Last Sunday evening, Dallas Holm and Michelle Whalen were greeted with a packed house at Harman Park. The concert was free and open to the public and concert-goers attended in droves. Residents and visitors alike were treated to an evening of community, laughter and inspiration.
Twenty-two minutes before the concert began the initial seating was filled and organizers had to remove the back of the tent to allow more chairs to be set up. After chairs ran out, personal folding chairs were used and, finally, hay bales were lined up in rows to allow the nearly 500 attendees to settle in for the outstanding evening of music.
In his unique and down home “Andy Griffith of Mayberry” way, master of ceremonies Jon Johnson welcomed those attending the concert. By engaging the crowd with “Howdy Jons!” and a unique story or two of his growing up in Pagosa, this longtime resident made his hometown proud with his delightful introductions and genial sense of humor, community and goodwill.
Minneapolis recording artist Michelle Whalen opened with warm and engaging stories of songwriting that undergird her unique and rich writing style. The crowd laughed and cried as she shared stories of her faith and life that shape her songwriting. From the tender and enriching lyrics of old Shaker hymns, to children’s nursery rhymes, to rich scriptural reference, Whalen weaved all those words and experiences into beautiful jazzy, bluesy and R&B arrangements.
At one point there was not a dry eye in the tent as she told the gentle and hope-filled story behind the song inspired by her mother’s untimely passing over 15 years ago. While she believes wholeheartedly that her mother is in heaven with Jesus, she still shared the importance and tenderness of missing those who have moved on. In her story of the song “Missing” she tells of carrying the memory of her mother and at times hearing her mother’s voice now in her own voice as she sings and speaks to her own young daughter.
Dallas Holm was welcomed by rousing rounds of applause for his almost 40 years of music and ministry. From the onset of the concert the rich baritone voice of the Grammy-nominated artist engaged and touched those attending with songs from his new album “Good News Blues” as well as timeless hit songs from his past. Several times throughout the evenings concert the entire crowd could be heard in rousing union as they joined in to sing on several of the choruses of songs.
Along with his rich and melodic singing voice, Dallas’ wonderfully energetic and endearing mind entertained and encouraged with stories of growing up in Minnesota and years spent touring the United States and even the globe in ministry. With a wit and story telling reminiscent of Garrison Keillor, the Dove award-winning artist brought a rich evening of laughter and encouragement to Pagosa Springs. Responding to stories of “flannel graph characters” acting out Bible stories for him as a 5 year-old in Sunday school to tales of ministering on the streets of New York City with David Wilkerson, the crowd at Sunday evening’s concert roared in laughter at times. No one who attended Sunday’s concert will ever hear the word “Spandex” in quite the same light again.
At other times Dallas held the audience in serious and rapt attention as he shared from his authentic heart. “I’ve been a Christian for some forty years now and I can tell you, if it wasn’t real I wouldn’t still believe in Jesus!” He relayed to the crowd a saying his mother had said to him years ago regarding his faith and experience in Christ. She said, “A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”
In a gentle and straightforward way Dallas exhorted the crowd that they had two choices before them. They had the choice to believe in God or not. He went on to say that God deeply desired a relationship with them, and they had but to simply ask God.
After the concert both Dallas and his wife, Linda, remarked on the warmness and receptivity of those attending the night’s community event. “Boy, you could really here folks singing and engaging, what a neat community event!”
During the concert Dallas commended the churches attending for their choosing to come together for the concert. “In my years of ministry there are sadly very few times when churches and towns will come together in this way. Don’t lose what you’ve all brought together in this act of union and community tonight. When churches come together this way, it is the start of something amazing!”
People began showing up over an hour early to reserve seats. In the hands of every concert-goer were donations for the local Methodist Food Bank. Concert goers responded majestically to the promoter’s request for canned food donations and several folks even brought small bags full of items. Repeatedly the donation tables need to be cleared to make room for the constant stream of soup, vegetables, stew, beans, chili, etc. that was being donated. In the end an SUV full of canned goods was donated. The items will be delivered this week to the Methodist Food Bank.
More than 12 churches were represented at Sunday’s concert with several visitors to Pagosa joining in for a taste of what makes our town so special. A husband and wife from Mankato, Minn., who attended the Dallas Holm concert heard about it the day before while soaking in the hot tubs with their children at the Springs Hotel downtown. They had this to say. “What a special evening, what a beautiful town and what a sense of community. What an amazing place to live!”