Special to SGN Scoops: By Natalie Cromwell
Imagine this: a darkened auditorium, a delicate cloud of swirling fog encompassing the stage, and a quiet yet excited murmur from hundreds of anxious fans. On Sunday night, June 28th, this was the exact scene that took place as the audience gathered to experience an evening with a never-before-heard trio comprised of Michael English (formerly of Gaither Vocal Band), Doug Anderson (formerly of Ernie Haase and Signature Sound), and myself, Natalie Cromwell. Fans gathered not just from all over the country, but from all over the world to witness this once-in-a-lifetime combination. Everyone anticipated what an explosive sound they were about to hear and it seemed that the night couldn’t get started soon enough!
Finally, the pre-show music faded and the concert began. I got to kick the evening off with some of my original music from my newest project, Up To Something. I sing at these sorts of concerts a lot, and don’t usually get nervous; but when you’re singing in front of two of your musical heroes, I’d say it’s pretty normal to get a small case of the butterflies! One of my favorite moments from my set was when I premièred a brand new song that was written with my friends Shane Dunlap and Keith Hill called “Remember Me.” It’s always fun to sing new music for the audience, and this was especially fun because it was just the piano and me.
After I sang a few songs, I had the privilege of introducing a man who is like a brother to me, not to mention an incredible singer: Doug Anderson. As usual, Doug won over the crowd within the first 10 seconds of singing. He has a way of making his audience completely forget anything else that’s happening around them; everyone just wants to listen to the magic that is happening on stage. Doug has won a few Dove awards for Country record and Country song of the year, and his performance proved why. His heart for the Lord shines as he sings, and he loves his fans so much. If you know Doug, you know that he just wants to sing and give glory to the Lord.
When Doug had finished with his first set, he brought out the final artist of the night, Michael English. Michael opened his set with the up-tempo song “I Don’t Want To Get Adjusted,” that he used to sing with the Gaither Vocal Band. This man can sing! There has never been a time when I wasn’t blown away by Michael’s vocal performances, and he remained consistent this time! From the first time I heard him sing many years ago, he has always had a way of taking familiar songs and putting his own touch to them, and I think that’s what has always fascinated me. I have never heard him sing a song the same way twice, and that’s part of what makes his performances so captivating.
Michael sang a few familiar songs to get his set started, and then he previewed a few songs from his new worship project that will be releasing soon. People were able to join in singing with these worship songs because they had the words up on the screens, which encouraged participation. Not only is Michael a fantastic singer, but he’s also a storyteller. If you’ve ever been to one of his solo concerts, you know he has many stories to share. One of the unique parts of Michael’s set was that he sang a few songs, told a few stories, and sang some more. He did a great job of letting the audience into his life, and by the end of the night, everyone felt like they knew Michael a little better.
So by this point, you’re probably thinking that Sioux Falls, SD, isn’t quite your idea of a “hub” for Southern Gospel music, but because of the diligent efforts of Susie Cromwell from Corvex Productions, mid-westerners are now being presented with frequent opportunities to see many of the well-known Southern Gospel groups. This year, Doug Anderson returned for his fourth solo date in Sioux Falls. For the past four summers he has returned to do a benefit concert for local ministries in Sioux Falls, and is always joined by a different artist. In the past, he has been joined by Wes Hampton (Gaither Vocal Band) and the trio Beyond the Ashes. Of course, because my mother is the promoter, I also always have the opportunity to sing with whoever happens to be scheduled!
Doug and I have known each other for many years, and we always enjoy the chance to sing together. What makes it more exciting, however, is getting to throw another artist into the mix. Typically, the first half of the concert will consist of each artist doing his or her own solo music, followed by a break for an intermission to take a free-will offering for the ministry we are benefiting. This is always a well-received format, because the audience has come to highly anticipate the second half. When we return from intermission, no one (including the artists) knows what will happen. I have been part of this for four years now, and I can tell you that it is always a little daunting. We do know this, however: our goal is to sing as much music as a trio as we can! As artists, this is hands-down our favorite part of the program.
This year, we sang a lot of the good old Southern Gospel classics like the Goodman’s tune “What A Lovely Name,” and we also did a few a capella hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Victory In Jesus.” These hymns were completely off the cuff (we took requests) and I was blown away by how easily everything fell into place without any sort of rehearsal. Another special part of the second half was when Michael gave his testimony. Many of you know the story of Michael’s past, and if you don’t, I encourage you to read his book, The Prodigal Comes Home. He shared a moving story about his life, and how he nearly became homeless because of some poor choices he had made. At the end of his testimony, we launched into an a capella trio version of his well-known hit “In Christ Alone.” If there was a dry eye in the room before that, there sure wasn’t after that!
By this time, the concert had gone on for nearly two and a half hours, so we decided to do one final song that everyone was silently hoping for. Michael stood and started singing, “I dreamed of a city called Heaven…” and the audience breathed a collective sigh, and some even clapped. “I Bowed On My Knees,” is easily Michael’s most well-known song, and I still can’t believe I got to sing it with both he and Doug. As we sang the final words “…glory to the Son of God,” the audience swiftly stood to their feet in an overwhelming ovation. To say that it was an honor to be on the stage with Michael and Doug for this moment is a vast understatement. They welcomed me with open arms and we sang as if we have been singing as a trio since day one.
Fans came from several states, and even from Australia to hear this combination of voices, and as we heard (and are still hearing) over and over again, it was well worth their trip. We continue to see Facebook and Twitter posts about this memorable evening, and how fans wish they could hear this musical blend again. As artists, by the end of the night, all we could hope for is that people were moved by the music, that they experienced the Holy Spirit at work, and that God was glorified. It is because of HIM that we have voices to sing and ears to hear!