May 14—They are "The Partridge Family," but for the modern age.
Don't remember "The Partridge Family"? They were a fictional musical family starring Shirley Jones, David Cassidy and Danny Bonaduce, and their antics were featured in a sitcom that ran from 1970 to 1974 on ABC.
The family was loosely based on the real-life musical family the Cowsills, a popular band of the late 1960s. But then again, the famed TV family could have just as easily been based off the Texas-based McNeills — Chris and Michelle McNeill that is — and their 10 talented children. The one big difference between the two singing families is the songs they sing. While the Partridges sang bubble gum Top 40 hits, the McNeills have dedicated their lives and singing careers to God and worship.
And they've been pretty successful doing so; described by their fans and admirers as both an "amazing family" as well as a "singing inspiration."
The McNeills — "one of the most watched bands you've never heard of" playing "Americana worship like you've never seen" as they say of themselves — will be live in concert at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at Greenwood Baptist Church, 3501 Apricot Road in Joplin. Admission is free, and all are welcome. A love offering will be taken.
It's the second time in as many years the Texas family has performed in Southwest Missouri.
"Joplin was one of the first venues we played after the initial COVID-19 lockdown was lifted," Chris McNeill said, who first visited Joplin in late May 2020. "We had a great time ... and met a lot of great new friends; the people of Joplin made us feel right at home. Coming out of quarantine, it was refreshing to be back around people and get to worship in-person. It really helped us realize how much we've taken our friends and person-to-person meetings for granted. Honestly, it was an emotional and beautiful time."
While their concert in 2020 was special because it was one of the very first live concerts held in Joplin after the initial onslaught of the COVID-19 virus, their upcoming May concert will be special for an entirely different reason, he said.
"The May 22, 2011, tornado was an event that was on our minds for days, if not weeks — even in Texas — when it happened," McNeill said. "A central part of our concert focus is sharing that God gives hope in the midst of crisis, whether natural disaster, personal or national in scope. When we visited the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and paid our respects, there was a sign on the building that simply said, 'hope.' That simple word in that place is forever etched in my mind, precisely because it's so right and so helpful. We need hope in times of turmoil.
"God has allowed our family to be in the unique position to hopefully share that hope in each concert," he continued, "and as we speak of this hope of Christ in midst of turmoil, we will all be reminded of the May 22 tornado and will speak directly to that."
While the McNeills — with the children's ages ranging from 26 to 8 years old — have only been professionally singing and touring for the past six years, they've garnered a number of awards, including the Gospel Music Artists Association's 2017 and 2019 Group of the Year. They also have a devoted flock of fans. The songs they sing vary in genre, from praise to bluegrass and from country to favorite church hymns.
"This unexpected journey started for us in 2014 when our oldest daughter said that she felt God wanted us to go on the road. We said 'no,'" he said with a chuckle. "I suspect she may have been right. and what a whirlwind. We've performed in over 500 churches ... and have been voted GMAA Group of the Year three times and Band of the Year twice. We feel incredibly blessed to have been allowed to do what we are doing.
"It's truly a family affair."
Kevin McClintock is features editor for The Joplin Globe.