CD Review: A Tribute to the Cathedral Quartet (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)

Next Tuesday, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound will be releasing A Tribute to the Cathedral Quartet, a CD/DVD combo covering 21 songs from Haase’s alma mater, the Cathedrals. Based on a request from their publicist to post the review by the time of release, and due to the fact that I only a have a pre-release version of the CD, this review only addresses the CD.

A review of a full-album tribute project must be equal parts an examination of the song selection and the renditions themselves. The twenty-one songs come from the following Cathedrals recordings:

  • 1972, Welcome To Our World: Yesterday
  • 1976: Easy on the Ears, Heavy on the Heart: Gentle Shepherd
  • 1981, Colors of His Love: God Delivers Again
  • 1982, Something Special: Step Into the Water, Mexico, Jesus We Just Want to Thank You
  • 1983, Live in Atlanta: I’m Gonna Live Forever, We Shall See Jesus, Movin’ Up to Gloryland
  • 1983, Voices in Praise Acapella: Wonderful Grace of Jesus
  • 1984: The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet: Old Convention Song
  • 1986, Master Builder: Can He Could He Would He, Sinner Saved By Grace, Plan of Salvation
  • 1986, Travelin’ Live: Boundless Love
  • 1987, Symphony of Praise: Champion of Love, This Ole House
  • 1989, 25th Anniversary: Life Will be Sweeter Someday
  • 1990, Climbing Higher and Higher: Oh, What a Savior
  • 1991, The Best of Times: Wedding Music
  • 1993, High and Lifted Up: I Thirst
  • 1998, Faithful: He Made a Change

On first glance, the ratio of two from the ’70s, six from the ’90s, and fifteen from the ’80s might seem a little odd. But think about it this way: First, no matter how confident someone may be in the strength of their earlier work, it is an inherently uncomfortable position to be paying tribute to yourself. Second, the Talley/Trammell/Bennett lineup is the lineup that got Ernie Haase hooked on Cathedrals music, the group that led him to want to sing Southern Gospel. Finally, the Cathedrals released about a dozen recordings of (mostly) new songs in the ’80s, and five in the ’90s, so there is far more material from the ’80s. So, in this context, the ratio makes sense.

There are four or five songs that pretty much any Cathedral alumnus doing a tribute project would have to include—”Step Into the Water,” “Champion of Love,” “Boundless Love,” and “Plan of Salvation” at a minimum. The project includes these and a strong representation from a second tier of songs that would generate the most requests/comments if omitted. The less obvious picks that made the project—”I’m Gonna Live Forever,” “God Delivers Again,” and “I Thirst” heading the list—come predominantly from the lineup that got Haase hooked on the Cathedrals music (“I Thirst” being the exception, a song that was a bass solo during Haase’s tenure with the Cathedrals but was never singled, and is now a baritone solo and the project’s first single.)

On to the renditions. A number of the renditions stick fairly close to the original. Several renditions either remarkable for their innovation or their inherent strength as a standalone performance include:

  • “We Shall See Jesus.” Glen Payne’s signature song has lain dormant for over a decade. Either an uninspired facsimile of the Cathedrals arrangement or a mediocre synthesized-strings half-hearted attempt at a new arrangement would have been devastating enough to ruin a tribute project. But Wayne Haun’s majestic orchestration and Devin McGlamery’s lead vocal earn the song the highest compliment that could be paid to a new rendition of a song of this caliber: They do the song justice.
  • “Boundless Love.” Like it or not, the percussion-only intro to the song (drum-drum-clap-rest, four times) is distinctive and instantly recognizable. It’s a daring take on a long-familiar classic, and the result is a fun and enjoyable listen.
  • “I Thirst.” As mentioned earlier, this song originally featured Cathedrals bass singer George Younce on the first verse. Now reworked into a baritone solo featuring Doug Anderson on the first verse (and tenor Ernie Haase on the second), this is a smooth rendition well suited for its selection as the first radio single.
  • “Champion of Love.” Though most regard this song as a classic, I am well aware that two readers vehemently despise the song. That’s all right; I can understand their viewpoint, and to each his own. More controversial, though, was the decision to splice George Younce’s spoken-word audio introduction from the 1995 Reunion CD/DVD into the track; some like it and others do not. (It’s safe to say that this track has generated more discussion than any other so far!) But it is one particular aspect of the arrangement that I find particularly intriguing: The soloist. Wayne Haun was never known as a vocalist prior to accepting the position of playing piano for Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; since going out on the road, though, he has quietly added fifth harmony parts. After “Reason Enough,” a song he co-wrote with Haase, hit the charts, he would sometimes sing a few lines on the encore in live shows. But this song is his first vocal feature—and he nails the rendition. I find this intriguing since the original rendition also featured a full-time pianist not known for vocal abilities and launched that individual, Gerald Wolfe, into a career as one of Southern Gospel’s most awarded vocalists. This is unlikely for Haun, due to his lucrative career as one of the two best orchestral producers in Southern Gospel; however, choosing him as the feature vocalist on this song is a subtle touch that reveals the level of careful planning that went into the project.

After “I Thirst,” the other obvious pick for a radio single is “We Shall See Jesus.” The song has never been singled to Southern Gospel radio (at least by a major group), and the new rendition brings enough to the table that the right promoter should easily be able to take it to #1.

The group has named their current tour the Influenced & Inspired tour, specifically featuring the songs on this project. All indications are that they plan to tour the project for at least a year, so there should be time to send at least three singles to radio. Since the two most obvious picks are both ballads, a third single would need to be uptempo. “Step into the Water,” “Boundless Love,” and “Movin’ Up to Gloryland” would probably be the three contenders. Of those, “Boundless Love” is certainly the rendition which brings the most new to the song; “Step Into the Water’s” well known radio history as the Cathedrals’ most successful radio single of all time would likely remove it from consideration.

Granted, had I been part of the decision making process, I would likely have swapped out a few songs and changed several arrangements. But such is the subjective nature of a tribute. All in all, though, this is a strong project, a worthy tribute to the group it honors.

Produced by: Wayne Haun. • Group Members: Ernie Haase, Devin McGlamery, Doug Anderson, Tim Duncan. • Available from: Artist. Review copy provided. • Song list: Wedding Music; Step Into the Water; Boundless Love; I Thirst; This Ole House; Champion of Love; I’m Gonna Live Forever; Can He, Could He, Would He; Wonderful Grace of Jesus; Sinner Saved by Grace; Old Convention Song; Mexico; God Delivers Again; Life Will Be Sweeter Someday; Movin’ Up to Gloryland; Plan of Salvation; We Shall See Jesus; Yesterday; Gentle Shepherd; He Made a Change; Oh, What a Savior.

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73 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I love the historical context in this review. Thanks!

    • You’re welcome! As a history major and published historian, that really tends to be my strength. I just don’t use it as often as I ought to here!

  2. I notice they didn’t pick out any songs that were Trammell or Funderburk features, unless you count the choruses of “Can He…” or “Boundless Love”. I guess none of them really fit? I personally think Ernie would do fine on a tribute for something like “Somebody Touched Me”, and Devin could give “Master Builder” a go. But only so many songs will fit on one album. Maybe for Volume 2? 🙂

    Seriously, though…I’ve never professed to be a huge EHSS fan (even though I do have all but 2 of their CDs), but I have great respect for their musical abilities and I enjoyed watching the truncated version of this that was on TV last week. They’ve really done a classy job, and that’s the one thing you ask for on a project like this.

    • Haase and Funderburk are very different styled tenors, and Haase is intentionally pacing himself to last 30 or 40 years, instead of 10.

      As Haase makes more clear in the DVD portion of the tribute, it’s really mainly a tribute to George and Glen – and to those songs, whether or not those two were featured – that are so quintessentially Cathedrals that they could not omit them.

      • That’s a good point. The night did seem to be about Glen and George.

      • It’s always been about Glen & George. That’s what intrigues me even about the original group. I mean look at a project like Deep in the Heart of Texas. There’s Ernie, at the height of his powers, singing his heart out, and yet the focus is still VERY much on G & G. Or look at the Cats Reunion vid, where you have allll the tenors and baritones on one side… and George and Glen on the other.

        George and Glen were the Cathedrals. ‘Nuff said.

      • You are correct NewSoGoFan, the Cathedrals have always been G & G. They just had it. They only picked the very best to come in the group with them and the quality of their sound was always the best.

      • Yes, I would agree with that. I guess since Mark Trammell is my all-time favorite gospel singer, and Danny Funderburk is my favorite all-time tenor, my mind automatically goes there, wondering about “Mark songs” and “Danny songs”. But yes, George and Glen were always what the group revolved around (besides the Lord himself, of course).

      • And of course, if there is a third/fourth to Glen, George, and the Savior, it would be Roger Bennett, since he spent over half of the years the group was on the road on the Cathedrals bus, and Ernie made a point of recognizing Roger’s widow at the DVD taping.

      • Yes, I had forgotten about Roger. Maybe I’m biased because Roger has been so pivotal in my becoming a fan of the Cathedrals and gospel music as a whole, but he really brought a special something to the group that can’t quite be described in words.

        Plus, I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that he put in the most road-time of any member G & G brought on board.

      • Yes – as I mentioned in my post right before yours, he spent more than half of the years the group was in existence on the Cathedrals bus – 18 or 19, I think. The next closest would have been Mark Trammell (1980-1990).

      • By years (approximate, but the order should be about right):

        Glen Payne – 36
        George Younce – 35
        Roger Bennett – 19
        Mark Trammell – 11
        Ernie Haase – 10
        Scott Fowler – 9
        Roy Tremble – 8
        George Amon Webster – 7
        Danny Koker, Bobby Clark, Danny Funderburk – 6

      • That looks right, with one question – wasn’t George Amon Webster on the Cathedrals bus around 1970, left for a bit, and then came back? Does that account for both tenures?

      • Yeah, I gave him 2 years for the first tenure and 5 years for ’74-’79.

      • I see – thanks!

      • Nice list, Brian. Thanks! I like it!

      • Very interesting that Danny Funderburk was among the last on the list, but left such a lasting mark on the group. Part of it would be due to the large number of recordings released during the ’80s, as Daniel said, but I think we all know there was more to it than that.

        Oh, hey, Brian, you forgot Gerald Wolfe!! About two years for him, right?

      • Oh, that’s not a complete list. That’s just the top 11. There were quite a few other Cathedrals over the years. I think the total is 22.

      • Roger Bennett is among the top of my list as my favorite pianist of all time. He made such an impact on The Cathedrals and also with Legacy Five. He was an excellent vocalist as well as great pianist. He was a class act too and I knew that he spent over 15 years with the Cathedrals but was not sure how long. Thanks for that tid bit of info!

  3. My little brother and I received our DVD/CD this past Tuesday and I loved the DVD. I have not had a chance to listen to the entire CD yet though. I thought Ernie took a lot of liberties with some of the songs but they all seemed to work. I have always thought Ernie was one of the best tenor singers in gospel music and he sounded as good if not better than ever on this DVD. I don’t know about you Daniel, but every time I see a video of Glen or George, I just can not help but weep. And on this DVD, to see George’s family and Glen’s family there, I know it had to mean so much to them that Ernie was doing this. On “We Shall See Jesus,” when the video of Glen comes up for the second verse, the camera shifts to Mrs. Payne (Glen’s wife) and she was crying and my little brother and I just cried along with her. Dianne Wilkinson was crying, everyone was crying. It was such a tender moment to look at Devin & Doug and to see them both crying. This tribute meant so much to those two guys. I thought it meant a lot to them but when you see the DVD, you will truly be able to see it in their eyes. Also, George’s son has a very good voice too; just like his dad. All in all, this is at the top of my list for favorite DVD that I own right now. I have been a huge Cathedrals fan ever since I got big in to Southern Gospel about 6 years ago. I always wanted to meet George Younce but never had a chance this side of Glory. However, thanks to the promise I have through Christ Jesus, I will get to meet all of my Southern Gospel heroes in due time. Thanks so much for the review Daniel.

    • I know J.C., I found an early upload of “We Shall See Jesus” and got the same feeling. It was just beautiful. I’m sure I’ll be reaching for a tissue once I watch the whole thing through.

      And well, it’s about time somebody else agreed with me that Ernie Haase is one of the best tenors in gospel music! 😀

      • You will definitely enjoy it. Ernie has a tenderness in his voice and can still hit notes that young tenors have a hard time hitting. I really liked the way they did this DVD. It was very classy. If you are anything like me, you will definitely need a tissue. You will have to let me know what you think of the DVD. It should be on every Cathedrals’ fan’s bucket list. Blessings to you NewSoGoFan.

      • Blessings in return! I may well end up writing my own review of the project later as a second take… we will see! 😉

      • Assuming you like it, here’s hoping you do!

      • Hmmm … I’m assuming he’ll like it. 😉

      • I was referring to assuming that NSF liked the project. You see, NSF is such a good describer that when a project isn’t quite up to par, NSF can brilliantly explain why it’s not. Problem is, I generally avoid running that sort of review here!

      • No, I understood you. But I’m about 99.9% sure that NSF is going to like the project. 🙂

        (And I haven’t even heard it at all.)

      • I’m quite sure that I will like the project as well, simply from the bits and pieces I’ve picked up here and there and knowing the song selection.

        That said, I’m predicting that I won’t give it a perfect rating. Like Daniel, I would probably have swapped out some of the songs. But my guess is I’ll still be able to give it a very good rating. I can still be positive about projects that I think could have been even better.

        Oh yes, and Daniel’s right, I can write a really good scathing take-down of something I hate when I’m in the mood. I highly doubt this project will fall into THAT category however. 😆

  4. Hey Daniel, I think you left off “Jesus We Just Want to Thank You,” and that was off of Something Special.

  5. Good review. I’ll have to check out some of the songs, although I don’t expect to get the whole project.

    Did you mean to leave off the star rating in the summary in italics at the end? (I don’t think so.)

    • Oops! I ran out of time! The publicist was pushing me to get the review done before it came out, so I ran out of time to rate it.

      • I kind of got that feel! 🙂

      • At least I found time last night to do a quick double-check of the review itself, and caught several things which otherwise could have been problematic, but not that one!

  6. Yes, i got my DVD the other day in the mail. just had time to scan thru it, i gotta sit down and watch the whole thing when i get time. It is very good!

  7. In one of the stories Ernie told before singing OWAS, he told how George said to him before the first concert “I’m too old to worry about whether my tenor singer is going to be able to finish the song.”

    Was that an issue in the past?

    • Well, yes, with Kurt Young.

      At least one other previous tenor has been said to have left for a group with a slower schedule because his voice was reaching a point of straining singing as high as he did, every night, with the busy schedule the Cathedrals kept.

      • I did not realize that Daniel. I know the Cathedrals had to have a high tenor and it would be very strenuous on the voice. Glen was such an amazing lead singer that the tenor had to be extremely high and also the baritones for the Cathedrals like Mark & Scott Fowler did a lot of lead harmony that was so high. Like I said in an earlier post, Glen & George were not going to have guys singing with them that could not deliver a strong performance every time out there.

      • I think it’s interesting that Ernie was the longest-serving tenor. The thing is, he started off so young and tender that instead of fading, he just got better and better during his time with the group. I also remember George saying that he never asked to “get out of” singing “OWAS” every night, when other tenors would sometimes ask for that with their signature songs.

        I believe Danny quit because his voice was becoming strained with the work load.

      • All right, since you just opened the can of worms, let’s roll with it. 🙂

        Danny was the tenor I was talking about. And it’s not that his voice had completely worn out by 1990; but I have been told that he told others he left to go to a group keeping a slower schedule because he had reason to believe that his voice would burn out if he kept singing that high and that hard night after night with the Cathedrals’ schedule.

      • Of course, I think Danny always sounded strained, but maybe that’s just me. Perhaps it’s just as well he left when he did. 😀

      • For me, Danny was an acquired taste. I had to learn to like him. But once I saw him live, saw the spirit of joy and enthusiasm he poured into delivering each lyric, I came to appreciate his voice a lot more than I did at first.

      • Danny’s stage presence does leave you with a good feeling inside! But I think it’s possible to enjoy somebody’s stage presence while still preferring other tenor voices. 🙂

      • Oh, yes, and I never did say that he was my favorite tenor of all time – just that after seeing his contagious enthusiasm and delight in the lyrics he delivers, I’ve come to enjoy watching him live.

      • Yep!

        And I believe your favorite tenor of all time would be John Rulapaugh, if I’m not mistaken. Great singer!

      • Oh, I don’t think I ever said that, either. He was just my pick for my smoothest quartet lineup (with Dustin Sweatman or Glen Allred, Andrew King, and Randy Byrd or Joe Brown). Seriously, I thought you of all people would know who my all-time favorite SG tenor was… 😀

      • Well Steve Green used to be in SG, but I don’t consider him an SG tenor. Maybe you do?

        I know you’ve told me you thought Eric Phillips was the most consistent. But Big John was the one you kept coming back to when listing any kind of favorites, so I just assumed. 🙂

      • Unless you’d like to count Roger Bennett as an SG tenor. 😀

      • My guess was Danny too. He did sound like he was having to strain a lot but he was a good tenor singer. One of my all-time favorite albums is “An Old Convention Song” which features Stamps Baxter songs and the lineup was Funderburk/Payne/Trammell/Younce. I have listened to that CD so many times that I have lost count. He did not blend as well as Ernie did with The Cathedrals but he was a powerful tenor and you could not help but smile when you watched him sing. Ernie will always be my favorite Cathedrals tenor and Eric Phillips is way up on the list of my favorite tenors as well!!!

      • Steve Green is my favorite tenor ever of course (who else could be)? But Ernie is my favorite “all SG” tenor ever. 🙂

      • Danny was my guess when I originally posed my question, in addition to Kurt. Its no wonder George wanted someone who could finish the song.

        Was this always an issue with Danny, or did it gradually get worse throughout his 6 years?

      • Josh – no, it’s not like Danny was having many issues at all. He chose to cut his schedule back before losing or severely damaging his voice. (Smart man!)

  8. Is the cd the same recording as the live dvd or is the cd a studio recording?

    • It’s a studio recording Brett.

  9. I received my CD & DVD Monday, and I watched the video right away. The short version on the INSP Gaither marathon didn’t do it justice. Ernie sounds fantastic; better than I’ve ever heard him. He has lots of solos & shows incredible control in the upper ranges. Tim is also outstanding. Whoever would have thought he could sound so much like George on “This Ole House”? And Doug is also right on! Love his voice and would like to hear more solos from him. I didn’t know the history between Devin & Glen; very touching story. Their “song” was a tear jerk-er! Needed that kleenix Ernie sent along with the DVD! The CD is good, but nothing beats the music from a live concert. I knew that Wayne had started singing with the group, but wow does he show us all his many talents, with the marimba, sousaphone, piano, orchestrations, etc. Very talented man. The interactions between Ernie and the special guests (Van Payne, Debbie Bennett, George Lane Younce, & Dianne Wilkinson) was touching. Nice class. I thought I would be “bored” with the songs from the “Influenced” project, as I had heard them over and over, but was I ever surprised. I loved them on this DVD. I guess it does make a difference seeing them “live”. I especially liked “Walk With Me”……..wonderful song for Ernie to belt out! The CD is good, but the DVD rates much, much higher. I’ve already watched it five times, and probably will watch it again and again.

    • Walk With Me might be in my personal top 3 of song performances from this DVD.

  10. In case anyone’s interested, EH&SS, along with the Collingsworth family and two others are on TBN tonight at 9 central.

    • Ah… but I don’t have a television. 🙁

      • You can watch TBN live on their website.

      • I don’t have a TV either, but I’ll have to check that out.

      • I watched it too. One word: AWESOME. Signature Sound did all Cathedrals stuff. Highlights: Oh What a Savior, We Shall See Jesus, Boundless Love. Big surprise. I loved it when they brought Jason Crabb up for the encore of “BL” and he was like, “Huh, who, what?” Hilarious! 😆

      • Oh, and the Collingsworth family was flawless. Ho hum. And Kim brought the house tumbling down with “How Great Thou Art.” Yawn. They were outstanding! 😀

    • It was wonderful!

  11. I’d have to say for me, it’s almost a toss up which tenor I liked the best with the Cathedrals. I started out listening to Kirk, and I think each tenor brought a special sound to the group. Kirk does hold a slight edge, in that he was with the group when they did some killer stuff, like Live in Atlanta, Voices in Praise, and of course, Step Into the Water. He may not of had the volume that Ernie has, but he still had an energy and brightness to his voice. Plus, he could sing pretty darn high.

  12. Many people will debate the best tenor the Cats ever had. And there are good arguments from Roy Tremble to Ernie Haase to Bobby Clark to Funderburke. But I think it seems to be the case so many times that Kirk Talley changed the game. Kids heard him and wanted to sing tenor. I know of a few tenors who would admit this (Ernie Haase, Chris Allman, etc.) Danny certainly had the stage presence and delivery that made him so memorable, but Kirk helped create a new sound and energy to the Cathedrals from 1979 – on…

    • Agreed…agreed.

  13. and the song selection by EHSS, i think helps acknowledge that on a certain level. (i hit submit before i was done with my post)

    • I think the song selection leans particularly toward the Talley era because that was the lineup that got everything started for Ernie. Daniel mentioned that as well.

  14. Okay, this has been bugging me ever since I seen the cover. And no one has even mentioned it as far as I can find!

    Is it just me, or does the album artwork look very similar to the artwork for The Cathedral’s “Master Builder”?


    It seems Ernie is even striking the same pose as George!

    • It’s loosely similar… I think it’s pretty different though. For one thing, the Cathedrals are standing around a piano on Master Builder, with Roger sitting down. Just the four guys in a row on the tribute project.

      Ernie’s pose is also not really the same as George’s… similar, but not identical.

      I’d say it’s a coincidence.

  15. In other news, check out this press release from Gaither. Seems the tribute DVD has topped Billboard’s secular and Christian music video charts:

  16. I absolutely love EHSS!! This CD is a great tribute to the old songs while adding some freshness to the arrangements. These guys are 100% legit!

    The only complaint I have is 4K ring that was not mastered out on “Champion of Love”. The ring is from the original recording of George’s voice.

    Besides that, this was a top notch recording.

    • Brandon – wow, you have quite an ear for that sort of thing! Now that you say that, I think I know what you’re talking about, but it didn’t occur to me till now. (I doubt it occurred to Ernie, Wayne, or any engineers, either!)