Rich Mullins Christmas Under The Stars Concert
Mel Hambelton Chevy Geo, Mulvane, KS
Saturday Night, 6:00pm, 9 Dec 95
The Brother's Keeper tour is now history, and Rich has come home to Wichita one more time. Although I'm sure he'll visit in the future, this was really the last time he *needed* to come back to tie up loose ends. Kathy Sanders had been keeping Bear (Rich's dog) during the tour. Normally Bear would travel with Rich, but since his epilepsy had gotten bad, and because this tour was so grueling, he decided to leave him behind. Since he was coming back, Kathy talked him into just one more concert. Mel Hambelton is a Light 99 FM sponsor and had already planned a "Christmas Under The Stars" event with a live nativity and Christmas caroling, etc., and had a huge tent setup at their facility in Mulvane (15 miles south of Wichita). So it was exciting when I heard that we would get to hear Rich one more time.
It was extremely cold that night, and even with the football field style heater blowers, it was still cold in the tent. Being a guitar player, my first though was, "How is he going to play in this cold?" We got there a little early and there was only 30 or 40 people there (about 100 total later). Rich was visiting and signing autographs, so we (two of my daughters, and a young friend) said hi and had our pictures taken with him.
He was all bundled up with a couple sweaters, and you could see your breath. I also delivered a banner and card from Gina Blanchette. The banner said "Thanks, Rich, for rocking the Body of Christ". Gina, who had seen Rich in Chicago, wanted me to give it to Rich after reading the post about Rich pounding on the piano to wake the church. We were going to hold it up, but it was so cold, we just handed it to him. He seemed a bit puzzled, and I can only assume that it's because he's still not used to the fact that people are that interested in him, and would want to send him something like that.
During the Tulsa concert there was a young man singing background vocals with Nicki and Julie that I did not recognize, and I forgot to find out that night who it was. So I asked Rich this evening who it was, and he pointed to the stage, and said "Him." He was pointing to Mitch McVicker, who Rich shared later, was a new member of the Ragamuffins. Rich said that a lot of people ask him how he finds quiet time on the road. He found "one of the great advantages of riding with [Mitch] was that he doesn't talk." I should add at this point, that my daughters and (judging by the response when he was introduced) also other young ladies thought he was *real* cute.
After being introduced by Kathy Sanders, Rich started with "Sing Your Praise To The Lord", and introduced it as a song Amy Grant did, but she "screwed it up" (he was kidding). He shared that the only way he could get a year off was to convince the record company to do a Greatest Hits. This was one of the songs he was recording for it. There's a whole different section in the middle that Amy completely left out. Kathy had told me later that another song Rich was going to redo for the greatest hits was "Elijah". He told her that was his all time favorite song. The story behind it was interesting. Back in 1980, the same day John Lennon was shot, Rich's grandmother died. First of all he was very upset about John Lennon's death, because he liked his music. However, he was more upset because the whole world knew about John's death, but nobody knew about his grandmother. So he wrote "Elijah" for her.
Anyway, back to "Sing Your Praise..". He said that he was going to record it the original and correct way, but he "probably won't play it the correctly tonite, because it's kinda hard to know where your fingers are when you can't feel 'em." Although, even with the cold, he played it almost flawlessly. It was great, and I was amazed considering the cold. A lot of the songs Rich did were unrecorded or brand new, and were played on mandolin, guitar, hammered dulcimer, and keyboard. On about half the set, Mitch accompanied on guitar and mandolin. They did a Bach piece as a mandolin duet that was really neat, even though he said they were just learning to play the mandolin. Even with the cold, the tuning was tolerable. Rich said, "We're not exactly in tune, but we aren't gonna be all night. It's too cold to tune. The guitars are just going crazy." It was OK.
For Christmas music, Rich did a famous Bach thing, that is, Bach would write a song, and then use it for whatever occasion or holiday. So Rich did a few instrumental guitar/dulcimer duets, and just renamed them with Christmas theme names. For example, the first one was originally "78 Eatonwood Green", but for tonite became "Going To Bethlehem". (That got a big laugh.) "That'll make it nice and Christmas-y". The next one was a waltz he wrote for his nieces, but tonite it was "Lullaby For Baby Jesus". The last one was renamed "Flight To Egypt". Rich got a kick out of that.
Other familiar songs Rich did:
* Here In America
* Boy Like Me/Man Like You (the first song he and Beaker wrote together)
* Jacob And 2 Women - (Rich shared his love for the Bible story and motivation for this song. It originally was going to be a musical, but then he decided "Christians wouldn't go to it, because it was about polygamy. And heathens wouldn't go to it, because it was about the Bible. If you're gonna put that much work into it, you wanna sell some tickets; let's face it. So I just condensed it to a song".)
* The Other Side Of The World
* Sometimes By Step - (Rich told the story about how Beaker and he were trying to write a song, and they weren't having any success. So Rich took a walk, and Beaker read the Bible. Beaker came up with a really great chorus ("Step By Step"), and Rich was so jealous he wasn't involved in it, he convinced Beaker it need some verses, so he could get a writing credit. Of course, everybody sang along.)
We closed with "O Come Let Us Adore Him". After the set, they were preparing for the live nativity. We left because it was just too cold. Besides we needed to get back to hang out with Ian, my grandson, who was visiting for Christmas with my daughter Leia, (this was the first time she'd seen Rich live). I think Rich did another set later, but I'm not sure. I'm guessing (hoping for his sake) it was punted. It was just too stinking cold to be outside that long! What a great Christmas present to Wichita, though. Thanks Rich!
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