The Definitive Hymns: “There is a Fountain”

With increasingly less time to devote to blogging as the semester marches on, it’s clear that I need to open a category that I can update simply and frequently, which will also be of interest to my readers. To that end, I present The Definitive Hymns: a series in which I look at a favorite hymn of mine, explain a bit of its background, and then showcase my personal favorite version of that hymn. You are encouraged to share your own thoughts on the hymn and favorite version(s) in the comments!

Today, I’m beginning with one of the all-time greats: “There is a Fountain.” Lyrics originally written as a poem by the English hymn-writer William Cowper, music by American Lowell Mason. This hymn has a sad history behind it, but it’s a powerful anthem of redemption.

William Cowper suffered from deep depression for much of his life. In his letters, he wrote that it sometimes took the form of nightmares in which he was dragged away to Hell. Because of his illness, he struggled with the assurance that he was actually saved. When he penned the words to “There is a Fountain” shortly before his death in 1800, they were primarily a reminder to himself of God’s unwavering promise. He never dreamed that it would be embraced by the entire Church for  centuries to come. Continue reading

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Are You Smarter Than the New York Times?

[Note: In haste, I didn’t notice that someone quietly cleaned up the egregious error in the most recent version of this NYT article. Below is a screen-cap of how it actually, originally appeared.

Now is your chance to find out! See if you can pinpoint what is wrong with this paragraph from a recent report on Holy Land tourism:

Tick, tock, tick, tock. As a reporter for The Federalist dryly put it, “Did you know that Christians do not believe Jesus is buried in a tomb in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre because they believe he rose from the dead? Oh you did know that basic teaching of the world’s largest religion? Congratulations.”

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Monday Morning Humor: Obama & Putin Discuss Foreign Policy

A little outdated by now, but hey, I just now found it and felt led to share.

“So look, Vlad, just to recap our call, no progress was made here, right?”

“None at all.”

“Okay, take care!

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NQC Live Commentary 2014: Saturday Night

Another National Quartet Convention is in the can! While life got in the way this week and kept me from covering all the groups and nights I would have liked to see, I hope you enjoyed the commentary I could provide. Please click below the fold for my running observations on Saturday’s final batch of concerts. Have a great weekend!

Moment of the Night: I’m adding this Sunday morning because I forgot it last night. Sorry! My moment of the night tonight is easy: The Collingsworth Family, “The Love of God.” On a stage full of uneven performances and moments, the Collingsworths can be counted upon to deliver quality vocal after quality vocal. When that vocal powerhouse talent connects with a timeless, classic song, the result is spell-binding.

Continue reading

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NQC Live Commentary 2014: Cathedrals Family Reunion Showcase

And that’s a wrap for the Cathedrals family reunion showcase. I thought it went as well as it could possibly have gone, and there were many great moments of music and camaraderie throughout. The singing was great and the songs were well-chosen, and it was everything I first loved about gospel music rolled into one. Below is my running commentary in order from beginning to end.

Good morning! I’m catching some bits and pieces of the Cathedrals Family Reunion afternoon showcase and will be jotting down some notes here on the setlist as I watch (in forwards order).

“Wedding Music”: My first thought when I tuned in was  “Hey, is that Pat Barker singing ‘Wedding Music’?” So glad they could get him to come out and lend his voice to this showcase!

“He Made a Change”: Gerald Wolfe to Ernie Haase: “I love seeing you sweat!”

“Yesterday”: Featuring Gerald Wolfe and Ernie Haase. This is a nice gem from George Younce’s own pen that’s enjoyed a bit of a revival as a couple different Cats tributes have covered it. Personally, I will always be partial to Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s heart-tugging, harmony-rich version. This reunion version tries to build to a bigger finale, and it seems that a low-key approach works better for this song.

“Somebody Touched Me”: Featuring Danny Funderburk. He’s trying to get the audience to sing along, but I think maybe the crowd isn’t sure what octave to choose!

“Can He, Could He, Would He?” Scrap quartet: Danny, Scott, Mark and Pat. I’m a little confused—I hear some voice doubling towards the end here. Stacking?

Gerald and Ernie are teasing Mark a bit. Gerald: “Mark sounds exactly the same as he did 30 years ago. You don’t look the same Mark, but you sound the same.” Ernie: “He’s like Jesus. He changeth not.”

“Heavenly Parade”: Gerald Wolfe and Pat Barker had some great banter in setting up this one, as Gerald announced he was going to sing bass, and Pat informed him that “You can’t just hit the notes. You have to sell it. Now you stand over there and I’ll stand over here, and I’ll show you how it’s done.” They both ended up singing bass in an acappella rendition that went over extremely well. They literally slapped each other around a little in the middle of the song, which was quite humorous!

[Lunch break]

12:29 Back Now!

Boundless Love: Gerald at the piano, Mark on bass, the guys sitting around jamming. This is fabulous! Gerald cutting looooose! Paul Harkey carried the bass and Ernie was in great form. This is my favorite song of the showcase so far. Ernie just said he’s going to kill Mark Trammell, because in a quartet, the tenor is supposed to hold the note as long as the baritone does. “Mark is over there just holding it and making me WORK!”

Thanks to Calvary: Pat Barker is singing “Thanks to Calvary.” Obviously nobody can sing this with the intimacy and personal conviction George brought to it, but it’s just so good to hear Pat’s voice again. He’s getting a little bit choked up.

Gaither Medley: Danny, Scott, Mark and Paul. Paul is featured on “I Will Serve Thee.” I really enjoy his rich upper register. Now Ernie is joining Danny on tenor. Gorgeous acappella breakdown.

Champion of Love: The verses are still as cringey as ever, but once the chorus hits, it’s a bit difficult to resist the uplift.

Search Me Lord: They rolled George and Glen’s introduction to this song. George’s words ring truer than ever today: “In a loud-mouthed, vulgar, vile, ungodly world that we live in today, you see so many things that we never dreamed we’d see. And you just think ‘My God, the pain of those people.’ And you think ‘It’s out of control.’ No. God still has everything under control.” All members of all groups are on stage for the final verse.

We Shall See Jesus: Yessss! I was hoping they would close with this, and I’m glad I guessed right. My only quibble is that after doing such a great job leading up to the finale, Mark Trammell handed the climax over to recorded video of Glen Payne. I’ve always thought this was a bit of a gimmick. I’d like to hear Mark nail the climax himself! But it’s a fitting closing number anyway.

 

 

 

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NQC Live Commentary 2014: Friday Night

And that’s a wrap for Friday Night of NQC! 

Moment of the Night: Well, in terms of crowd response/impact, I would have to admit that it was the multi-group rendition of “Midnight Cry” led by Ivan Parker. People were on their feet everywhere. Personally, I found it difficult to get into, because it was so pitchy. If I were choosing my personal favorite performance, I would go with 11th Hour’s “How Will You Plead.” It was an excellent new song, delivered flawlessly by new talent. We need more of that if this music is going to have longevity into the future. As for a favorite spoken moment, I was very stirred by Scott Fowler’s words before “Truth is Marching On.” Scott is so clear-thinking and full of conviction, he kind of lifts you up with him.

I will return tomorrow night for more live commentary, and I also hope to catch a bit of the Cathedrals family reunion in the afternoon. See you then! Please click below the fold for my livestream commentary on tonight’s concerts. Continue reading

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NQC Nuggets 2014: Tuesday Night

Providing you with candid, concise observations on a few of the major groups performing at the National Quartet Convention, here are Tuesday night’s Nuggets. I caught the end of Gold City’s set, the Booth Brothers, the Nelons, and the Collingsworth family.

*Tim Riley is out recovering from his stroke of two months ago. And the fill-in is… “My very good friend Chris West”? As in Chris West, who fell off the planet amid deathly silence after the last time he stepped in for Tim Riley? OK, moving right along…

*The Booth Brothers had a surprisingly short set. They opened with “Thank Him For the Miracle,” in which Ronnie Booth had to sing a whole verse solo before his mike got turned on. Really? Then Michael cued the music, but it was the encore lead-in for “Played in the Band!” He promptly apologized and quipped that the sound guys only get attention when something goes wrong, “Kind of like me at home. Oh no, don’t put this on Youtube, she’ll see it!” Leave it to Michael to save the moment. He decided to bring Gerald Wolfe on stage for a rendition of “Look For Me at Jesus’ Feet.” I fall in love with Michael Booth a little more every time I hear him sing this.

*The Nelons had the strongest set of the night. They hit the stage with a band and a new member, Kelly’s other daughter, whose name I didn’t get but who sang extremely well. Amber did a spine-tingling job on “How Great Thou Art.” Unfortunately, the back half of the song was rather overpowered by the live drummer. But the band gelled really well on “I’m Going Home to Be With Jesus.”

*I think Jim Brady may have told this story about George Younce before, but I’d forgotten it. When Jim was an unknown singing with the Schulers, their booth was always empty at NQC. One day George passed by and Jim caught up with him for a picture. Within a few minutes of George’s coming to pose by the Schulers’ booth, a line had gathered for autographs and pictures. Jim relates that George hung around for 45 minutes, after which he winked over at Jim and said “I’ll come back in about an hour to draw you a crowd.”

*The Collingsworth Family’s “heaven songs” extravaganza went on a bit long, and I think the vocal choice at the end to meld the “Hallelujah Chorus” with “Goodbye World Goodbye” shows a bit of a tin ear. (Then again, I suppose there’s an unintended lyrical connection—the “Hallelujah Chorus” is technically an Ascension piece, and “Goodbye World” does discuss “rising with my Lord to the skies.” Except that’s the Rapture, not the Ascension. Oh forget it.) Anyway, it WAS very cool to see Kim, Tim Parton and Stan Whitmire all playing grand pianos at once on the NQC stage!

Moment of the Night

Unnamed Nelons daughter’s performance on the acappella “Blessed Assurance.” It may not be much different from the Isaacs’ arrangement, but it was a memorable moment because she’s a fresh face on the NQC stage, and she executed the difficult vocal so professionally. It was a highlight in an already notable set.

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NQC Nuggets 2014: Monday Night

Instead of doing a running commentary this year, I am providing short “nuggets” from the bits and pieces I do manage to catch on weekday evenings, concluding with a chosen Moment of the Night. Tonight I caught the end of Karen Peck & New River’s set, Triumphant Quartet, Mark Trammell Quartet, Talleys, Kingdom Heirs and Perrys.

*Triumphant delivered a solid set as usually, but gosh, I always forget just what a clunky, hot mess “He Is” is. And I thought “Alpha and Omega” was dull. Whose bright idea was it that the name “Habakkuk” would sing well? When singers as talented as Triumphant are desperately trying and failing to hang onto the melody, that’s when you know you have a really bad melody, or perhaps more accurately, no melody. However, I really like their fill-in pianist, G. W. Southard. I’m unfamiliar with him, but he’s a fresh face like Trey Ivey. Looking forward to hearing and seeing more of him.

*After getting my first look at Mark Trammell Quartet with their new bass, Randy Byrd, I have to be honest that his cut seemed lacking. On “Everybody’s Gonna Have a Wonderful Time,” his voice kept dropping off every time he went for one of those low-low notes. However, Mark Trammell saying “Phooey on political correctness” got a nice crowd response. They closed with “It’s Almost Over” which drew a standing-O. Thought: This particular big set piece works fine, but one of these days I really wish Mark would bring back “Loving the Lamb.”

*Scott Fowler revealed that back when he was singing with The Sound, someone asked him who his group of choice would be to sing with. Surprisingly, his answer was NOT the Cathedrals, but the Talleys.

*The Kingdom Heirs always freshen things up with their band.

Moment of the Night

Without question, when the Perrys came on stage for the closing set and opened with “I Can Trust Him.” Tracy was weakly holding the mike and joining in from his wheelchair, and half-way through the song, he simply began to weep openly. I doubt that there was a dry eye in the house as Libbi wiped his tears away.

 

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Top Ten Reasons for Being a Bass

All credit to the creator of this meme. I can claim none of it. Let my readers make of it what they will!

Top Ten reasons for being a bass

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Paul Lancaster Joins the Booth Brothers, Tim Parton Joins Jim Brady Trio

Big news from the Booth Brothers! Be sure to watch their announcement video ’til the end, when they give a demonstration with the new member to show that the sound ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT CHANGE. ;-)

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