Homecoming as classroom

As regular readers know, I taught a seminar on gospel music and American literature last semester as part of my real-world job, and this semester I reprised the course at the graduate level. So when the Gaither tour came to town Friday, I organized a field trip with some of the students. Or, I should say, Deana Surles - the Homecoming road manager extraordinaire - did the organizing and my students and I reaped the benefits.

None of my students had experienced Homecoming before and they were pretty much awestruck from start to finish. Beyond David Phelps’s overpowering greatness as a singer (his hair on the other hand …), the general consensus was that they wished they had had the chance to see the concert before the class started, rather than after it ended. And I agree, to a point (given the way the snowbird population drives the economy down here, one doesn’t have an overwhelming lot of choices to hear southern gospel live in Southwest Florida before Thanksgiving). But I suspect they were able to appreciate some aspects of the show’s style and strategies better with the course at their back. And getting to watch them watch the show was a delight for me (one student even took notes!).

Anyway, a big shout out to Bill Gaither for his generosity in giving us what I’ll call the “education discount” and for offering to chat with the students for a few minutes before the show. And thanks to Deana for bringing us all together.

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  1. Jake wrote:

    Too bad EHSS isn’t still part of the Homecoming tour. That would have given your students an even greater perspective.

    I’m sure some on here will disagree with me, but it’s Christmas, so you have to be nice! :-)

  2. Rev. Al wrote:

    Have you ever read the reviews of secular writers who - I suppose - are forced to go to a homecoming concert by the secular newspaper that they write for? It is always interesting to read what they say. They too are awestruck by the amazing talent. They tend to be condescending toward the “bluehaired” audiance but they can not believe the talent on stage. Most of these writers have never even heard of Bill Gaither and they are puzzled as to how performers who these writers have never heard of, sell 15,000 tickets to a concert at the largest arena in that particular city. So they attend to write a review. They usually are amazed by people like the Issacs and The Gaither Vocal Band.

    It’s also interesting to talk to the ushers at these concerts. They have ushered for concerts featuring everyone from Taylor Swift to Elton John and more. I like to strike up a conversation with them. Most of them have never heard such voaclists as they hear when the work a homecoming concert. They can’t believe it.

  3. judi wrote:

    Good job, professor!

  4. cdguy wrote:

    Rev Al — Many of those ushers have probably never before worked a concert where you could understand every word of every song.

    And if said ushers knew they in advance they were working a gospel concert, they were initially dreading it.

    Pretty cool stuff.

  5. Hummingbird wrote:

    None of them had experienced Homecoming? I figure those are easy concerts to catch since they happen annually in Florida at least. I was able to attend the Jacksonville concert.

  6. AnnD wrote:

    I’m kinda amazed to not be reading from all the Gaither dissenters…have I been away that long??? :) :)

  7. Casual Observer wrote:

    Deana Surles has always been a class act. Kudos to Gaither for hiring her.

  8. Rev. Al wrote:

    I’m sure you’re right. The stereotype of gospel music is pretty bad. We have a gospel duo in our area called Slim and Zella Mae. They are pretty bad - no they are real bad - although I will say they are entertaining. Slim is a bald piano player(plays honky-tonk style) who’s singing makes Les Beasley sound good and Zella Mae, his wife rubs Slim on his bald head as she is singing. Her singing makes Peg McKamey sound good. That is probably what these ushers think they are getting into when the agree to work a gospel concert.

    Here is a youtube of them.

  9. Irishlad wrote:

    8..Haha that was priceless, Zella on the washboard(just over in the gloryland) left me stunned and somewhat speechless.

  10. Canuk wrote:

    Hah, I thought Phelp’s hair looked better before the transplant.

  11. Crackacrazy wrote:

    I, for one, would love to know where David got his hair transplant. It looks great. A lot of people talk about either how great his hair looks or how they can’t believe he has long hair. Until that last post, I had not seen anyone who ever mentioned a transplant. I have been following his career since he started with GVB and it is obvious something was done…other than just letting it grow long.

  12. cdguy wrote:

    I’d say it’s been a long time since folks had a reason to call him “Slim”. Reminds me of folks in our church who used to sing 40 years ago. They were no “Howard & Vestal”, but the people loved them for who they were.

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