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Annie Herring Concert Review
Annie Herring in Concert at First Baptist Church, Lincoln, NE
Review by Richard Terrell for Ad Lib Christian Arts
In the absence of a retreat this year (2011), resources that would have gone into the retreat were instead used to sponsor a wonderful event at First Baptist Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, my home place of worship. Ad Lib was sited on the program as a supporting entity. If we go to a biennial meeting schedule, this kind of thing can be embraced as an "off year" support of the arts in various sites. In this case, a personal vision of my own was realized through the invitation of Annie Herring to give a concert in Lincoln.
Annie Herring is, of course, famous as the lead songwriter and singer of the historic 2nd Chapter of Acts music group - - with sister Nelly and brother Matthew - - which came into prominence in the 1970s, during the birth of contemporary "Jesus music." Since 1988, Annie has performed in solo concerts and released a number of solo collections.
As many people who know me realize, I am no great fan of "contemporary Christian music" or other aspects of contemporary evangelical culture. If anyone is interested in why, the principles are expressed in my chapter contribution to Leland Ryken's collection of essays, The Christian Imagination (which is focused on fiction and literature). Nevertheless, I have always seen what others have also seen in the art of Annie Herring - - a truly anointed reality infused with a unique mixture of style, passion, and a sense of God's holiness and presence.
Annie's concert presented songs sung to accompanying musical tracks and self-accompaniment performed on the church's concert Steinway grand piano. Her voice has a clarity and timbre that is truly transporting, as many of you already know from listening to her recordings. However, hearing her live is something that you should all do, if you have the opportunity (you can check on her concert tour schedules online at Annie's website). Her songs range from energetic, upbeat melodies expressing the joy of God's salvation to the poignant, serene beauty of My Redeemer, perhaps the loveliest song you'll ever hear this side of heaven. And, I only wish a certain friend and former student of mine, going through an insanely bad time and test, would have followed my invitation to come to the concert, where she would have heard the wonderful, stirring exhortations to perseverance expressed in one of my favorite Herring songs, Your Father.
A special blessing came my way as I was attending to things in the sanctuary a couple of hours prior to the concert. Annie was getting acquainted with the piano, and was playing and singing before any media setups were in place. There was just the sound of her voice and the piano, lilting through the empty space of the sanctuary/auditorium. This was beautiful and memorable beyond my words to express. The way I said it to the artist was, however, close: "Listening to you sing makes me want to pray."
Whatever is meant by the phrase "Christian art," it is difficult to imagine a more perfect embodiment of it than the art of Annie Herring.