‘Broken Vessels’: Christian Music Legends to Share Message of Hope

Scott Wesley Brown

Citing the belief that today’s popular Christian musicians don’t publicly acknowledge — let alone honor — those who paved the way for them, local Christian singers and twin brothers Brian and Shawn Chrisagis on Saturday will host their third annual Legends concerts featuring some of their favorite award-winning contemporary Christian music singers.

“The country movement, pop music and rock and roll, they honor the music that comes before them, but in the Christian (music) world, they totally drop them and forget them,” Shawn Chrisagis said.

The 6:30 p.m. show at the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center at Wheeling Park High School features:

— Michael English, four-time Grammy Award nominee and winner of eight Dove Awards;

— Wayne Watson, two-time Grammy nominee and eight-time Dove winner;

Wayne Watson

— Scott Wesley Brown, singer, songwriter, pastor and pioneer of the Jesus movement;

— Dino Kartsonakis of “Chariots of Fire” theme-song fame, who received a participation Grammy in 1999 for his work on the soundtrack of “The Apostle”; and

–Rambo McGuire, featuring Reba Rambo-McGuire, who has been singing Christian music for 50 years. She and her husband, Dony McGuire, are filling in for master guitar player and Youngstown native Phil Keaggy who had to cancel for health reasons.

“Every year, we try to get a stronger group. I don’t think we could find a stronger group,” Brian Chrisagis said.

“They are Christian music royalty,” Shawn added.

Jennifer O'Neill

The brothers, who have interviewed all these artists and dozens more on their YouTube channel, pointed out that today’s popular Christian music differs from the music they grew up listening to in the late 20th century because it is more worship-oriented and less relational. They explained the songs rotating on today’s Christian radio stations are predominantly songs that could be sung during concert-style worship services.

What was once known as “contemporary Christian music,” on the other hand, focused on outreach, ministering to the broken and lost, they noted.

“(These legendary artists) do a lot more because they change lives. They changed our lives. We grew up listening to them,” Shawn said.

Most of these artists have been through highs and lows in their careers and in their lives, which the Chrisagises agreed makes them strong witnesses to God’s love, grace and forgiveness.

“The reason we’ve picked them is not only because they are the greatest of legends … they all won Grammys and Dove awards or were nominated for those things … but they’re also broken vessels. And that makes a huge difference because a true legend is one that has survived the storms of life and has been able to pick themselves up, look to Jesus, dust themselves off and become better than they were before,” Brian Chrisagis said.

Dino Kartsonakis

English is a prime example.

“Everybody has a story. I’ve had some pretty low lows after going through some pretty high highs,” he said in a phone interview last week. The North Carolina native who started his career in his family’s southern Gospel group before joining the Gaither Vocal Band eventually launched a solo career that put him at the top of the Christian music charts in the early 1990s. But his career came tumbling down because of an extramarital affair with another Christian singer, who also was married. He and his wife divorced, and later he became addicted to painkillers.

“The fact I’m even here is a miracle,” English said. He returned to his southern Gospel roots and most recently led the Gaither Vocal Band for several years and released several more solo albums, including “The Prodigal Comes Home” in 2008 and “Some People Change” in 2012. His new album, “Love Is the Golden Rule,” will be released in September and features “vintage Michael English” music, he said, in a nod to his faithful CCM fan base.

One track on the album is titled “Let Me Hold You” and is what he wishes he could say to all the parents, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands who tell him during post-concert autograph sessions about the loved ones who, unlike him, didn’t survive their opioid addictions.

“It’s the ones who are broken that God can use,” Shawn Chrisagis said. He compared these messengers of hope to the broken bread of the Communion. “We’re blessed, broken and given out, and from those scars and those wounds, we become better and can help other people.”

The Chrisagis Brothers

Emceeing the event with the Chrisagises is longtime Cover Girl model Jennifer O’Neill, herself a broken vessel who has been married nine times and had an abortion, an experience she wrote about in “You’re Not Alone: Healing Through God’s Grace After Abortion.” She has been a Women of Faith speaker and provides a ministry, Hope & Healing at Hillenglade, on her Nashville horse farm for active service members, veterans, first responders, National Guard members and their families.

Watson is perhaps best known for his stunning “Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” performance of “Another Time, Another Place” with Sandi Patty and his song “For Such a Time as This, which was played often on the CBS hit drama “Touched by an Angel.” He still sings and writes music that focuses “not so much the world as it ought to be but the world as it is — and as a Christian, the world as it is with the presence of God in our lives,” he said in a phone interview. Based in Houston where he lives with his wife and 3-year-old adopted son, when he’s not traveling he leads an Americana-style worship band at Chapelwood United Methodist Church.

Watson said he appreciates the opportunity to sing the songs that were beloved by so many and really touched others’ lives. Today’s Christian music seems “lofty and ideal,” but his music is more “transparent and real,” he said.

“I get mad and I get frustrated. It’s not just as simple as ‘Give it to the Lord.'”

He believes the concert will be meaningful for the audience, not to mention enjoyable for the musicians.

“I’m looking forward to the fellowship with some of the guys. … It’ll be fun,” he said.

Brown agreed. He is the anchor of the Legends concert, a close friend of the Chrisagises who has performed at both previous events.

“The Chrisagis Brothers have got to be the two most loving guys in the world. … They’d give you the shirt off their back,” he said by phone from San Diego where he lives with his wife. “They want to build relationships.”

A singer-songwriter who has recorded more than 25 albums, today Brown speaks and sings at conferences primarily for baby boomers. He is working toward planting a church that ministers to his neighbors in his 55-plus retirement community.

He said the Legends show is a reunion of sorts and the “highlight of my year.”

“It’s been really neat, because when we were a lot younger, a lot of us were just really out there hitting the road and in a sense, competing against each other. … What a great bunch of folks there are out there who are still ministering, grown and matured … You don’t feel this sense of competition. … You just feel the camaraderie.”

He added: “We all laugh that they call us legends because I always thought Pat Boone was the legend.”

Tickets are available by contacting the Chrisagis Brothers Ministries at 740-859-2344 or 304-650-0425.

The venue is sponsored by the Ohio Valley Community Foundation Glory to Christ Fund.