Treasures: “The Old Country Church”: The Oddest Homecoming Moment

With permission, I’ve borrowed an idea from Burke’s Brainwork (Hidden Gems). Every now and then, when there isn’t a pressing story, I’ll do a post on a song that perhaps hasn’t received the attention it deserved.

Most of my entries will probably be serious cases for re-examination of tracks that didn’t really receive the attention they deserved. But this first entry is about an odd moment. I may have mentioned it before, but now I have the opportunity to provide a link, so I thought the moment was worth revisiting this moment. It comes from the Down By the Tabernacle Gaither Homecoming; for the next few days (till Monday), the Gaither TV special with highlights can be viewed for free online here. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link is broken and has been removed.]

“The Old Country Church” was the second song on the recorded version (and on the special). James Blackwood, Jack Toney, and Squire Parsons all had solos on the the second and third verses. On the fourth verse, the Cathedrals (minus Scott Fowler, with Ben Speer filling in) came forward and sang the verse:

Now the years have gone by and so many have died
At that old country church
Now they’re on the other shore, where they’ll sing forevermore
As they did at that old country church

Now I’ve been told (by someone who was there) that despite its placement on the recorded version, the song was actually recorded toward the end of the event. The Cathedrals hadn’t been featured all night, and when they did come on, the audience was so excited to finally see them that they burst into enthusiastic applause.

Of course, the energy with which the Cathedrals sang that verse didn’t hurt. The song was uptempo to start with, and when they started that verse with their trademark tight harmonies, it was simply an exciting moment for a Cathedrals fan.

There was only one problem. Like the hapless church member who says “amen” at the wrong point in the sermon, the audience applauded at the wrong line. Specifically, the applause starts after the line “Now the years have gone by and so many have died,” and builds to its peak as the line is completed, with the words “at that old country church.”

It’s an exciting but odd moment, to be sure, and for the next few days, you can watch it here. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link is broken and has been removed.]