(Photo courtesy the We Three Facebook site)
McMINNVILLE — It’s probably a bit unusual for those who attend Church on the Hill — the big Nazarene fellowship here — to be encouraged during Sunday services to watch a specific network TV show during the coming week.
But the church couldn’t help but call attention May 27 to what could be seen on the evening of the 29th — three of their own displaying their God-given talents to viewers nationwide and, in doing so, opening perhaps a whole new chapter in their lives.
As reported by The Oregonian and the News-Register of McMinnville, the Humlies — three local siblings, all in their 20s — wowed Simon Cowell and three other judges in their first appearance during the 13th season premiere of the poular America’s Got Talent on NBC Taped in March before a live audience in California, the episode that aired June 5 saw the trio garner a standing ovation — and big praise and even tears from the judges — for an emotion-filled original song given in tribute to their late mother. They will now advance to the next level of competition.
Performing under the name “We Three” were Joshua Humlie, 27; his brother Manny, 21; and their sister Bethany (Humlie) Blanchard, 24. Their father, George — who had inspired his grown children to start their band — watched and wept with both pride and sadness from the side of the stage with the show’s host, Tyra Banks. Cameras also briefly showed a large group of other family members present in the audience and cheering for the trio.
The Humlies are well known in their hometown. George first met his late wife, Kelley, in Lincoln City when he went there to set up a Young Life ministry group. They moved to McMinnville after they married and eventually had the three children. Humlie School of Music, a family-owned school, has operated since 1999 and has inspired hundreds of students and today has 13 teachers.
The Humlies have performed in local churches, the community center, the city’s local Brown Bag Concert Series, at festivals and other events.
In December 2015, a big crowd came to Church on the Hill as family members staged a music and comedy concert to show their love and support for Kelley, who was in the last stages of cancer. The event was based on Saturday Night Alive variety shows the Humlies did regularly at the church during the 1990s. Kelley died at age 57 just weeks after the concert.
The May 29 broadcast made public what the three performers had to keep secret for weeks — the results of their initial appearance on America’s Got Talent. Under the terms of their contact with the show, they were not allowed to comment about it until the taping aired.
At the urging of the show’s producers, who had heard the story of Kelley’s passing, We Three performed “Heaven’s Not Too Far Away.” The song is written from their mother’s perspective, giving them advice and an assurance that someday they will meet again.
Viewable on YouTube, the performance shows Manny and Bethany on bass guitar and Joshua on drums and keyboard, with all three harmonizing in song.
Mel B of Spice Girls fame, one of the judges, was brought to tears by the song; she’d lost her father last year. “I felt that song was just meant for me,” she told the trio.
“I felt it,” agreed another judge, Howie Mandel.
“There’s something really special about you guys,” said an impressed Cowell. “I mean it was like, real. I honestly think we’re at the start of something big here.”
Within hours of the broadcast, the band’s social media pages received thousands of supportive comments from viewers nationwide. Stories about We Three also were done by Entertainment Tonight, Billboard.com and other media outlets.
By advancing to the next round, the Humlies will appear on the show for a second time, but that schedule will not be made public by the network or by them. If that second performance goes well, they could wind up on a live round where viewers nationally will get to vote.
America’s Got Talent airs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on these NBC stations in Oregon: KGW in Portland, KTVZ in Bend, KMTR in Eugene, KOTI in Klamath Falls, KMCB in Coos Bay, KOBI in Medford and KTCW in Roseburg.