Thursday, December 09, 2004

Still ringing those bells...

My interview with Evie Tornquist Karlsson

I finally got to interview Evie! Here is a transcript of an interview I did for Radio91 and 101QFL.

CINDY: As many of you know, I have a website and a weblog. A couple of years ago, I mentioned a certain singer in an article I wrote on my website about my favorite Christmas music. Amazingly, I found that many of the hits on my website were consistently from people looking for information about that singer. That singer is Evie Tornquist Karlsson, and I'm so delighted to have you as my guest today.

EVIE: (laughing) Thank you so much, Cindy, and we're still ringing those bells after all these years!

CINDY: Well, you know, it's almost surreal actually talking to you, because I can remember that when I was student at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, way back in the 1970's, I almost wore out your "Mirror" album.

I loved every song on that album, I just about memorized the whole thing. Also, half the guys at my college were in love with you, so I was even a little jealous of you, and can't believe I'm actually talking to Evie!...

You know, I want to recap your career and of course update people on what you're doing now, but first I need to ask you about something that apparently is still huge...and that is the Christmas song, "Come On, Ring Those Bells."

Most of the hits that I get on my website that are looking for info on you specifically often contain the phrase "Come On, Ring Those Bells"--people wanting to get the lyrics, the guitar tabs, find out where they can get the sheet music, whatever.

Tell me, first of all, how you came to record that song?

EVIE: Well, it was back in the mid-70's, when the folks at Word Records were helping me put together the very first Christmas album that we did.

We did two with them, and this was the first one...and just like in every other situation, the A and R people,whose specific job it is find music that sort of makes sense for the different artists to do, they bring just a big briefcase over with demos and chord charts and we just take several days and look over them.

And I knew I wanted to do some of the older traditional songs like "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and such, but we also needed some fresh new things. And so, which was sort of uncharacteristic for record companies back then,they pitched a song called "Come On, Ring Those Bells" to me which was not part of their roster.

They went to Manna Music, which was another Christian publishing company, and got this song "Come On, Ring Those Bells," written by Andrew Culverwell, and played it for me, and said, "What do you think?" And I immediately loved the song. I thought it had such a great combination of zeroing in first of all on what the season truly is all about, and that is it's Jesus birthday, it's our time to celebrate Him, and keep the focus on Him.

But it also had a very folksy way of applying this to all of us, y'know: (singing)

"Everybody likes to take a holiday/ everybody likes to take a rest/ spending time together with the family/ Sharing
lots of love and happiness...."

All of us could listen to that and say, "Oh, yeah...that's absolutely right. And let's, come on, let's ring the bells of Christmas, and remember that Jesus, we remember this is YOUR birthday." And it just had a wonderful arrangement...and I think it was just something that obviously the Lord wanted to have that be embraced the way it was. It was His plan from the get-go, we just got to be part of it and watch it happen.

The background vocals are done by a lady who is a very well-known country artist herself in her own right, by the name of Janie Fricke.

CINDY: Oh my goodness, really?

EVIE: Janie Fricke is the gal who got two other young women together and did the background vocals for that entire Christmas album. But the "Come On Ring those bells" tune is where you can really hear her beautiful voice.

CINDY: Now that is a little bit of trivia that I had never heard before, Evie. Now, why do you think that it has so endured, obviously stood the test of time?

Enduring appeal

EVIE: Oh, I haven't a clue, Cindy, other than...I don't know, perhaps at that very moment in the mid-70's, contemporary Christian music was in its early stages. There were many of us that were trying to sort of push the envelope a little bit, within reason, not get people upset with us...but sort of bring Christian music to a kind of grassroots, folksy, embraceable way. Because, the purpose here for what we do what we do, and I'm sure it's the same with you, we want to introduce people to the Lord Jesus Christ.

CINDY: Absolutely.

EVIE: And whether it takes a website or a blog or a radio program or a song or a book or words over the fence with our neighbors, that's the whole purpose of why we're here.

So, to do music then, that would be easily embraced by those who perhaps aren't in church on a regular basis....perhaps those who would rather hear an album with Janie Fricke than a Christian singer. I suppose, maybe at that very moment there was sort of an open ear for it, and then as in most cases with holiday music and holiday traditions, something occurs within our hearts. It brings back warm, wonderful memories...And you know how they say the smell or the scent is a very strong memory with us--well, I think Christmas memories are also a tremendous trigger.

CINDY: That is very true. And I also think this song really lends itself well to being sung by children's choirs and children's groups...

EVIE: Sure.

CINDY: There's nothing that sounds as cute as a bunch of little voices singing this song, and I've heard it many times. But the question, Evie, that I've got to ask you is, can people still ahold of the Christmas album that it's on, or can they get ahold of the sheet music or the that available out there?

EVIE: Well, I have to be perfectly honest and say that I really don't know the best answer to that question. We did, or rather Word did a "Christmas Memories" CD about four or five years ago, and included a few new songs as well as "Come On, Ring Those Bells." But to my understanding, that is now out of print.

CINDY: Well let me put my vote in right now, and I'm sure a lot of people will agree with me, for you to make another Christmas album, Evie. I think it's time.

A new Christmas project in the works

EVIE: Well, believe it or not, Cindy, what we did--and I wish I had something available for people right now--but I have a hunch that it's going to be available soon, certainly by next Christmas--what we've done is we've actually put together another compilation album. We're calling it "Come On, Ring Those Bells." It's not available on the Internet or in stores right now, but it will be.

CINDY: Wonderful.

EVIE: It will be for next season, and we've added a few new songs. We're just so thankful for the interest that is still there. I was in Dayton, Ohio a couple of weeks ago with a wonderful Christian radio station there that had invited me to come, WFCJ, and do a concert.

It was sort of the opening of the Christmas season, and we did "Come On, Ring Those Bells" until we were green in the face, and the folks that came out, it just warmed my heart so much. So, we're grateful for it, and we're encouraged and believe that, for sure for next season, it'll be available, and I will definitely let you know, Cindy.


Evie is entering yet another new season in her life and ministry. After some 20 years of working with SkyAngel, Evie tells me that she and her husband, Pelle Karlsson, are involved in an effort called "LightSat."

Evie says LightSat is a missions effort, in her words, "using television and radio
with indigenous programming to areas of the world that are still so, so dark. And actually, being simply a facilitator for denominations, missions groups, Bible translators, programmers that are already praying night and day for a vehicle that would help them reach these areas with the indigenous programming. Language that people can understand, culture that they can understand, from a face or from a group of people that they can directly relate to...not just a bunch of Americans with sub-titles."

Evie and Pelle have been married nearly 26 years, and have a 23-old-son and a 20-year-old daughter.


Patricia said...

Hi Cindy, I met Evie a year ago when I interviewed Rebecca St. James...which reminds me that I need to get that interview up in my blog. Evie is RSJ's mentor. What a lovely lady and often goes on tour with her. I wish I had had more time to talk to her, as well. Blessings, Patricia

PJ said...

Perusing your blog, I found this interview with Evie. "Come On Ring Those Bells" holds terrific memories for me. I found the song when I was desperate for something new for the children's choir to sing. We sang it every year for so long that it became a tradition!!!

Loved the interview!

Unknown said...

Evie is still everybody´s favorite! I knew Evie when i was 13 years old and i aways listen to her songs today! What a time! Jesus music is really a picture of Evie! Thanks Cindy!
Ralfe Teo, Brazil.

Jody said...

Evie is my favorite singer. I still recall the very 1st time I ever heard of and saw her. I turned on the tv and a young lady was running through a field of tall grass singing as the chorus to a song, "PRAISE THE LORD, HE NEVER CHANGES". As I stayed tune hoping to hear her name, I found I had just tuned in to a Billy Graham Crusade and the announcer said her name was Evie. That moment she had captured my heart and that song stayed with me. How I wish VCR's were out then and I owned one. I have so much wanted to view that over and over again as more of Evie's TV apperances. Within 6 months after the one TV apperance we had an assembly at my high school and there was to be a surprise guest to sing before the planned assembly. Our Bible School President had somehow gotten Evie to sing at my high school Eastern Alamance High while she was here with the Leighton Ford Crusade. I recall being in total shock. The student body LOVED HER. I recall running back stage of the auditorium exit to meet her, but I was too late. She had left. I was disappointed to say the least. My typing teacher, Mrs. Newman proof read a letter that I had written to Evie. Evie responded to my letter and in 1978 when Evie was in Concert in Raleigh, NC my Bible School Teacher the late Mrs. Hightower took me and the whole Bible class to the concert. At intermission I was fortunate enough to meet Evie and get her autograph.
I proudly own a vinyl copy of all Evie's American releases and a couple of Swedish/Norweigen releases, however am very upset that more of her music was not released on compact disc. Songs like "Be Still" "A Picture Of You" "Day by Day" "I Need Thee/I Surrender All" medley "This Life" "You Have Everything In Your Hands" and more need to be converted to compact disc for better sound quality and our younger audience whom will never own a record player as the Lp's are out of print. Evie's music should always be in print. She's the QUEEN OF CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC....the pint-sized powerhouse.... and is the absolute best of them all...even the ones being marketed today. I admire her for taking time off to raise her children and be a pastor's wife. But, I sorely miss her. May God ever continue to bless her in all her endeavors. (I love you Evie!!!!) a long time fan from North Carolina.

Thank you Cindy for this blog and thank you for not letting us loose site of Evie. This is the 1st blog I've ever written, but when I saw the opportunity to say something about Evie I could not resist.

Christine @ Serenity How? said...

I just noticed the link to this interview in your sidebar and was SO excited to read it! I haven't heard about Evie since I was in grade school and I loved her music so much.

Wow. This just made my day! :)

beachloon said...

Evie is my #1 most favorite singer(Gospel or otherwise) and has been since I first saw her in concert at a church in Takoma Park, MD. It was the first time a relatioship with God became viable to me. God was visable in her words, her smile, and in the sparkle in her eyes while she witnss through her singing. Now, I have nearly every record, casette, and cd she ever made, I've seen her in concert 4 times and I STILL listen to her music! She and her music has been a part of my life for about 30 years. In fact, the words to a song she recorded--'Praise You Just the Same'even saved my life literally, once. So I will ALWAYS be thankful to God there was an Evie Tornquist Karlsson in this world. And if she is able to get more music of hers out to me, I will praise God! Thanks so much, Evie, for your awsome witness!

Mocha with Linda said...

Oh, I loved Evie when I was in high school! I had her Mirror album, her Christmas album - loved singing along with her on the radio too! It was fun to catch up with her after all these years!

Gary B said...

I worked in a tv station which ran the Billy Graham show every Sunday. Every Sunday I would run the show and usually there would be one or two videos of Evie singing a song. I sure wish someone would dig them out of the Billy Graham archives and release them somehow. I was one of those zillion guys then I'm sure in love with her. There are a few Evie videos on YouTube from the early days on other shows.

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