On August 17th, 2019, The Upper Room presented Dove Award winning vocalist, Gary Chapman, in concert.
Founder and host, Ron Strand, greeted the audience at 7:30 pm and welcomed Brenda Harp to the stage. Brenda performed a five song set that included her new EP, “Even on the Dark Days,” which she wrote as an encouragement to those who deal with depression. Brenda’s soulful voice and beautiful keyboard playing set the tone for a heartfelt, worshipful evening.
Ron gave audience members the opportunity to win an Upper Room T-shirt by correctly answering a trivia question. Some of the questions were: “What’s the largest known living organism?” (an aspen tree grove), “What does M&M stand for?” (the last names of the developers of the popular coated candies, Mars and Murrie), “What U.S. President had the shortest term in office?” (William Henry Harrison died of typhoid fever just 31 days into his presidency), and “What is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea?” (Sicily).
During the announcements, Ron noted that next month marks the 10th Anniversary of The Upper Room. He thanked the audience for their continued support of The Upper Room, which operates on a donation basis (Support The Upper Room).
Ron introduced Gary Chapman, who made his first appearance at The Upper Room. Right from the start, Gary established a rapport with the audience and said he wanted the concert to be a conversation. He invited the audience to join him in singing an a cappella version of the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
Gary sang and played guitar for the entire set, which, due to his extensive background in both CCM and country music, had many country-pop songs, like “Sweet Glow of Mercy.” Gary performed the beautiful ballad “Treasure,” then played an upbeat tune that included the Biblical stories of the woman at the well and Paul on the road to Damascus, entitled “The Rough Crowd.”
Gary made many amusing comments during the concert including when he set up the song “Man in Training,” which presents a humorous look at marriage. At the conclusion of the song, Gary remarked, “I usually do the alter call after that one.”
On a serious note, Gary said that he learns more from his mistakes than his successes. That insight became the basis for the song “Everything I Know.” Another country-tinged song, “If God Had a Front Porch,” cleverly illustrates God’s loving, welcoming nature.
Gary opened up about the “best horrible experience” of his life when he assisted his dying father, who battled both Parkinson’s disease and cancer. During his final days, Gary’s father told him to give his worries over to God. Such gentle wisdom inspired the song “Put It In His Hands.”
Gary performed the story song “Sweet Jesus,” the bluesy “Ain’t No Grave,” and the hymn “Jesus Paid It All.” Gary took requests from the audience and sang “Sincerely Yours.” He marveled at the fact that he wrote the song 40 years ago.
Another requested song was the #1 country hit from 1982, “Finally.” Gary said he wrote the song in a cemetery. According to Gary, writing songs in a cemetery has many advantages, including: 1. it’s really quiet, and 2. getting close to death gives you a unique perspective on life.
Gary sang “Father’s Eyes,” and struggled to get through certain sections of the song. He said this was the first time he had performed the song since his father passed away and that the song has a whole different meaning now.
Gary closed out the concert with the gospel flavored “Your Love Stays with Me.” As Gary headed down the steps, Ron and CCM singer Bob Bennett brought Gary back up to the stage. Bob asked the audience to join him in praying for Gary; for protection on his journey home and continued blessings on his ministry.
The evening with Gary Chapman was a genuine and moving musical experience at The Upper Room.