By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
There’s a bit of nostalgia going around Kentucky gospel music circles.
Old-fashioned hymn sings are making a comeback across the Commonwealth with the next one set for Sunday, Oct. 21 at Spencer Christian Church in Taylorsville. The first song is set for 6 p.m.
Victory Road, based in Taylorsville, is acting as the host of the event, which is one of several that have been held in Kentucky in recent years.
David Stevens, lead singer for the popular host group, believes the timing is right for the Sunday’s Hymn Sing.
“It was my idea to bring (the singing) to this area,” Stevens says. “We did one last year in Lexington, hosted by Keith Barkley and Family Tradition, along with several of the same groups involved in this one. It was a lot of fun and everyone had such a good time. I thought it would be received well in this area. There hasn’t been anything like this locally that I am aware of.”
Victory Road was in the lineup at the Bill Twyman Hymn Sing in Versailles on Sept. 8 and will be part of another gathering in Elizabethtown on Saturday, Oct. 27.
The program lists some of the most well-known groups in Kentucky, including South of Heaven, Tammy Norris, The Lear Family, The Waldridge Family, The Singing Byrds, Embraced with Grace, For His Praise and King’s Church Road.
Also on the program are Victory Road, The Coffmans, a family group from Danville that has had some singles make the gospel music charts and acclaimed pianist Jaydee Miller, who traveled with several groups, including The Gaither Vocal Band.
Keith Barkley and Family Tradition will join Victory Road as well.
The format is similar to the Gaither Homecomings with each group singing, but joining together for a community choir singing some of the cherished songs of faith.
Stevens believes while many churches have gone away from the grand old hymns, many Christians thirst for those songs they grew up singing.
“I seriously think we’re in danger of losing the old hymns of the church,” Stevens says. “Fewer and fewer churches are having traditional services and singing the beloved hymns. They’re putting away the hymnals and using the big screens and replacing the old hymns with contemporary style music.
“I would like to try and preserve the music that I was raised on and that speaks to my heart. As long as there is breath in me, I will continue singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘Blessed Assurance’ and ‘Because He Lives.’”
Stevens and Victory Road travel extensively through Kentucky and southern Indiana and will appear on WHAS-TV, Channel 11 in Louisville, on Oct. 16. But he says through their travels the group is constantly asked to sing some of the old favorites. “I know for a fact that the older folks in our churches are starving for these old hymns,” he says. “As we travel around singing, they request the old songs that they know and love and no longer get in churches.”
Stevens credits Barkley was the real driving force in bringing the groups together for the hymn sing. Stevens says he “suggested we bring the same bunch of singers to the Taylorsville area and do another hymn sing and he was on board with the idea, so here we are.”
Stevens, who grew up in the Taylorsville area, says the hymn sings bring back the fondest memories of his childhood.
“I fell in love with this music at a very early age,” he says. “My father played lead guitar in our little Pentecostal church and my mother sang with her sisters in harmony to ‘He Touched Me’ and ‘Without Him, I Could Do Nothing.’ I sang my first solo in church at the age of five — ‘Do Lord, Oh Do Lord, Oh Do You Remember Me?’”
And like so many fans of gospel music, Stevens had a Sunday morning routine.
“My fondest childhood memory is waking up on Sunday morning to the smell of bacon frying and the sounds of the Gospel Singing Jubilee ringing through the air.
“I will never be able to leave this style of music and I’ll work until the Lord returns to preserve the roots and foundation of my faith!”