Recently Tom and I attended an “Up With People” concert in Brunswick, Georgia. I had previously been to two “Up With People” concerts, but both were when I a kid. As best I can remember, one was in the late 1960’s and one was in the early 1970’s. But we had their albums in our house and I grew up enjoying their music.
“Up With People” formed in 1965 as a response to the hippie movement. It grew out of Moral Re-Armament which was a conservative group with four tenets of “love, honesty, purity, and unselfishness.” I’m sure my parents took us to the concerts as a way to combat the “drop-out” culture so prevalent at the time. The women wore dresses and the men wore suits and had short hair. The songs were folksy and upbeat – progressive but also religious. They were very popular in the 1970’s, performing six times during half-time at the Super Bowl. They even had their own television special in 1973 and you can see it here. Some of my favorite songs were “What Color Is God’s Skin?“,”Up With People,” and “Colorado.”
The group has changed some since those early days and I was a little surprised that it continues. But the concert in Brunswick is proof that Up With People is still going strong. Today the group is comprised of young adults aged 17 to 29. Most are college kids who are taking a semester or a year off for service and performances. The 2018 touring group has 100 cast members from 20 different countries. Their purpose is to be positive agents of change with hope for the future, music that inspires, and youth to lead the way.
The Brunswick High School gymnasium hosted the concert. Tom was concerned there wouldn’t be many people there but the concert was close to sold out. The audience had people of all ages. The cast members live with host families in each community they visit, trying to “make places become faces.” There were several church groups and some kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia.
We really enjoyed the concert. The band was great and the singing was awesome. The dancing was fun but you could tell it wasn’t really a dance troupe. “Up With People Live on Tour 2018” had some songs from their Journey Album but many of the songs are not yet recorded. The songs were a mix of pop, rock, and hip-hop, with a few songs from past “Up With People” groups thrown in. Sometimes the words were hard to understand – high school gyms don’t have the best acoustics – but the words were usually on the screen.
The concert lasted two hours with a 20 minute intermission. During intermission the cast mingled with the audience and encouraged young people to apply to become cast members. If you know any young people that like to perform, do service projects, and travel internationally for a semester or year, they can apply here. There are also “Up With People” camps for middle school and high school students.
It was nice to reconnect with a group that was important in my youth. If you get a chance to see an “Up With People” concert you should go. I’m sure you will enjoy the energy and music of this wonderful and inspirational group.