Signature Sound dishes up Southern Gospel
Ernie Haase has legitimate old-time Southern Gospel credentials, but when he formed his Ernie Haase and Signature Sound in 2003 he was thinking about the future.
The result of his innovations will be at Aversboro Road Baptist Church in Garner on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. Signature Sound dishes up Southern Gospel, but the show will display the influence of some of Haase’s youthful favorites _ Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
“It is no secret that a lot of the Southern Gospel audience in the United States is from the older generation,” said Devin McClamery, EHSS’ lead tenor. “Ernie wanted to form a group that appeals to the generations.
“We’re seeing that diversity in ages, especially in Europe. The demographic for us in many European countries is the exact opposite of what we see here. Our audience in Europe is predominately young people. And in South Africa, you’ll hear Signature Sound on the radio right after they play Bon Jovi.”
The road to reach a broader audience with Southern Gospel music hasn’t been without critics. A Southern Gospel group with flashy clothes and choreographed routines draws criticism from some traditionalists.
“You can’t please everybody,” McClamery said. “Ernie tells the story of before the first Signature Sound show of getting a telephone call from (Southern Gospel legend) George Younce. Ernie was scared to death if the audience would accept our sound.
“George told Ernie to just be himself. Be true to yourself and your music. That’s what we do. We still sing some songs standing still and flat-footed, but there are other songs that you have to move because we’re so excited about what we are singing about.”
Haase’s traditional Southern Gospel credentials are unimpeachable.
He was the lead tenor for The Cathedrals, one of the most honored Southern Gospel quartets of all time. He is married to the daughter of Younce, a former Cathedral who is in two Gospel Music halls of fame and was a 14-time recipient of Singing News’ Fan Award for favorite bass singer.
But Haase said he was influenced as a young singer by Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, not just the great Southern Gospel groups of the period. And he is a big Broadway fan, one reason Signature Sound has joined with former Broadway Les Miserables star J. Mark McVey in a series of concerts called The Inspiration of Broadway.
“Those shows have been good for us,” McClamery said. “Often we have a secular audience which came to hear Broadway songs and we get to do a few of our Gospel songs, too. It is a lot of fun.”
McGlamery said he has no idea what songs the group will sing in Garner. The first three songs are planned, but from there the group hops to whatever Haase feels is appropriate. That’s the way they play it about 100 dates a year.
“No two shows are alike,” McGlamery said. “That’s one reason that the shows stay fresh for us. Another reason we can keep the show fresh is that we have a great deal of accountability to each other and to our audience. “
McGlamery suspects some of the audience will be fans, but others may be hearing the group for the first time. And there might be some people there who are being exposed to Southern Gospel for the first time.
After all that’s why Signature Sound does what it does the way it does it.