The candlelight danced in the stained glass windows of Downtown Presbyterian Church last night as artists sang melodies of hope to the crowd gathered for the Free Paul House Concert. Over 150 people gathered to hear the incredible line-up of artists and to learn more about Paul’s case. Joyce House, Paul’s mother who was adorned in her red Christmas sweater, opened the evening by expressing her thanks and speaking on Paul’s behalf, sharing how much it meant to him just to know that people care.
And the music…Julie Lee, a gifted musician and member of Downtown Presbyterian Church, who organized the concert after learning about Paul’s case, was overwhelmed by the artists’ response when she made those first phone calls to see if any of them wanted to participate. When all was said and done, 19 different artists were on hand to share their gifts and to encourage concert goers to support a full pardon for Paul House. The artists performing included Julie Lee, Jodi Haynes, Pat McGrath, Rob Ickes, Casey Driessen, Zane Williams, Sarah Siskind, Kenny Meeks, Elizabeth Foster, Nathan Phillips, Kenny Foster, David and Sarah Masen Dark, Peter Barbie, Chris Burke, Max and Dave Perkins, Joy Lynn White, Tom Kimmel, Michael Kelsh, David Olney, Mindy Smith, Lex Price, Darrell Scott, and a special surprise appearance by Beth Neilson Chapman. Soul-full music filled the sanctuary as it filled those gathered with the hope that Paul will someday go home.
Stephen Kissinger, Paul’s attorney who drove down from Knoxville, spoke to concert-goers of the courts’ endless rehashing of the same old arguments as time continues to pass. Though Steve expressed his deep frustration with the court system and its inability to see that justice is served, he asserted his firm belief that ultimately, we–the citizens of Tennessee–are the only ones with the power to see that Paul gets home.
And so we demonstrated that power by writing letters to the Governor, right there at the concert, to ask him to pardon Paul. Folks were more than happy to spend ten minutes writing letters asking our Governor to step up and do the right thing. We hope that such letters are being generated all over the state inviting the Governor to demonstrate true leadership and courage by pardoning Paul House.
Perhaps the most moving part of the evening occurred when all the artists gathered on the stage together to sing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Of course, the crowd joined in the singing as the sanctuary swelled with the prayer that Paul would not spend one more Christmas in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The harmony and power of all those voices joined together as one reminds me that it will take all of our voices–all of our actions, all of our prayers, all of our peristence–to makes Paul’s freedom a reality. Beth Neilson Chapman sang a song wich included a line saying (and I paraphrase) “only those who believe will see what they dream.” My dream is freedom for Paul and for an end to the death penalty in Tennessee. Thanks to all of you and to all of the artists who believe in that dream too.
To see a slideshow of the photos taken by Harry Simpson last night, click here.
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