Trevor Kirk looks back over the decades to highlight important Christian music events

Time Tunnels: A journey through the history of Christian Music

July/August 1972
Following the impact made the previous year by the Festival Of Light, a new series of events was to happen from August 30 to September 3 under the title Festival For Jesus. The musical interest was courtesy of a song called "Light Up The Fire", produced by John Pantry, and written and performed by John Paculabo, Sue McLellan and Keith Ryecroft, at the time known as Trinity Folk, but soon to rename themselves Parchment. The song was released as a single by Pye Records into mainstream record shops and hit the UK pop charts on September 16, staying there for five weeks and peaking at number 31. A full album followed shortly afterwards, also on Pye Records, and also produced by Mr Pantry; later, Kingsway reissued the album on CD. Of particular note was the fact that, at the time of release of this pioneering Christian music excursion into the mainstream, John Pantry was not a practicing born again believer. - Seven years on from "Eve Of Destruction", things had changed for Barry McGuire, according to the cover story of the August Buzz. EMI had re-released the song in July, but had no idea where the former New Christy Minstrel had got to, what he was doing, or even (remembering his rapid decline into drug abuse) whether he was still alive. But in Dallas, Texas, an intrepid Buzz journo located Barry and found that he had discovered a personal answer to all the gloom of "Eve Of Destruction", namely Jesus. Barry went on to play the apostle Peter in Jimmy & Carol Owens' 1977 musical The Witness, and in 1978 he released his first solo Christian album. - Buzz reported in July that, after his lightning tour of the UK in the spring, Larry Norman was due to return to these shores for a series of gigs and events in the late summer and also over Christmas, the grand finale being a Royal Albert Hall concert in January 1973. As many of the concerts had yet to be booked and organized, Buzz invited applications from people willing to put on an event, but stressed that they did not wish to hear from people who only wanted the Big Blond Normanski to entertain their cozy youth fellowship!*

July/August 1982
Cover story in the July issue of America's Contemporary Christian Music magazine was all about the boy from the Bronx, Dion. Ranging from 1958, when he and his friends formed hit making doowoppers Dion & The Belmonts, to December 14,1979, when he gave his life to the Lord, Dion DiMucci talked about his music, his fame and fortune, his drug and alcohol addictions and how becoming a Christian affected his family life, both in relation to his parents and sisters, and to his wife and children. After his deliverance from drugs and drink in 1968, Dion had begun to make some very thoughtful music, particularly 'Sanctuary' (1971) and 'Suite For Late Summer' (1972) (recently re-issued on CD by Ace), but from 1980 onward his Christian music garnered him a whole new set of fans - listen to The Best Of the Gospel Years', also on Ace, to see why. - July 1982 was the month that saw Amy Grant in all three chart listings published in CCM magazine, Contemporary/Pop, Adult Contemporary and Inspirational; the track in question was Rich Mullins' immortal "Sing Your Praise To The Lord" from the mega-huge album 'Age To Age'. Another song in all three charts that also appeared on 'Age To Age' was "I Have Decided", performed by its composer, Michael Card. - In the US Inspirational Music chart, a certain Mrs Rosemary Scallon from Londonderry, Dana of course, was featuring with "Praise The Lord (Colm's Song)". - Back in the UK, two of the people who had collaborated on "Light Up The Fire" 10 years earlier were working together again. John Pantry, now firmly a believer, and ex-Parchment member Sue McLellan were part of a group called Fresh Air, the others being Julie Moon (now Mrs Neil Costello), Donna Carey Owen, Steve Buckley and Phil Potter. - One of the surprise mainstream hits of 1982 was "I've Never Been To Me", recorded for Motown Records in 1977 by Charlene, a lady from California who married an Englishman and came to the UK to live in Dagenham. In the intervening five years, Charlene Oliver had become a Christian and was quickly signed up for Monday night at Greenbelt. As it turned out, a broken arm meant she never got to sing. Those who DID make GB '82 were Joe English, Bonnie Bramlett, the Barratt Band, Giantkiller, Bryn Haworth, Adrian Snell, Servant, Graham Kendrick, Moral Support, Paul Field, Barry Crompton and Dave Bilbrough -

July/August 1992
Cross Rhythms magazine, appearing for the first time since February (financial problems were to blame), announced the line up for the second Cross Rhythms festival "Holy Fire", to be held in July at the Devon County Showground near Exeter. Keeping the punters happy would be Caroline Bonnett, John Pantry, Tracey Riggan, Eden Burning, John Perry, Eh! Geoff Mann Band, Jonathan Day, Brussel Spaceship and the Electrics. Up to 3,000 campers and day visitors were expected. - The big cover story in CR11, an in-depth interview with Cliff Richard. Asked by Tony Cummings whether he still felt motivated to continue in showbiz after 33 years, Cliff said that despite all his achievements, he still had ambition - what about the next album, what about the next tour - and the only time the idea of retirement entered his head was when he felt exhausted at the end of a hard day. Come the next morning, after a good night's sleep, the idea had gone. - CCM magazine in July and August ran major articles on Steven Curtis Chapman (on the release of his classic album The Great Adventure'), White Heart (on the release of THEIR classic album Tales Of Wonder'), Keith Green (on the 10th anniversary of his death and on the impending release of the tribute album 'No Compromise'), Geoff Moore & The Distance ('A Friend Like U' had just hit the streets), and the Resurrection Band (on their 20th birthday and on the release of their searing double CD retrospective Twenty Years: Live'). - Over from the USA to appear at the GosFest in Walthamstow in August, was gospel diva Helen Baylor. - Rumored to be reforming for one gig only, namely, Greenbelt 1992 - Fat And Frantic. - Both Russ Taff and Michael W Smith became fathers in July, Russ for the first time, Smitty for the fifth! - And a lady who, as I write, has just scooped her second Dove Female Vocalist Of The Year Award in a row, released her second album 'Wish Me Love'. In those days she was Nicole Coleman, nowadays we know her best as Nicole C Mullen. - The sad news from the USA in July was that Mark Heard had suffered a heart attack after performing at the Cornerstone Festival in Chicago. Mark had been released from hospital after treatment, but shortly afterwards had had a more severe cardiac arrest and had lapsed into a coma. Despite encouraging signs that he might recover, the Georgia-born singer/songwriter/producer went home to glory in August, aged just 41. - "The master producer of gospel" Thomas Whitfield died of a heart attack in June, aged 38. - News of Larry Norman was that he was still recovering from a near fatal heart attack which he had suffered in March. Despite being in intensive care for 10 days, Larry had been able to return home, but his ability to fulfill the dates on his projected UK tour in the autumn was in doubt. To keep the European customers satisfied whilst he was convalescing, Spark Records released Larry's latest project 'Stranded In Babylon'.* CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.