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Southern gospel’s Cathedrals slate retirement after ’99 tour

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Southern gospel music legends The Cathedrals have announced that 1999 will be their last year in full-time ministry. Lead singer Glen Payne said the group believes this is God’s timing for retirement, according to the January issue of the Singing News Trade Review.
The Cathedrals still will sing together occasionally for reunions or other special events, and some more recordings are in the works for this year. “For the last 55 years, this is all I’ve done,” Payne said during an interview before a recent concert in the St. Louis area.
“To think I’ve lived out my dream (of singing in a quartet) is amazing. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how happy I am about that. I’m grateful for the people who supported me and helped me live out my vision.”
The Cathedrals’ announcement comes after cutting back their touring schedule in recent years because of health concerns and so they could spend more time with their families.
Payne, 72, and bass singer George Younce, 68, have logged a combined 108 years in full-time music ministry. Both are in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. For the last 35 years, the duo has charmed audiences across the nation and around the world. They began singing together in a quartet in 1964 at the Cathedral of Tomorrow with Rex Humbard in Ohio.
Other current members of the group are pianist Roger Bennett, a member of the group nearly 20 years; Ernie Haase, with the group nine years; and Scott Fowler, a Cathedral for eight years.
The Cathedrals have recorded more than 80 albums. They have had 48 songs on the Singing News chart — including 33 in the top 20 and five at No. 1 — and have collected more than 30 Singing News Fan Awards and five Group of the Year awards.
Some of their most popular songs have been “We Shall See Jesus,” “This Old House,” “Step into the Water” and “Champion of Love.”
Early on, Payne recalled, “Some deejays wouldn’t play our music with strings and brass because it was too contemporary in 1965 and ’66.” The Cathedrals were the first gospel music group to use string and brass instruments with their songs. They also were the first gospel group to record in the Holy Land and in England with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. “The orchestra gave us a standing ovation,” said Payne, a member of First Baptist Church, Franklin, Tenn. “I think they were standing for God himself. An engineer came out afterwards and said he had been there 14 years, and he’d never seen the London Philharmonic stand for anyone. We were just in awe that they did that.”
The Cathedrals also paved the way for other gospel music groups to sing on the NBC “Today” show. After a 1995 performance, they were invited back, and now NBC invites other Southern gospel groups.
“But the church is what has kept us in the field,” Payne said. Today, it’s nearly impossible for the group to sing in a setting with fewer than 500 seats because of the high demand to see them.
“God has blessed us beyond measure,” Payne said. “We’re good guys, family men, friendly to people and love the Lord — that’s how I like to be thought of.
“This has been a great trip.”

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  • Stacey Hamby