The Cathedrals began as a trio comprised of Glen Payne, Bobby Clark, and Danny Koker in 1963. Evangelist Rex Humbard hired them on to accompany him at his services at The Cathedral of Tomorrow in Ohio. In 1964 bass singer George Younce joined what became The Cathedral Quartet. In 1969 they broke off on their own. They appeared on the Gospel Singing Jubilee tv show and at Bill Gaither’s Praise Gathering in Indianapolis, TN. This gave the quartet more exposure and put them in demand. The quartet was a favourite on the Gaither Homecoming videos in the 1990’s. In 2012 StowTown Records released the cd THE CATHEDRALS LIVE IN CHICAGO. It was recorded live at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago on March 16, 1996. The group’s roster at the time was the same from 1991 until their farewell in 1999.
The Cathedrals are introduced by Moody Radio personality Chris Fabry. ‘O Come Along’ penned by Dianne Wilkinson, is the first song performed. It is a happy song that features pianist Roger Bennett tickling the ivories: “Oh, come along with me and go to that land/Where milk and honey flow so free/God has prepared that city with His own hand/And there’s a mansion waiting me/We’ll spend the endless ages praising His Name/As we sing redemption’s song/Oh, we’ll be leaving just any day/Suddenly called away/Don’t stay behind, oh, come along.” ‘Step into the Water’ penned by former group member Kirk Talley, is one of the most popular Cathedrals songs of all time. Some may not like its militant lyrics: “It’s time we the people stand up for what is right/It’s time we squared our shoulders back and raised our swords to fight/For the Bible is my weapon and the Spirit is my shield/The Church needs more of its members to be workers in the field.”
George Younce affectionately jokes about lead singer Glen Payne being an ‘old man.’ Payne had been in full time music ministry for 52 years at the time! ‘Your Blesser ain’t never Been Blessed’ has a cool, relaxed sound to it: “When the saints begin to gather just to sing about the Savior/It’s a blessed time for me/You really know you’re livin’, it’s the closest thing to heaven/Hear that old-time harmony/When the singers get inspired and the tenor sings up higher/And the bass goes lower than the rest/If you haven’t ever listened to an old-time singing/Then your blesser ain’t never been blessed.” Adger M. Pace and JT Cook wrote ‘The Heavenly Parade’, a song dating back to 1937. Here we have a fast paced acapella version of it. Lyrically, it offers spiritual motivation for those who are weary: “Our traveling days will soon be over here/And we shall cross the rolling tide/For we are down here for just a little while/Our home is on the other side/Ambassadors true for Jesus our Redeemer/And it’s a love crusade/For right against wrong/But soon we’ll join the throng in Heaven when the saints parade.”
Stuart Hamblen wrote the lively song ‘This Ole House’ in 1954. It reminds us that this physical life we live is only temporary and greater things are to come: “Ain’t gonna need this house no longer/Ain’t gonna need this house no more/Ain’t got time to fix the shingles/Ain’t got time to fix the floor/Ain’t got time to oil the hinges/Nor to mend the window pane/Ain’t gonna need this house no longer/I’m getting ready to meet the saints.” The Cathedrals even break into ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ ‘Life Will Be Sweeter Some Day’ was penned by Luther G. Presley. It is a slower paced number featuring talented harmonica player Buddy Greene. The song shares the hopes so many Christians have for eternity: “Don’t you know I’m gonna sing, sing/With the angels above?/I’m gonna talk, talk/To the ones that I love/I’m gonna tell Him/About my troubles/After awhile, after awhile.”
Marvin P. Dalton wrote ‘Oh, What a Savior’ in 1948. This powerful ballad spotlights tenor Ernie Haase: “Once I was straying in sin’s dark valley/No hope within could I see/Oh, but they searched through heaven/And they found a Savior/To save a poor lost soul like me/O what a Savior, O hallelujah!/His heart was broken on Calvary/His hands were nail scarred/His side was riven/He gave His life-blood for even me.” ‘Jesus Saves’ features baritone Scott Fowler. The song admits that not everyone is excited about the Gospel message: “But the world still tells us daily that God is not alive/And salvation’s plan is just a fairy tale/But their lies don’t change the truth that Jesus died for you/And the Word says His returning could happen any day.” ‘I Thirst’ by Beverly Lowry is a reverent song that reflects on Christ’s time on the cross: “He said ‘I thirst’/Yet He made the rivers/He said ‘I thirst’/Yet He made the sea/’I thirst’ said the King of the ages/In His great thirst/He brought water to me.”
‘Because He Lives’ written by Bill and Gloria Gaither is a wonderful song of hope we sang during my grandfather’s burial: “God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus/He came to love, heal, and forgive/He bled and died to buy my pardon/An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives/Because He lives I can face tomorrow/Because He lives, all fear is gone/Because I know He holds the future/And life is worth the living/Just because He lives.”
At this point in the concert, pianist Roger Bennett gives a testimony. In August of 1995 he was diagnosed with leukemia. He felt as if life had stopped. He began praying that God would heal him so he’d have a great testimony. God showed him though to praise Him even while he was sick and going through chemo. The Bible says God is with us as we go through the valley of the shadow of death. At the time of this 1996 concert Roger’s leukemia was in remission, but he had made peace with the fact that it could come back. The Cathedrals proceed to sing a song Roger and his wife Debbie wrote (‘Don’t Be Afraid’) a year and a half before they found out Roger had cancer. Here are some of the words: “The disciples were tossed on a cold, raging sea/But Jesus was sleeping so peacefully/They cried, ‘Master, don’t you care that we die?’/He spoke three soft words, ‘Peace, be still’/It was the storm that had to die.” Appropriately the last song performed is an acapella version of William Cowper’s ‘There is a Fountain.’
I’m rating THE CATHEDRALS LIVE IN CHICAGO 90%. They are one of the best quartets of all time and really put on a good show balanced with humour and sincerity. It’s hard to believe three of the five group members on this recording are deceased (Payne, Younce, and Bennett). What a legacy they left though! Visit: www.southerngospelblog.com, www.erniehaase.com, and www.legacyfive.com.