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Massey Auditorium, Belmont University, Nashville

Tribute Concert

Picture: Shown onstage for the finale of the three-hour tribute to Mark Heard are JamesHollihan, Buddy Greene, Steve Taylor, Randy Stonehill, Phil Madeira, Danny O'Lannerghty,Phil Keaggy, Rick Elias, Pierce Pettis, Dave Perkins, Kim Hill, Pat Terry, and Bob Bennett

Of the 1300-plus people that assembled to pay their respects and attempt to help Mark Heard'sfamily settle the debt that his lingering illness had amassed, perhaps only a couple dozenknew Heard, and fewer still could claim to be close friends. But in a very real sense, theentire sell-out crowd and stellar cast of musicians (including Randy Stonehill, Phil Keaggy,Chagall Guevara and Bruce Carroll) and support crew were as acquainted with an artist as onecould be through his music. And the music of Mark Heard spoke volumes about the man and hisfaith.

From the start, the evening took on the atmosphere of a New Orleans funeral; a mix of solemnityand celebration. The men responsible for maintaining that precarious balance - promoter MarkHollingsworth and musical director Phil Madeira, addressed the crowd at the outset, encouragingthe audience to enjoy the music and appreciate the man. Though it might seem unfair to mention"highlights" in an evening such as this, some moments clearly stood out above the rest.

Appropriately, Pat Terry, a fellow Georgian and the musician who had known Heard the longest(over 20 years), began the concert with Heard's "Well-Worn Pages", followed by the original"We'll Laugh for A Million Years", a touching and hilarious recounting of how Heard developedhis knack for telling long, involved jokes. Terry was joined by the house band of Madeira onorgan, James Hollihan and Rick Elias on guitars, Danny O'Lannerghty on acoustic bass and MikeRadovsky on drums. (This ensemble would perform yeoman's service the entire night, havinglearned more than a dozen Heard tunes for the event, as well as songs by each of the guestartists). Ashley Cleveland took to the stage next, offering her new "Henry Doesn't Care". Asong based on her family's foibles, which perfectly complimented her rendition of "Lonely Moon"(from Heard's Second Hand). Pierce Pettis, who was the last performer to share a concertstage with Heard, spoke for many of the artists when he observed that "Mark was a man moreconcerned with telling the truth than selling the truth". Pettis also drew from SecondHand for a lovely reading of "Node Over Coffee". Balladeer Bob Bennett provided a momentat once serious and comical with his "The Place I am Bound", the story of a man who, like manyof us, would secretly like to attend his own funeral. The song carried just the touch of ironythat one sensed Heard would have appreciated. Randy Stonehill, who admitted he still hadn'tbeen able to say goodbye to Heard, capped the first set with his original "Heart Strings",which proved a visibly moving tribute and a cathartic moment for much of the audience. Beforea short intermission, Stonehill thanked the crowd for showing its support by simply beingthere, and asked for its generosity once more, as a special offering was taken for the Heardfamily.

Phil Madeira opened the second portion of the concert with his own bluesy "Change of Heart",which instantly transformed the evening from a subdued memorial to something of a raucousIrish wake. Rick Elias, one of the performers who freely admitted that he didn't know Heardpersonally, still captured the frustration and ache at the core of much of Mark's music withhis version of "The Pain That Plagues Creation". Impressed by his fellow musician's tales ofHeard's integrity and honesty, Elias offered an original tribute, "Man of No Reputation",tastefully drawing parallels between Heard's lack of commercial acceptance and Christ's wordsgoing unheeded in his own time.

A special presentation - a poster signed by all the participating performers - was made toMark's widow Janet, who bravely stepped onstage to a thunderous ovation. She haltinglyadmitted that she hadn't listened to Mark's music since his passing, and thanked the artistsand audience for allowing her the opportunity to again appreciate the diversity of herhusband's music. Hollingsworth presented the Heard family with the first financial fruitsof an offering which has since swelled past $18,000, and will climb higher with the anticipatedrelease of audio and video tapes of the event.

Dann Huff of Giant cranked up the music again, with a version of "Threw It Away" so hot itblew up his amp, then dedicated an acoustic version of a new Giant song, "Life Goes On" toJanet. Chagall Guevara offered a searing rendition of "Treasure of the Broken Land" (the finaltrack from Heard's last album, Satelitte Sky); its chorus "Waiting wind of Gabriel/Blowsoon upon the hollow bones" providing an eerie epitaph. Phil Keaggy spoke of treasured momentsin studio with Mark before reprising Heard's "I Always Do" and proffering the blistering "Johnthe Revelator" from his new Crimson and Blue set. That brought the crowd to its feet,where it remained as the entire cast concluded the three-hour concert with a ragged,unrehearsed version of "He Will Listen to You".

The evening was a success, not just for the financial benefits reaped by the Heards, butbecause several hundred people got to hear the lyrics of a spectacular songwriter for thefirst time, thus insuring the legacy of Mark Heard's music will continue for some time tocome.

Bruce A. Brown ( CCM - In Concert, March 1993 )
Copyright © 1993 CCM Magazine

Mark Heard Memorial Service