An Interview with Ernie Haase (2012)

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Ernie Haase, manager and tenor for Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, co-owner of StowTown Records, and, most significantly for this particular interview, the Cathedrals’ tenor for their final decade on the road. We discussed the upcoming Cathedrals album Live in Chicago, releasing November 6.

Daniel: How large was the auditorium where this was recorded? The crowd didn’t just sound enthusiastic – they sounded large!

Ernie: It’s a great question. It sounds like there were 10,000 people there! The crowd was still very large. Moody Memorial Church, where that was recorded, seats about 3,000 people, and that place was packed to the rafters. So it was very energetic. One thing you will hear on the CD that Signature Sound has found out, too, as we play the larger cities and as we do international dates: Whenever you have a diverse crowd, and I mean diverse by ethnicity and by different economic backgrounds—whenever you have more diversity, when you finally bring people together, there seems to be more energy, because you’re bring everybody’s life experiences into the room. Everybody worships and celebrates and expresses their feelings differently.

When you’re in a room full of people who are methodical and stoic in the way that they present their feelings, it has a ripple effect throughout the crowd, and mostly it takes on that personality. But when you have a room of Jamacians, and people in the room that are from Sweden and from Japan, that’s something that the city gives you. We have found that to be true of international crowds. So that’s what you’re sensing there, and that’s what people need to know.

Was it just a big room full of people there to have a great time? Yes and no. The rest of the story is that there was a diverse crowd of people there that night that let it all go and just got into the moment. And to me, me personally, that’s what Heaven’s going to be all about. That was a taste of Heaven.

Daniel. How often would Glen sing all four parts on Heavenly Parade?

Ernie: Yeah, Daniel, that’s a great question. Glen would actually sing all four parts; he knew all four parts. He was a student of the Stamps-Baxter School of Music; he attended there in the late ’40s or early ’50s, and was a member of the original Stamps-Ozark Quartet. So he took great pride in knowing all of those convention songs, and the shape notes. And if we missed one accidental note here or there, he let us know! He wanted it to be just as it was written.

So, as it goes, one night in Houston, Texas, George had the idea of telling the crowd, “Hey, this is an intricate—this is a tough, tough song. Glen, show them your part individually, so people can see just how syncopated—just how the notes bend”—in music, we call them accidentals, where they move and bend—and so, Glen took off. He sang, and the crowd went crazy. And Glen just had one of those senior moments [and sang Scott’s part]. It was time for Scott [Fowler] to sing; Scott was going to try to adjust and move on, but he didn’t know the other part. That’s exactly how it happened.

That particular night, I remember in Houston, “Let’s just go with it and see what happens!” That’s usually how a particular routine takes place. One night, it just happens organically, and you go with it to see if it works. If it does work, maybe it’ll work the next night. And lo and behold, there for a long time, it worked every night. That night in Chicago, he pulled it off—every night, as if it was the first night.

I’ve been asked many times, most recently by Mr. Gaither, “Boy, I wish there was a recording of that skit that he did.” I was so surprised when I pulled that master out to hear it on that live recording. People I’ve played it for, even my family, we sit and laugh, laugh, laugh. We keep looking at each other: “Why are we laughing again, after all of these years?” But they just keep pulling us in. They keep reeling us in. That magic that George and Glen had, I’m so glad that we were able to capture it on this new CD, Live in Chicago. Enjoy!

Daniel. Had you all rehearsed “Life Will Be Sweeter” with Buddy Greene, or was it totally spontaneous?

Ernie: Yeah, song “Life Will be Sweeter Someday” with Buddy Greene was totally off the cuff. I remember right before we were going on stage, George was very anxious, because this was a live broadcast. They did have a clock at the edge of the stage that was counting backwards. Those of you who had ever been to a Cathedrals concert know that our concerts would go for two or three hours. George would just move from one song to the next. It was a roller-coaster ride, not only of songs, but of laughter, jokes, testimonies, tears, shouts of joy.

So that night, George was very anxious about being held to a 55-minute time clock. How was he going to get all the songs in that he wanted to do? And, of course, the bantering.

And I remember that night, [they said] right before he walked on stage, “Hey, Buddy Greene’s going to be in the audience. Buddy’s going to be ministering here the next day. Is there any way you guys could do something together?”

George, being the statesman and the class act he was, I remember him saying, “You know what, I’ll try that. It sounds like a good idea.” I remember him looking at me and, not rolling his eyes, but looking at me with that thought processing. It was like, “Oh! One more thing we need to think about and try to get in the 55 minutes!”

But George was the best. He was just the best at weaving and bobbing when it came to emcee work. He took great pride in that. What a great singer, what a great performer, but, most importantly, what a great programmer. What a great emcee!

That night, he called Buddy up. Buddy had his harmonica in his pocket. He said, “If you know “Life Will Be Sweeter,” just jump in somewhere. So that was one of those moments that was kept, off-the-cuff.

Later, when we did our Farewell Celebration video, that was something that we just knew that had to be a part of it, bringing Buddy Greene up on stage.

Of course, the bantering that you can’t see that actually took place that night between Roger Bennett and Buddy Greene—who was going to play the solo, who was going to show off the most. I’m just glad that was on there, too.

I saw Buddy Greene last week. We worked a date together, and I said, “Buddy, you’re going to be surprised at what I found in my basement!” I told him all about it, and he just smiled from ear to ear.

“Ah, I wondered about that night! I wondered if there was a recording of that night! What a great night that was. Send me a copy.”

I can’t wait for Buddy Greene to hear this. I can’t wait for you all to hear this, too! I’m excited—can you tell?

Daniel. I was a little surprised that the set list didn’t include “We Shall See Jesus.” Was it not done that night? What percentage of Cathedrals shows would Glen sing the song – was it 95%+ or less?

Ernie: “We Shall See Jesus” was a staple of our program every night. You asked what percentage of the concerts we’d do where that song was sung. I’d say you’re probably right—90%-95%. But as I said before, we were on the clock.

That was the time period when we’d just found out that Roger had had a special touch from the Lord. He had been battling so bravely the first round of cancer treatments. And then the song “Don’t Be Afraid” was such a powerful song to sing after Roger’s testimony. I remember, that night, the clock was winding down, and you just knew that to go into “We Shall See Jesus” after that moment was not something that would have been anti-climactic; it would have been wonderful. But I think George sensed that the people were ready to worship.

There’s a lot that has been said about worship music, praise and worship services. I have found that you cannot stop people from worshiping when you give them a reason to praise the Lord, when you show them something that God has done in someone’s life. A testimony like Roger’s erupted in immediate praise and worship with the crowd.

So I think, right after that, we sang some songs together. Then George dropped his mike and we sang “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood.” I’m so glad they were able to capture that with the house microphone! You’ll be able to hear on the recording the house noise—people coughing, someone moving around in the seat. But nevertheless, you’ll capture the spirit of that moment.

So, to answer your question, “We Shall See Jesus” typically was an every night song, just like “Oh, What a Savior.” But at that moment in time, you could sense that George was just feeling that people were ready to worship the Lord. That heart and that spirit made its way onto that CD, and I’m hoping that people who are going through a tough time right now, whatever the case may be, maybe it is cancer, and we know there are some other challenges people are going through right now, with the economy, with families, and the stress levels of just trying to make ends meet: Don’t Be Afraid. God is still in control. These are just other reasons to trust him more and to realize, in the end, everything’s going to be okay. And if it’s not okay, it must not be the end! Don’t be afraid.

Daniel: Did the Cathedrals record any other performances with Moody?

Ernie: I believe the Cathedrals did do one more concert for Moody, a year or two later after that performance. I’m not sure if it was recorded or not.

So that was the magic, that was the moment. It was meant to be that that was preserved, and I’m thankful that it was handed to me. And I’m thankful that I had the foresight to still hang on to it, and not put it aside. It’s been sitting there, and thankfully, it was digitally saved, so that it was not that deteriorated over time.

I want to say a big thank you to Moody Bible Institute. Although their format has stayed mostly the same throughout the years, things change. Business models change. Of course, this was something that was not on their docket to do, but they caught the vision. So I want to say a big thank you to all the people there, who entrusted me to take this vision and to run with it, and to license to us their rights, their likeness, their logo. I just want to thank them for seeing the bigger picture.

I also want to say a big thank you to the Glen Payne family and their estate, and to the George Younce family and their estate, which I am intimately involved with. They saw this as something that would be wonderful, but they also said, “Hey, Ernie, if you would take this, and treat it, promote it, edit this thing down, and do what it is that you do, we give you permission.”

So everything was handled legally and above-board, and I just want to thank Moody, the Paynes, and the Younces for entrusting me and StowTown with this record.

I want to thank our distributor, Provident/Sony, for catching the vision. Thank all the retail stores for buying it into their store. They didn’t have to twist any arms; they all grabbed it and put it in their stores. I am so thankful, more than anything else, that the legacy of two wonderful gentlemen will continue to be introduced to a whole new generation.

That’s a heartbeat as I continue to share my dreams and visions for Signature Sound—to always take George and Glen with me everywhere I go.

The CD can be pre-ordered here. [EDIT, 2/22/13: Broken link removed.]

Thank you for doing this interview!