If you’ve been following Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) at all over the past 26 years, you are likely familiar with Point of Grace. This trio (formerly quartet) is well known for their vocal harmonies and Christ-centered lyrics which have both helped to make Point of Grace the most awarded female gospel group in music history. At one point the group had earned 24 consecutive #1 radio hits.
On Sunday (October 21st) Point of Grace performed at Hyde Park Baptist Church as part of their new Hymns, Worship and Classics Tour. The group delivered their version of many beloved hymns, put their own twist on several current worship songs and delighted the audience by performing some of their most well-known Point of Grace hits.
Point of Grace Interview
Before the performance, AustinChristianVoice.com had an opportunity to visit with the members of Point of Grace (Shelly Breen, Denise Jones, and Leigh Cappilino). I took the opportunity to ask them about the new album, life on tour (both today and yesterday) and who/what inspires them, as well as what might be coming up next.
ACV: What was the impetus behind doing a Hymns and Worship album?
Denise Jones: There have been times over the years where it had been suggested to us that we do a worship album, but the time never felt right to us, for one reason or another. But in recent years we’ve talked a lot about songs we really love and remember from our childhood and it keeps coming back to the old hymns. There’s so much rich, theological truth in those old songs and we all have our favorites. So we just said to ourselves now is the time to do this and put a Point of Grace version of these wonderful songs out there for our audience.
ACV: In listening to the new album, I did notice some interesting spins you put on some of these songs. I was wondering how much of the creative changes came from you in the recording studio and how much came from the producers?
Leigh Cappillino: It was actually probably about 50-50. Denise has a real understanding of the musicality we need in a live performance. Whenever we record a new album we try to keep in mind how it’s going to translate live from the stage. Denise has a real feel for what’s going to work in that environment. She knew that one of the hymns would need to be a fun but angelic anthem. Another should be a strong proclamation of the truth. There were other elements to include, as well, that we all know are important to our audience.
After we chose the songs and got into the studio, the producers began to lean on our live show experience to help guide what they each brought to the table. Kent (Hooper) brought a pop element to the project. We brought the live presentation perspective. Our other producer, Phillip (Keveren), is a musical composer and arranger and he made sure it all fit together and made sense musically. The overall chemistry between all of us was really good.
ACV: I noticed that among the worship songs on this album there are several current anthems like Beautiful Name and Cornerstone, but there is also one older title that stands out, the Twila Paris ballad How Beautiful. Can you speak to how you selected that particular song?
Leigh: The album seemed to be missing something. My husband (Point of Grace bandleader/guitarist Dana Cappillino) used to be Twila’s guitarist back before he was with Point of Grace. He suggested this song and we talked about it and all agreed that it was perfect. The inclusion of an older worship song from our generation’s most prominent worship leader was what had been missing.
ACV: Speaking of artists from your generation, who are the performers that influenced you the most, aside from Twila, of course?
Shelly Breen: I think we would all probably say Sandi Patty was a big influence on us. Amy Grant, of course, and Michael W. Smith too. Outside of the Christian music world, we have always been fans of groups who really harmonize well. Restless Heart from country music—they always had really good harmonies. Chicago, Wilson Phillips, the Eagles. It seems diverse, but they all had great harmonies in common. It was real ear candy.
ACV: How have changes in technology and the conversion to everything digital impacted how you reach people and sell music?
Shelly: We don’t know. Honestly, we can’t keep up. I don’t know if anyone really fully understands the impact. There is so much information coming at people from so many different directions all the time that it seems hard for anything to really stick. If something does manage to break through it’s kind of like a miracle.
Denise: And it’s ever-changing. Twenty years ago you needed to be signed to a label to get your music out there, but now everyone has a platform that makes it possible to be heard. The flip-side of that, though, is that everyone is using those platforms and have created so much content that it’s almost impossible to rise to the top at any given moment.
Leigh: We’ve learned over the years that, for us, it’s about touring and getting in front of our audiences in a live setting.
Shelly: And that kind of always has been the case for us. Connecting live and face-to-face with our fans has always been very important to both us and them.
Denise: When we put this record together one of the things important to us was that it be authentic and genuine when we present it to our audience in a live setting. For this reason we chose songs that were important to us and spoke truth to us individually. In this way, even though the music is a different style, our message and authenticity remain consistent.
Relationship With Fans
The three singers were most dynamic when they were talking about the relationship with their fans. This was something I witnessed during the show. As Point of Grace walked on stage to open the performance, the crowd stood to applaud them. Sitting on the second row was a group of women who were very animated and cheering as they clapped.
Shelly pointed to them and shouted “I know you! I’m so happy you came tonight!”
During the brief intermission, I made my way over to talk to the group of four women to find out how they knew Point of Grace. It turns out they are all members of the group’s fan club: Circle of Friends (also a title to a Point of Grace song). Fans were offered an opportunity last spring to come to Nashville and spend a weekend with Point of Grace. Shelly, Denise, and Leigh ate with their fans and took them to the taping of an appearance on Huckabee (where their fans made up the live studio audience). The Circle of Friends also got a private tour of the Grand Ole Opry and even got to go into the recording studio and sing the choir parts on two of the tracks for the Beautiful Name album.
These particular fans were adamant that the Point of Grace women are consistently the same people in person as they present on stage. Genuine and authentic.
Genuine was the word that continued to occur to me throughout the concert as Shelly, Denise, and Leigh sang and performed. Point of Grace sang old hits, new songs from the album and even wandered into singing some favorite hymns that are not included on Beautiful Name. They were the same three women on stage that I interviewed a few hours before. An interview that did not feel contrived and careful because the Point of Grace members weren’t pretending to be something they aren’t.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that performing with Point of Grace this night was Tiffany Coburn. Tiffany has been touring since she left home mid-way through her senior year of high school in the late 80s to go on tour as a backup singer for groups like the Continentals, Truth, and Voctave. She has also toured with iconic Christian singers like Sandi Patty (in Tiffany’s intro a clip of Sandi saying Tiffany is her favorite soprano of all time was played).
Twenty-nine years ago Tiffany also became a part of Voices of Liberty, the Disney vocal group that performs at the Epcot Center (something she still does to this day). She has been friends with Point of Grace member Leigh Cappillino for more than twenty years but had never performed with the group before this tour. The women of Point of Grace repeatedly expressed awe at Tiffany’s vocal prowess and frequently lamented that she made them look bad.
I wouldn’t say Tiffany made Point of Grace look bad, but she was very impressive. In a day where we are frequently seeing amateurs on television take a shot at this “singing career” thing, I had almost forgotten what the real pros sound like. Make no mistake, Tiffany is a real professional singer—in every sense of the word.
In the interview time I had with her before the show, Tiffany expressed how happy she was to be on the road. “I just really, really like being on tour! I like the hotels, the new places and people I get to meet. Most of all I love visiting various churches and hearing their pastors speak God’s word to their congregations. I get to hear so many messages and so many diverse preachers. I take so many notes and keep them to read and pray about later.”
Tiffany’s enthusiasm for what she does carries over not only onto the stage but out in the lobby after the show as well. She met and spoke with as many people as possible. Tiffany maintained an air of poise and grace through every conversation. It’s worth saying again: She is a true professional in every sense of the word.
Tiffany Coburn’s new album, Near to the Heart: Cherished Hymns and Songs of Inspiration comes out on November 23rd. The hymn theme of the album made Tiffany a natural fit on this first weekend of the Point of Grace tour. The first single from Tiffany’s new album has already debuted. The Way of Love is a beautiful ballad that resonates strongly with Tiffany herself as she continues to express that love is what this whole Christian thing is about.
How You Live
Point of Grace ended the concert with a rendition of their popular song How You Live (Turn Up the Music). It’s a song about living life not only to the fullest but, also, being true to yourself. It emphasizes being genuine and authentic. You may have noticed those words have been used a lot in this review.
I left the concert feeling like I had met the real Shelly, Denise, and Leigh (and Tiffany as well). It seemed that we had just shared an evening of reminiscing, laughter and new songs. Point of Grace may not have this whole transition to digital figured out, but they certainly have their finger on the pulse of their audience and know how to give us dazzling vocals and personally genuine performances.
Beautiful Name can be purchased exclusively at Lifeway. Pick up a copy at a Lifeway store or online today if you’re interested in hearing some of those great vocals and are a fan of some of those wonderful old hymns.