Concert Review: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound

I saw and reviewed an August Signature Sound concert. I pulled this review out of the archives to get the website off to a good start with plenty of content for new visitors to read.

They started off the concert with a familiar Cathedrals song, “Plan of Salvation.” Bass singer Tim Duncan did a moving performance on the solo.

The tempo went up a few notches when they launched into two new songs from their upcoming CD and video, “Someday” and “Our Debts Will Be Paid.”

They proceeded to an uptempo rendition of the Christmas song “Glory to God in the Highest.” The complex four-part harmony was executed flawlessly, even in the acapella part of the song. Few groups even attempt harmonies this complex, and even fewer do it well.

They did their comedy routine on “Telling the World About His Love,” featuring Roy singing three words (“of the Lord”). After this, they did another song that will appear on their next video / DVD, the old Bill Gaither Hymn “Lovest Thou Me.”

The audience was more subdued than some EHSS audiences have been known to be through the first part of the concert. However, “This Could Be the Dawning of That Day” got a positive response, with some of the audience standing for an ovation. However, with the next song, “Forgiven Again,” there was no question as to the reaction; everyone was on their feet by the big ending. Ernie took his time introducing the song, setting it up well and leaving the audience in just the right mood to appreciate baritone Doug Anderson’s performance on the song.

By this point, they had won the audience over to the point that even traditional quartet fans didn’t seem to mind “Do You Wanna Be Forgiven” and “Pray for Me.” They did a little comedy routine with “Pray for Me,” telling lead singer Ryan Seaton that his passport back to the bus depended on his performance. A quick check of Signature Sound’s website confirms that Ryan must have done a suitable job. [UPDATE, 3/26/13: Broken link removed.]

At about this point in the program, they did “Get Away Jordan.” To digress slightly, sometimes people on message boards will make comments that cause people to create impressions so extreme that the real thing is surprisingly normal. To correct a possible mistaken impression, Signature Sound stands relatively still for most of their songs, and only does noticeable choreography on some of the faster-paced songs. On most songs, they don’t do much more than any other quartet (stepping back as another member has a solo, moving together around one microphone, et cetera). With that said, they certainly had the choreography going on “Get Away Jordan.”

With that, Ernie brought the Ball Brothers on to sing two songs. They started off with a smoothly executed rendition of the familiar hymn “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” They also did a semi-contemporary song, “All Right.” Between the choreography, the volume of the soundtrack, and the arrangement, it was rather difficult to understand the words to the second song.

Roy Webb then did the first of two piano solos for the evening, “When We All Get to Heaven.” After he was done, Ernie Haase came on stage and, without any introduction, launched into “This Old Place,” a touching Dianne Wilkinson song that Signature Sound did at last year’s National Quartet convention.

To digress slightly, in the middle of Ernie’s introduction to the song at NQC, the radio feed went dead. He was referring to his father-in-law, George Younce, at the time. But after Ernie had referred to Younce in passing during “Get Away Jordan,” he probably felt that too many references would be overkill and would lessen the impact of “Suppertime” toward the end of the program.

The most unusual number of the program came next. Ernie Haase sang “When I Move to that Heavenly Land” without a microphone, and filled the 1,500+ seat theater with his voice alone. A hush came over the room; whie it might be a slight exaggeration to say that you could have heard a pin drop, since Ernie has a powerful voice, you could most certainly have heard a CD drop.

Signature Sound sang one of their more progressive numbers, Godspeed, next. They closed the first half of the program with their song “Then Came the Morning.” The room was completely darkened except for a blue light that silhouetted the four singers, and a video of three crosses on the video screen. As they came to the chorus of the song, the lights brightened and filled the room. (This is one of several songs in the program that the Cathedrals popularized; they recorded it in 1982 on Something Special.)

After the intermission, the Ball Brothers sang two songs, a smooth song entitled “Peace of God” and their current radio release, an uptempo number entitled “I’m Already Living Forever.”

Signature Sound took the stage again with four consecutive up-tempo songs, Heavenly Parade, Happy Rhythm, Dem Bones (Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones), and Stand By Me. Ernie Haase told a story about how a little boy met them in the parking lot before the concert and asked them to sing “Dem Bones.” They said they would see if they could fit it in, at which point the little boy asked them to do it first, because he was going to fall asleep after the first song. (Side note: The story is a regular part of their comedy routine for the song.)

The Ball Brothers joined them on stage for a reprise of “Stand By Me.” Both groups stayed together for the rest of the concert. Doug Anderson was featured in the song “Who am I,” an arrangement that Ernie said that they had worked out specially for the occasion, the final stop of the Summer Tour. The groups also sang “Something About that Name” together before Roy Webb did his second solo of the night, “Softly and Tenderly.” They then sang backup vocals on a video of “Suppertime” that featured George Younce.

Ernie closed the concert by taking the time necessary to properly introduce his signature song, bringing the audience to their feet with his rendition of “Oh, What a Savior.” After a prolonged standing ovation, during which the group left the stage, they came back on stage to sing a reprise of Get Away Jordan. The enthusiastic audience stayed on its feet for two or three encores of the song. Each time they left, until the last time, the bass part of the soundtrack kept going. Knowing the song, I knew that it wouldn’t end until Roy left his piano bench, where he had stayed during each of the times that the group had left the stage. After the final reprise, he got up and left the stage with the rest of the group.