The church is only twenty minutes from my house. I arrived by 7 and checked in immediately. There were a few CDs on sale in the vestibule. David was at the grand piano in the sanctuary preparing. We weren't allowed inside until he finished.
This was only my second time inside this church. I had visited about a year ago to pray but found the sanctuary undergoing such a major renovation that it wasn't quiet enough. When I heard that the concert was to be held here, I was surprised that the renovation was completed. It had seemed so involved.
I took a good seat expecting to be in his line of sight. A lady sat down next to me and I started the conversation with the typical, "So is this your parish?" She went into an explanation on how it now is and contrasted it with her former parish at which she didn't feel welcome. On top of the fact that her previous pastor wouldn't marry her daughter in the time frame needed, this parish hands out things on special occasions:
Flowers on Mother's Day, York Peppermint Patties on St. Patrick's Day, Hershey's Kisses on Valentines Day!Really, that's a reason she switched. "Tomorrow you'll get palms!" I wanted to point out to her the socio-economic differences between her previous parish, comprised mostly of immigrants, and this one but she would not hear.
David came out and played the first song. Many began to sing along. The lyrics were printed in the program but I wanted to hear him sing and play. I didn't know the songs as well as everyone else. And I don't sing well. But the intimate setting put pressure on me to participate so I reluctantly joined in.
Halfway through, he encouraged us to rise, stretch and give the person to our right a brief back rub. I did my best with my neighbor but she was still wearing her overcoat ... because ... she's a Catholic ... so I don't know how effective I was. Hers wasn't very great towards me, either.
David took up a collection for his summer music camp after explaining the work. Then he did a few more numbers and quietly walked out during a singalong of "Steal Away to Jesus", a cappella so we wouldn't notice the piano cease. He greeted us in the vestibule. I dug a pen out of my pocketbook and asked him to sign my program for my son, Christopher, who's learning the piano. He was happy to.
At the opening of the show, he said it was his fourth time to NJ. I'd overheard Sr. Trudy of the Upper Room say that last year's concert had been at St. Anselm's in Wayside and 400 people turned out. How they squeezed 400 people into St. Anselm's I'll never know. But the change of venue only turned out about 100 people. I have the feeling that people may be unfamiliar with his name even if they know his music.
I heard him perform one other time, in Washington, D.C., about fifteen years ago at a religious educators conference. We happened to ride up the elevator together. I remember him being very humble and nice. Last night he smiled the entire time. Just a happy guy.