By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
One year ago, MercyMe was riding on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, an experience that guitarist Mike Scheuchzer remembered as “surreal.”
“To ride down the road and see that many people, crammed on the street, it was literally like being in a movie and right in the middle of it,” he recalled. “That was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Today, the Grammy-nominated band from Greenville, Texas, is preparing for its 2016 Christmas tour, which opens Tues, Nov. 29, with the Grand Rapids Symphony at Resurrection Life Church in Grandville.
So far, MercyMe has only done about eight to 10 concerts with orchestra. But if Scheuchzer had his way, all of the group’s Christmas shows would be with symphony orchestra.
“It’s a stunning experience,” he said. “To add what an orchestra brings, it makes it feel that much more like Christmas. It’s really beautiful.”
Grand Rapids Symphony Associate Conductor John Varineau will lead the 7:30 p.m. concert at Resurrection Live Church, 5100 Ivanrest Ave. SW. Tickets start at $30.
Grand Rapids is the only Christmas show in the Midwest that MercyMe will perform with symphony orchestra this holiday season, making the concert an extra special experience for them.
“None of us are classically trained musicians,” said Scheuchzer, who co-founded MercyMe with vocalist Bart Millard, in 1994. “We have huge respect for what these men and women do. We stand in awe.”
Consisting of drummer Robby Shaffer, bassist Nathan Cochran and guitarist Barry Graul along with Scheuchzer and Millard, MercyMe will be in Grand Rapids with a Christmas-flavored concert including songs such “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland.”
When his father died in 1991, Millard, took up pen and paper to reflect on the loss.
Alone on a tour bus in the middle of the night, Millard, only 18 years old at the time, drew on his faith and gathered his thoughts about what it would be like to stand before God in heaven.
The lyrics became “I Can Only Imagine,” a song on MercyMe’s 1999 album, “The Worship Project.”
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorists attacks in 2001, the ballad soon dominated Christian radio, crossing over to mainstream radio in the next two years, spending 16 weeks in total on the Hot 100 Adult Contemporary Chart.
In 2010, “I Can Only Imagine” became the first single in the Christian genre certified platinum with over 1 million digital downloads. Four years later, it was certified double platinum with over 2 million digital downloads.
The Grammy-nominated band from Greenville, Texas, is credited with six of the top 50 Christian songs of the first decade of the 21st century, according to Billboard.
Winner of two American Music Awards, nominated for five in all, MercyMe’s hits include “Here With Me,” “Homesick” and “So Long Self,” The band was in Grand Rapids as part of the Rock and Worship Road Show that appeared in the Van Andel Arena in February 2013.