The “Music in the Park” series, now in its 12th year, takes place in Robert Smith Memorial Park, located behind the Uptown Gallery and Dr. Robert Smith House on North Main Street. This year, “Vessels of Clay” kicked off the music series.
The Southern gospel quartet sang standards from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Some of the songs performed include “The Anchor Holds,” “On the Jericho Road,” and “This Old House.” The group performed for around an hour, then took a break before singing its final set.
Yesterday was James Kemp’s birthday, and Vessels of Clay sang one of his favorite songs, “The Anchor Holds.”
“I grew up hearing that song ... There’s a lot of meaning in that for me,” said Kemp, a native of Mount Airy.
He enjoys coming to the music series each year because he said it’s a “happy occasion” and a “good social.”
“It’s just a wonderful gathering of local folks,” Kemp remarked.
He is a big fan of Vessels of Clay. Kemp said, “They are just out of this world.”
Katrina Hiatt from Mount Airy had never heard Vessels of Clay before, but she said, “I love gospel music.”
Hiatt comes to the music series in the park each year and said the event was worth being outside in the heat. She fanned herself to keep cool during the event.
“I enjoy it — the music, the atmosphere, the people,” said Hiatt.
Brookie Bunton of Mount Airy attends Antioch Baptist Church, the church where the singing group originated. She loves to hear the group sing but also comes to hear some other singers at the outdoor concerts at the Robert Smith House.
“It’s just nice, it’s pleasant. It’s a chance to see people that you don’t get to see too often,” said Bunton of the event.
Her favorite song also was “The Anchor Holds,” because she said the song has meant a lot to her after the loss of family members.
Vessels of Clay has been performing at the music series for six years. The quartet has been together for 11 years and is comprised of Bob Chilton, Lamar Short, Mike Walker, and Wayne Jones. Nancy Goins is the pianist for the group, and Garry Goins is the sound technician. The group has a Web site, www.vesselsofclayquartet.com.
Chilton, tenor for the group, said of the event, “We just enjoy it. It’s hot, but it’s fun.”
He continued, “It’s free for the community. To me it’s a great event. We don’t have enough free stuff like this.”
He said it also offers people the opportunity to socialize outdoors. “We all stay cooped up in our houses so much. It’s good to get out for a change,” he said.
Chilton said, “I’m very pleased with the turnout today, especially in the heat.”
Cindy Puckett, horticulturist for the Gilmer-Smith Foundation, estimated that around 80 people were at the kick-off shortly after it began. People continued to come in, and she said she wouldn’t be surprised if 125 people attended total. She said the event usually draws 50 to 100 people.
“This group is one of the area favorites,” she remarked. Puckett said as many as 200 people have come to hear Vessels of Clay before.
The Gilmer-Smith Foundation schedules a variety of musicians to perform each year. This year, Stevie Barr and Bruce Mosley will perform bluegrass on July 25 and jazz singer Melva Houston will perform on August 22.
“It’s a broad variety of music,” said Puckett. “(Ann Vaughn) tries to bring back favorites.”
Vaughn, director of the Gilmer-Smith Foundation, is usually at the event but was out of town and unable to attend the kick-off.
The fourth Sunday event is free for the public. People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets and a picnic supper. The foundation provides lemonade.
“It’s a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” said Puckett.
For more information about the event, call 786-6856. The Dr. Robert Smith House is located at 615 North Main Street.
Contact Meghann Evans at email@example.com or 719-1952.