Lucy Hatley Mace
Lucy Hatley Mace, a singer, and her husband, Max, co-founded the Heritage Singers, a pioneering self-supporting gospel music ensemble. Now the longest running group of its type, it has flourished for nearly four decades. It has traveled to more than sixty countries, performed in every state in the U.S., released over 100 recordings, and inspired the formation internationally of numerous similar singing groups and other self-supporting music ministries.
Lucy was born and raised in the Walla Walla Valley in Washington state. A talented singer, she attended Walla Walla College Academy, now Walla Walla Valley Academy, where she was active musically. While at the academy, she met and dated Max Mace, who was attending Walla Walla College, now University. They married in January 1958, following her graduation from the academy in 1957.
It was while she and Mace were working at United Medical Labs in Portland, Oregon, where he was leading and she was singing in the Rose City Singers, a group sponsored by the company, that the idea for the Heritage Singers developed. After conducting and singing in the group for four years and observing the effect its music had on its audiences, particularly the young, Max and Lucy decided to launch a full-time performing group.
Although this decision cost them their jobs, by June 1971 they had formed a group of eight singers and accompanying instrumentalists, chosen a name, scheduled a tour, and started to travel. While there were challenges then and in later years, they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.
By the end of their second year, it had become obvious that the organization needed a base from which it could operate. The Maces, who had been renting when the group started, were staying in friends' homes or in motels between tours and operating out of their business manager's garage.
In 1973, they and their business manager found and purchased a large acreage, previously a cattle ranch in Placerville, California. Construction of an 11,000 square foot lodge was started in 1973 that included a rehearsal area, offices, nine bedrooms with shared baths, and two one-bedroom apartments for Max and Lucy and the business manager and his wife. A recording studio was added later.
Although the facility, which has become known as "The Ranch," was not finished by Christmas 1974, the Maces, tired of sleeping in motels, moved into their apartment, which had just been sheetrocked to provide privacy, for the holiday.
Members of the group, wanting to be the first to also sleep at "The Ranch," joined them, even though it meant they had to sleep in their sleeping bags on the first floor, which was totally open and strewn about with building materials. Five years after the purchase of the land, when the business manager and the Maces dissolved their business relationship, the Maces retained the facility and 35 acres.
After singing with the group for ten years, during which time she was known as "Mom" to its members, Lucy injured her legs in an accident in the 1980s and was unable to walk for three months. Although she eventually healed, during her convalescence, she assumed direction of a television series they were starting and led out in that activity for over ten years and 200 programs. Because of these responsibilities and others, she no longer sang with the group.
In time, the Mace family, including their two children, Val and Greg, and their spouses all became participants in an experience that enabled large numbers of young people to sing while providing a Christian witness that has touched the lives of countless listeners.
While the decision to start the Heritage Singers was a leap of faith, Max and Lucy were convinced it was worth doing, if only on a trial basis. Lucy recently talked about that decision and all that has followed:
When we started the group in 1971, we had no idea that we would still be going strong today. We had planned to commit to this ministry for one or two years, then go back to our "real" jobs. Well, the Lord had a different plan and I'm so glad He did! We've tried to listen and obey His will. Oh, we've made plenty of mistakes, but God's grace is amazing and He has been by our side every step of the way. It doesn't seem possible that it's been more than 38 years already! What a journey we've been allowed to experience. One thing I have learned over the years is that when God calls you to do His work, you don't have to worry about the details...you just obey and He takes care of the rest.
Sources: Interviews with Max Mace, July 2009, and Lucy Mace, June and July 2009 and October 2010; Heritage Singers website (quote and other information).