“That was the moment when the music in my life became my music, it belonged to me, it wasn’t just something my parents had playing in the background.”
There’s a musical right-of-passage that all of us go through. You may not remember the exact moment it happened, but I am guessing you know the song and the artist. There was something about the lyrics and the beat that spoke to you- there was a strange connection between what was playing and something deep inside. Even if you couldn’t explain it, or figure it all out, somehow – for the first time – music was helping to make sense of the world and maybe your place in it. Music was helping you form an indentity.
Like all rights of passage, that moment is a transition from childhood to adult. Although it almost always happens long before we turn 18. Christi Ferretti was only 10 years old when she found her musical. She was listening to her parents’ Amy Grant Tennessee Christmas record. There was just something about that voice that captured the child’s attention. Yes, it was her parents’ album, but somehow the music belonged to Christi.
This is a story that few of us ever get to tell. Sure, in part it’s about the bond we have to a song and the artist that created it- all of us can relate to that. What may be harder to understand is this is a story where the fan has gotten to know the artist, at least a little bit. And rarer still, our tale ends with the fan getting to share HER talent with the famous performer.
“When she talks to you, she makes you feel like you are the only person in her world!”
Christi Ferretti, one of the owners of Wilmington’s Pine Valley Market wants to make it clear that she is not friends with Amy Grant. That would be an overstatement. It’s not like the two of them talk on the phone or text each other, but they have met on a few occasions and Christi has actually visited the performer’s farm in Nashville.
You see, after that 10-year-old girl heard a voice on a Christmas album, Amy Grant and her music have been a constant in Christi’s life. When the artist, who first became popular as a Christian performer, crossed over to the Top 40 genre in the early 90’s, the now teenaged Christi was buying the records and cassettes. Sure, in time other bands and musicians would attract her attention, but Amy Grant always held a special place in her heart. No matter what Christi was going though, there seemed to always be an Amy Grant song to get her through it. In so many words; this was the soundtrack of her life.
And then in 2016 there was an opportunity to not only meet the six time Grammy award winner, but to visit her Tennessee home. From time to time Grant invites members of her official fan club, called Friends of Amy, to her Nashville Farm. They get to hang out with the performer for a few days, doing small jobs around the property.
“It really is an intimate gathering,” said Christi who has attended the gathering on two occasions.. “Amy jokes that she’s using us as free labor, but it’s minor work. I spent one day just pulling nails out of old pieces of wood, but you get to talk to her, you get to be in her presence, and connect with other members of the group.”
A sweet moment happened when Christi visited the farm in 2021. At the end of these gatherings, on the last night, Grant puts on a Singer/Songwriter in-the-round. It’s a very intimate gathering where the artists performs some of her songs, and also tells the stories about how each was written and created- and why they have special meaning to her.
On that night, as Christi watched sitting beside her sisters who she brought along on the trip, Amy Grant was in the middle of her song Arms of Love. First recorded in 1982 it starts off with Grant singing directly to God about her fears, failings and insecurities and then it pivots to her finding comfort-in spite of all those shortcomings- in His Arms of love.
For whatever reason, whatever Amy was going through in that moment, that 4o-year-old song touched her that evening and she started to cry. And so, the group came to her rescue. They picked up where Amy left off…without skipping a word or a note. None of them were singers, they were just fans from all over and of all ages. It didn’t take long for Amy to recover. As the group kept singing, she rejoined the group and together the 300 plus voices created not just beautiful music, but a beautiful moment that will stay with Christi forever.
Of all times she has listened to Amy’s voice, that moment with no accompanying music, when you couldn’t discern the professional’s voice from the group of amateurs, instantly became Christi’s all time favorite Amy Grant performance.
That is until recently….her all time favorite performance- until very recently!
The whole point of being a fan is to share what you love with others. If you can introduce someone else to something special then that’s the moment that your passion starts having purpose.
“I’ve been hoping that someone would bring Amy Grant to Wilmington for years. Every time I’d cater a show at the Wilson Center, I’d tell them ‘You need to get Amy Grant to do a show.”
Although she’s been lobbying, Christi knows that she had very little to do with Grant’s recent booking in Wilmington. In fact the official story that she heard from the performer’s promoter, is that he’s worked with the Wilson Center in the past with other clients, and was very impressed by the operation. He is the one who booked the venue to schedule the show.
But even if he gets the credit, all those years of Christi nagging paid off. When the contract between the venue and the performer was signed, Christi got a call from a friend at the Wilson Center. “We know you’re a big fan. Would you like to do the catering?
As the music scene has grown in Wilmington, so too has Christi’s business. Pine Valley Market is known for its high end catering and frequently gets calls when a big show is coming to town. “Typically you drop off the food and leave, but this time I wanted to stay. I told them that I’d love to cater the show if I could be there to present the food.”
That’s where the picture above was taken, backstage at the Wilson Center. Amy Grant walked into the room, looked at Christi and said. “We finally got here!” The two of them hugged. They had a chance to talk and catch up. And even though it wasn’t the first time these two women met, it was the first time that Amy got to see – and taste – Christi’s talent.
“It was such a blessing, to be able to share your passion with someone who has meant so much. It was one of the moments when I could speak my love language through the food.”
Amy thanked Christi with a very nice hand written note…. and thanked her in another way.
Do you remember that song the group of friends sang on a farm in Tennessee? Arms of Love was not on the set list for the Wilson Center, but backstage as they were talking, the memory from two years ago came up in conversation. And a few moments later, during the show with Christi in the front row, Amy Grant and her band started to play that familiar tune. It was a last minute audible.. This time the singer made it through without cracking. The same cannot be said for Christi.
“It was such a sweet moment, and it tells you everything you need to know about this woman. She knew what that song meant to me and she added it to the show! How do you top that?”
Fun facts about Amy Grant
- The day of her Wilmington show the singer reportedly walked to the Wilson Center from the YMCA on Market
- Amy Grant has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.
- As a teenager she taught herself how to play the guitar.
- In 1986 she topped the Billboard charts with her Duet of “Next Time I fall in Love.”
- Grant’s Wilmington trip was originally scheduled for the fall, but was delayed after the singer was injured in a bicycle accident