This time we bring you a look inside the GVB’s brand-new live DVD, Pure And Simple! Actually, make that plural. There were too many great moments to possibly edit anything out, so what started out as one DVD became two strong volumes of not only songs from the CD, but a few additional songs, some fun footage of the Gaither Vocal Band taking a drive together and guest performances by their friends, the Booth Brothers, Joey & Rory and Angie Primm.
The backdrop for this live concert event was a vintage front porch setting on which Bill Gaither, Michael English, Mark Lowry, Wes Hampton and David Phelps literally pull up a stool and sing right into your soul. The audience surrounding them comprised familiar faces including family, friends and fellow artists. Also in an important supporting role was the talented live acoustic band of players you may recognize, including Sonya Isaacs Yeary, John Bowman, Ben Isaacs, Kevin Williams, Matthew Holt, Kelly Back and Greg Ritchie.
Historically, the Gaither Vocal Band has thrived on singing face-to-face with their audiences. In fact, if you know anything about the group’s history, you will remember that the entire 30-year legacy of the Gaither Vocal Band all started as an impromptu performance in front of a live crowd. That night, Bill decided to try out a song on which he and three guys had been harmonizing backstage, just for fun. Obviously people went nuts, and they started singing live for a while before they realized maybe a recording would be a good idea. So it just makes sense that, after so many years of great live performances, the GVB wouldn’t stop at a Pure And Simple CD — they needed to offer the DVDs so we could be a part of it and not just hear the conviction in their voices, but see it all over their faces as they poured themselves out in song.
From the first note to the last, Pure And Simple leads us on a sweeping musical journey that touches on the human experience —and the divine. With every song, Pure And Simple strains out the nonessentials and speaks to our real-life selves.
Appropriately, the GVB members’ real-life selves sneak out, too, not only as they perform these songs live on stage but also through segments where the guys are traveling down the road in a vehicle — talking about whatever comes to mind. Their unscripted conversations offer a casual, sometimes humorous glimpse into these five very unique personalities.
These two DVD volumes create the perfect bookend to the past 10 years of tapings since Homecoming Magazine first began. The debut issue in January of 2003 covered the Gaither Vocal Band’s taping of Australian Homecoming at the renowned Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia! And remembering Australia reminds us that, whether they are halfway around the world or gathered around the front porch, their songs still find a way into our heart-of-hearts.
A Decade of Gatherings
The Homecoming family had experienced some profound losses by the year 2003, so Heaven and Going Home delved headlong into the subject of eternity. The Eternal Hope that is celebrated in these DVDs has since blessed countless individuals who have lost loved ones or wondered about their own eternal destination. Although there are questions that can never be fully answered or comprehended by our human minds, what we walk away knowing after this Homecoming gathering is — His Presence is and will forever be worth whatever difficulties we face on earth.
The Rocks Amphitheatre in Red Rocks, Colo., was magnificent with its massive rock walls and scenic view of the Rocky Mountain range. Yet, as with every Homecoming gathering, it was the music and the Spirit that transformed the 2003 Red Rocks Homecoming and Rocky Mountain Homecoming from a lovely outdoor concert into a worship experience that honored the Creator of all that beauty.
A very different experience from the live amphitheater setting was the 2003 Gospel Bluegrass Homecoming (Volumes 1 and 2), which brought together renowned gospel and bluegrass artists in an intimate celebration of the two genres’ shared musical roots. There was no audience for this taping, but there was no shortage of cheering as artists and fellow musicians rooted for one another with the unique camaraderie that comes with sharing common history.
In 2004, the two Homecoming releases We Will Stand and Build a Bridge also celebrated the coming together of two not-so-distant musical genres — Southern Gospel and black gospel. It was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ coming together to focus on the foundational truths that bring the Church together rather than the insignificant things that attempt to divide us.
In the spirit of the very first Homecoming video back in the early 1990s, the 2004 Journey to the Sky and Passin’ the Faith Along DVDs brought together a huge gathering of gospel music legends who circled up and sang gospel favorites for hours, like a good old-fashioned family reunion. No matter how many great settings and venues Homecomings have inhabited over the years, there is nothing quite like the unique atmosphere of these warm studio tapings.
Hymns and Church in the Wildwood were taped in an historic old church on the grounds of the Billy Graham Training Center in the mountains of North Carolina and offered a chance to focus on those irreplaceable hymns on which so many of us grew up. Recapturing the sweet, intimate setting of an old country church, it was a chance for the artists to sing the songs they have loved for a lifetime and celebrate the timelessness of the Gospel.
In 2005, Israel Homecoming and Jerusalem took the Homecoming family to the places where Jesus walked and ministered … and rose from the dead! It is a powerful celebration of His life and of our redemption.
The 2006 Canadian Homecoming and Live From Toronto took us on another adventure outside American soil and featured a live concert setting similar to a concert tour event. These videos offer rare glimpses of life backstage, as well. And you can hardly mention this taping without acknowledging the incredible audience of Canadians whose warmth and enthusiasm created the best possible atmosphere for this unforgettable night of music.
Give It Away was a 2006 Gaither Vocal Band release that felt more like a party than a concert. But whatever you want to call it, this was a joy-filled celebration of giving and a challenge to be generous people who understand that our blessings, including the Good News of Jesus, are ours to be shared, not kept to ourselves.
The Homecoming family teamed up with Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse for Christmas in South Africa and Homecoming Christmas (from South Africa) in 2005 for this 2006 release. These Christmas DVDs include a journey into African hospitals and orphanages where the Homecoming family shared their time, gifts and music, in addition to a live concert for the wonderful folks of South Africa.
A non-Christmas concert was also filmed during that same trip to South Africa and live concert DVDs, Love Can Turn the World and South African Homecoming, were released in 2007. The 2005 journey to South Africa was among the last trips Anthony Burger would take with the Homecoming family before his untimely death in February of 2006.
The Homecoming gang assembled at the Fiddler’s Grove Historical Village in Wilson County, Tenn., for the 2008 DVDs, A Campfire Homecoming and Homecoming Picnic. There the artists enjoyed a fried-chicken dinner, the nostalgic fun of old-fashioned carnival games and a cozy evening bonfire as they sang hymns, songs and campfire favorites for hours on end.
Bill Gaither’s Country Bluegrass Homecoming was an exciting 2008 release that brought together many of the most respected gospel, country and bluegrass legends of this century. Together they shared songs from their common gospel musical roots as they honored Christ with the musical gifts with which He blessed them.
It seems that “historical” and “celebration” are terms we use for so many Homecoming events. That’s because most every time the family assembles to create a musical experience, both terms apply! Never has that been more true than when the Gaither Vocal Band Reunion (Volumes 1 and 2) released in 2009, bringing together more than 25 years of Gaither Vocal Band history to celebrate. GVB alumni gathered at Gaither Studios to sing the best-loved songs from the group’s rich history. Past and present members who participated included: Bill Gaither, Lee Young, Gary McSpadden, Steve Green, John Mohr, Jim Murray, Larnelle Harris, Buddy Mullins, Michael English, Mark Lowry, David Phelps, Russ Taff, Guy Penrod, Marshall Hall and, the most excited member (and fan) of all… Wes Hampton.
Joy in My Heart and Nashville Homecoming were released in 2009 and follow the tried-and-true format of putting hundreds of gospel music’s finest artists together in a studio to see what incredible music they can make. And you know, it never gets old. Three hundred voices that have sung hope into the lives of millions of people around the world converge at one time in once place to lift up Christ and something special happens. Every. Single. Time.
The Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas, was home to the 2010 DVD releases Reunited and Better Day. This two-volume concert event celebrated the Gaither Vocal Band’s past, present and future with the return of former GVB members David Phelps, Mark Lowry and Michael English, who joined Bill Gaither and Wes Hampton to form the first-ever, five-man Gaither Vocal Band. This DVD was one more reminder that when you’re family, you never really leave.
The 2010 DVDs, Count Your Blessings and Thanks, were filmed at a magnificent log cabin called Fontanel in Nashville (once home to Barbara Mandrell and her family). The Homecoming family huddled around the cabin’s massive stone fireplace to express gratitude through storytelling, prayer and songs of thanks.
Film a live concert DVD — on a moving ship?! There was a time when we thought it couldn’t be done. But the 2011 DVDs, Majesty and Alaskan Homecoming, prove otherwise. Filmed on an actual Alaskan Homecoming Cruise, this DVD undoubtedly offers the most impressive backdrop of any DVD in the Homecoming series — and if you look at the credits, you will see that it was handcrafted by the Greatest Set Designer in the history of the world.
The last time the entire Homecoming family gathered for a taping, they assembled on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library, the perfect atmosphere for Tent Revival Homecoming and The Old Rugged Cross, which released in September 2011. Tent revival veterans Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea were there to show us how it’s done! In spite of the gully-washer that stopped the taping for a bit and attempted to wash away the sawdust on the floor, this special event recaptured the spirit and music of 1950s and ’60s revivals that were instrumental in bringing countless individuals to Christ.
So there we have it — a decade of tapings since Homecoming Magazine’s first printing. If you had told us back in 2003 all that would happen in the next 10 years, we probably wouldn’t have believed it! It might have felt daunting, back then, to know all that the years ahead would hold. But where our capacity ends, our Father is just getting started. He takes all of our gifts — time, intellect, energy, talent and resources — and makes them better. With His blessing, our efforts can and will make the world better. What unwavering confidence we can have in Him in this new year, this decade and for all eternity!