By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
There’s nothing quite like a great congregational singing. Nothing.
When God’s people come together to join their voices in praise, it can be uplifting, encouraging or a time of admonition and warning. Regardless of the message, it is a time when people are using one of the gifts with which they have been blessed.
When the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2018 at Renfro Valley on May 11, several of those honored were quick acknowledge the role of the church in developing and cultivating the skills that has made them household names in their respected fields.Bluegrass music great Dale Ann Bradley remembers growing up as a minister’s daughter in Bell County and how she developed the passion that pushed her to earning five consecutive International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year awards.
Given that Bradley is an accomplished guitarist, it might seem ironic that Bradley spent her childhood in a church where instrumental music is not a part of worship. But that a capella singing was a foundation for the powerful vocals that have made Bradley one of the greats.
“I grew up a Primitive Baptist,” she said during the press conference a few hours before the actual induction ceremony. “My daddy still pastors a church. Growing up in Bell County, the Cumberland Gap area where three states meet, we didn’t have any (instrumental) music in our churches. The singing was a capella.
“I remember walking up to the churches and hearing the voices. It just wrenched my heart. I fell in love with music. There is so much theory in singing acapella music,” she said.
Bradley, who appeared to be fighting back tears when she was introduced as the newest member of the Hall of Fame, said her father is one of her biggest supporters and would be in attendance at the induction ceremony. She acknowledged a large number of family members cheering her during her time performing some of her hits.
It was fitting that Bradley, a minister’s daughter, joined gospel music megastar and fellow member of the Class of 2018 Jason Crabb on stage for a rousing rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” before Crabb led the Renfro Valley crowd in prayer to close the program.
Crabb, who had attended his grandmother’s funeral in Beaver Dam earlier in the day, was unable to be at the press conference. He arrived just in time for the induction ceremony and wowed the crowd with several of his hits, including “Through the Fire,” and was unabashed in praising God for his gift of music.
To most of those in attendance, Crabb’s praise was probably expected. From my perspective, though, it was the continuation of an unexpected theme begun in the press conference a few hours earlier.
Bobby Cyrus was standing in for his cousin, Billy Ray Cyrus of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame. Billy Ray could not be at the ceremony but Bobby, a country and gospel singer, noted that he would be singing “Roll That Rock Away,” a gospel song that Billy Ray and he had written together through text messages.
“Billy Ray said that is what I want you to sing. That is my life,” Bobby said.
Then Bobby offered that participation in the church as a child played a key role in developing music. “I grew up a Baptist, but my wife has turned me into a Pentecostal. Now my music’s a little faster,” Bobby grinned.
But as he was wrapping up his remarks, Bobby Cyrus gave thanks for the source of our enjoyment.
“I think Billy would agree,” he said. “God has blessed us with the gift of music.”