Best Bets: Smyrna-bound Isaacs put faith in their music

Grammy-nominated southern gospel group The Isaacs play the Smyrna Opera House Friday night at 7. (Submitted photo)

For Lily Isaacs, being a member of her family band goes way beyond music. It’s been a calling.

“It wasn’t the plan. It wasn’t the life I grew up with. But it totally feels like a ministry. We are doing what God intended us to do as a family,” she said this week by phone from her home in Tennessee.

The Isaacs, led by mother Lily, will bring their blend of bluegrass, rhythm and blues, folk, country and southern gospel to the Smyrna Opera House Friday night in a highly anticipated concert. There are a limited amount of tickets available for the 7 p.m. show.

Frequent performers at the Grand Ole Opry, they are also regulars on the Gaither Homecoming videos and concert series, and RFD’s “Country’s Family Reunion” programs. Other notable performances include Carnegie Hall, CMA Music Fest, and professional sporting events, including NFL, MLB and NHL games.

Ms. Isaacs, 71, was born Jewish, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She grew up in the Bronx, New York. As a young girl, she was involved in music and theater and went on to perform in Off-Broadway productions in New York City.

She converted to Christianity in 1971, following the death of her brother-in-law from a car accident. That was about the same time she and her then-husband started a bluegrass band.

Her parents were staunchly against Ms. Isaacs’ decision to convert to Christianity and they were not on speaking terms for about two years. But they later accepted her back into the family although the matter was seldom discussed.

“My father died 35 years ago and he never did understand it. My mother only died four-and-a-half years ago and she certainly saw our success,” Ms. Isaacs said.

“She lived in New York and would come to see us when we had shows in Brooklyn and Carnegie Hall but never when we performed in a church. I was very mindful to not do anything that would offend her as she still practiced Judaism. But she was proud of my family and my children by the mere fact that she saw the crowds that would come out to hear us sing.”

The family started the Fishman-Isaacs Israel Initiative, named for Ms. Isaacs’ parents, to assist needy children, elderly and soldiers who are Holocaust survivors living in Israel, where they take frequent trips.

Living in New York, she thought she was destined for the stage.

“We migrated to New York from Germany when I was a baby. Growing up in New York City, so close to Broadway, my first love was the stage and my mother had me take singing and dancing lessons. Never in my mind did I think I’d be being doing what I’ve doing for all these years,” she said.

She and her husband Joe started a bluegrass band initially named the Calvary Mountain Boys. They later became Sacred Bluegrass, performing strictly bluegrass gospel music before adopting the family name.

As they started to have children, the youngsters picked up the musical gene.

“They were born into it, no doubt. They are all talented and amazing musicians. They picked up playing instruments very young. From 8 to 12 years old, they wanted to play and they are all self-taught,” Ms. Isaacs said.

“A few chords came to them so easily, same with singing. It was just in their brains. We didn’t have to teach them harmony. So it wasn’t a lot for work on my part.”

Mr. and Mrs. Isaacs divorced in 1998 but the band continues with her son Ben on bass and vocals; her daughters Sonya Isaacs Yeary on mandolin and vocals and Becky Isaacs Bowman on guitar and vocals; and grandson Levi Bowman on acoustic and electric guitar along with vocals.

“As their father and I traveled around, once they were old enough to play an instrument, we pulled them on stage. It was a way of life. It’s been the hand of God that’s moved us in the direction of what we do and it’s been pretty magical. I know in my heart we were destined to do this,” Ms. Isaacs said.

She said Levi is the only one of her eight grandchildren who has shown an interest in joining the family business.

“He just graduated college with a marketing management degree. He is a very talented singer and musician who has his own solo album,” Ms. Isaacs said.

The multiple Dove-winning and Grammy-nominated group’s biggest fans and contemporaries include Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Alabama, Big & Rich, Trisha Yearwood, Merle Haggard and Paul Simon.

NFL great and broadcaster Terry Bradshaw has been one of The Isaacs’ biggest supporters. He executive produced their album “Nature’s Symphony in 432,” which added a Grammy nomination and two Dove awards to their repertoire.

“We’ve all loved Terry Bradshaw. My daughter met him at an awards show a few years ago. My grandson wanted to meet him. My daughter has never been shy and went up to him and introduced themselves to him,” Ms. Isaacs said.

“He said ‘Wait. Sonya Isaacs, I know you and I know all of your music.’ They struck up a conversation and he turned out to be a huge Isaacs fan. We all have struck up a relationship with him where we have been to his house and he has been to ours.

“We’ve gone on vacation with him. We’ve sung shows with him. He’s a wonderful man and a great entertainer. It’s been a fun relationship.”

Ms. Isaacs said audience members at tonight’s Smyrna show can expect to hear a range of different music.

“My daughters are incredible songwriters and record producers. They have ventured into all kinds of styles. It’s never been ‘Let’s write a bluegrass song or an Americana song.’ It has always been whatever has come out of their heart and we’ve adapted to the point where we don’t focus on one particular genre. Whatever we feel, we sing and that’s made it fun.”

Tickets are $35 and may be purchased online at smyrnaoperahouse.org, by calling 302-653-4236, or at the Smyrna Opera House box office at 7 W. South St.

Bluegrass concert

More music is ahead on Sunday as the Eastern Shore Bluegrass Association will host a concert by Mountain Highway at the Marydel Firehouse on Firehouse Lane in Marydel.

Admission is $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Doors open at noon with the music starting at 1 p.m.

Food will be available thanks to the Marydel Fire Co. Auxiliary.

For more information, call Ann or Ed at 410-648-5366 or 609-472-4288.

Ice cream social

An ice cream social in the rarely used Mulholland Spoon Mill Building located along the Mispillion River in Milford will take place Sunday to benefit the Milford Museum.

John Hanna Mulholland opened the spoon mill in 1920. A newsletter from the Milford Historical Society dated in the fall of 1995 said Mr. Mulholland was an immigrant born in Belfast, Ireland in 1865. He moved to Canada when he was 15 where he joined the militia. He later would return to Ireland, visit England, return to Canada to get married and eventually settled in Philadelphia.

An innovator at heart, Mr. Mulholland would go on to invent a couple of processes that would last for decades to come before he moved from Philadelphia to Milford.

“On October 15, 1915, Mulholland filed an application with the U.S. Patent Office in Washington for a ‘paper dish or plate which permits printing or other colored advertising matter to be used in a sanitary manner,’” the historical society’s newsletter reads.

At the time, the advertising would bleed onto ice cream, which Mr. Mulholland knew was unsanitary. He later invented the Bentwood Spoon, a small, wooden spoon, also used for ice cream. The process he developed was derived from the Laurel area when he observed Delaware canners manufacturing sturdy, but cheap, baskets for fruit drying and canning, the newsletter continued.

Combining the plate and spoon patents, the Mulholland family worked to open their spoon mill in Milford where it remained in full operation from 1920 through 1953, shortly before Mr. Mulholland died in 1958. The mill finally closed in 1973.

“He also designed the city crest. There might have been another business in that building after the spoon mill, but now it’s been cleaned out. It’s like a big warehouse,” Milford Museum Executive Director Claudia Leister said.

The event will be held Sunday, Aug. 11 from 1 to 3 p.m. at $10 per person or $25 per family of four. Those planning on enjoying ice cream from the Mulholland Spoon Mill at 7 Marshall St. can pay for the event that day, but should RSVP by calling 302-424-1080 ahead of time.

‘Beatlemania Now’

“Beatlemania Now,” the multimedia musical stage show, is the ultimate celebration of the ’60s and the group that helped shape The Beatles at Milton Theatre for two shows Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m.

The show’s cast performs live on stage, against a backdrop of images spanning the most exciting and turbulent decade of modern times.

Tickets are $30-$35. Purchase them at www.MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302-684-3038 or at our box office. This event is for guests of all ages.

Re-creating radio shows

The monthly readings of the Possum Point Players Radio Theater are now being held on the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Possum Hall in Georgetown.

The readings for next week will be an episode from “Richard Diamond: Private Detective” entitled “The Nathan Beeker Case” and an episode from “Our Miss Brooks” entitled “Halloween Party.”

Everyone who attends can participate in the reading. In addition to the readings, the Radio Theater re-creates old time radio shows at venues throughout Sussex County. Listen to presentations on Radio Rehoboth (WWSX, 99.1 FM) on Sundays at 7 p.m. or stream online at RadioRehoboth.com.

For further information contact Bernie Noeller at bnoeller@yahoo.com or 302 500-2788.

Now Showing

This weekend in theaters is the true-life crime drama “Brian Banks”’; a big-screen adaption of “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”; the horror film “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”; the comedy-drama “The Art of Racing in the Rain”; and the female-led suspense drama “The Kitchen.”

New on DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Avengers: Endgame” and the drama “Unplanned.”

Staff writer Jennifer Antonik contributed to this column.

To share news of your entertainment group, venue or event, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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