Concert Review: Crist Family (Rittman, OH)

Last Sunday, I had the chance to see my first full concert by the Crist Family. (I’d only previously seen them at the National Quartet Convention). They were in Rittman, Ohio, helping the Calvary Baptist Church of Rittman celebrate its 50th Anniversary.

They sang several songs in the Sunday Morning service. They started with a three-song set before several special 50th Anniversary moments.

  • I’ve Come a Long Way
  • When the Sun Finally Sets
  • Canaanland is Just in Sight – featuring Breana Crist and Tami Crist Starkel. I’ve heard good versions of the song recorded, including the original Heavenbound version, but this is easily the best version I’ve heard live. Seven voices add a big sound that you didn’t know the chorus needed until you hear it that way.

After the 50th Anniversary moments, they sang three more songs:

  • Jesus Savior Pilot Me – featuring Tami Crist Starkel
  • No Other Name – featuring Tami Crist Starkel
  • Lift Up the Cross – featuring Tami Crist Starkel – This was sung at the pastor’s on-the-spot request. They had originally only been going to sing two songs in this time slot. The song received an enthusiastic response.

The pastor delivered what is easily the most memorable sermon I’ve sat through when attending a Sunday concert. Instead of using the occasion of the church’s 50th anniversary to pat the church on the back and congratulate them on the occasion, the pastor (who has been there for 30 of those 50 years) challenged the church that it had become complacent and that it needed to return to the pioneer spirit of its early days. The anointing was so strong that he even broke down crying near the end. It was powerful and well delivered.

After a fellowship dinner, the Crist family did a full program:

  • When I Get Carried Away – featuring Rich Crist
  • I Believe He’s Coming Back Like He Said – featuring Tami Crist Starkel
  • The Anchor Holds – featuring Tami Crist Starkel
  • Joy’s Gonna Come in the morning – featuring Tami Crist Starkel
  • Introductions. This was probably the most anticipated moment of the evening, as most of the audience was wondering how everyone was related.
  • My Heart Knows – featuring Jackie Crist.
  • Living with the Light On
  • He Knows the Way Home – featuring Tom Joyce
  • The Rock – featuring Rich Crist and Tami Crist Starkel
  • Great Beyond – featuring Tami Crist Starkel

After a very brief intermission, they began the second half with two acapella numbers. The first was “I Must Tell Jesus”:

Then, they sang:

  • He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need – Also acapella, but with the microphones.
  • Lift Up the Cross – They were joined by the church quartet, and got another enthusiastic response.
  • Oh Happy Day – featuring Tami Crist Starkel

Probably the element of the concert that surprised me the most was the assignment of solos. As I recall, neither John Starkel nor Lisa Crist had any solos, and Breana Crist and Tom Joyce only had one solo apiece. Jackie Crist, featured on “My Heart Knows,” was surprisingly good. She shares the soprano duties with Tami Crist, and while Tami is more a Kim Hopper-style soprano, Jackie sings a straight, clear tone closer to Charlotte Ritchie. (Actually, neither comparison is good, but no better come to mind.) I would have liked to hear more from Jackie, Breana, Lisa, John, and Tom … but the fact is that with seven people on stage, the family simply has more talent than they can feature in a 90-minute program.

As if there wasn’t enough reason already to make plans to see them again!


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4 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I absolutely love them. I think we are going to see a lot of great things out of them. Thanks for the recap and the great video, Daniel! I enjoyed it!

    • AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. The Crist Family chooses to feature their stronger/most confident singers most. This is reflected on their recordings as well. 90 minutes/19 songs is more than enough time to feature seven singers on solos more or less equally, but typically, 60% of their solo moments feature either Tami or Rich.

    On stage, they have the advantage of looking like no other group in the industry, but in practical terms, they still sound a lot like other groups by breaking into solos, trios, etc. and singing with tracks.

    With their a cappella songs, though, they have a unique look AND sound. The only way an existing mixed quartet could create a similar effect would be to hire three more people. I’m glad to see they’re doing more than just one a cappella song per concert and mixing it up in smaller venues by singing one with no microphones. They’re already turning a lot of heads, but I think they can stand out even more by emphasizing those moments that make them different from all the other groups in Southern Gospel.

  3. I had the opportunity for the first time to hear The Crist Family in concert on Saturday night. I am already eager for my next chance to hear them, whenever that may be.

    Their a cappella renditions of the same two songs that you mentioned sealed my approval.

    It appears that the concert I attended was very similar selection-wise to the concert you attended, however without the “enhancement” of an anniversary celebration.

    I believe that Tami was my favorite singer of the group. I love her voice and stage presence. She and Rich are the definite “anchors” of the group, but the others are strong in their own supporting roles, also.

    This is another group with roots in the West–specifically the Pacific Northwest–that reinforces the growing evidence that neither the South–nor the East–has a monopoly on producing good gospel music! 🙂

    Yesterday I uploaded to YouTube six videos that I took at the concert Saturday night. You may be interested in taking a look at those, especially if it’s been some time since you have heard the family sing. You probably recall how to find me, but I go by “psalmofpraise” on YouTube. I also posted a note last night on Facebook that has direct links to all the songs.

    Keep up the great work, Daniel! I remember reading this post back when it was new, but since I hadn’t heard the group it didn’t mean a lot at that time. Since the concert is fresh in my mind, I really enjoyed reading your review again this morning, and agree with all that you had to say.

    Tonight I get to hear the Dixie Melody Boys! 🙂