading in our marriage.”

Breana’s father, group manager Rich Crist, says, “We will miss Bre a whole bunch! We are so thankful that God gave us these years with Bre and we will never forget the blessing of traveling and singing together side by side. Our love and support go with her and Josh as they step into the next stage of life together. Now…how ‘bout some grandkids!”
The Crist Family is grooming sixteen year old Valerie Crist (Breana’s younger sister) to step into Breana’s alto role. You will begin seeing Valerie on a limited basis starting in February on their three week long west coast tour. Breana’s last date with the Crist Family will be January 26th.

I’ve had the opportunity to be around the Crist Family several times, as we’ve had them in concert at my church. Breana has a fine alto voice, and her performance of “My Oasis” from the group’s Oasis project was one of the true standout performances on the disc. Breana will be missed, but I’ll be interested to hear what Valerie brings to the musical table, so to speak. Best wishes to Breana and Josh, and congratulations to Valerie. Don’t miss the Crist Family when they are near you!

Concert Review: Crist Family

Thursday night, March 15, my church hosted the Crist Family in concert.  It had been two years since we’d had them, so this was the first chance I’ve had to hear the material from their Oasis CD live and my first time to see them since the departure of Tom Joyce.  The crowd was incredibly disappointing.  I’d estimate at 100, maybe 125 if I were to be generous.  Not sure what caused such a low turnout, we did nothing different than normal in promoting the concert.  That being said, the Crist Family was very professional and sang just as hard for the 100 as they would have for 1000.

Here is their set list from the night:

  • When I Get Carried Away
  • I Believe He’s Coming Back
  • My Oasis
  • Joy’s Gonna Come
  • He Is Amazing
  • I Love Lovin’ Jesus
  • His Strength Is Perfect
  • I’ll Sing A New Song
  • My Heart Knows
  • The Rock


  • Jesus Hold My Hand
  • I Must Tell Jesus
  • It’s Been A Journey
  • Great Beyond

The concert started with a couple of well known SG classics, and though the crowd was sparse, it was readily apparent that those who were there were in good spirits and quickly became attuned to the group.  One positive of the smaller crowd was that it led to a much more intimate feel that carried on throughout the evening.  Breana Crist did a fine job on “My Oasis.”  It’s a very soothing, smooth song that seems to be made for Bre’s voice.  It has always been one of my favorite cuts on Oasis.  Tami Starkel has a big, powerful lead voice, and “Joy’s Gonna Come” really gives her a chance to showcase some powerhouse vocals.  It really gets the energy going in the crowd.

Highlight number one followed though, with the mellow, big band harmonies of “He Is Amazing.”  The group did something unusual with this song, however, they started the song acappella.  The first line is all the ladies unison, then the guys join for the second line, still in unison, then on the third line of the first verse the parts all split into some tight big band jazz harmonies.  They muted the track until they hit the chorus.  So we got the entire first verse, including the harmonic split and beyond acappella before kicking in the track for the chorus.  When all those voices split into the 5 and 6 part harmonies with no accompaniment, it will send chills down your spine.  Wow.

Another highlight followed right on the heels of “He Is Amazing”, and that was the next song “I Love Lovin’ Jesus.”  To date, this is the highest charting single for the Crist Family, as it climbed all the way to #3.  It’s a simple lyric, with a fairly simple (for the Crist Family, anyways) arrangement, but it’s a catchy tune, a memorable message, and a marketable sound.  Jackie Crist really shines on it.  Tami Starkel shared a powerful testimony of her struggle with epilepsy before singing their cover of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “His Strength Is Perfect.”    It’s a moving performance that coincides with a touching testimony.  Jackie Crist’s performance of “My Heart Knows” alongside of her dad and sister is also a highlight of their set.

During the intermission, the group introduced Tami and John Starkel’s son, Luke.  Luke took his guitar to the front of the stage, sat on a stool and proceeded to sing a couple of songs that he had written.  Luke’s style is much more contemporary oriented, but he is VERY talented.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of the songs he performed, and his performance added even more variety in style to the Crist’s concert experience.  GREAT job, Luke, and be watching out for this young man.  He absolutely has a bright future ahead of him in Christian music.

After Luke’s mini-set, the group returned to the stage with “Jesus Hold My Hand.”  The next major highlight of the evening came next.  The group put their mics down, walked to the center of the auditorium, and sang their arrangement of “I Must Tell Jesus” acappella, and without any amplification.  One thing I can brag about my church on is that the acoustics in our sanctuary are great, and this performance was an evidence of that fact.  Wow.  No stacks, no tracks, not even microphones, just pure, sweet harmony on a timeless hymn.  My brother took a video of it.  You will have to excuse my son climbing around to get a better look, he was captivated, and I hope mine and my wife’s heads aren’t too in the way.  🙂

The mood became quite reflective at this point, and after a testimony of the things that Rich and the group have been through, he pulled out one of their earlier songs, “It’s Been A Journey”, that they hadn’t performed in quite a while.  It really fit the atmosphere at that point of the concert, and led wonderfully to an invitation.  After the invitation, they closed with the upbeat “Great Beyond.”

It had been a couple of years since we’d had the Crist Family, they’d released two CDs and had the departure of Tom Joyce, but this group continues to grow and develop their niche in the Southern Gospel industry.  Their harmony is terrific, their testimonies moving, and their concerts are always enjoyable.  The Crist Family is one of the true rising stars in this genre, and for good reason.  I hope they continue to push themselves musically, and through many discussions with Rich Crist, I’m confident that they will.  He’s the only person I know with a more eclectic collection of music on his iPod than mine!  Seriously, don’t miss the Crist Family if they are in your area, they are a great group with a great sound and a powerful message.  You will be glad you went.  Thanks guys for a terrific concert!


Concert Reminder: Crist Family

Just a reminder for my Memphis area readers that the Crist Family is in concert tonight at 7:00 at Faith Baptist in Atoka, TN.  No admission and a love offering will be taken.  As always, I will do a full concert review on the blog.  Come out and enjoy a great evening of gospel music!

Upcoming Concert: Crist Family

For my Memphis readers, next Thursday night, March 15, my church (Faith Baptist in Atoka, TN) will be hosting the Crist Family in concert. The concert starts at 7:00PM, and as always there is no admission charge, but a love offering will be taken. Come out and enjoy a great night of Southern Gospel music with the Crist Family!

Review: Crist Family – Timeless: A Christmas Collection

Recorded over a period covering a couple of years, this is the Crist Family’s first Christmas project, and it is the first project released since Tom Joyce departed as bass vocalist.  The vocals on this album are by Jackie Crist, Tami Crist Starkel, Breana Crist, Lisa Crist, Rich Crist, and John Starkel.  An unique aspect to this project is that the group’s own Lisa Crist created the cover art, and it reflects the title of the collection very well.  Timeless has gotten some particularly notable nods from Gerald Wolfe and Mark Trammell.


  1. Love Me Some Snow – The album opens with a medley of sorts that includes part of a song many listeners will recognize immediately as the song from the “train scene” in the movie White Christmas.  Right off the bat, the Crist Family establishes that this album is going to be a retro, jazzy listen, and they weave through the big band harmonies of this song expertly.  9/10
  2. Christmas Time Is Here – From the beloved TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, comes this beautiful piece.  This is is given a shimmering acappella that wraps you up in thick blankets of harmonies.  Lisa Crist has a few solo lines with swirling harmonies behind her.  It’s sheer beauty in a two and a half minute song.  Wow.  10/10
  3. Christmas Waltz – This Christmas classic popularized by the Carpenters finds a home here in a nice performance by Tami Crist Starkel.  A classic waltz orchestration fits neatly behind Tami’s vocal.  It really sounds like it came straight from the classic era of the 40s and 50s, which in this case is a very good thing.  After a instrumental interlude, the Crist Family’s vocals come in with the big band era harmonies that are so prevalent on this recording.  9/10
  4. I Love Those Jingle Bells  – This was likely one of the first songs recorded for this album, as it was made available as a free download promo for the group a year or so ago.  There’s a nice male trio at the beginning, as well as female only harmonies.  The chorus features thick jazz harmonies.  It’s instantly Christmas time when this comes on.  9.5/10
  5. Jesu Parvule – The heavy jazz/big band style takes a backseat to a gorgeous classical piece that is performed acappella.  This sounds like something you would hear at a Christmas concert by a university choir, and that is absolutely meant to be a compliment.  This song shows that the Crist Family are well trained and very capable vocalists.  10/10
  6. Pine Cones And Holly Berries – This is another of the earlier cuts, as Crossroads had a free Christmas album download promo last year that included this track.  It’s a fun little song that includes snippets of other Christmas songs woven into the main theme.  Again the thick, lush harmonies highlight this track.  9/10
  7. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – This track is a bit of a mix of Carpenters-style vocals, along with the solo piano work of producer Jeff Collins.  Collins is definitely one of our most unsung pianists.  Look on a lot of Crossroads albums and you’ll find his name with a piano credit by it.  The vocals are lush and very well done, and Collins’ piano playing highlights a very good cut of this song.  9.5/10
  8. In The Bleak Midwinter – This song returns to a more classical approach.  These more classical moments break up what could be an overwhelmingly heavy amount of thick modern harmony and lighten the overall sound of the CD.  They are both done very well, and really showcase the fine vocals of the group.   10/10
  9. What Child Is This – I love the eerie string intro with a few brass accents toward the end.  An acoustic guitar enters and the song takes on a bit of a folk feel for the first verse, before becoming a bit more of a straight forward gospel ballad feel for the first chorus.  This is probably the closest to a traditional Southern Gospel arrangement that you will find on the album.  There are some nice surprises in the chord progression toward the end of the song, and the high ladies harmony on the line “The virgin sings her lullaby” is nice as well.  It is very well done.  8.5/10
  10. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve – A breathtaking couple of acappella lines of “Auld Lang Syne” lead into a smooth jazzy rendition of Frank Loesser’s 1947 classic romantic Christmas tune.  You’re absolutely drowning in jazz harmonies and it’s a masterful performance by the entire ensemble.  Again I have to hearken back to the multi-layered harmonies of the Carpenters.  This is one of my favorite vocal performances on a CD that is full of great ones.  10/10
  11. Silent Night – This Christmas classic carol is performed in a style that has become a Crist Family trademark with a melody that is wrapped in tight, full harmonies.  It was this type of vocal arrangement and performance that drew me to the group in the first place, and this is no exception to the rule.  It’s a great arrangement and great performance.  9.5/10
  12. Winter Wonderland Medley – The album concludes with this medley that was another cut that was previously available as a special download from Crossroads.  The song that gives the medley its title is first and is done with some nice girls vs. guys sections.  Sleigh Ride comes up next with the full jazz chording in the vocals.  White Christmas is next up with a nice vocal passage to change keys to get there.  I know I sound like a broken record here, but the harmonies are just impeccable all throughout the medley.  They finish with a bit of a reprise of the opening to the medley.  9/10

Overall:  9.5  This album had a very definite vision.  The Crist Family, along with producer Jeff Collins, wanted to create a Christmas album that hearkened back to the classic sound of Christmas music of years past.  They wanted this album to remind listeners of the classics from people like Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, the Carpenters, and other classic artists that are associated with the Christmas holiday season.  There are secular and sacred tunes present, and they all come together to create one of the best Christmas albums I’ve heard in a while.

Jeff Collins needs special mention here, as he wore several hats for this album, contributing as co-producer and arranger alongside Rich Crist, but also contributed his piano skills, and also his bass vocal talent as well.  When Tom Joyce left the group earlier this year, the group removed his vocals from the project, and for the acappella pieces, Collins lent his vocals to fill in the bass part.

From a pure vocal standpoint, the Crist Family has been one of my favorite groups for several years now.  They have always included some adventurous vocal arrangements on their projects, but with this one, they have raised the bar.  There are no simple vocal arrangements at all on this album.  Literally every song on the project contains full, complex and thick vocal harmonies, which makes Timeless all the more impressive.  I’ll echo what DBM said in his review and state my hope that this level of vocal complexity continues on the group’s subsequent albums.  If you are a fan of the classic era of Christmas music, you absolutely need to add this album to your collection.  In this reviewer’s opinion, Timeless lives up to it’s name and vision very well.  Great job!

Tom And Gail Joyce Depart Crist Family

According to this concert review by DBM, Crist Family bass vocalist Tom Joyce and his wife Gail, who served as the group’s road manager, have departed the group and will be leaving East Tennessee for Montana to care Joyce’s mother.  While I’m sad to see them depart, as I’ve really enjoyed Tom’s bass vocals with the group, I completely understand their reason for doing so.  Please be in prayer for Joyce’s mother, as well as the rest of the Crist Family.  As of now, the Crist Family is planning to just travel with the six remaining vocalists.

Singing News Curse 2010

One of the common jokes about SG is that we have our own version of the NFL’s “Madden Curse”, the “Singing News Curse.”  With just one cover left for the year, let’s review the status of the curse for the year, shall we?

  • January: Dixie Echoes (Pat Barker departs)
  • February: Crist Family (no changes)
  • March: Brian Free & Assurance (Randy Crawford departs)
  • April: Greater Vision (Jacob Kitson departs)
  • May: Hoppers (no changes)
  • June: McKameys (no changes)
  • July: Mark Trammell Quartet (no changes)
  • August: Gold City (Roy Webb, Josh Cobb depart)
  • September: Blackwood Brothers (no changes)
  • October: Kingdom Heirs (Billy Hodges departs)
  • November: Booth Brothers (no changes)
  • December: ????

Unless my math skills have dulled over the years, that’s 5 out of 11.  It’s interesting to note of the groups that haven’t had changes, 3 are primarily family based groups, which tend to experience less turnover by nature, and one has been in existence less than a year (Mark Trammell Quartet).  That leaves us with two established non-family groups that have been stable since their cover appearance, and 5 that have experienced changes.  I’d say the curse is still alive and well!

NOTE:  This post is solely intended to be read in a good-natured, tongue-in-cheek manner.  If you have not read it as such, please check the batteries in your sarcasm meter.  🙂

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