The Upper Room: New Year’s Eve 2018

On Monday, December 31st, 2018, The Upper Room presented a special New Year’s Eve concert that began at 7:30 pm and ended just past midnight. The limited seating event included mini-concerts from five musical guests and one comedian. Dinner was included with admission—pasta, salads and desserts were catered by Peppino’s Italian Family Restaurant.

Founder and host, Ron Strand, greeted the audience and introduced the evening’s emcee, comedian Robert G. Lee.

Robert G. Lee hosting the evening.

The first act of the evening was singer Felson Palad, who took the stage wearing a slick “Burn Notice” suit. Felson sang a number of standards, including: “Sabor a Mi,” “One Hundred Ways,” “Stand by Me,” “Unchained Melody,” and “The Prayer.” Felson’s set, which contained expressive performances and incredible vocals, was the perfect way to kick off the concert.

Robert did a comedy piece that walked the audience through the entire Bible in five minutes. The sketch was filled with humorous moments like Goliath taunting the Israelites in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego set to the tune of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Robert introduced Chris Lizotte, who took the stage with singer Kirsten Ford, violin and mandolin player Larry Meyers and keyboardist John Andrew Schreiner. Chris opened with a trio of heart-felt worship songs: “I Love Your Ways,” “Shadow of Your Love” and “All My Tears.” Chris sang the beautiful ballad, “The Harbor,” which was written by John. Next was the folksy tune, “Peace in the Middle of the Storm.” Kirsten sang solo on the final song, “Love of God.” Chris’ deeply-affecting set was filled with lyrical tunes performed by an array of excellent musicians.

Up next was Bob Bennett, who opened his concert with a Christmas song, “God with Us.” Bob shared a story about his daughter, the subject of his next song, “Little Kate.” Bob spoke about “the efficiency of adversity in building character.” These words seamlessly segued into Bob’s extremely clever song “Joy Deep as Sorrow,” which features the unforgettable line, “I want to step in a pile of good and leave it on my shoe.” Bob performed a sublime arrangement of the hymn, “My Redeemer Lives.” To close out his concert, Bob sang the gorgeous Christmas song, “Carol of the Moon and Stars.” Bob’s set was marked by his soothing baritone voice, mesmerizing guitar playing and melodious, spiritually rich songs.

Bob Bennett performing his song God with Us.

Robert entertained the audience with some new material, which included the hilarious Presbyterian Rap and humorous anecdotes of his experiences performing in a prison and helping his mother through airport security—the “to mom” gag was side-splitting.

For the next act, Robert invited Benny Hester to the stage. Benny opened with “Nobody Knows Me Like You,” the title track from his 1981 release. The next two songs were also from that album: “One More Time,” and his version of the hymn “Christ the Solid Rock,” a favorite of his pastor friend, Chuck Smith. Benny shared his thoughts on the Biblical account of the prodigal son, stating that Jesus’ parable is the only time in the Bible where God ran. This was an effective lead-in to his greatest hit, “When God Ran.” Benny’s short set had an intimate feel; it was just him and his guitar. Benny’s soft-spoken manner, personal stories and classic songs were all highlights of his concert.

Benny Hester performing Nobody Knows Me Like You.

After performing his humorous relationship boxing match routine, Robert introduced the band Two or More. Composed of three brothers, Eddie (guitar), Renatto (lead singer) and Walter (percussion) Aguas, the group played original and traditional songs. Renatto asked the audience if they preferred a slow or upbeat song for the opening number. The group performed the upbeat tune “It’s Cause You Love Me.” They followed that up with a Latin version of the worship chorus, “River of Life.” Renatto shared the inspiring story of how his 95 year-old grandmother came to Christ. The band sang “Paradise” and then performed their radio hit, “What Would You Say,” a rich man/poor man themed song. The brothers closed out their concert with the song “Awaken Me.” Their set was filled with superb musicianship and extremely tight sibling harmonies.

Two or More performing It's Cause You Love Me.

With the midnight hour approaching, Robert did a T-shirt/hat/CD giveaway. Then he welcomed Felson, Bob and Two or More back to the stage for a worship session. Felson performed “Amazing Grace,” Renatto led the chorus “Glorify Thy Name,” and Bob sang “Psalm 5 (Give Ear to My Words).”

Felson Palad and Bob Bennett joining Two or More for a group performance.

Robert conducted the countdown to the New Year and the celebratory sparkling grape juice toast. Having provided many moments of levity and amiable hosting throughout the evening, Robert handed the microphone back to Ron, who concluded the event with a word of prayer.

From left, Larry Meyers, Chris Lizotte, Kirsten Ford, Walter Aguas, Eddie Aguas, Renatto Aguas, Benny Hester, Robert G. Lee, Bob Bennett, Felson Palad, Sheri Keffer, Kyle Keffer, and Upper Room founder Ron Strand.

Jam-packed with musical and comedic talent, the New Year’s Eve concert at The Upper Room was an unforgettable experience as well as a safe and fun way to ring in 2019.

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