Michael English Leaves Gaither Vocal Band

Gaither Music just issued a press release dealing with GVB personnel changes.  As reported earlier, Mark Lowry’s exit at the end of the year was confirmed, but the release contained the surprising news that Michael English was leaving the GVB as well.  According to the release, English has already performed his last concert with the Vocal Band.  This news leaves the GVB with 3 members, David Phelps, Wes Hampton, and Bill Gaither.  No word yet on replacements, but you know the position of lead singer in the GVB will be a highly sought position, so there will be no limits on the quality of person that is chosen.  Obviously many Gaither fans will clamor for the return of Guy Penrod, and while that certainly would make for a smooth transition, I’ll be interested to see if Gaither and company find another relative “unknown” that will knock us off our collective feet.  Here is the text of the press release:

Nearly five years ago, when Bill Gaither created an all-star version of the Gaither Vocal Band, the returning GVB members were managing solo careers and added the Gaither Vocal Band’s tour dates, video tapings and recordings to their existing schedules.  Now, after trying to manage both solo careers and Gaither Vocal Band responsibilities, Mark Lowry and Michael English are ready for a new season of life that is not so demanding.

 

“When I rejoined the Gaither Vocal Band in 2009, I figured it wouldn’t be a long-term commitment since Bill was over 70 years old,” Mark says, adding, “That was nearly five years ago and Bill’s bucket list is wearing me out!  But the Vocal Band is a family.  We come and we go, but we never REALLY leave.  I could pop up anywhere at any time!”

 

Mark Lowry will fulfill his Gaither Vocal Band concert commitments through the end of 2013. Michael English has already concluded his last regular Gaither Vocal Band concert as the lead singer, but we look forward to having him join us for Gaither Fest in Myrtle Beach and other future events. We have confirmed Mark Lowry for the 2014 Caribbean Cruise and Family Fest 2014.  Besides those two events, if you want to hear the Gaither Vocal Band with Mark Lowry singing baritone, the concerts remaining in 2013 will be your last opportunity! Check www.gaither.com for upcoming tour dates and ticket information.  Check Michael’s website,www.michaelenglishmusic.com, for solo concerts in a city near you.  And check for Mark Lowry’s solo dates at www.marklowry.com.

 

Bill Gaither states, “I am grateful that we have had five bonus years with these incredibly talented artists. Thank you, thank you to Michael and Mark.  For those of you who have followed the Vocal Band for the past 25 years, you know that I have worked with some of the most talented male vocalists in our field, and I promise you we are not going to let that standard down in this transition. I am sad to see Michael and Mark leaving, yet I am so excited about the new possibilities we are considering.  So stay tuned for an exciting voyage in 2014!  We will update you when we have made final decisions.”

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Mark Lowry Departs Gaither Vocal Band

Yes, I know, I’ve been gone far too long.  Life has kept me away….a new job, 3rd grade homework (why don’t I remember doing this much homework in 3rd grade?), and life with kids who are growing up far too quickly has kept me away.  And yes, I still owe you guys a review of the latest Old Paths CD, I’ll get to it.  THIS news, however, is enough to bring me back.  As was speculated on Daniel Mount’s blog late last week, Mark Lowry announced via Facebook this morning that he is indeed leaving the Gaither Vocal Band at the end of the year.  Lowry cites the need to slow down and a desire to focus more on his solo career as his reasons for leaving.  He will still appear at some of the larger Gaither events, like the cruise and FamilyFest, and will finish out the year with the GVB, but will be embarking on a solo tour with the Martins after the first of the year.

This is interesting.  The five man, all-star GVB has been the talk of the SG world since its inception.  Also, Lowry was the true baritone vocalist in the harmony.  It will be interesting to see how the voices stack now back at a more traditional 4 part lineup.  My gut feeling is that Hampton and Phelps will alternate on the tenor and lead parts more frequently, and that English will assume more baritone duties, with David or Wes stepping to the baritone part when English is featured on lead.

Best wishes to Mark, and to the GVB as they enter their new phases.

Thoughts On The Tracy Stuffle Benefit

I watched the large majority of the benefit concert for Tracy and Libbi Stuffle online last night. What a tremendous outpouring of love and support by our fellow SG artists. I thought Jason Crabb and Joseph Habedank did marvelous jobs hosting the concert, and there were a lot of highlights. Former Palmetto State tenor Robert Fulton was singing with Gold City, and they sounded pretty solid.

There was quite a unique lineup of The Hoppers last night as well. Kim is very ill with sinus problems, and may even be facing surgery, sloshed and Dean were at home. Taranda Greene filled in for Kim, and Jason and Joseph alternated filling in Dean’s part. “I’ve Come Too Far” was fantastic, Connie and Taranda both nailed their parts of the song, and on the encore, Tim Riley supplied some incredible bass vocals.

The Booth Brothers did their two songs with only piano accompaniment from Nick Bruno, and it showcased their amazing blend and harmonies. The Collingsworth Family did an exquisite version of “Fear Not Tomorrow”, with Olivia joining what was a trio of her mom and sisters. I’ll disagree with my esteemed colleague Daniel Mount, as to my ears it sounded like Olivia was doubling Courtney, not Brooklyn. Mark Lowry was hilarious, and Paul Harkey was impressive with EHSS. The Oak Ridge Boys also sang with only piano accompaniment as well, and they were very genuine in their love and support for Tracy and Libbi.

More important and significant than all of this, though, came with The Perrys set, and the surprise appearance by Libbi, who sang a heart wrenching performance of “ThroughThe Night.”. After the set, Dr. Phil Hoskins took the stage and had a time of anointing and prayer for Libbi and Tracy. Seeing all of the artists in attendance gathered at the altar with their arms outstretched toward Libbi in prayer was the single most powerful moment I’ve witnessed at a concert. After several minutes of prayer, Libbi began singing “‘Tis So Sweet” from the midst of the group, and the rest of the artists and congregation joined in singing acappella. It was an incredibly sweet moment.

I have no idea how much money was raised last night, but judging from the crowd it had to have been a significant amount. Even,ore important though, 25 or so people rededicated their livestock Christ, and 8 or 9 were saved when Dr. Hoskins gave an altar call. This is what Southern Gospel is all about, and it made me proud to be even peripherally involved with this industry. All in all, a great night, and I was thankful to be able to watch the online stream.

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YouTube Clip# 18

Here is a new clip of the GVB singing “I Believe In A Hill Called Mt. Calvary” that has been floating around (hat tip, AS and KB) from a recent concert.  This clip should put any questions about Michael English’s ability to step back into the lead part to rest.  He absolutely nails the second verse of the song.  He doesn’t try and copy Guy Penrod, but takes the verse and puts his own spin on it, while showing some really nice range.  His voice seems to be coming back to him now that he is singing with the GVB regularly.  They’ve really started to gel their sound over the past couple months.  Also notable is that Mark Lowry sings his first verse with a power, style, and confidence I don’t think I’ve ever heard from him.  Wow, indeed.

YouTube Clip #15

Well, last week I booked a hotel room and got tickets for the Gaither concert in Greeneville, SC April 24th.  I’m really excited about seeing Mark, Michael, and David back in the Vocal Band again.  It’s been fun looking back at the old videos and seeing them sing together.  Here is a clip of the three of them plus Guy Penrod singing House of Gold.

Major Gaither Vocal Band Shakeup

The GVB has experienced a major upheaval.  Effective immediately, the Gaither Vocal Band consists of David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Michael English, Mark Lowry, and Bill Gaither.  Lowry will finish his solo dates currently booked in 2009 before joining the GVB full time.  Speculation has run rampant about the future of Guy Penrod and the GVB for some time, but Marshall Hall’s departure is unexpected.  Stay tuned folks, this is going to get real interesting.  Check out Gospel Music Update’s information here.

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