By Lorraine Walker
Jubilee means ‘celebration’ and that’s exactly what we had when the Jubilee singers came to Hamilton, Ontario on December 5, 2014. IMC brought the Jubilee Christmas with Greater Vision, Legacy Five and the Booth Brothers all the way to Canada and the audience couldn’t have been any more grateful. Over a thousand people filled Bethel Gospel Tabernacle, where they were delighted to see a platform full of lit Christmas trees, ready to host this special musical celebration.
Having traveled many hours through the night to reach their destination, Landon Beene of IMC said, “It’s been a wonderful trip. We’ve had great weather and great ticket sales. A lot of people are excited about this tour. It was a breeze through the border last night, so as the Road Manager, that makes me really happy! We’ll see how it goes tonight on our way back through.” He added, “This is the first time that we’ve ever presented one of the Christmas Jubilee programs in Canada. We are sold out tonight, so I think the people are excited about the guys being here.”
The crowd certainly was eager as the ticket holders burst through the doors to find their seats. The decorated foyer was filled with the colors of the season and the merchandise of the artists. Preparing for the evening, Scott Fowler of Legacy Five remarked: “It’s good to be back in Canada. We always look forward to coming here and the Canadian folks are fun to sing to, so we are glad to be back. This is our last tour of the year and we are doing 12 Christmas shows in 12 days, so we call it the 12 days of Christmas. The Christmas Tour is the highlight of our year.”
The artists were as energized as the audience as they filed on stage for the opening number. What a delight to hear 10 voices in four-part harmony fill the sanctuary with the opening notes of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” along with a huge quartet-ending. Following this, Chris Allman of Greater Vision entertained the crowd with “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” Allman later remarked, “My favorite thing about the Jubilee is hanging out with the guys, of course. We love the shows and we love to see the people enjoy themselves. Tonight was a great crowd. If we can see them having fun, it’s a lot of fun for us. We have fun on the stage, just hanging out with the guys. It’s a really special experience.”
Everyone certainly did have fun during the course of the evening, with emcee Gerald Wolfe of Greater Vision often playing the straight man to jokesters Scott Howard, Michael Booth and Rodney Griffin. One example was the “Twelve Days of A Gospel Singers’ Christmas,” where even Trey Ivey joined in the hijinks. Howard remarked, “It’s always fun when we get together with all our buddies from Greater Vision and Booth Brothers, our best friends out on the road. We always have a good time. I tell people that we are going to have fun and we just hope you do too! The Christmas stuff is fun to do and I think everyone enjoys Christmas music. We only do it one month a year but I think people would like it year-round. So we may extend this tour next year.” There were several hints of a tour extension and a return to Canada during the evening, but as we know, a lot can change in a year!
One group who is dealing with change is the Booth Brothers, who sang the Evie Karrlson classic, “Come On, Ring Those Bells!” Jim Brady, who is leaving the Brothers to form his own group, the Jim Brady Trio, in the New Year, blessed the crowd with leading the Booths in “It Came To Pass,” written by Gerald Wolfe. Ronnie Booth showed his ‘crooner’ side by smoothly singing about “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.” The addition of Rodney on saxophone was a surprise to the crowd and one of the many laugh-out-loud moments of the evening.
Legacy Five sang such Christmas favorites as, “I’d Sure Like To Go To Grandma’s House For Christmas,” and “Christmas With A Capital C.” Their pianist, Trey Ivey showed his prowess on “Here Comes Santa Clause,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and this writer’s personal favorite, “O Holy Night,” on which Legacy Five lent their vocals to bring the carol to a powerful, worshipful end. Bass singer Matt Fouch had his work cut out, as he was the only bass on the platform. His rendition of “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas” turned dreams into reality with more comedy from his fellow singers.
Several times during the evening, different members of the groups would join together to bring different songs, carols and comedy. Rodney Griffin stated later, “My favorite part is how the three groups kind of forget their identities as individual groups. As Ronnie Booth explains it, when we get on this tour, the three groups become one. So there is no Greater Vision, Legacy Five and Booth Brothers. It’s just a team of 11 of us working toward the same goal. Right now we are hauling everything out together. A few moments ago we were greeting the people together and now we are hauling out Christmas trees together. We do as much as we can to make it a success together.”
From the big ballads to the acapella numbers to newer songs like, “It Will Always Be Christmas To Me,” as well as fun songs like “Hunting For Christmas,” the men kept the audience on the edge of their seats. Wolfe led the crowd in the favorite carol, “Silent Night.” Later in the evening, Wolfe commented, “The best thing about the Jubilee is hearing the audience sing. They are better than we are! You heard it tonight: “Silent Night”…that’s my favorite part of the whole evening.” He added, “I would do it all year. I just love this kind of music, I love the guys and it’s a lot of fun. It’s different every night because our memories [of how it was done the night before] aren’t that good!”
At the end of the second half, Ronnie Booth opened up the Bible to Luke 2 and reverently began the Christmas story. Scott Fowler followed this with “Welcome To Our World,” beautifully sung as only he can do. The men then sang the energizing, “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” and the lovely, “Christmas Benediction.” Ronnie said later, “My favorite part is the Benediction and the arrangement of that particular one by Larry Goss. That is my favorite of all the songs we do. The other one is the one we sing called, “The Right Time,” written by Mosie Lister. It says so much in such a little space. Obviously there is a lot of fun and people need that, but we are not here just to have fun, we also get very serious at the end, presenting Christ and the Gospel.”
Matt Fouch agreed with Ronnie. “I enjoy the laughter, the fun stuff; but one of my favorite spots is coming to the very end when Gerald brings it all together and shares with everyone, ‘You know, we’ve talked about how the story began with Jesus, and that’s the season that we celebrate. But let me tell you the rest of the story…’ That’s the part I look forward to every night, because that is where we see the hope with His resurrection.”
Michael Booth, one of those who certainly kept up his part in the comedy routines said, “Selfishly, my favorite part is that it is an easy night for me because in our programs I do all the emceeing, for the most part and I’m singing on every song. So it is a very easy program for all of us because we share the load. I also just like being with the guys. We are all pretty good friends. People ask us if we are having as much fun or getting along as well as it looks we are, and we do. We will get up on each other’s buses tonight and ride across the border, then when it gets around 2:00 or 3:00am we will get in our own buses to sleep.”
Many thanks to IMC and Greater Vision, Legacy Five and The Booth Brothers for presenting a beautiful, professional program, suitable for all those who enjoy Christmas music. If they come near your area, be sure you attend and bring an unsaved friend. The music will thrill them, the comedy engage them, and the presentation of the Gospel will bring them closer to the Christ of Christmas. Special thanks as well to Landon Beene, Brian Hutson, the Jubilee crew and the staff and ushers of Bethel Gospel Tabernacle, Hamilton, Ontario. We certainly had a Celebration of Christmas!
For more information, visit http://www.imcconcerts.com/tour