Swanberg-Ford Concert

January 19, 2010     

Pianist Martin Duckett and vocalist Susan Browning of Plainview will provide Gospel music before the concert from 6:20 to 6:50 p.m. at no additional charge.

Tickets for the joint appearance of Christian humorist Dennis Swanberg and Grammy-winning Gospel recording artist Larry Ford at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29, in Harral Auditorium are available at the Advancement Offices at Wayland, 901 Utica (north entrance). 

Tickets are $20 each (all seats are general admission) and also can be ordered by calling 291-3603; e-mailing andrewsd@wbu.edu or writing to Swanberg-Ford Concert, 1900 W. Seventh, CMB 437, Plainview, TX 79072. Checks should be made to Wayland Baptist University. Credit card purchases also will be accepted.

Proceeds will benefit the general scholarship fund at Wayland.

Though he’s not always “front and center” with a solo or singing with a group, fans of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s Homecoming video series almost always see a mustachioed native of Levelland, Texas somewhere in the crowd.

That’s internationally-acclaimed tenor Larry Ford, who has appeared in about 60 videos since the Gaithers started producing them back in 1992. In fact, the first one is one of just a few he’s missed.

“Bill Gaither has taken Gospel music from the church and concert stage to the living room,” he remarked.

Gaither produced “The Best of Larry Ford,” gleaned from solo performances on various videos. Several he’s best known for include “Little is Much When God is In It,” “Favorite Song of All,” “Sing of My Redeemer,” “Follow Me,” “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy, and “O What a Savior.”

“Larry Ford sings from his heart. Just his rendition of ‘Little is Much’ would make any evening of Gospel music very special,” says pastor and author Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle.

Ford, who will appear in a concert with Christian comedian Dennis Swanberg on Jan. 29 in Wayland’s Harral Auditorium, says many of the Gaither videos were taped at Great Circle Sounds in Nashville, Tenn. while others have been taped at various locations from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to rural settings in North Carolina to Jerusalem in Israel.

Agreeing that most of the people who sing on the Gaither videos are just down-to-earth church folks, Ford laughed and said without elaborating,  “99.9 percent are good, gentle, folks…with a few exceptions.”

He noted that “Gaither started with 30-40 singers and now has hundreds sometimes. We usually tape the videos over three days, working 8-10 hours a day,” says the 62-year-old Ford, a 1966 graduate of Levelland High School who trained in classical music at South Plains College in his hometown and Eastern New Mexico University in Portales with an eye towards the theater.

“That never really rang any bells for me, though, but my brother, Bruce, is an opera singer in Europe (and a friend of Plainview native and fellow opera star Terry Cook),” said Ford.

Raised in the Assembly of God – singing his first solo in church at the age of five –Ford pastored churches in that denomination in Texas and Florida for a total of 14 years but has had a singing career full time for 25 years.

He sang for several years with the Dixie Echoes and then with the Blackwood Brothers Quartet.

Ford won a Grammy award in 2003 in the Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album category for “We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music,” extolling the life of the late legendary James Blackwood. He did five songs on the album as did a popular longtime Gospel group, The Jordanaires.

Blackwood, who won seven Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association and who did a concert at Harral Auditorium about 25 years ago,  once said, “In my opinion, Larry Ford is the finest tenor in Gospel music....period!”

Ford also produced a widely-acclaimed patriotic CD titled “We Are America,” in 2004.

Ford has produced 15 CDs and two videos called “Home to Ireland” and “Home Where I Belong,” both featuring Irish tunes.

“We’ve done some test-marketing overseas, taping in Ireland, England and South Africa. I’ve also sung quite a bit in South America as well as in the Soviet Union…more than 25 countries in all,” he said.

Ford, who does about 150 concerts a year and has a strong following in the West Texas region moved with his wife Sherryl to Fort Myers, Fla. several years ago to be closer to her parents. They have five sons, one daughter and seven grandchildren and are members of First Assembly of God in Fort Myers.

“It’s rewarding to find people who will allow you to present the Gospel. You can’t sing the Gospel without conviction. You have to sing it with all of its power and authority,” said Ford.