Isaacs bring unique musical testimony to Silver Dollar City’s Gospel Picnic

Isaacs bring unique musical testimony to Silver Dollar City’s Gospel Picnic

What fans see on stage when the Isaacs perform is three happy generations of a family, laughing, loving — occasionally squabbling, Mama admits — and sharing their joy in the Lord in song and personal testimony. Matriarch Lily Isaacs is in her 70s; the grandson who shares the stage with her on guitar and vocals is 26; and in between are daughters Becky and Sonya and son Ben, who have been harmonizing together since they were toddlers.

But there’s more to their backstory than meets the eye. Lily’s parents were Holocaust survivors, and Lily was just a toddler when they moved to New York City. She grew up in a Jewish home where her father never talked about his lost siblings, saying only: “They died in the war.” Lily’s musical success came early, with her performing in New York clubs and earning a recording contract with Columbia Records when she was barely 21. She met the man she would marry, Joe Isaacs, a folk musician himself, in Greenwich Village, and it was pretty much love at first sight.

That’s where the fairy tale got more complicated. Lily had never set foot in a church, she says, until Joe’s brother was killed in a car accident. It was the beginning of a life-changing commitment to Christ — and a lifelong conflict with her parents, who didn’t speak to her for a year after they discovered she had been saved. Son Ben’s birth brought them back together, but they never really understood, she says. “And I regret I didn’t try to understand them — particularly my dad — better,” she adds.

The blessing, she says, was that during that year that she and her parents didn’t speak, she “felt like Jesus was all I had, so I clung to him,” and it set the direction for the rest of her life as a performer. “We still sing some secular songs about life and love,” she says, “but gospel music has a special place in our lives because we live it.”

The Isaacs have been performing at Silver Dollar City’s Southern Gospel Picnic since close to when it started in 2005, Lily says, and they keep coming back because of the people — both those on staff at the Branson theme park who make it feel like coming home and those who come back every year to enjoy the concerts.

“I never get tired of what we do,” she says. “If you can change a life with a song you sing or telling your story on stage, why would you not want to do that?

“People come up to you or send you an email saying ‘I was sick’ or ‘I had a big problem, and this song you sang brought me out of the valley’ or ‘my brother was in a coma, and we played your music for him, and he woke up.’ Miraculous things happen because of our music.”

On stage, Lily often talks about her immigrant roots and her parents being Holocaust survivors. “I am a patriot because this country gave my family a chance to live,” she says. A daughter talks about delivering a stillborn baby and sings a song she wrote at the time. “We tell our story because the best way to connect with the audience is to be real, be who you are,” Lily says. “I love performing with my family, but I also love seeing how people react. What we do means something.”

“We want Southern Gospel Picnic to feel like a homecoming for everyone who visits,” says Amanda Carson, one of the park’s entertainment managers. “It’s an exciting and encouraging 11 days and nights of fellowship with family, friends and some of the most popular groups in Southern Gospel music.

“We are continually striving to bring our guests their favorite groups and hopefully introduce them to some new favorites … who connect, encourage and love our guests as much as we do.”

With 60 groups performing over a span of 11 days and nights at six park venues, there’s plenty of choices. And beyond that, Carson points out, there are demonstrating craftsmen, fried chicken and cinnamon bread.

“We love to walk through the park and try all the food,” Lily Isaacs agrees. “And we always meet friends along the way.”



Southern Gospel Picnic

WHEN — Aug. 25-Sept. 5

WHERE — Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.

COST — Starting at $79


BONUS — Also performing are Jeff & Sheri Easter, The Hoppers, Karen Peck & New River, The Kingsmen, The Martins, Mark Trammell Quartet, Tim Lovelace and more.

Categories: Family Friendly