Rich Mullins Farewell To Wichita
Century II Concert Hall, Wichita, KS
Saturday Night, 13 May 95
Well, here we are. Rich's last live concert in Wichita for possibly a very long time. Rich graduated Sunday Night (May 14), and then took off Monday morning. However, just because it was Wichita's last chance for a while, doesn't mean it has to be your last chance. Starting September 14th, 1995, Rich and the Ragamufffins begin the 63-city Brother's Keeper tour. Ashley Cleveland and Carolyn Arends will be special guests on this International Bible Society sponsored tour. Tour dates were previously posted to r.m.c (rec.music.christian newsgroup), and will be posted again soon. I will certainly attend one (or maybe a couple) of the dates, but for now I'll just remember one of the most entertaining and uplifting weekends I've had in a long time. The following is part two of my review of Rich's weekend. (See part one - [RichMailList 13]: An Evening with Rich Mullins)
The evening was divided into two parts. The first half featured Rich and his acquaintances/classmates from Friends University. The second half was Rich and the Ragamuffin band. The concert was to start at 7:30pm, but was late getting started partly because it took a while to fill the sold-out house. I managed to get second row, dead center seats.
Finally, Kathy Sanders, long-time friend of Rich, and morning personality on KTLI-FM Light 99 (our local CCM radio station), came out to get things rolling. After a few announcements she introduced Gay Quisenberry, Rich's manager. Gay told us about, the special Brother's Keeper CD on sale in the lobby (again, see previous post), and then introduced Rich.
Here In America - [LLR] (see album key below)
Rich came out wearing just jeans, a long-john type white shirt and no shoes (normal attire for Rich), sat down at the piano, and started singing. For someone who claims to not play piano or guitar very well, he sure plays well and with a lot of emotion.
Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah
Rich was joined by Brad Martin, Sherri Howard McCready, Jared Brown, and Nicki Lungren. They were all visibly nervous. but it just added to the dynamics. They were reading the music (single pages stapled together), and as they got to the end of a page, they would rip them off and throw them. It was really cute. My pastor saw this on TV (as Channel 12 news was there for part of it), and said it came across very well. During the one part where the tenor part creeps higher and higher, Rich was beginning to struggle, and then Jared took over, and nailed it beautifully. All of the singers had marvelous voices.
Screen Door - [PIS]
For this song, the five vocalists had a table brought out and five large plastic drinking cups. Rich began with all the cups on his side of the table, and started the cup-slapping, hand-clapping rhythm pattern which included handing one cup to the next person after completing a certain sequence; all the while singing the acappella classic. They did a great job keeping there places while transferring the cups from one end of the table to the other using the intricately arranged rhythm (very few goofs). The crowd loved it.
For the next song they were joined by Michael Aukofer on percussion, and a young oriental man on piano, who Rich said had a name he couldn't pronounce. I think his name was something like Takuro (I asked later, and it didn't really help). The praise song they played was unfamiliar to me, but none the less well done. It spoke about the fact that there isn't anybody so bad that the Lord can't help them.
What Susan Said - [WBRv2]
Rich went solo on the piano again for a song about his good friend and writing cohort, Beaker. I must say, the stage crew, who I assume were all Friends students, did an outstanding job keeping things going smoothly; especially with the constant changes in the well choreographed set list.
Boy Like Me / Man Like You - [WBRv1]
Then Beaker sauntered out with his guitar, and the two of them sang together.
Next there was some drastic rearranging as three vibes/xylophone type instruments along with percussion and Rich's hammered dulcimer were prepared for a song that Rich and Beaker wrote in Ireland as an experiment for this instrumentation. It was very cool, especially if you enjoy Rich's dulcimer playing like I do. While trying to introduce the song using the dulcimer mike that was almost to low to reach, he asked "Can you hear me?" Some people answered, "No", to which he immediately replied, "Well, Listen!" :-)
Hard - [LLR]
Back to just a trio with Rich on piano, Brad, and Jared.
If I Stand - [WH/SE]
When the crowd sang on the chorus on this (at Rich's request), it was simply beautiful. It was hard to imagine anything better, until later. This song has one of my favorite lines that I used to use in my signature, "The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things".
As the curtains closed (for preparation of part two of the concert), Rich then began to tell us about the Friends University Ballet / Wichita Ballet Theater. In trying to describe the ballet group, Rich shared that growing up in the Friends Church, they had no dancers. (Everybody giggled a little.) Then later his family went to a Christian Church - still no dancers (Everybody laughed a little more.) Even though he thought it was a little hoity-toity, he really liked this ballet troupe.
Before they danced, he wanted us to experience something really cool. Growing up on a farm, he says, was most times very hard. "There are so many easier ways to lose money." :-) Sometimes he'd be out in the field on the tractor, and way off in the distance, there'd be a big storm coming. The way he described the coming storm was incredible. You could really see, hear, and feel it; right down to the raindrops finally hitting the hot tractor and sizzling. But it didn't stop there. He wanted us to recreate the storm passing over. First he divided us into four groups. He had three people stand up to help divide the crowd (I got to be the middle guy). While he described to us what to do, he kept practicing all those "teacher sayings", like - "Who's Talking?" and "All right, everybody listen up." It was really funny. Anyway each group would, at his direction, make four different sounds with their hands. 1) Rubbing your palms together 2) Snapping your fingers rapidly 3) Patting the heel of one hand with the other, and 4) Slapping your legs wildly. In addition to making these sounds, we had to watch closely for directions to get louder or softer. After practicing each sound, we began with group 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, each making the first sound. Then each group one by one changing to the next sound, and so on and so on. He had also told us, if we concentrate we might even get wet. Well, it sounded so cool, that I fully expected any minute to get soaked. Then each group one by one reversed the order of sounds, as the storm blew by. I had seen Rich do this before, but never with quite as much realism in fantasy.
The fantasy and majesty didn't end there. As the curtains opened, the stage was bare except for four young men and four young women, who later, joined by four more young women, took us on a sacred journey through ballet. The Mullins medley to which they danced included:
52:10 - [LLR]The emotion and human drama was presented in a very spiritual and worshipful way. (And I don't even care for ballet that much.) The only other prop on stage was a digital projection of a huge spinning earth at the back of the stage. The crowd was awestruck, and there was barely a peep where just minutes earlier we were hootin' and hollerin'.
I See You - [WBRv1]
Step By Step - [WBRv1]
After a "10 minute break" that lasted a half hour, the curtains opened, and we were treated to the River City Mandolin Quartet. One of the members was Rich's neighbor, and he asked them to join him for the concert. They played a couple classical selections, and one jazz tune. During the jazz number, called Slip And Slide, Jimmy Abegg comes sneaking out from back stage looking like a sod-buster in his jeans, suspenders, long-john style shirt (identical to Rich's), and hat. He had a broom, and danced and swept and then strolled on back. The quartet was a tight ensemble, and it was obvious this was more than a hobby for these guys. It was, like most of the evening so far, very different from most concerts I'd ever been to, but the 3000 plus in attendance agreed it was an excellent variety show.
With little delay, and less circumstance, Rich and the Ragamuffins took the stage and played and sang and ministered for another hour and a half (and it was already 9:40). The remainder of the evening was very much like the last Ragamuffin Tour. All the Ragamuffins from the last tour were there, except Phil Madeira and Billy Crockett. I just learned that Billy will not be on this tour. Anybody know what he's up to, besides his solo career? Phil will be replaced this tour by Lee Lungren. Some of you may be familiar with Lee and his wife Nicki (singing earlier). Lee and Nicki (a.k.a. Avenue G) have been involved in one way or another with Rich's music and recordings for a long time. In fact, one of the new songs on Brother's Keeper (co-written by Rich, Lee, and Nicki) is about their new son, Eli. Checkout the complete list of Ragamuffins and the set list below.
Some of the highlights of the set --
Rich had a huge backup choir on some songs (especially when he asked us to sing) - 3000 of us! Awesome God was (see if you can guess) ... awesome, as were many others.
On the title track Brother's Keeper, Rich got to the second verse and, with mouth open, just went blank. Beaker rushed over and mouthed "Roof!" (See previous post for Brother's Keeper lyrics). Rich's sheepish grin acknowledged our delight in sharing (what I used to call when I was singing for a living) one of those three-second nightmares.
A couple times Rich shared with us his heart about faith and life and the Gospel. This is the main reason I enjoy seeing him live - to hear the wisdom of a man truly committed to following and emulating Jesus Christ. It's such an uplifting experience. While in Nashville, Rich and Beaker had witnessed newsclips of the Summer of Mercy here in Wichita. He said it really touched him. As the abortion issue, and other issues continue, he really wanted us to pray that hearts would be changed; that people would learn to respond with compassion instead of anger. He asked us not to put our faith in the Republican party, or in the Democratic Party. We only put those guys in office to keep them off the streets. :-) We must put our faith in God. It's the only way things are going to change. He also shared that it's not our choice of music that makes us Christian. It's the will of God. People often ask him, "Rich, how can you know the will of God?". His simple answer is, "I read the Bible". Rich was not as nervous during the Ragamuffin portion of the concert. As a matter of fact, there was a noticeable feeling of peace and comfort, as Rich continued to minister in words and music. I assume many of us that night were thinking the same thing - whoever Rich is going to be teaching is in for a real treat.
He closed with "Creed", and humbly walked off stage beaming and waving. Of course, you can imagine the commotion that followed. It wasn't too much longer before Rich walks out by himself, later calling to Beaker to join him. He informs us that he doesn't do encores, and that we'll have to do it. They proceeded to lead us in a most inspiring praise and worship service. We all sang a half a dozen songs from traditional to contemporary, including his favorite medley/round. The crowd is divided again this time into three groups. One group sings "Sing, Sing, Sing", one sings "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", and one sings "Saints Go Marching In". Finally (it was almost 11:30pm) he says, "Look, I've got to graduate tomorrow, and you all have to go to church." However, he said we all sound so good, he wanted the rest of the band to hear us. So he calls everybody out to the stage, including stage hands, and started us on "Step By Step"; absolutely incredible! Then he started us on the Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow), and half way through, they all walked off. With 3000 plus voices singing in harmony, it was definitely one of those glimpses of what heaven must really be like. As the curtains closed on an era in Wichita, we finished by ourselves.
Kathy says he was finally overcome with the emotion and exhaustion of the whole weekend after graduation Sunday night. He did a pretty good job Saturday night, considering he really thought it might be more emotional. Monday he was gone. We've lost a music ministry genius, but hopefully only temporarily. (Oh yeah, we still have the tour coming up, OK, I'll be all right.) However, I'm encouraged with the knowledge that somewhere, someone, probably many are going to walk into a class and be changed for the rest of their lives. Thanks Rich, we love you.
=============== The Ragamuffins =============== Rich Mullins (piano, guitar, hammered dulcimer) Rick Elias (guitars) Lee Lungren (keyboards, accordion) Aaron Smith (pounding and thrashing) (that's for all you 77's fans) Mark Robertson (bass) Michael Aukofer (percussion) Jimmy Abegg (guitars) Beaker (guitars) Background vocalists (probably only for this concert) Sherri Howard McCready Julie Strasser (Beaker's wife) Nicki Lungren (Lee's wife) Jared Brown Brad Martin ===================== Ragamuffin's Set List ===================== Ready For The Storm - [WH/SE] (one of very few Rich didn't write) Where You Are - [WBRv1] My One Thing - [NPP] Calling Out Your Name - [WBRv1] The Color Green - [LLR] Brother's Keeper - [BK] Song For Eli - [BK] (about Lee and Nicki's son) Hope To Carry On - [NPP] Alrightokuhhuhamen - [NPP] The Just Shall Live - [WBRv2] Quoting Deuteronomy To The Devil - [BK] Let Mercy Lead - [BK] (about Beaker and Julie's son) Hold Me Jesus - [LLR] Awesome God - [WH/SE] Sometimes By Step - [WBRv2] It Is Well With My Soul - (by H.G. Spafford and Phillip P. Bliss) sung mostly by audience Peace - [LLR] Creed - [LLR] Encore (actually a prayer and praise led by Rich)- Lord, I Lift Your Name On High - (by Rick Founds) My Jesus, I Love Thee (by William R. Featherstone and Adoniram J. Gordon) Medley/Round- I'm A Gonna' Sing, Sing, Sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot Saints Go Marchin' In Amazing Grace - (by John Newton) Step By Step - [WBRv1] Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) - (by Thomas Ken and Louis Bourgeois) ======================= Rich's albums represented ======================= [PIS] - Pictures In The Sky 1987 Reunion Records [WH/SE] - Winds Of Heaven, Stuff Of Earth 1988 Reunion Records [NPP] - Never Picture Perfect 1989 Reunion Records [WBRv1] - The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 1 1991 Reunion Records [WBRv2] - The World As Best As I Remember It, Vol. 2 1992 Reunion Records [LLR] - A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band 1993 Reunion Records [BK] - Brother's Keeper 1995 Reunion Records (release date July 20, 1995) (see post about a chance to get a pre-release copy)