Christian Music News: ‘The Willis Family’ Returns to TLC; ‘The Passion’ Casts Yolanda Adams, Michael W. Smith


It was a good news day for Christians in the music industry.

Although that the Duggars are gone from TLC, the network hasn’t given up on big Christian families. Nashville-based Toby and Brenda Willis and their 12 children return on March 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT for a second season of “The Willis Family.”

In 1994, Toby Willis, the son of Chicago pastor Duane “Scott” Willis, lost six of his eight siblings in a fiery car crash in which the other driver was revealed to be involved in a bribes-for-licenses scandal that helped bring down former Illinois Gov. George Ryan.

Toby’s family — which range from early 20s to preschool — went on “America’s Got Talent” in 2014, and wowed the judges. Judge Howard Stern was quoted in The Chicago Tribune as saying, “I’m thinking, (you’re) like the Osmonds — except so much more talented.”

The family, which also performs as The Willis Clan, has Irish roots and uses a Celtic cross as its logo — along with doing traditional Irish dance and Irish-inspired music — but it’s not Catholic. Reportedly, the Willises are Baptist, but unlike the Duggars — with whom they share the peculiarity of giving all the children names that begin with “J” (including “Jedi”) — they don’t wear their faith on their sleeves.

Says the official Website:

Though we have done Irish music for many years, for just as many years we have been doing music in church.  It is only natural that some of the songs we write end up with a clear Christian message.  Others songs have a more subtle influence.

The tricky thing is that we really try and keep religion separate from our business.  One cannot serve God and money.  Each Christian artist wrestles with how to best do this.  We probably will come out with a Christian album at some point, but until then, here are some of our Christian songs.  We hope they are a blessing to other Christians like us.

Have a look:

Also today, Fox announced two more new cast members for “The Passion,” a musical event airing live (in Eastern time) from New Orleans on Palm Sunday, March 20, at 8 p.m. ET and (tape-delayed) PT.

As earlier described by Fox:

THE PASSION, written by Peter Barsocchini (“High School Musical”), tells the 2000-year-old story of the last hours of Jesus Christ’s life on earth through passages from the Bible and a variety of popular music, sung by the cast, and arranged specifically for this event by executive producer and hit music producer Adam Anders (“Glee,” “Rock of Ages”). Set in modern day, the event will follow the dramatic and inspirational story of Jesus of Nazareth, as he presides over the Last Supper, and then is betrayed by Judas, put on trial by Pontius Pilate, convicted, crucified and resurrected.

The event will unfold live at some of New Orleans’ most iconic locations, while featuring a procession of hundreds of people carrying a 20-foot, illuminated cross from outside the Superdome to the live stage at Woldenberg Park on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Gospel singer Yolanda Adams will open the two-hour event with a live performance. Also, Christian singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith will play one of Jesus’ disciples.

Tyler Perry is host and narrator of “The Passion.” As we reported here previously, Jencarlos Canela was cast as Jesus; Chris Daughtry, as Judas; Prince Royce is Peter; Trisha Yearwood is Mary, the mother of Christ, and Seal plays Pontius Pilate.

Image: Courtesy TLC

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.