Embellishments: Grand People I Have
GOD WORKS THROUGH men and women, and it is interesting to see how He works through the many personalities who labor in the gospel ministry.
I have been privileged to hear most of the great evangelists and Bible teachers during the past forty years. Some have made a much greater impression upon me than others, but I am convinced that God has a place and a plan for every minister of the gospel. After all, there was a tremendous difference in the backgrounds and personalities of the twelve disciples, but Our Lord loved them all, and had use for each of their abilities.
Long ago I was a part of the now-historic meetings held by Billy Graham in Los Angeles. This was the series of meetings which rocketed Billy Graham into national prominence, and resulted in the conversion of a number of show-business personalities. Yes, it was a tent meeting, at the corners of Washington and Hill
Streets, in Los Angeles. The Christian businessmen of the Los Angeles area set up the campaign, and as the meetings progressed, it became apparent that something extraordinary was taking place. It was not long before the press began to take notice of the phenomena at the big tent, and soon the newspapers were featuring articles about this young preacher who was making such an impression upon this great city.
The campaign was extended for several weeks. I remember the debate that went on: whether to close the meetings and be happy with the great working of the Holy Spirit; but it was by the leading of the Spirit that the meetings continued, and others were brought to the foot of the Cross.
Billy Graham's career has become a succession of such meetings, and I believe most every contemporary musician or singer in the Christian world has been helped and touched by the ministry of this sincere man of God.
Some preachers with whom I have worked seem to regard the musical part of the program as a necessary evil, something to be dispensed with as soon as possible so that the preaching can begin. Rarely, if ever, is there recognition of the singers or musicians who have participated in the service.
I like to work with a minister who recognizes the value of consecrated music, and works together with the singers and musicians to present the music and the sermon in the most effective way.
Dr. Charles Fuller insisted that the music on the "Old Fashioned Revival Hour" be the very finest. He wanted the songs to fit into the mood of the program. During
the years that the Revival Hour was presented from the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, the songs were listed on a blackboard, with a light beside each number. Dr. Fuller controlled the buttons which turned on these lights. Often while we were singing a certain number, he would switch the light on to the next song to be sung. The numbers were listed in the order we expected to sing them, but Dr. Fuller often felt led to change the order. And sometimes he would request the choir to sing a song that was not listed on the board!
Needless to say, these last minute changes presented a real challenge to those of us on the program, and especially to me, since I usually had the chore of modulating from one song to another.
I have seen evangelists use the invitation song to touch the hearts of the audience. I can remember many times in Merv Rosell's meetings how the singing of Hilding Halvarson would bring the spirit of conviction upon the congregation.
During its first decade, Youth for Christ had a tremendous impact upon the youth of the Los Angeles area. The Hearst papers gave full-page publicity to the rallies, and every Saturday night a huge crowd gathered in the Church of the Open Door Auditorium, at Fifth and Hope Streets in Los Angeles.
The director was Hubert Mitchell, and Lorin Whitney played the organ while I presided at the piano. After the rally, scores of teen-agers gathered around the organ and the piano to sing choruses. Youth for Christ was exerting a great influence in every part of the country. Many big cities, and smaller towns, as well, featured fine rallies, led by dedicated young men. While the
program was quite different from that presented in church on Sunday, the same gospel message was effective in reaching the teen-agers for Christ.
The music reflected the vitality and energy of these young people. It was through Youth for Christ that I met some of the men who were to become wonderful friends, and with whom I would work in the years ahead. Torrey Johnson, first president of Youth for Christ, is an evangelist for whom I have played in meetings. Dr. Bob Cook, who later became president of YFC, was another fine preacher. Not only did I appreciate his messages, but his consecration to God and his spiritual mindedness on all occasions were an inspiration to me. One of the greatest blessings in my work has been the opportunity to rub shoulders with men and women who have done exploits for God.
It was through the "Old Fashioned Revival Hour" that I was associated with many of the singers I came to know, and admire. The Revival Hour Choir had about thirty voices, and featured some of the outstanding vocal talent to be found anywhere.
Bill Cole, the featured tenor soloist, is much in demand because of his fine tenor voice and outstanding musicianship.
For several years, Marilyn Powell was the soprano soloist, and she also sings in that capacity at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.
Doug Lawrence, the bass soloist, is also featured soloist at the same Hollywood Presbyterian Church.
Ben and Beth Allen, who were often heard as a duet on the program, were particular favorites of Mrs. Fuller. They are very talented, have made recordings,
and are widely heard in sacred concert.
The director of the Revival Hour was Dr. Leland Green, who was converted under the ministry of Dr. Fuller.
The organist for many years was George Broadbent. For the past several years the choir had the benefit of Mrs. Anne Ortlund's arrangements and original composition. Mrs. Ortlund was also organist on the program. She is the wife of the Rev. Raymond Ortlund, pastor of the renowned Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, California, where Dr. and Mrs. Fuller and their family and friends attended Sunday services for so many years.
In my lifetime I have worked with some of the outstanding personalities in the field of gospel music. Many of these men I have met at the Christian Bookseller's Convention.
I have known James Boersma, music editor for The Rodeheaver Company, longer than almost anybody in this business. Jimmy and I go back a long wayclear back to teen-age days, and I'm not telling how far back that is! Jimmy Boersma can do just about anything that has to be done in music. He composes, he arranges, he conducts, he edits. Jimmy is one of the most talented men in this field, and a real Christian gentleman.
Beverly Shea is known all over the world for his magnificent voice and his gracious personality. It is always a delight to see Bev Shea, and to enjoy his fellowship.
One of my favorite composers is Norman Clayton, whom I have come to know and appreciate through our association each year at the Convention. I nearly always include his beautiful song, "Now I Belong to Jesus," in
my sacred concerts. It is a favorite of mine!
George Schuler is another outstanding composer of gospel songs, and I look forward to seeing him each year at convention time. He has written so many top numbers that it is difficult to select a favorite. However, I like "Make Me a Blessing" so much that I included it on one of my recordings.
A composer for whom I have a tremendous admiration is Merrill Dunlop, whose songs have a combination of meaningful words and satisfying harmonies. I do not often hear Mr. Dunlop's songs performed by soloists, and I cannot understand why. To me, his songs are outstanding and deserve a wide hearing.
One of the truly great singers of our day (at least in my own opinion) is Norman Nelson. I have been happy to accompany him on several occasions, and what joyous occasions they have been! Whether he sings the old hymns, or the contemporary gospel songs, his magnificent voice and dedicated life is a blessing to people everywhere.
Speaking of singers, one of the greatest of them all was Bill Carle, with his magnificent sweep of bass voice. Who can ever forget the way he sangit was his vibrant testimony, and his consecrated life, that made him a blessing everywhere he went.
Bill Carle and I had a rapport which musicians sometimes share. We understood each other completely, perhaps because we knew music and compared it to life and the many nuances which life contains. Our daughters were in the same age group, attended the same church, and enjoyed many happy occasions together.
Bill's concert schedule crossed with mine more times
than I can narrate. When you met Bill, it was a warm continuation of the last episode. He was always the same, sweet person.
I ran into Bill in New York City one day, and we planned a dinner together. He told me of a house he had seen which was his dream house. He described it as having cathedral windows twenty feet tall at each end of the living room. The high ceiling made the acoustics ideal for amplifying his dramatic voice. The house also contained a "dark room" which could be used in pursuing his hobby (photography) but his wife and daughters had taken a dislike to the house, and would not consider buying it.
It turned out that the house was in the Hollywoodland area, only a few blocks from where I was living. The description and the price were so attractive that I telephoned my wife and instructed her to check on the property in view of buying it as a home for our family. Acoustics which were right for Bill Carle were also right for me!
We did purchase the Woodshire property, and made it our home for ten years. Bill was fond of saying, "Rudy, I hope you are enjoying my house!"
Bill wanted me to appear in the filming of a concert presentation he was producing, and I agreed to do it.
Wouldn't you know, the director was ready for my part in the film the morning I returned from a long and tedious trip and had been many hours without sleep. I have never been able to bring myself to view the results, although Bill insisted it lived up to the image.
Chapter 16 || Table of Contents