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Palace will fill up for Gaither show

The Gaither Vocal Band will perform Thursday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

Bill Gaither and Mark Lowry like to tease each other.

As Lowry tells it, when he first joined the Gaither Vocal Band about 25 years ago, Gaither gave him license to make fun of him during performances.

"It turned out to be a pretty good thing," Lowry said of joining the group. "Baritone is hard, but picking on Bill's hair is easy. ... Every time you put him down he gives you a raise."

While Gaither backs up Lowry's story, he said it wasn't a hard sell.

"That's what he gets paid to do," Gaither said, adding with a chuckle, "I think he does it with way too much joy these days."

Gaither, Lowry and the rest of the Gaither Vocal Band will perform Thursday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, and Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said it will be close to a sold-out crowd.

"We've had a great response," he said.

Schilling said there have been more than 2,300 tickets sold, and he estimated there are only 400 tickets left.

"It kind of exceeded our expectations, but at the same time we knew we had a great name with the Gaithers, and there's a strong interest in this type of entertainment, so it's just great to see," Schilling said.

It's not the first time the Gaither Vocal Band has been on stage in the Palace, and both Lowry and Gaither said they look forward to returning.

"That's quite a historic venue," Gaither said. "We had a wonderful time."

The long-time musician said Thursday's show will emphasize the vocal band, unlike some "homecoming" concerts that feature other artists.

"For those people who want to have more of the vocal band, here we are," Gaither said. "It's a wonderful evening if you like vocals, like good singing, like good harmony, like to have a lot of fun ... it's a good evening."

Even after singing with the vocal band for approximately 28 years, Gaither said he continues to be inspired and motivated by two major sources: the art, and the message, of his craft.

"Nothing has changed from that perspective," Gaither said. "A good new song that's crafted well will still get my attention."

The message for the Gaither Vocal Band, of course, is the Gospel message -- which Gaither said he finds just as nuanced and beautiful as the songs he sings.

"The beautiful thing about the Gospel message it's not only about salvation, it's about reconciliation, it's about forgiveness, it's about unity, it's about forgetting the past. It's about enjoying the day," he said. "It's about being alive in the present, and it's about hope for the future. So when I say 'the Gospel' it encompasses all of that, plus a whole lot more."

He said it's about "joy in the journey, even though the journey involves loss and sorrow."

And while he said the evening will include "some very moving moments," there will also be fun and humor.

"There's a lot of humor. It's a very entertaining night," Gaither said. "I often get asked if I consider what we do ministry or entertainment, and I say 'you should ask the people who come to the program.' "

He said he hopes it's both. Lowry agrees, though he said his humor during Gaither Vocal Band concerts is more limited to banter between him and Gaither.

"He's the most secure human I've ever known," Lowry said. "I couldn't take what I give out. There's no way."

And while Lowry said he doesn't classify himself as a comedian, he sees humor as a way to connect with people.

"I'm a singer and a storyteller, I guess," Lowry said. "What I think you try to do is to make the audience feel like they're not at a concert, like they're sitting on your back porch and we're just talking."

"But I'm the only one talking, which is the way I like it," he added with a laugh.

While Christian music audiences likely know Gaither and Lowry while some others may be unfamiliar with the group, both said they hope everyone can enjoy their work.

"I think both come," Lowry said. "But it is definitely from a Christian perspective ... I do feel like I have a ministry to let people know that God is really nice."

Thursday's concert starts at 7 p.m. Tickets that remain are $29 and are available at the Corn Palace box office at 995-8430.