Concert Review 11/10/00 ~ by suzan
Stillwater, MN

Location: Washington County Historic Courthouse


of harmony

Brad on Guitar Mitch on Harmonica Joe on Drums
It was spectacular.  If I didn't have tapes and film to develop the next day, I would have thought it was a dream.. a great, great dream..

Before The Workshop Venue With The Guys:

It doesn't get any better then this.  I arrived at the awesome building above after juggling a half dozen people's schedule and car needs, in time for the dulcimer workshop.  A review/article of that event will be covered separately.

Link to the dulcimer workshop review: Brad's Dulcimer Workshop 

My goal was to be there a 1/2 hr early; my hope was that parking would not be a problem.   I was in a van I'm not comfortable parking, fully prepared to walk a few blocks. Of course, the gear I need was going to be a challenge to carry.  Mitch's present alone weighted a ton, and the camera, audio recorder and tapes were bulk.  Oh, the simply joys.  Pleasant surprise awaited when a parking lot next to the doors was practically empty.  This meant I could leave Mitch's present in the car and just retrieve it easily if he showed up at the workshop.

Another great sight was seeing people walking in with their dulcimers.  Stillwater is a town I've known forever.   Even being alone at this workshop to net cover it, I was more than comfortable to meet some new friends and just enjoy the two venues.  Had hoped my sister would make it, but schedules were overbooked. 

The first pleasure was meeting Jennifer Grahek the coordinator of this whole event.  It's joy meeting people who's hearts are filled with God's love.  They don't advertise that love, it just glows.  Jennifer is a person I could spend a day with and feel blessed.  If the guys hadn't been so generous with their time, I would have tried to spend more time, just absorbing her radiance.

Seeing Brad, setting up for this workshop, was the next joy.  It's like seeing a long, lost friend who is oceans away, but then drifts back when you first make eye contract.  I beamed when recognition registered and he floated over for a hug and hello.  Those are two things one can never get tired off.  Seeing them for the first time at the venue, and their outstretched arms to embrace you.

Started preparing to cover the workshop for this article and then the next joy enters my vision; yeah Mitch shows up before it starts.  Same, wonderful awe.  Eye contact, smiles, hugs and hellos.  He sat down and chatted for a few minutes.. the workshop was going to begin soon.  And then what happens.. the same unbelievable experience of making eye contact, smiles, hugs and hellos from Joe.

Seeing all three before the concert was overwhelming.  My plans for this time were to just absorb from Brad enough material for an article on this workshop.   I had given Brad a few things when we greeted and I had a few things for Joe as well.  I told Joe, you guys make me so nervous.  Really nervous isn't the correct word, it's more just overwhelming.   Joe was so calming and sincere when I told him that.   I started to dig into the gear bag, searching for his present that I was sure would be there.  It's not, but quickly figured out both were given to Brad and go and retrieved it. 

Basically, the simple things exchanged are the best.  In this case it was a high quality color printings.  For Brad of the two Appalachian projects review/interview and for Joe a printing of his interview/Rachel story.  My only regret, was on paper, Joe didn't know his name on the net beats with animation, cool being the awesome percussionist that he is.

And so while Brad was getting set up, I basked in the next  joy God gave me; conversing with these two guys.  They said they were going to head out for food and would be back.  That worked out great, because I walked Mitch and Joe out to my van and unloaded his present.

Being a last minute person at times, I had wrapped it in white plastic bags.  Yes, I got the pun of it.  Cool, but not as intentional as you think.  It was either bags or newspaper because my schedule was tight and didn't allow for a store trip to get wrapping paper.  So he's going ok, thanks!  Do I open it now?  And I didn't even think of that.  I thought, yeah cool do.  So he struggled like a kid at christmas, opening this poorly wrapped strange bundle.  It was a challenge and he says, hey this smells great (vanilla scent).   I joke, like the white plastic bag? Unlike your ep (lemonade color) that was pure, pure coincidence; this wrapping turned out to be intentional.. but also very, very, last minute. 

He finally gets it opened.  Gave him a three ring book of 99% of what's on the net about him in sheet protectors.  All the magazine interviews, articles, music reviews, etc. that I have found and linked to.  Again the printing was from a top color quality printer, and yeah he loved it.  Getting a beam back from them, seeing some joy is cool.  He started looking through it, and I said, hey just take it with.  I joked, it probably wouldn't fit in the van and he could just send it to his folks.

I also included some "homework" ha! The two song discussions, and two upcoming interviews.  Thought It would just be easier for him to work on if printed.  Of course in reflection of how tired they are from this fall tour, all that stuff can and should  wait.  Also had found for him a small book on St. Francis of Assisi.  Told him it was a bit strange, and he goes I love strange books!  Well regardless, the co-author of Canticle, I knew would appreciate it.

Before The Concert Venue:

After the workshop, I asked Brad for about 15 minutes for some interview stuff.  He was pumped, to do it, but needed to start setting up for the concert, because of all the sound equipment.  But he offers, how about in an hour at 5?  I told him, I had to pick someone up at 5, and he goes quickly, well I want to do it so we'll do it before the concert ok.. or after.  So I left the workshop, which was awesome, and ran my people moving errands.  Knowing I still had the concert that night  put me in the floating zone.

Arrived back at six, super glad to find parking again.  Heard sounds coming from the room, quickly bought my ticket and secured hopefully a good photo spot.  One that gave me great mobility without being too disruptive.  I could step over to the side and get an angle of the trio. 

People from the workshop were there, excited for the venue, and quickly new friends and just the crowd in general started talking.  The sound checks were  wrapping up.  Wish I could have seen them; they are often a concert in themselves.   Brad, who probably had exhausted 10,000 calories running around that day; greets me again and goes, I've got to change shirts and take a short break.   I'll be right back!

Well, I wanted his time, but almost felt guilty.  He could of used a few more minutes down time.  When he came back smiling and ready, I said lets head to the back where it's a bit more quiet.  There we shared an off the record/on the record quick interview and discussion. 

These guys always, always get 100% edit privileges when I do an article involving their words.  The goal is to add, and never, ever subtract from their mission, and music ministries.   In order to keep the concerts fresh for the listeners; they have requested that we stay away from quoting their stories and ministry moments. Mitch in an email stated " I think that a lot of it takes away the impact of the live communication that happens at concerts.  I would encourage people to review concerts and maybe talk about how it impacted them or their own personal perceptions.  Even some short paraphrases of what I say would be fine.  But, the verbatim reports of talks and sayings that I repeat from time to time seem to be a hindrance to me."

Brad as always is so open and sharing of his opinions, and so considerate and caring of others.  Just a great privilege to know kinda guy.  I got a general feel from him on the workshop and then asked him about the Appalachian project.   I may need to e-mail some more info out of him though, because even with almost 1/2 hr,  I didn't in an audio, have it together enough to stay on track, for all I wanted to cover on Appalachian.

Unobservant me, noticed before he was beckoned,  that Mitch and Joe were on stage waiting for him, so I told him he HAD to go!   Brad, so gracious, so thoughtful goes, if you have more just let me know.   Yes, I do, and will hopefully work a few things more out of him on the CD during his very short November break.

The Concert:

Some one asks as it's about to start, hey are you bootlegging this concert! Laughing,  I explain no, and I'm not using "concert quotes" like the guys requested.  Having a tape of it helps me write the review.   They beam, cool, and as a group the crowd gets the intro and the wait is over.

How do you improve your concert opener?  You hit them with the power, you hit them with the awe, you hit them with three voices blending.  Voices  seasoned to perfection, probably from practice in the van on one of those long, long drives.  Before and after this concert, when not around those they know, the guys are as exhausted as I've ever seen them.  For the crowd, for the fans, somewhere, somehow they are given new strength.  It's genuine, not an act as they simply dig deep and greet new faces with energy, excitement and joy. 

On stage, it's a whole different level of energy.  God for that hour and a half does renew their souls, does give them strength, does give them sparkle and glow.  People are left wondering, what have these three found that makes them gleam?  They are simply awed by that power and that wonder of experiencing the outpour of these three souls loving God with their musical talents.

The concerts starts high, ends high and everything in the middle connects that soaring power of elevated excitement.  This was their first concert in a court house. The sound while it echoed, and bounced and maybe acoustically wasn't always correct was still very exciting and well received.  The guys keep the crowd mesmerized during this one.  At times they seemed quiet, but no one, and I mean no one looked like they wanted to leave.

Everything sung off the first CD seemed reborn.  He puts new renditions into the delivery, and they are just electrifying.  I told him as much as I love the first recording, he's gonna have to go back into the studio and re-record that CD, having two versions.  Mitch had a better idea, just do a live recording someday.  Until that someday comes, hearing these new versions of some of the songs is a reason in itself to go out of your way to make a venue.

He announced the release date of the new CD and so we were treated to a ton of new songs off that upcoming jewel also.  Alive, spectacular, and simply elevating in their delivery, each song just exceptional.   I heard some brilliant three part harmony on a few other songs with remarkable results.

My Deliverer, again a bit different than the CD recording is sheer delight.  I don't know where this inspiration comes from to change the pace of these tunes, but it's a bonus treat to receive them.

Freedom, how can I begin to describe the awe I felt when he delivered this tune that night.  I remember coming down from a cloud high because we were given two Brad songs.  Then Mitch hits the senses hard and strong with what for a moment I'm sure is a never before heard song!  No, then the lyrics become an old friend.  The joy of hearing this again new delivery of an old ballad is powerful.  If, if at a future concert I had access to the song list, and Freedom was not on it, I'd do some pleading, and begging.  It's that incredible. 

Heaven Is Waiting, is love in the air.  The sounds of the dulcimer dancing, the touching delivery of the lyrics, the seasoning of percussion, leaves no doubt to the presence of the Spirit blessing this event.

Every time I hear the song Anything, I am simply amazed at how much I love it.  I've never heard Only Love Will sung the same in concert.  So I've collected about four versions of that song alone.  The lyrics don't change, but the pace and renditions are spectacular!

He introduced another new song from the upcoming Cd called  ~ Watch Over Me ~  After the concert he asked so did you like that one?  And I said no, it made me want to cry!  It was so, so moving.  Well I listened to it on the tape today, and wrote him,  " it was very light in there, so I was struggling with the raw emotions to stay in control .. anyhow I'm listening to the tape to get in the mood to capture things for my concert review.. and I've got to say.. that song is beyond spectacular.   You can make me cry anytime.. it's pure, pure, joy.. my prayer is you will always include it for others to enjoy. " Today, as I'm editing this article, I'm caking on the chap stick.  I never, ever get cracked lips, but I distinctively remember now I chewed on my bottom lip through that whole song to stay in control. 

Watching Joe, is amazing.  Without writing a novel, how do you describe a drummer who captivates you.  First of all he's not the "drummer".   Joe is a devoted musician that takes his talent to a level of excellence that is amazing to experience.  Not only does he season these guys music, pulling it all together; he adds volumes of dimension to it.  His touch and choice of sound blends are brilliants.  How can a guy pick up a kettle, and get the right sounds for one song, and then tap lightly on another instrument to add such depth without overpowering on another.  It's cool!  Watch him guys. 

Special treat, and I'm thankful for it, we got two numbers from Brad.  Both awesome, both potentially on his own upcoming CD project that will come to life early 2001 for our enjoyment.  It's cool when Brad does lead vocals and Mitch does backup.   I know with sound tech, you only get so much time in concert.  Adding a song for Brad, subtracts one from Mitch, but it was appreciated.

It is  stunning to absorb the talent of this trio as they compliment each other.   Brad and Mitch together strumming, harmonizing, complimenting style with guitar and dulcimer and Joe's percussion, is a don't miss venue.

WE ALWAYS, ALWAYS want more from Mitch.  His talent is to satisfy, choosing from his list of over 25 songs to give us a touch of all his projects.  How he decides what not to sing must be a challenge.   Then if time allows, you may be blessed, with a few sing-a-longs at the end that will captivate you and leave you renewed.  Before the sing-a-longs, he was gonna end the set with Burning The Fields.  Someone in the audience after Burning panicked, and shouted out do NEW MEXICO.  Mitch of course, gladly accommodated.  And yes it was beautiful, so thanks, who ever requested it.

The Ministry Moments:

How do you describe the impact to someone who hasn't heard his delivery of them.  Often, very soft, often very slow, always heartfelt, always Spirit driven, always impacting to the receivers.  I watched people awe as they listened to this humble man pour his soul out, pour his love of our Savior into the air for us to absorb. The ministry messages, so inspiring, sharing and compassionate.  He is focusing on the good in life.   I believe the way he delivers his messages encourages others to do the same. 

Oh that Spirit.  When I quit taking pics with another borrowed camera  (too many with hopes of a few turning out) and I got quiet, and allowed it to happen.. the Spirit was intensified.   I'm not saying it validates the person, but it was there and it was strong, glowing by the guys at times.  Yes the Spirit lives within us,  but sometimes, sometimes, it peaks out of people and beams for a few to see.  Once I silently joked to my soul at this concert, hey will this glow turn out on film?  Honest, ok, that's my testimony.   When you can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, it's overwhelming.   When you get use to it, and allow it to captivate you, it's pure, pure, joy.

Seeing a glow around a person, maybe just blowing it off because it's a sunny day and anything would have a glow like in this picture borrowed from Danl is understandable.

Seeing a similar glow at night in a building, with no lights illuminating to cause it is overwhelming.
This picture of Mitch is copyright © 2000 and and "used with permission from Mitch."

After The Concert:

It was too good to walk away from.  So I packed up and just became a people watcher.  I watched people greet Mitch, watched the crowd reaction as they just lingered.  Watched the sound guys take down a zillion cords, watch Brad and Joe and eventually Mitch pack up an unbelievable amount of gear to be loaded back in the van.  Meet up with their awesome, awesome supporter Jenny Schoohs who quietly does more than we can imagine helping these guys out.   It was great having time to talk to Jenny.  Eventually the guys had it all packed and ready to be loaded downstairs.  We grabbed some extra stuff.  I had my awkward baggage of camera, recorder, but still grabbed the famous "chairs".   Didn't realize how cool it was, carrying those "chairs" down the winding stairs of an old court house building.  But it was cool.  Outside, without a coat it was cool, but I was still warm from the glowing experience, and embraced the air.  Jenny and I talked, and just hung down there by gear as the guys brought down and out the ton, ton, ton of gear.  Brad's engineering skills in packing that van are indeed an art form in itself.  Only he is allowed to put things in, or at least they don't pack it with out his complete supervision.  Kinda fun venue in itself.

Ah, total satisfaction, total joy, and the parking lot is empty, just two vans ready to pull out.  I wasn't at all looking for it, but after we said the final good byes, I got another round of hugs, and it was a great year-end send off.

Please, put the guys in your prayers.  Sometimes they are tired, sometimes they are exhausted, yet when they get on stage they give the extra always, yes always.  Know your support is appreciated.  Everyone who sent cards, or notes of encouragement, or those who greet them at concerts, know it is appreciated and making a difference.  The support of the people is part of the energy they need.

A quote from a good friend, who sent me a special gift is the theme: they are not weary OF the work, but they are weary IN the work, at times.  See them in concert, order their music, especially from his home site to give him the most benefit.  Support their ministry.   And so, I ask for your prayers.  Prayers of strength, prayers of renewing their souls and spirits, prayers of compassion for the ministry work they are doing.

If you get a change to see them in concert go!  Be awed, be moved by the Spirit.  The Spirit comes to us too and uses us as a vehicle to get it where it wants to go.  Hitchhiking from one person to another, then another, spreading the little seeds of faith all over the place.  We have all been called by God to spread His Gospel.  This music is a powerful, powerful tool you can use to do that. 

Stay strong in Christ ~ suzan


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