The Cathedral Trio released their debut album in 1963. At the time the members were: Bobby Clark (tenor), Glen Payne (lead), and Danny Koker (baritone/piano). By 1964 they became The Cathedral Quartet, with the addition of bass vocalist George Younce. The quartet was in ministry through to December 1999 in one form or another. In 1990 they put out the album CLIMBING HIGHER AND HIGHER (Homeland). On it, Payne and Younce were joined by Mark Trammell (baritone), Ernie Haase (tenor), and Roger Bennett (piano).
First up is the title track, a contagious, cheerful Southern Gospel song that speaks of God’s work in our lives once we open the door and let Him in: “Once I was sinkin’ in sin, my soul was troubled within/A ladder was sent down from Heaven/After my sins were forgiven/Started out for higher ground/So I climbed the ladder round by round/Well, I’m climbin’ higher and higher and I won’t come down/The first round was regeneration, the second justification/Still climbin’/The third a happy confession and then the Holy Ghost took possession/Still climbin’/The next round was great tribulation/That leads your soul to glorification/Still climbin’/I’m climbin’ higher and higher and I won’t come down”. ‘The Man I Used to Be´ is one of two songs here written by Bill Flurry. It is a pretty Southern Gospel ballad on which Terry McMillan provides harmonica and percussion. These lyrics draw inspiration and encouragement from a much beloved New Testament character: “Just like Paul of old I keep pressing toward the goal, forgetting all the things that lay behind/But instead I’ll look ahead and I’ll go where I’m led/Toward the mark for the prize that will be mine/And I know I’m not the man that I oughta be/Many times I fall short of what You want in me/And I’m surely not the man I really want to be/But thank God I’m not the man I used to be”.
Ernie Haase’s high pitched vocals really stand out on ‘I’m Too Near Home’. It is the peppy Southern Gospel song of one with a clear goal in mind: “I would not give up in the race/I’ll continue here by the Lord’s grace/I’m too near that wonderful Home beyond the blue/I’m too near home to my Lord to miss sweet Heaven’s reward/I’m not returning to sin/I’ve made my vow/There’s nothing to go back to/O praise God, Heaven’s in view/I’m too near Heaven, my home/To turn back now”. William J. Gaither wrote ‘I’m Free’ in the late 1960’s. It is a ballad of praise: “I’m free from the fear of tomorrow/I’m free from the guilt of the past/For I traded my shackles for a glorious song/I’m free/Praise the Lord, free at last!.../When I met Jesus He made me complete/He forgot the foolish man I used to be”.
Marvin P. Dalton wrote the moving inspirational classic ‘What a Savior’. Ernie shines on this song that extols Christ: “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’s blood for even me”. ‘Read the Book’ has a happy gospel quartet feel to it. It shows an appreciation for the Holy Bible: “God made the rules and He wrote ‘em all down/And He’ll give ‘em to all mankind/You can live your way but sooner or later you’ll pay if you try livin’ over the line/There are a lot of good books that’ll make you anything from a lawyer to a gourmet cook/But my friend I want to tell that when all else fails/Why don’t you try readin’ God’s Book?”
Glen Payne takes the lead on ‘Thus Saith the Lord’. It finds God calming and assuring us: “My child fear not for you are redeemed and I have called you by My Name/Make no mistake, evil can’t take what’s rightfully Mine/So walk through the fire, wade through the flood/Rise up in power, washed in the blood/Keep fighting on/I’ve already crossed your victory line”. Albert Spaller wrote ‘Led out of Bondage’ in 1953. It is a very fast-paced Southern Gospel ditty that reflects on the escape of the Israelites from Egypt: “God promised to lead His children out of bondage/He said He’d free them from Pharaoh’s evil hand/He said He’d guide and protect them on their journey and lead them to the promised land”.
‘The Lamb Has Prevailed’ is a nicely orchestrated inspirational song that builds in intensity. It shows a desire to share the Good News with all people: “If I could climb a mountaintop reaching high above the nations/I’d lift my voice in a mighty melody/If my song could reach around the earth and get the world’s attention/I would sing about the Lamb that set men free/Hallelujah! (2X)/Sin has been defeated!/The enemy has failed/Hallelujah! (2X)/Redemption is completed!/The Lamb has prevailed!” Mark Trammell wrote the album closing ‘What Will You Do For Jesus’. It includes this touching spoken word piece featuring George Younce: “Lord, You said ‘Greater love has no man but that He lay down his life for a friend’/And then you call me friend and laid down Your life/I don’t know if I understand love enough to die for a friend/But Lord, help me to love enough to lay my life on the line for You as I live/Help me to take risks, reach out my hand/Open up my heart for those in my life for love of You/Give me greater love”.
It is hard to believe that here in 2015 only two of the five group members are still with us. Glen Payne died in 1999, George Younce in 2005, and Roger Bennett in 2007. The two remaining members have formed new groups respectively known as Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and The Mark Trammell Quartet. CLIMBING HIGHER AND HIGHER is a solid Southern Gospel album that includes a nice mix of hand-clappers and more reflective pieces. The vocal solos and harmonies are terrific. Thematically, this album points us to Jesus Christ as a loving Saviour who wants an active, living relationship with each of us as individuals, and to God’s Word for guidance. I’m rating this one 90% and recommending it to fans of The Watchmen Quartet and The Nations Quartet. For more information visit: www.cathedralsfamilyreunion.com or look up ‘Cathedral Quartet’ on Facebook.