Doug Anderson Leaves Signature Sound

Well, this was going to be a busy week for me, so I worried about finding time to fill it with content for y’all. Turns out, this announcement will be enough for a whole week: Signature Sound has just released a press video breaking the news that charter member Doug Anderson is leaving to pursue a solo career. His last concerts with the group will be June 19th and 20th.

This is clearly Doug’s decision, with the more flexible schedule cited as a major factor. In the video, Doug explains that as his girls grow up, he wants to be a bigger part of their lives and have more control over when he can be off the road. This has motivated many a quartet man to step down, and with Doug’s popularity, it’s probably not a bad economic decision either. He also says jokingly that he hopes to “hop back on the bus” with Signature Sound at any time, and Ernie assures him that the corner bunk is always his. Ernie is clearly trying not to sound too bummed about the whole thing, but obviously he’s happy for Doug to pursue what’s best for him. Doug has been Ernie’s right-hand man and the glue of the group for about 13 years now, and it must be tough to see him go.

There are so many things I could say about how Doug’s voice and personality will be missed as a part of the Signature Sound unit. As I try to think about favorite performances, I realize there are so many that it’s hard to know where to start. He could own ballads as completely as up-tempo numbers, gritty soul as well as tender story songs. Very few singers command that kind of versatility.

It’s a testament to Doug’s talent that I’m going to reach all the way back to the beginning of his career for two favorite moments to showcase. One is the group’s old version of “Happy Rhythm,” which features one of my favorite Doug improvisations ever on the encore. The other, from that same concert, is his take on the standard on “Had It Not Been,” of which I have yet to hear a better version.

Heartiest best wishes to Doug for a blessed future and a fruitful career. Now, let the speculation about his replacement begin! Who do my readers favor? Personally, I think Andrew Goldman wouldn’t be a bad bet. He’s the only young singer I can think of who holds the potential to fill Doug’s shoes.

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Monday Morning Humor: Live From New York, It’s Hillary Clinton!

“Okay, now hold up your phone, and you can just look natural … okay, and maybe you want to soften a little. Okay, a little more. Okay, um, maybe a LOT more…”

(Note: One roundabout reference to the prospective First Dude’s misdemeanors. Nothing explicit.)

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Christian Movie Madness (or Is There Such a Thing as a Great Christian Movie?)

Recently, ChristianCinema.com released the results of a month-long movie poll pitting various Christian films against each other. Paralleling basketball’s “March Madness,” the tournament entered 64 films that were eliminated or advanced in a knockout format as Christian viewers voted. Naturally, movies with an aggressive social media campaign behind them had an edge, which might explain why the 2014 release God’s Not Dead was ultimately crowned (in Christian Cinema’s words) the “Best. Movie. Ever.” Because nobody’s ever made good films outside the evangelical Christian film-making bubble, so best Christian movie, best movie, same different right?

I did my own review of God’s Not Dead when it first came out. I gave it 2.5 stars out of 5, which in hindsight actually seems too generous. I don’t have to explain why it’s not the best movie ever, but it’s a far cry even from being the best Christian movie ever. It beat out obviously superior movies like Passion of the Christ and The Blind Side on its way to victory in this particular poll, which isn’t even including every good Christian movie ever made.

The selection process for the 64 films that were included was interesting and somewhat baffling to track. It prompted me to think about what even counts as a Christian movie. It also made me think about what it takes to make a movie that’s simultaneously great and Christian.

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Roger Bennett Memorial Destroyed by Wind Storm

I just noticed this piece of sad news in an e-blast from Legacy Five: Apparently, the folks in beloved Cathedrals pianist Roger Bennett’s hometown of Strawberry, Arkansas were putting the finishing touches on a memorial wall to him. The wall was nearly done after two years in the making, but unfortunately, they had not yet installed the support beams that would keep it from blowing down in a wind storm, and it was destroyed a few days ago. Here are two before/after pictures:

Roger Bennett Memorial wide

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Roger Bennett is one of my favorite pianists, and this news is really heartbreaking. Scott Fowler has provided an address for folks to donate towards the rebuilding process. He has said that the town will need at least several thousand dollars to start with, and any amount will be appreciated:

Roger Bennett Memorial
C/O Bank of Cave City
PO Box 187
Lynn, AR  72440

Here’s one more closeup shot of one of the plaques that had adorned the wall, which also included family pictures of Roger and engraved tiles with details about his life and career.

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Live Webcast: Singing in the Sun

Singing in the Sun is offering an NQC-style webcast for fans who can’t attend the Myrtle Beach, SC event. You can click here to purchase all five days of the event from April 21 to April 25, plus two weeks on demand. Artists include Jason Crabb, the Booth Brothers, Signature Sound, the Isaacs, and many more.

Side note: They needed somebody to proofread their announcement page. “World renown speakers”?

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Nearer, My God, To Thee

The other day we had friends over to our house to sing hymns together, and someone requested this hymn. Someone else pointed out that we were coming up on the anniversary of  the Titanic sinking (April 15), and that the ship’s string quartet played the hymn while they went down. While there are a couple of contradictory accounts, we do know that  a number of survivors reported this. From Wikipedia:

George Orrell, the bandmaster of the rescue ship, RMS Carpathia, who spoke with survivors, related: “The ship’s band in any emergency is expected to play to calm the passengers. After the Titanic struck the iceberg the band began to play bright music, dance music, comic songs – anything that would prevent the passengers from becoming panic-stricken… various awe-stricken passengers began to think of the death that faced them and asked the bandmaster to play hymns. The one which appealed to all was “Nearer My God to Thee.”

I’m not a fan of James Cameron’s (in)famous film adaptation of the tragedy, but this is one scene he got right:

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Create Your Own Caption Contest: David Phelps’s New Album Cover

Okay everyone, I’m counting on you. Here is the album cover for Freedom, the latest solo record by Gaither Vocal Band tenor David Phelps. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with an awesome caption for this manifestly ridiculous photo.

Here’s mine: “Iiiiiiiit’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday!”

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CD Review: Happy People, by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Everyone’s favorite hip retro southern gospel quartet is baaaaack with another CD/DVD, coming soon to a Christian bookstore near YOU (pre-order). This is me NOT commenting on the album cover’s color scheme! Spoiler: I couldn’t resist forever, but you’ll have to read the whole review to get to the part where my will breaks.

So… what are you waiting for?

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Special Guest Movie Review: Beyond the Mask

This week, I took my youngest sister to the theater for a screening of a new family adventure movie called Beyond the Mask. It was produced by brothers Chad and Aaron Burns, homeschool alumni who are now working to make Christian films together. Set at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, it boasts some scenery-chewing star power with John Rhys-Davies as the villain (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings) and contains more special effects shots than blockbusters like Inception and Pirates of the Caribbean. (When I showed her the trailer, her reaction was, and I quote, “Ooooh, sword fights and stuff on fire. I want to see this!”) The premise is that a former British spy migrates to America and becomes a masked vigilante for the cause of liberty, hoping to redeem himself from his shady past. Along the way, he discovers true love, strong hate, harsh revenge, and all that fun stuff.

Our theater captain was the effects coordinator for the film, as well as the 2nd assistant director. The town showed up in force, and Littlest Sister and I had a high old time together, though we did note some things that could have been improved. Among other things, we discussed the film’s historical accuracy, and our conclusions may surprise you! So instead of having me write a typical review, I thought it would be fun to change it up and interview her instead. I simply hit record and transcribed our entire conversation, with very entertaining results.  As you’ll see, the family resemblance is quite strong. Enjoy this special guest appearance. (My questions are in bold, and her answers are in normal type.)

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Youtube Find: Vintage Cathedrals Music

Some of us don’t have the space to amass a vinyl collection or the vinyl players to enjoy it on, but we still love vintage music. The other day, I found a goldmine of Cathedrals music on Youtube, including albums from the 60s/70s/80s that you still can’t purchase digitally. The music has been digitized from the user’s collection, and while the quality varies from record to record, it’s better than a through-the-air recording like some other vintage Cats uploads. The user hasn’t gathered most of them into playlists, but if you go to his channel and click “See more” enough times, from a certain point on it’s nothing but vintage Cathedrals records. Better yet, here’s a link to all the songs at once, generated by searching “Cathedrals” on the channel, though this doesn’t group songs from the same album all together. Also, it appears that the videos for Climbing Higher and Higher were accidentally uploaded with no sound. Otherwise, full albums all told include:

With Brass, 1966

Focus on Glen Payne, 1968 (full playlist here)

Welcome to Our World, 1972 (full playlist here)

You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet, 1979

Featuring George Younce, 1983

Individually, 1983

Voices in Praise Acappella, 1984

The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet, 1984

An Old Convention Song, 1985

Worship His Glory in Acappella Praise, 1993

Some of Their Finest Moments, 1994 (best-of collection, middling quality)

Radio Days, 1996

Acapella Favorites, 2000 (best-of collection)

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I haven’t even scratched the surface of it all yet, but one album I do have in my collection already that’s uploaded here in excellent quality is 1984’s Prestigious Cathedral Quartet. Recorded with tenor Danny Funderburk, baritone Mark Trammell, and pianist Roger Bennett, this album featured a few of the Cathedrals’ signature songs and a few forgotten gems. It includes one of my absolute favorite Cathedrals songs ever, which to my knowledge has never been recorded by anyone else. It should be. It’s called “Next Time We Meet,” and it’s absolutely haunting. Somebody please bring this one back. Thank you:

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