Signature Sound wows MBC messengers
By Susan Mires
November 9, 2004
RAYTOWN — They sound like some of the sweetest, best harmonized Southern Gospel you’ve ever heard.
They look like … well, like no other Southern Gospel quartet you’ve ever seen.
“We’re the only people with hair like this in this business,” acknowledges Roy Webb, piano player for Signature Sound Quartet.
Part Gold City Quartet, part N’Sync, the group electrified messengers at the annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention.
“They don’t do that everywhere we go,” Ernie Haase, the group’s founder, said as the audience rose to its feet in applause.
But the group’s toe-tapping renditions of standards such as “Mansion Over the Hilltop” moved the audience again and again to clap and stand to join in. It’s exactly what the members of Signature Sound hoped would happen.
“We make no bones about it, we’re entertaining,” Haase said in an interview between performances at the annual meeting. “If we can help lift people with this music, then that’s our purpose.”
Haase broke a rib just two days before the performance at the annual meeting, but you’d never guess by the way he moved across the stage at First Baptist Church, Raytown.
“We’re having the time of our lives,” said Haase, who looks much younger than his 39 years.
A shared love of Southern Gospel drew the members of Signature Sound together. It’s the best kind of music there is, Webb insists, because it just makes you feel good. The group’s high-energy performances are drawing new fans to the old favorites.
“The music is not dead, but in some ways we need to develop a new audience to keep the music alive,” Webb said.
The music definitely comes to life when Signature Sound starts singing, swinging microphone stands and sliding across the stage in steps dangerously close to dancing. Add in the spiky hair and retro, pinstriped suits and things really start to get fun.
“It’s just us being us,” said Webb, 34. “This is just how we look and who we are.”
To deliver the music to a young audience, it must be packaged in a way they’ll accept, Haase said. He added it was not their intent to offend or shock anyone.
“We want to be relevant,” he said. “We need to be traditional in our values, but the church has got to be relevant.”
Haase is originally from Indiana and had attended Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar for one year when he got the opportunity to go on tour. Vocal instructor Ted Harris urged him to give it a try and if it didn’t work out, he could return to school. Haase sang tenor with the legendary Cathedrals Quartet, then formed Signature Sound a year and a half ago. Recently, the group has been touring with Bill Gaither and recently returned from filming a “Homecoming” video in Jerusalem.
“You can’t really have what we have without loving the music and enjoy sharing it with other people,” Webb said. “God’s really got his hand on our group. We’re really blessed.”
Haase said the group members, the youngest of whom is 25, feed off each other’s creativity. Their numbers are not choreographed, but come together naturally during performances when their beautifully blended voices shake the pews.
“It just keeps building one block at a time until it becomes second nature to you,” Haase said.
They hope fans leave their concerts inspired and realizing that it’s not about the hair, the snazzy suits or even the music.
“Life is hard, but Jesus is good,” Haase said.