Stories & Songs: Charlotte Ritchie on Music and Travel
A mainstay in Gaither Homecoming concerts and events, Charlotte Ritchie has been a standout soprano in the southern gospel music scene for three decades. Music fans first met her when she performed with The Nelons, followed by a stint singing alongside Jeff and Sheri Easter. But in recent years, Ritchie has become known for her solo work. Her velvety, one-of-a-kind voice has taken her all over North America, from community churches and music festivals to Carnegie Hall. As she begins to resume touring in 2021, Ritchie sat down to answer our questions about the role travel plays in her life and ministry.
How has travel connected you with family and friends?
Something about being away from all the distractions of everyday life allows you to connect in ways you otherwise might not. Many of my travels have given me these amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to connect with friends and family.
Is there a particular interaction or audience member’s story that has stuck with you through the years?
I have many stories surrounding a song called “Consider the Lilies,” written by Joel Hemphill. It’s a very simple message reminding us to think about the lilies and the sparrows. I once had a little girl, about 11 years old, write me a letter. It said, “Dear Charlotte Ritchie, I really like your song about the lilies. Lately, I’ve been having trouble with my tummy. I thought God would be too busy to worry about that. But then I heard your song about the lilies and thought, maybe God isn’t too busy. I just raised my hands and praised the Lord because I was so happy.”
That letter made me cry. I love kids and to get their attention with my music—especially when it comes to issues of faith—made me feel humbled and thankful.
What do you love about traveling?
Travel is truly life-altering to see places, up close, that you’ve only heard or read about. I’ve also had the privilege of going with, and meeting, some of the greatest people God ever put on this earth. My life is rich because of the relationships I’ve gained through these experiences.
How has travel impacted your faith or worldview?
Travel gives you a perspective that cannot be gained by any other means. Each place I visit remains with me in some way, always teaching me something. Travel gives me opportunities to see how others around the world express their faith. As a singer, I feel that music is the universal language. This is never more evident than when I’m in another country, hearing songs I’ve known my whole life but in a different language, yet I feel the same anointing! This always inspires and encourages me.
Have specific places or people inspired you and your ministry/music?
Several years ago, I was singing with the Gaithers in Pennsylvania. During intermission, a man came to my product table and said, “I love what you do and the songs you sing, but when you sing the songs about heaven…” He paused, looked away, and tears began streaming down his face. He finally finished, by saying, “When you sing the songs about heaven, it doesn’t get any better than that for me.” Then he walked away. I couldn’t get him off my mind. I thought about him for years afterward and what his story might have been. It finally inspired me to write “Song About Heaven,” which is my interpretation of why heaven might have been so sweet for that man.
Do you experience God uniquely in different places?
Yes, Israel is top of my list! Seeing places from the Bible come to life is a priceless experience. Places in Europe have also been spiritually special for me. It often takes getting away from your normal routine to experience God in a way you never imagined.
How do touring and travel impact your connection to your audience?
They give me the opportunity to be up close and personal with people. That’s what I really enjoy. I’m not great when it comes to social media; I much prefer to speak to people, hear their stories and hug their necks.
Where have some of your favorite concerts been? What made them remarkable?
Two of my favorite conferences are tied to the Gaithers. They used to host the annual Praise Gathering in Indianapolis, which featured every kind of music, speaker, artist, and writer you could imagine. Somehow, it all worked and tied together seamlessly. It was amazing. I miss that conference so much. The second conference is Family Fest, every Memorial Day weekend. There is a ton of music! Each morning, they also bring in a nationally known speaker. The weekend is focused on family, togetherness, love, and praise to God. It’s always such a wonderful time.
What place(s) are still on your travel bucket list?
Italy! My husband and I were planning to go for our 25th wedding anniversary but our plans were foiled by the Covid-19 pandemic. So—fingers crossed—we will possibly plan Italy for our 30th.
Charlotte Ritchie and her husband, Greg, are frequent guests on the Gaither Homecoming Alaska Cruises. Click below to learn more.