Gaither's songs of love and goodwill bring healing this holiday season
Whoever said that music is the universal language lied, Bill Gaither says.
Not that there isn't truth in that statement, about how music speaks to human souls around the world. But take a multi-generational family, and you may not find much common ground, says the legendary Christian singer who is bringing the Gaither Christmas Homecoming to the Petersen Events Center in Oakland on Dec. 2.
Music “can be the most divisive element in our culture,” says Gaither, who still lives in his hometown of Alexandria, Ind. “Kids love their music, and the middle-aged love their music.”
But for several weeks out of the year, at Christmas time, diverse tastes in music unite and delight in the joy of Christmas carols. Who doesn't like good yuletide music?
“That's the great part about Christmas,” Gaither says. “It's a very unifying time, where at least most of the family can come together on music.
“I think it will be a wonderful chance (at the concert) to sing lines like ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight' …”
At 80, Gaither still tours energetically, and brings the Christmas concert to several American cities a year; however, other members of his team do most of the “heavy lifting,” he says. Gaither plays the role of patriarch and shares the stage with a big band and many other singers. The Isaacs, a bluegrass band, will join Gaither on stage, and they have great harmony, he says. Gaither's set list includes Christmas classic hymns like “O Holy Night,” and more contemporary songs like “Mary, Did You Know?”
“I'm probably the granddaddy,” Gaither says. “It's Christmas. It's kind of like a family reunion.”
Speaking of reunions, after such a nasty election that divided Americans, people could especially use the healing and unity that the Christmas spirit and music can create, he says.
“Martin Luther King is given credit for this statement: ‘There are more things that unite us than those things that divide us.' I have to believe that,” Gaither says. He recalls performing in Pittsburgh after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, and the patriotism that united everyone.
“When we sang ‘America the Beautiful' that night, the entire arena was rising to their feet,” Gaither says. “It took something tragic like that for a family that might have disagreed earlier in the year — but at that point, because of 9/11, we were all united.
“I think when you're singing songs about peace and love and goodwill … it brings healing to all of us,” Gaither says.
“There is nothing more beautiful than when all our diversity comes together — when you put it in a blender and it becomes one, then we are all Americans at that point. … We are all part of the family of God, and I believe that very much.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.