PIKEVILLE, Ky. (KT) – The Gaither Vocal Band is preparing for a stop this weekend at the East Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville, where founder and gospel songwriter/producer Bill Gaither said he wants to leave the audience “with a little hope.”
“It’s an evening of great songs,” Gaither told the News-Express. “Some of which we wrote and the folks might know: ‘He Touched Me,’ ‘Because He Lives’ and ‘The King is Coming.’”
Gaither said, along with familiar songs, he believes the set list will provide some “needed” messages. He said the songs will include “some wonderful harmony, some wonderful moments of inspiration and some great messages.”
“Messages of hope in a day and time when our country is pretty polarized,” Gaither added.
He said the messages within the songs are meant to “emphasize those themes that bring us together, rather than pull us apart.”
“Themes of forgiveness, themes of reconciliation, themes of communion, community and being one,” Gaither said.
Messages such as those, according to Gaither, have no specific target audience.
“I hope songs of good news would be across the board for young and old. The package that comes in sometimes will determine the audience,” he said.
He said the audience is often made up of older generations, but has been increasingly younger.
“One of the current songs that we’re singing, which is very attractive to young people, says, ‘If you got pain, He’s a pain taker. If you feel lost, He’s a way maker. If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking savior. If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker,” he said.
That song, “Chain Breaker,” written and made popular by Zach Williams, is one of the many songs included in the set list for the Gaither Vocal Band’s upcoming Pikeville concert, according to Gaither.
According to Gaither, the acoustic sound provided by the band is often well-received throughout the Appalachian region.
“When we come to Appalachia, we don’t have any problems there,” he said. “Because that’s more of an acoustic audience in the first place. We like some of the same instruments everybody likes, except we don’t plug them into the walls.”
Focusing on the songs, without the electric distraction, according to Gaither, helps move a message. He said he believes doing so is his calling, adding that he taught public school for 10 years, but chooses to teach through music every time.
“If I were to choose what I would be, coming out of the womb, I think I would pick a life of music and poetry … probably even over the spoken word.” Gaither said. “Sometimes, metaphor, poetic devices and the right choice of the word can get across the idea better than a lecture … I choose music.”
Gaither said the harmonies that are brought to life by his group “are not limited to young or old.” He said a large group of college-age students has “rediscovered harmony” and may be receptive to Gospel music from an “art form perspective.”
Gaither said harmonies were the “first things that went” when popular music began to take the stage in the 1950s.
“I think gospel music, for the most part, still uses harmonies,” he said. “And they put the cookies on the lower shelf where people can get them.”
He said the Appalachian region is a place in which those cookies are most enjoyed — a place where the band’s music seems to fit.
“I think that’s the reason Bluegrass and Appalachian music has lasted so long,” Gaither said. “The authenticity of that sound … (Appalachians) need to be proud of that.”
The end goal for the concert, according to Gaither is “always” to “leave the audience with some hope.”
“I think what we hope to do is be realistic and not paint a picture that is not possible. I think, sometimes, in our picking and choosing in theology, we like to pick all of the positives,” Gaither said. “Like, in the Psalms, we like to pick all of the positive things that David said.”
Gaither said, though he believes in all of the positives, he also believes it’s important to recognize that a Christian’s life does not go without trials.
“A lot of Psalms were even saying, ‘Oh, God. Where are you? I’m lost. I need help,’” Gaither said.
He said the messages in the band’s set list will target those issues as well.
“The only weapon we really have as Christians is the weapon of love. I don’t care how hard the hitting comes from the outside; there are times when we don’t have any other choice except to dig a little deeper to see if there’s another level of love that we haven’t reached yet.”
One important thing when listening to Gospel music is to be open to the message therein, according to Gaither.
“I think people come to Gospel concerts with a different
attitude than maybe they might come to a secular concert.” Gaither said. “I hope there’s enough positive things like that being said in a wonderful, artful way, with great voices — and I do work with great voices.”
Those “great voices” include current Gaither Vocal Band members Wes Hampton, Adam Crabb, Todd Suttles and Reggie Smith. According to a statement from Gaither, the men are all “gifted artists and men of authentic faith.”
“We’re excited about coming. That area is so beautiful and I love the mountains,” Gaither said.
To purchase tickets, visit, eastkyexpo.com. The concert will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday.