Jennie Williamson dances and sings with area children during a concert offered Sunday evening in Manning.
Jennie Williamson dances and sings with area children during a concert offered Sunday evening in Manning.

June 7, 2016

MANNING

A pair of self-proclaimed “musical mutts” and “chameleons” performed for an outdoor crowd in Manning this weekend.

Steve Reischl and Joey Banua, who have performed as a duo for several years, sang at a free Christian concert organized by Manning-area organization C3 — combining Christ, Community and Celebration. The concert was held Sunday at the Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park and also featured Nashville-based singer Jennie Williamson.

The fifth annual concert, one of the three initiatives C3 organizes, is valuable in bringing together area churches, which can become “islands” if they’re not careful, said Bob Riggert, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Manning.

“It also brings people to Heritage Park to see a part of Manning that not everyone sees all the time,” he said.

Reischl and Banua both sing lead, play guitar and piano and more — including drums for Banua and trombone for Reischl.

They’ve been singing together for several years and have been friends for much longer, but each has a separate musical history.

Reischl, who grew up in the area and now lives in St. Louis, used to be a lead singer for Christian band NewSong, ending his five-year stint with the band about a decade ago. He was around when the band wrote its hugely popular Christmas song, “The Christmas Shoes.” He previously sang with the Acapella Vocal Band.

Banua, who competed on “American Idol’s” Season 11, also performed for a time with the band One5Oh!, which penned the song “Superhero” — originally written in the back of a van as a joke, but it has become a popular song at vacation Bible schools.

Banua now has a studio, DB Studios, in Indianapolis. He is looking to move the year-old company to Nashville. He has worked with a variety of artists, including Robbie B, who has written tracks for Justin Bieber and Drake. He’s working with producer David Zaffiro and soon is releasing a five-song country EP.

“I like to surround myself with talented people — it makes me sound better,” Banua joked.

The duo met years ago while working as worship pastors at Harvester Christian Church in Missouri.

“I thought, ‘This guy’s talented,’” Reischl recalled.

Banua chimed in, “I hung out with him because he’s pretty.”

His version of the story includes a sit-down at an Applebee’s and the question, “Want to be best friends?”

It’s a friendship that has spanned years as each man supported the other through difficult experiences, they said.

They sing covers of various bands, including Bethel Music, Hillsong Music and David Crowder, as well as writing and performing original music. Their voices and writing styles both complement each other, the pair agreed. Reischl described their sound as soulful rock, with some country thrown in for Banua.

Their performance of contemporary Christian music blended their tones and provided audience members with a beautiful end to the evening Sunday.

Jennie Williamson’s opening performance was friendly for all ages but particularly geared toward children.

“I’m really just 5 years old trapped in this body,” she said. “I won’t attempt a cartwheel, though, because then it’ll remind me of how old I really am.”

The mother of two children — Emma Lou, 11, and Eva Jane, 6 — is used to catering to her audience, and it showed when she pulled kids up in front of the stage to dance with her, had them singing lines back to her and even marched with them around the crowd, mimicking Joshua’s march around the walls of Jericho.

Williamson grew up on a goat farm — “I was actually the youngest goat milker in the state of Kansas,” she said.

She lived in an earth home dug in the side of a rock cliff, mowed her roof and gave concerts for audiences of rocks outdoors.

It taught her how to live simply, she said — and it’s a good lesson to remember today.

Williamson has a home studio in Nashville; her husband, Brian, serves as her producer.

Their shows are kid-friendly, but they seek to reach adults as well.

“Adults pour everything into kids, so we try to pour back into them,” she said. “You can’t give if you’re empty.”

She arrived in Manning early Sunday and directed the worship music at Zion Lutheran Church that morning.

“People in Manning are so present; it’s so alive,” she said. “The word is refreshing — when you’ve been in a city, everyone’s so alive here.”