Sunday, December 11, 2011

Praises to the King

While searching for a song to accompany my roof article last month, I came across one titled "Me & My House" on YouTube, performed by Heritage Singers. The song didn't quite fit, but it led me to other tunes by Heritage, & I quickly became a fan.

Formed in 1971 by Max Mace, who still leads & sings with the group, Heritage has recorded over 100 albums & performed in over 65 countries. Other members of the Mace family contribute: his daughter Val has sung soprano with them since the early years, his son Greg has been their sound engineer, Greg's wife Adriane has sung alto with them for more than a decade, & Max's wife Lucy sang alto during the 1970s & now manages their Gospel Heritage Foundation & works behind the scenes at shows.

Although I'm just beginning to get acquainted with their discography, 2 tracks stand out: "Peacespeaker" & "Strike Up the Band". As best I can tell, Heritage has not composed any of their own songs, but they add a distinctive touch to each Gospel classic they sing, marked by a mellow, soothing, harmonious blend of vocals & instruments. Their pure talent shines in an "a cappella" performance of "Gentle Shepherd" at a spacious cathedral during their summer 2009 tour of the Czech Republic (Mikulassky kostel, Znojmo):

During their concerts most of their background music is pre-recorded, but their singing is all live, karaoke style. "Peace Speaker", spelled as 2 words by its original composer (Geron Davis), features lead verses by alto Shani Judd-Diehl, & tenor Tim Davis. This clip was recorded on the occasion of their 35th anniversary at the Crystal Cathedral:

I was thrilled to learn that every year they perform at the Loma Linda University Church of Seventh-day Adventists the first sabbath after Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the long but pleasant ride to this lovely town I had never been to before, the performance was a blessing, it was so touching to hear each of the members introduce their family & share a little of their Heritage history. Afterwards I had the honor of meeting Mr. Mace, as well as several other members of the group. I must look like a photographer (or like I'm dating a professional one) because I was asked by some fans to take photos of them with the singers, so then I asked one of them to reciprocate & take my photo with Mr. Mace & Mrs. Judd-Diehl, which I had hoped to include in this article, but alas, she never E-mailed them to me. (Marjorie, are you out there? What happened?)

This afternoon I discovered that somebody had posted 6 tracks from the show (the entire concert lasted about 100 minutes, not counting the intermission). Aside from their performance of "Peacespeaker" that evening, I was thrilled to hear them perform "Strike Up the Band" (composed by Dianne Wilkinson). Tim Calhoun is the featured lead singer on the verses, Tim Davis gives a rousing improvisation during the final chorus, & bass Dave Bell bellows out his magic harmony at the very end ... & I really enjoy the false ending with repeated chorus (a better quality version from their Prague DVD is also on YouTube, but it doesn't include this awesome ending)!

Strike up the band, that angel band, assembled now and ready
To proclaim heaven's praises TO THE KING,
That music's planned, prepared for those who come by way of Calvary,
It's a song that the angels cannot sing,
The redeemed of all the ages will be there to sing along
On a brand new song never heard by mortal man,
Oh I'm longing for the day when I hear KING JESUS say,
"Welcome to the Promised Land, strike up the band!"

G.M. Grena

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