Hundreds of Nashville community members had a free front row seat to a critically acclaimed holiday tour featuring multiplatinum, Grammy-winners Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith as well as “The Voice” season nine champion Jordan Smith as part of Lipscomb University’s 13th annual Lighting of the Green event on Nov. 28.
Since 2005, singer-songwriter Amy Grant has hosted the free community concert to ring in the holiday season, bringing with her an impressive line-up of popular entertainers throughout the years including Brenda Lee, Stephen Curtis Chapman, Lennon & Maisy from the hit show “Nashville,” Vince Gill, Danny Gokey, Nicole C. Mullen, Mandisa, Melinda Doolittle, Point of Grace, the Fisk Jubliee Singers, Buddy Greene, Ruth McGinnis, Cody Fry, Jon and Valerie Guerra, Dave’s Highway and the Annie Moses Band.
“Lighting of the Green has become a beloved tradition in Nashville, and we couldn’t have made that happen without the support and generosity of Amy Grant, who gives of her time and talent to perform and to schedule an exciting slate of artists each year,” said Walt Leaver, vice president for university relations.
Festivities began during the afternoon with free photos with Santa and shopping at the Merry Marketplace, a collection of holiday vendors who donate a portion of their proceeds to benefit scholarships to Lipscomb.
Meteorologist Lelan Statom, of Nashville’s CBS-affiliate, kicked-off the free holiday concert at Lighting of the Green’s first outdoor ice skating rink, which was located on top of the Allen Arena parking garage and hosted by the Office of Student Life at Lipscomb.
“Welcome everybody to Allen Arena and to the 13th annual Lighting of the Green,” said Statom from a live feed to the concert stage. “It has been a fun night so far and we are ready for a fantastic line up beginning with the fourth and fifth grade choirs of Lipscomb Academy under the direction of Melissa Collins and Elizabeth Harrell.”
The Lipscomb Academy combined choirs performed “Boogie Woogie Holiday,” before the Lipscomb University Choir, which is directed by Lipscomb’s Gary Wilson, and Lipscomb Academy high school choir, which is directed by Robert King, joined the stage to sing, “Deck the Halls,” along with Grant who sang “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
“I remember the first ever Lighting of the Green in front of the A.M. Burton building steps, with just a few faithful freezing people having hot chocolate and me and the choirs,” said Grant. “And I look at tonight, and now with the string section from the university that has joined us; we are just so glad that everyone made the effort to come out tonight because we have a lot to celebrate.”
Grant played “To Be Together,” a song she released last year, before transitioning into her renowned tune “Tennessee Christmas,” one that she says she wrote on a moonlit July night with Gary Chapman, driving south on Hillsboro road.
“As crazy as it sounds, the way that moonlight shined on those hills on either side of Hillsboro, it looked like snow. So I wrote this song…Tennessee Christmas,” she said.
Grant then welcomed Jordan Smith onto the stage to sing “Mr. Grinch,” a song that he performed on his Christmas album titled Tis The Season, released last year. Smith, who won the ninth season of NBC’s “The Voice,” is one of the most successful artists to appear on the show.
“One of my favorite people I’ve ever known in the music world and a dear friend, is going to sing for you next,” said Grant as she introduced Michael W. Smith who sang the classic song “Happy Holidays.”
Smith has sold more than 15 million albums, scoring 32 No. 1 hits, receiving two times RIAA Multi-Platinum, 6 Platinum and 16 Gold certified albums, earning three GRAMMYs and 45 Dove Awards.
In the middle of the song, Grant joined him for a swing dance number during an instrumental break, before the pair transitioned into a duet of “Gloria.”
After the song ended, Jordan took center stage to sing Michael W. Smith’s “All is Well” with Michael accompanying him on the piano.
“Somehow hearing Jordan sing ‘All is Well’ makes me believe it to the tips of my toes. Michael thank you so much for writing that beautiful song and for bringing peace to so many people,” said Grant who introduced the university chorus to sing “Carol of the Bells” and “Joy to the World.”
The concert ended with a duet by Grant and Michael W. Smith singing “Christmas time/ Love Has Come,” followed by another duet of “Grown up Christmas List” by Grant and Jordan, and finally with a solo of “Oh Holy Night,” by Jordan.
“I want to thank all of the musicians on stage for sharing their gifts with all of us, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to be on this stage if it weren’t for the kind invitation of the president of this university,” said Grant as she welcomed L. Randolph Lowry, Lipscomb’s 17th president, and his wife Rhonda, to the stage.
“It is a very exciting time for us at this Christian university because 126 years ago we began with this story and we’re still wanting to proclaim it to the world,” said President Lowry. “I often say Lipscomb University wants to be Christian intentionally, courageously and graciously and so we welcome you tonight to the celebration and hopefully the start of your Christmas season. Hopefully, a time of encouragement, inspiration and renewal in your life.”
“This is a young man in the George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts. He sings in our university chorus and he works steadfastly in La Palma, El Salvador to teach kids how to sing. He is now a sophomore and he looks forward to working full-time in La Palma, El Salvador, after he graduates,” said Rhonda. “Payton, we are proud of you and the work that you are doing in El Salvador. Keep it up brother!”
Dishman is the third recipient of this award. Sarah Wood, a former vocal music major from Pueblo, Colorado, and Ella McKelvey, a junior contemporary music major from Franklin, Tennessee were previous recipients.
President Lowry concluded the evening by lighting the 30-foot university Christmas tree saying, “Tonight we proclaim God’s love for us and for the world and that He will once again bring light into the world.”
The holiday concert ended with Amy Grant singing “O Little Town/Emmanuel,” as attendees enjoyed celebrating the beginning of the holiday season.
Sponsors for this year’s event include C.O. Christian & Sons Inc., American Paper & Twine Co., Arthur J. Gallagher & Company, Rebel Hill Florist, Lee Company, Glover Group Entertainment Consulting, Herring Technology and Liberty Party Rentals.