By Lorraine Walker
New Year’s Eve at Bethel Gospel Tabernacle in Hamilton, Ontario, has become known as a must-see evening of music. Every year a different artist is presented by the church and the audience responds, filling the auditorium with applause and appreciation. December 31, 2016, was no different. The Nelons and Jeff Stice took the stage amid the Christmas trees and spotlights, sharing their faith and talent with a crowd of 700.
Kelly Nelon Clark and her husband Jason, daughters Amber and Autumn, along with pianist Jeff Stice gave the audience a full evening of current songs, hymns and Christmas favorites. They began with tunes from their latest albums Stronger Together and Family Harmony. Songs featuring each
member were interspersed with specials by the award-winning Jeff Stice. The audience joined in on familiar Christmas and Gospel songs, encouraged by emcee Jason Clark. A special, nostalgic moment occurred when the auditorium grew dark and the spotlight shone down on Kelly performing “A Christmas In December.”
Rex Nelon, Kelly’s father, formed the Rex Nelon Singers in 1977, formerly the LeFevres. Kelly was singing alto for the group at that time, and now – forty years later – she is still standing strong as the matriarch of the Nelons. Kelly remains sweet, approachable and caring, even taking time from the group’s repertoire to sing “Happy Birthday” to my father who was turning 91 years old. Thanks Kelly!
As a Nelons fan since the late ‘80’s when the group included Karen Peck and Jerry Thompson and frequently visited southern Ontario and northern New York State, I was excited to hear this group on their own where they might showcase each individuals’ skill. Kelly’s voice remains as true and soft as it did decades ago, owing in part to her regular vocal exercises. Amber is one of, if not ‘the’, preeminent vocalists of her generation in Christian music. With a clear, expressive tone retaining the bluegrass background of her dad, Autumn charmed the crowd on one of her few solo songs. Jason Clark was disarming with his down-to-earth delivery belying his ability to sing several octaves. I can’t wait to hear the music this family produces in the future as they continue to develop their own sound.
It was great to see Jeff Stice again, since he had last appeared at Bethel Gospel Tabernacle in December 2013 with Triumphant. Those fingers can certainly burn up the keyboard! Whether accompanying the Nelons or doing a solo feature, Jeff showed the crowd that he deserves every award and nomination he has earned.
The Nelons completed the evening with Amber singing “Auld Lang Syne,” along with the audience, while Nelons’ members captured the closing event on Facebook Live. The ballad turned into a barn-burner with “I’ll Fly Away.” The Nelon ladies certainly let it fly in this last song as Jason led the audience. You can find it on The Nelons page here.
I’m sure all the attendees would join my family and I in saying that this was a
concert to remember. Happy 2017!