The evening really began at our 3:30 sound check at the church. The church is only 5 minutes down the road from our house, which was really nice for us. The other two families had to travel farther, but they met us there in the parking lot.
The place seemed deserted. No other cars in the parking lot. We got out of our cars, greeted one another, and slowly and quietly made our way to the nearest entrance.
That door was locked.
The next door was open, so we let ourselves in and walked down the dark hallway. We talked and laughed a little, as friends do when they're together, but mostly we were wondering where to find the auditorium.
It wasn't too hard. As we pushed the doors open, we saw a sound booth at the far end of the dark room, like a glow of a fire in the midst of a mammoth cave.
The sound guy called out to welcome us, and told us that yes, he was expecting us. (Though he apparently was expecting 3 or 4 musicians, not 10!) I wondered if he always waited for people in dark auditoriums.
As we walked in, I remember thinking how hot the place was. I hoped the AC would be on later in the evening.
Stage lights came on, and we unpacked out instruments. As each of us slung his or her instrument on, or picked it up, we climbed the five steps to the platform and faced the rows of empty seats.
We played four or five songs for the man, as he adjusted microphones. I won't say we were bad, but we were just barely good. Our timing wasn't together, half of us stood too far from the microphones, and all but three or four of us were nervous. Honestly, I wasn't. I was having the time of my life. I love stages. I love sound checks. I love microphones. I love lights in my face. No, wait, I don't like that part.
It took only a few minutes to get everything set. Then it was off to our house to wait until 6:00 - show time.
While one of our families head off to pick up a family member, the other family came home with us and we had supper together. The boys seemed to have fun together, but we girls (Heather, I, and our friend Elizabeth) had very small appetites, and spent a great deal of supper time saying we wouldn't be hungry until the next day. Poor Elizabeth was truly nervous. I was more excited than nervous, and I'm not sure what Heather was.
We arrived at the church at 6:00 sharp. The concert wouldn't start until 7:00, and we were scheduled to play from 6:30-7:00.
When we drove in, the place was already packed.
About that time I felt the first fluttering of butterflies in the general region of my stomach.
We unloaded our instruments, and admired our unified look as we were walking towards the building. We had elected to wear blue tops and black bottoms, and that moment in the parking lot was the first time we got to see ourselves all matching.
We really felt like professionals in our matching outfits, instrument cases in hand, strolling into the church and making our way through the crowd and through the side stage door. (Talk about privileged folks.)
That back room was really amazing and fascinating. It wasn't really a room. More like a maze. The passageways beneath and around the stage were about 2 and 1/2 feet wide, but anywhere from 8 to 15 feet high, and were crammed with sound equipment from the groups that were performing for the concert. They were dimly lit, and short flights of stairs led in various directions; up one flight to the baptismal, up another to the side stage door. One led down below the stage, where bare rooms connected to one another in an odd labyrinth-like way.
Justin took one look at these passageways, and a glint came into his eyes. I could see the desire to act like a little boy instead of a professional musician, but all he said was "Boy, I sure would like to explore this place."
I suppose I should stop here and name the people who make up our group.
First, there's my older sister, Heather, (who, incidentally, is the oldest of the group. :) ) then me, then my younger brothers Curtis and Justin. Curtis is our lead musician.
The family who goes to our church has six children, like our family, but only three of them are in The King's Strings; Ben, our banjo player, Elizabeth, the only other girl in the group, and Joe, who is Justin's age.
The other family, who completes The King's Strings, we met because I teach the boys' mother sewing lessons. They are a dear Christian family, and travel a long way to come to our house for lessons every week. I say "they" because the lady I teach always brings her boys along, and they pick and grin with Curtis and Justin for an hour, which is always a lot of fun to listen to. The boys are Ryan, and Aaron and Brandon, who are twins.
The ten of us migrated down to the room below the stage, and practiced with a seriousness brought on only by seconds ticking away. I was relieved to note that our songs sounded much better than they had at the sound check.
(Walking on stage. You don't see all 10 of us there because Heather and Brandon were a little behind. :) From left to right; Justin, Ben, Ryan, Joe, Curtis, Aaron, me, and Elizabeth.)
The MC took a few minutes to introduce us, and tell how she "discovered" us in a back room in a little country church, and was gracious enough to pay us quite a few nice compliments. Then we were given the go-ahead. That was when my nervousness began to go away, and I started having fun.
I won't take the time to tell you in detail how every song turned out. We did about how I expected we would; there were some wrong notes, and a few moments of pause between some of the songs, while we figured out what we were playing next, but there were also songs that turned out really well. During some of the songs, the audience began clapping along. That was cool.
Curtis playing lead.
Aaron, myself, and Elizabeth playing lead. (My fiddle was sitting on the seats behind us, and I played it for 3 songs.)
"Well, I'm glad you had fun," Elizabeth said.
"My mandolin's handle is sticky," she grinned slightly. Poor Elizabeth; she was so nervous. But she went through it like a trooper.
We tiptoed in the auditorium to join our families, and listen to the rest of the concert.
The two main attractions of the night were really good southern gospel singing groups. Their music volume was way too loud, but they sang very well. A few of the songs I recognized, which was fun, because I like to sing along (quietly) with whoever is singing on stage. As I watched them, and as they were introduced, I realized that they were big name groups, and all I could think was "Boy, I can't believe they let us get on the same stage as these folks!"
We weren't able to stay for the entire concert. We really wanted to - 'cause it would have been SO much fun to talk to folks afterward - but around 9:30, when the concert still showed signs of running on, Mom and Dad looked down the row at all of us and gave us a nod that we knew meant it was time for us to be getting home - after all, we had to get up and go to church the next day!
We were sad to miss out on the chance to fellowship with folks afterward, but we had fun talking about the evening as a family when we got home. In fact, I was so keyed up that, like I said, I couldn't relax and go to sleep until 11:30.
I loved playing. It was so much fun. I am honored that we were allowed to do it. I pray the Lord used it to encourage the hearts of folks there. And I pray we'll be allowed to do something like that again real soon.