Those of us involved in Celtic Throne want to show just how much God intervened to make the summer 2021 tour possible and give God credit. As King David wrote in Psalm 92:1, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Eternal.”
It was in the middle of ongoing covid-19 government lockdowns when Pastor General Gerald Flurry and Evangelist Stephen Flurry decided to put Celtic Throne back on tour. At the time, most theaters were closed. But the staff stepped out on faith and moved forward with planning.
We contacted more than 60 theaters in more than 20 cities in the fall of 2020, and fewer than a dozen even responded. They just did not know whether they would be open come summer. In one theater that ended up booking the show, Celtic Throne was its first ticketed event since 2020. Some of the theaters that did respond informed us that their capacity limits were very low: around 300.
In hindsight however, this ended up being a great miracle for us. Because so few theaters got back to us, it was clear where God was directing us to go. The clearest indication of this was that only one theater in a given city responded. In addition, in nearly every city, the venue that answered us was the best theater of that city. We realized this only after the tour had started.
Not only where was important, but also when. The college and summer camp schedule meant that the window for taking Celtic Throne on tour again was only about a month and a half. Not only did we have to find theaters willing to open up, but they would also have to have the right days available for us. It turned out that they did, about half the theaters had openings on the weekend, something that would not usually be possible on such short notice. This was another important aspect of God’s intervention. The show’s lighting effects require at least one full day of setup by our crew. The other half of the theaters had availability later in the week. This allowed us to book several performances at a time as we went on tour.
We were able to book Monday performances, which gave us Sunday to setup and then plenty of time for the crew and performers to drive to the next city on Tuesday so they could set up on Wednesday for a Thursday performance. Depending on the distance, the group would either travel to the next theater or drive back to Edmond for a couple of nights before traveling to the next theater the morning of the performance. This helped the staff, especially the ministers, catch up on their work. For example, during the tour, members of the tour group were editing editions of the Philadelphia Trumpet, Royal Vision and Watch Jerusalem.
It was clear that God intervened for us to be able to perform in quality venues in as many cities as possible. It was an aggressive schedule that Mr. Flurry approved, but it made sure that the staff, crew and performers worked hard.
All but one of the theaters that booked Celtic Throne notified us late in the process, which compressed the time period to plan the trip, promote and advertise the show and sell tickets. Only in late March did we finally hear back from enough theaters and sign enough contracts to schedule performances in two cities per week in June. For several theaters, Celtic Throne was the first performance in which non-singing performers would not be masked or socially distanced. New government guidelines arrived on June 1, right when the tour began. Three theaters took advantage of being allowed to open up all their seating, which gave us the chance to sell more tickets to cover more of the costs of the show.
Seven of the eight theaters were capable of meeting Celtic Throne’s lighting needs. One was not, and we were forced to try to find another theater on even shorter notice within an eight-hour drive of our other theaters. God helped us find the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, which turned out to be one of the most delightful to perform in. Finally the theaters and schedule were set!
The planning period was so intense that we did not realize until we were almost on the road how historic and prestigious some of the theaters were that we performed in. This was especially true of Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, which was built in 1892 and hosted lectures by Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson and former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft. It also hosted performances by Phillip Sousa, Edward Strauss and the Vienna Orchestra, Anna Pavlova, Harry Houdini, Will Rogers and Kathrine Hepburn . It was the venue of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 30 years, hosting Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley and many other country and folk musicians. It was declared a national historic landmark in 2001.
The way the schedule happened to work out, Nashville was one stop where the troupe arrived with enough time to promote the show with half-hour street shows giving passersby a taste of Celtic Throne. These performances had to be cleared by city and venue authorities, and marketing director Shane Granger had spent about a month seeking approvals. Permission was denied several times, but two days before arriving in Nashville, three opportunities opened up, one of which was in Nashville’s newer Grand Ole Opry Theater, across town from the Ryman, right before a performance. This gave the troupe the opportunity to try to attract the attention of about 1,000 people entering the theater and interest them in coming out the next day to watch Celtic Throne at the Ryman.
Toward the end of this particular street performance, a reality television crew happened to stop by. The family of football commentator Terry Bradshaw was visiting the theater and stopped to watch the Celtic Throne street show, so some of it was likely aired on the television show. The day before the show, the troupe performed a second street show in downtown Nashville at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and a third outside Ryman Auditorium. Several visitors who came to Ryman to see its museum exhibits saw the street show and immediately bought tickets at the box office for Celtic Throne.
Several people we talked to in the Nashville area were surprised and impressed that our group had the opportunity to perform at the Ryman. One of the many singers who perform in the city at restaurants and other locations actually gasped and said it is her dream to perform there and encouraged those she was playing for to go watch Celtic Throne.
The day of the show, the dance troupe took some time to watch a 10-minute video inside the Ryman museum, which helped them appreciate the miracle that they were a part of.
Dancer Alexa Turgeon said it was the theater where the dancers felt the most nervous. It was also the largest crowd yet for Celtic Throne: 903 tickets were sold, including a number to tourists from as far away as Texas and Michigan. A number of PCG members also made the effort to come to Nashville and see the show.
Nashville was also the one road performance that the pastor general flew out to watch. He visited with and encouraged the performers backstage, many of whom he had just seen earlier in the day at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage historic site, along with some Herbert W. Armstrong College students who are part of Mr. Stephen Flurry’s book club. A group with Mr. Stephen Flurry was also able to visit the historic site of Shiloh, the location of one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the Civil War.
Along the way, many in the group had the opportunity to see a couple of historic sites. On the way to Birmingham, the group visited the Louisiana Purchase State Park in Marvell, Arkansas, and the marker stone from which all land purchases in the Louisiana Territory were measured, perhaps even your land deed if you own property in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas or Wyoming. The site is all the more important for its significance in the prophetic fulfillment of raising the descendants of the tribe of Manasseh to world dominance. The purchase gave the United States the world’s largest tract of contiguous farmland and greatest river system.
God’s promises to the descendants of ancient Israel is part of the message of Celtic Throne, and they were strengthened in the minds of the crew and dancers when we pulled over to a small, scenic headwater swamp to view the stone. It was a reminder that God is in control of events in our lives, nationally and individually.
The two other historic theaters of note on the tour were the Orpheum in Memphis, Tennessee, which was built in 1890 and has hosted Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and a number of other famous performers; and the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham. The Alabama Theatre was built in 1927 and features notable ornate baroque decoration. Southeast Regional Director Wik Heerma, who is also a skilled photographer, was nearby and was able to take photos of the troupe, which wore its gold and white costumes that made for dazzling pictures that we can use to help market the show.
Among the many miracles God performed for the tour was protection from sickness or injury. Only a couple of the performers and crew grew mildly sick and most were able to recover in a single day.
Alexa Turgeon rolled her ankle the day before the Nashville show: She said that it felt very out of place. She was limping that evening and walked slowly on a treadmill that night. The next day, it was swollen, yet even on some of her harder landings in the show, it held up well. Through all of this, she felt no pain: God protected her from it.
Lead dancer Jude Flurry also faced an injury in Nashville and experienced some pain during the show. The next two days, he visited a physical therapist in Nashville. By the time of the Memphis show, although he did hold back on his kicks and leaps, he said the pain was gone.
Another important miracle was the smooth travel problems. The troupe and crew drove about 4,500 miles, mainly in some fairly old vans, and everyone got to where they needed when they needed to. Minor problems such as a bald tire, oil leak and loose window were caught and fixed in the nick of time.
The list of miracles goes on. For example, the Alabama Theatre and Tulsa Performing Arts Center decided not to take their percentage of Celtic Throne merchandise sales. The theater in Little Rock also took less than the share it had contracted for.
The technical director at the Globe-News Center in Amarillo saved the tour at least $2,000 by continuously reducing the number of laborers the theater employed to the bare minimum. No other tech director went through such lengths to save the show money. After the performance, he told lighting engineer Bailey Crawford, “The world needs your show!”
There were other money savings as well that God blessed us with, large and small. For example, when Kelcey Tauer went to purchase dry ice, she was given it at roughly half price, more than once.
There were also the many miracles we did not see, like protection from accidents or problematic people. For example, the troupe witnessed a fight break out in the Memphis parking lot after the show, but thankfully it did not escalate.
Another important miracle was how often the troupe encountered people familiar with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. At the Alabama Theatre, a concertgoer asked dancer Isaac Macdonald whether the performers went to Ambassador College. In the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, one concertgoer asked performer Ezekiel Malone about Celtic Throne’s connection with Worldwide Church of God. This also happened at the street show at the Grand Ole Opry. It is fascinating to think how important this show may be in those people’s lives in the near future.
Finally, one of the most special aspects of this tour was how many PCG members came out to watch the show, a direct result of God’s Holy Spirit unifying His family. Some members drove more than seven hours. Other members bought tickets to multiple shows to support the cause. In every theater there would be a group of PCG members visiting and encouraging the troupe for 30 or 40 minutes. All of that was encouraging, and those involved in Celtic Throne thank everyone who was able to come out and support the show.
The tour involved too many miracles to list, so if you encounter a performer or crew member, ask them about some of the miracles they experienced as God blessed this summer’s performances of Celtic Throne.