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Coming Up… a Movie and a Concert

This Friday I’m planning to go see the Kendrick brothers’ latest movie, which some of you may already have heard of. It’s called Courageous, and much like Fireproof it explores the real-life tensions of first responders and their families. Last time it was firemen and marriage, this time it’s policemen and fatherhood. Inventive? Maybe not, but I can’t fault the Kendricks for using a formula that works well and that they’re familiar with. Here is a clip from the film, in which a character confesses a secret from his past, and the gospel is clearly presented to him. As the Church is corrupted, the gospel is watered down to the point where it’s treated as something dispensable. It’s refreshing to see people who are still willing to present it directly and unvarnished. (Note: This clip does contain a plot spoiler, so if you really want to be surprised, wait and see the movie.)

Now to get technical: Critics of the Kendricks’ movies, and of the Christian film genre in general, have made some fair points. Script, acting, and directing in Christian films virtually never matches the best that the mainstream has to offer. But what I like about the Kendrick brothers is that they’ve never pretended to be the Nolan brothers. They’re under no illusions about the greatness of what they create. Instead, they understand their limits and work within those limits to be the best at what they can do, and that’s making engaging, wholesome, family films that will present the gospel while presenting a good story at the same time. I know what a great movie looks like. I can tell when a piece of directing or a piece of acting rises above merely being good to sheer brilliance. But that doesn’t keep me from not merely enjoying, but appreciating what the Kendricks have to offer. In this way, I hope that I can walk a middle road between the Christians who consider themselves too sophisticated to enjoy anything the Christian film world provides and the Christians who insist those are the only movies that are any good. So I can marvel at the dazzling brilliance of a Christopher Nolan film on one day and eagerly look forward to a piece of evangelical movie-making on the next, intending to enjoy them equally. (However, I should probably add that I am far less forgiving in the realm of novels. Literature is a wholly different world from cinema.) Having seen all of the Kendricks’ previous movies, I truly can’t wait to see how they’ve grown in their craft. Because of the multiple stories Courageous tells, it’s more detailed than anything they’ve done so far, and if the preview clips I’ve seen are any indication, it’s their most mature work yet. I will see if I can offer some thoughts on the blog after watching it.

Now, for the second thing that’s coming up: A Booth Brothers concert on Saturday! Though I anticipate few surprises in the set list, I’m eagerly looking forward to watching these guys live and in the flesh, and hopefully getting to meet them in person. I’m particularly looking forward to shaking Michael Booth’s hand, which I’ve wanted to do for a while. I mean who doesn’t love Michael Booth? Review and possibly some pictures to follow.

The Weird Illogic of NQC Mainstage

The other day I was thinking about the mysterious process by which certain artists are invited to perform on mainstage and other artists aren’t. And a question occurred to me: Does it not seem strange that you basically only perform on mainstage if you’re either a really big name or a no-name?

I just don’t understand how it is that a group like the Erwins (who seem like sweet kids, so this isn’t at all intended as a personal slam), can get two spots on mainstage, while Beyond the Ashes, for example, gets zero. And Wilburn & Wilburn get a measly one song with a choir at the very beginning of the program, plus being on stage during the encore of a Perrys song. And don’t even get me started about a group like Paid in Full, who just celebrated 20 years of quality music.

Bottom line is, I get the idea of giving people nobody’s ever heard of before an opportunity of a lifetime and a chance to be heard, but I think that for the sake of quality it’s not fair to exclude other artists much more deserving of that time. Many times the showcase groups that “win” a spot on mainstage have little or no talent at all. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone—I named the Erwins because they appeared twice, but they’re not even the worst example. I won’t specifically name all the worst ones because I don’t think there’s any constructive point to it. Suffice it to say that I think anyone with a moderately critical ear who sat through the entirety of NQC would agree with me. And for that matter, there were big-name groups who didn’t impress me musically either.

But now I yield the floor. What are your thoughts, gentle readers?

Poll: Who’s Reading This Blog?

This past week, I set two new records for blog views per day. Obviously it was because of NQC and the fact that I was providing regular reports. While it would be cool if I could continue keeping up that rate of hits, I fear I’ll have to wait before I get that kind of activity again. So far though, I’ve maintained an average consistently higher than what I had before. So it may be that I picked up some new readers.

With all that in mind, I thought now might be a good time to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while: Take a poll to see if I can get a rough idea of how many of the people who read this blog are southern gospel artists, people in the industry, and simply fans. You don’t have to be a regular follower to take part in the poll—if you’re reading this because you like southern gospel, that’s all that’s required. I haven’t decided how long to leave it open—perhaps until I get a sample I’m happy with. 🙂 Meanwhile, pick the description that best fits you:

NQC Catch-Up: Gaither Vocal Band Reunion

I see that in my NQC reporting I failed to make any mention of the GVB Reunion showcase. Others fortunately caught it live and provided a set list. I’ve finally finished watching it on-demand. Basically it felt very off-the-cuff and informal, which meant there were some mix-ups and goofs, but it was real. You could tell they hadn’t had much time to run through everything. I actually like that sense of making things up as you go along. The biggest problem was (surprise, surprise) sound. Members would pick up their mikes for key solos and find them turned off—just had to manage as best they could. The mix was also very uneven. Often parts would stand out over the melody. But again, I liked the real feeling, and there was some wonderful singing anyway. Mark Lowry was as crazy as ever and pulled out his old “Jesus On the Mainline” routine for a hilarious walk down memory lane, plus of course his classic “Mary Did You Know.”

Yes, like everyone else I am puzzled by the fact that Guy’s absence wasn’t even mentioned or explained in any way, but good singing was still done and good music still made. Larnelle Harris essentially stole the show, as others have said. Even when he wasn’t being featured and bringing the house down (“Amen,” “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked”), he would time and again be chiming in with some bit of improv, waving the microphone about in that delightful way of his and just being generally brilliant. However, Wes Hampton also offered some wonderful moments (“The Love of God,” “I’m Free,” “Something About That Name,” “Daystar,” others I’m probably forgetting where his voice was heard… and I mustn’t forget to mention his little dance moves on “Build An Ark” — priceless). Also, Steve Green did a brilliant job with “No Other Name But Jesus,” setting it up with a great mini-sermon on how both the legalists and the relativists fail to grasp the gospel of salvation. It was his only feature, but it touched me deeply, like Michael Booth touched me on Saturday night with “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet.” For some reason, those two moments both stand out in a special way for me out of all the great music that was performed last week. I think it’s because both Michael and Steve have a rare gift for communicating a song and sending the message straight to the heart, and when that gift is joined with a great lyric, you have something special. I realize that’s not an original thought, but it’s true.

There were others who did great too, like Jimmy Murray and Buddy Mullins (who had a much better haircut than he did a couple years ago on the reunion video set). Just a really enjoyable showcase. You could tell everyone had a great time. The song selection wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but they had to work around the fact that they didn’t have Guy with them so that may explain some of it. One thing I wish they would have done is have Steve Green and Wes Hampton sing their duet version of “It is Well.” It would have made perfect sense for many reasons, one of which is that Wes’s solo project, from which that arrangement comes, has just been released by the Gaither company. Anyway, it was still fun, still good, still worth watching. Don’t miss it if you got the webcast. No videos from it have surfaced on Youtube, but while we’re talking about the GVB, here’s a taste of Wes Hampton’s brilliant Friday night performance of “He is Here.” This isn’t the whole thing, but it’s still great:

NQC Hasty Notes #6: Saturday Night

Well folks, here we gooooooo! Last night! Enjoy my hasty notes…

They are repeating a couple of showcase groups at the beginning. I walked in to catch the last part of Omega’s song. The group as a whole doesn’t impress me so much, but the lead singer has a strikingly powerful and mature voice! Others have made a comparison to David Phelps, and he’s definitely been influenced by David. Keep your eye on that fellow… then the Irwin brothers came up and sang again. For such a young group, they have a nice sound. Still green of course, but promising.

Now Michael Booth and Susan Whisnant are doing congregational singing. Michael took the drums for “Victory In Jesus.” I am prepared for a wonderful and wild night of Michael Booth emceeing!

He just set up the Dixie Echoes by saying “If any one has preserved the heart of southern gospel quartet singing, it’s these guys.” (Of course, then he leans over and asks Randy Jr., “Uh, what’s your name?”) They opened with “I’ll Shake the Hand of the Lord Some Day.” Michael Helwig did some great singing, even though he faltered a bit at the end. Now Randy Jr. is singing “Crumbs From the Table.” A truly beautiful song I hadn’t heard before. Stewart Varnado is playing a fast one now per Randy Sr.’s command. Oh Hallelujah, Michael is launching into “Hide Thou Me” now! This is going to be goooood. He sang terrific, but again, kind of holding on for dear life on his last note. Could be he’s having allergies like everybody else. Same deal on “Miracles Will Happen.” I feel kind of bad for him, but it is punishing to sing at NQC. Then Randy Sr. did a big vocal on “How Great Thou Art.” We were praying in the chat for Michael to hit his note on there, and he decided to go falsetto… hey, you do what have to! You know what I really appreciate is that this group is doing all of this 100% real. No stacks, no tracks, no security blankets whatsoever. Yet they still have a quality sound, even with the fatigue or pitchiness that creeps in on them like it can for any group.

The Kingsmen opened with a fast one, now Ray Dean Reese is singing “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God.” This is a great new lyric by Dianne Wilkinson. Ray Dean and Bryan Hutson stood out. Now Harold is singing “God Saw a Cross.” I’d forgotten how good this song is. Harold seems to do better with this style than the very high stuff. He really has a nice voice.

Next they did their latest single “That’s All I Need,” which is a solid song. Always draws a response. They just drew another good response with “Stand Up.” DBM just cracked me up telling me what this song’s lyrics originally were when it was a country song. LOL.

[Insert pointless video here. This one is downright blasphemous. I’m not kidding.]

Now the Primitives are out! Hot pickin’! All instrumental for the moment. But we’ve noticed one chap is standing back and just watching. DBM just said you’d think someone would at least give him a cowbell… Next, “He’s the Same God,” now “I Don’t Have to See the Tomb.”

I think I may have missed a song in there, but now they’re singing “You’ve Been Gracious To Me.” It was set up with a great story about how a disabled kid wanted to sing it with them in concert one night. Then they closed with “Walking On the Highway,” before which one of the singers shared an emotional testimony.

The King’s Heralds did yet another stunning a capella number. Then Susan Whisnant just said they had another quartet coming up, and Michael started going, “Quartet, quartet, quartet this, quartet that… it’s not that I’m bitter, I’m just SICK OF IT!” 😆 And it’s the Dove Brothers, and they’re opening with “King Jesus.” Did I mention that Burman Porter is the cat’s meow? Tremendous bass voice. The tenor is kind of shrieky on this one though. They’re encoring it. And encoring it. And encoring it. Okay, finally done now. Now McCray is singing a new one called “He Made a Change In Me.” This is very sweet and country—I like it. McCray just made it more powerful by saying it’s his father’s life story. He was an alcoholic, and he actually pleaded with his wife to leave him and take the kids with her. She stood with him and kept praying, and God turned his life completely around. Closed with “Get Away Jordan,” and this time McCray’s coat flew off. Unfortunately I missed the actual moment of the coat shed (I’ll catch it later though).

Now this is a surprise… Gerald Wolfe is up saying he’s written a song! And he’s going to pass out the lyrics to an impromptu quartet… John Rulapaugh on tenor, Arthur Rice on lead, Mark Trammell on baritone, and Gerald on bass. He’s campaigning to be songwriter of the year for this. We’ll see. He says it might be song of the year too. Oh how funny, it’s a take-off on “Looking For a City” called “Looking For a Tenor.” I’ll post the lyrics later. Let’s just say it went over well. 😀

The Rambos are up next and we all just remembered that we have some very important things to do. Be back in a bit.

Okay, now Michael Booth is leading the crowd in different kinds of applause: “This is your opportunity to make things look better than they really were.” HA! It’s so true though, this is exactly what video producers do. First, polite applause. Now, more enthusiastic (“This is gonna be good for the Baptists here.”) Okay, now “Stay seated, but love it a little more.” Some whistles and cheering now. This is getting good. 😀 Finally, a popcorn standing-ovation. “Okay, um, everybody 40 and younger start first, and then if you’re over 50 you start after them…” How funny. This beats the socks off of filler video. Funniest moment of the night so far.

Now Triumphant is up with “Saved By Grace.” Still a solid tune. Then David did “Mercy, Forgiveness and Grace,” very pretty new one. Ha, “Old White Flag” up next! Jeff Stice just banged on the piano and started texting. As we know, he hates this song. 😀 I grabbed a tissue and waved it… close enough. Live mandolin, sweet—added a LOT. Now “Almost Home.” I’ve heard this three times now this week, and I still think it’s cool.

Talleys are up now. Brian just sang Stephen Hill’s “Jesus Saves,” which is a beautiful song. They had a very smooth blend on that one. However, there was a brief track goof towards the end… it skipped ahead for a moment to their next song, “That’s Enough.” That was fun, and now Lauren is singing an acoustic version of “The Broken Ones.” She sings this beautifully. Roger is playing and not singing—like the trio sound with Lauren, Debra and Brian. Now that same lineup is singing “His Life For Mine.” Another strong number. Lauren got the audience on their feet by the end. She has a very present voice, and there’s just something special about the the way she delivers a song. Leaving on a bang with “Testify.” Wow, Debra just sang some HIGH harmony on top of Lauren’s melody! That was a great set.

And now, the Mark Trammell Quartet is up. Mark is opening with “God Knows How Much Mercy I Need.” Then they did “Boundless Love.” Honestly, this is one of the weaker versions of this song that I’ve heard. Dustin and Joel are decent vocalists, but just a little weak on this one. Mark and Pat are obviously the stand-out half of the group. Now it’s a “Calvary Medley.” Mark did a great take on “I Believe In a Hill Called Mount Calvary,” now they’re ending with “The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference.” No wait, I think that was just a pause, now “At Calvary.” I heart Pat Barker… he just did a tremendous solo! Oh man, now he’s singing “That’s Enough For Me to Know.” Yes, finally, a whole song featuring Pat! He is my favorite bass singer right now, hands down.

I stepped out during Jeff Stice’s piano solo, now this a capella college group called Voices of Lee is up singing an arrangement of “Amazing Love.” Very different sound—bit of an acquired taste, but they’re obviously talented. Great vocal percussion! Unfortunately, the girls’ slacks are kind of tight. Would look classier if they wore skirts or something, just saying… Now they’re doing “Just a Little Talk.” Somebody is one HECK of a bass singer! Black guy, wow, rich. They cut over to “When God Dips His Love” then back to “A Little Talk.” Wow, that was stunning. Popcorn standing-O for that. We’re wondering how many groups are going to approach him after tonight. Now “How Great Thou Art.” I’m in awe of the blend these thirteen kids have. With all the sloppy singing we’ve had this week, from groups of three, four or five, this is impressive to say the least. Only thing is, I’m not a huge fan of the SUPER high female parts. But that’s okay. They got a huge response tonight.

For an in-between vid, they played Steve Amerson’s version of “Blades of Grass and Pure White Stones.” Never heard of the song or the singer before. Quite nice!

Mark Bishop is up now. I like Mark’s stuff. Singing the Bishops’ oldie “You Can’t Ask Too Much of My God.” Great song. Now singing “Listening For the Call.” New song, enjoying it. Nice production! Then he did another old Bishops’ one, “Each Voice Another Chance to Reach the World.” “My Name is Jesus” now. Lauren’s mike wasn’t on for a moment, whoops. It’s on now, good. Ack, same deal for Bill Shivers. Whole group singing by the end. One of the worst mixes I’ve heard all week. No excuse. Somebody’s not doing their job.

Okay, now Brian Free & Assurance came up, and ALL their mikes were off. Ridiculous. Jeremy’s mike still wasn’t on last we checked. They’re singing “First Day in Heaven.” Okay, now they’ve finally got them all on. It only took a whole verse and chorus. Sheeeesh. And I’ve just confirmed that BFA doesn’t have a sound man, so now I’m wondering if it is the NQC team after all. Now Brian is singing “I Believe.” Sounding much better than the last time he performed this one. Excellent song. Oh sweet, Bill’s going to cut loose on “Prayin’ Man” now. Power singing. And Brian always slays me with that high harmony. Okay, now this is awesome, they’re going to do “For God So Loved.” Instant applause. Classic Terry Franklin-penned song. Brian is doing great. So, so classy. Whoops, my sound and video went out of sync at the end so I missed part of the finish, but needless to say it was HUGE and people were on their feet. Now they started up “Looking For a City.” Brian pretended he didn’t know and said, “Hey! No! Who told you…??” HA! This will be good if he gets someone up to duel with him… Nobody yet. They’re telling him to go higher. “You gotta go higher Brian. Higher!” This is hilarious…. Okay, so Bill kept pushing him higher and higher (“How bout it guys, you think he can do one more?”) and Brian was getting so mad there at the end (“And theeeere the sainted millions, never SING THIS HIGH!”) When he’d gone to the point where he had had absolutely enough (“Aaaaand, that’s ALL I’m doing!”), the crowd and the guys were screaming for just ONE final one. Brian growled “It’s Saturday night!” and then obliged them all. I love it! Supreme showmanship! And the icing on the cake was when Michael Booth came up and said, “Oh, I am so proud of him, because that is EXACTLY the way I taught him to do that.” (Before their set, Michael was saying that Brian had been his finest student.) Then there was still some residual cheering when Michael was trying to read announcements, and he snapped, “Hey that’s enough for Brian okay? Brian, get out of here! Well, I guess I know who’s winning Tenor of the Year.” What a hoot. Biggest crowd response of the night.

Okay, so after THAT, the Kingdom Heirs seem a little forgettable at the moment. Their opening song was pretty bad, now they’re singing “Heaven Is My Goal.” Now “It’s Real.” No wow moments yet. But Steve and Kreis French are making me laugh now with some great marriage humor. Now “We Will Stand Our Ground” again. I have to say, this is the third time I’ve seen them do it this week, counting the afternoon showcase, but it’s still one great song. It never fails to deliver. But Jerry is STILL getting drowned out by Arthur. I believe Jerry’s been having allergies this week—poor guy.

Then for an in-between video, they rolled a little highlight reel of NQC moments and behind the scenes stuff. Well edited. Song clips featured, in order, were “Beulah Land” (Squire Parsons and friends), “Welcome to the Family” (Michael’s botched lyrics moment) “Mama’s Teaching Angels” (Rambos) “Wish I Could Have Been There” (Perrys, the one last night in honor of Andrew’s birthday), Michael Booth’s four great cathedrals story (from the funniest stories showcase, some of you caught that—hilarious), “Love You Through It,” the Isaacs, moment when cancer survivors brought posters on stage, and finally the McCray shuffle and the Dove Brothers tearing it up on the end of “Get Away Jordan.” Those were all good highlights, but they missed quite a few, most notably Kim Hopper’s tribute to her brother and the two soldiers who made it.

The Whisnants up now. Sang a heaven medley, then a different song whose title has slipped my mind, then “A Greater Yes,” now “I’ll Pray For You (You Pray For Me).” This is a nice trio. Closing with “I Can’t Wait to Be There,” which is a great barn burner. Swell, the Booth Brothers are up for the encore! This is WAY fun! Okay, so they just kept it going and going, and Michael jumped over to drums, Gerald came up and started doing dueling piano with their pianist, and it’s STILL going. Susan is so hoarse, she just said “I need a girl up here!” and Karen Peck came up with her.

Susan just gave the Brothers a sweet introduction by saying she’s so proud her 17-year-old son looks up to them. Then Michael remained seated by his drums and started singing “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet.” Just singing very slowly, very tenderly, with the pianist accompanying him slowly and tenderly. Michael remained seated until the line “for saving a wretch…” He sang it, “A wretch… just a wretch… like me.” Then he stood, and he and the brothers slowly began moving together around the piano. It was the most moving performance of the song I had ever heard. I have never heard Michael sing this song like he did just now. I worshiped like I haven’t worshiped all week long. A small taste of heaven, right there. Just hard to put into words.

Then they did “He Saw It All,” which is a good song but just didn’t seem to rise to the same heights. Now they’re doing “Still Feelin’ Fine!” Hey, Tribute’s bass Anthony Davis is up with them. Pretty neat. 😀 Eric Ollis is playing piano for them and he just killed it. Then Michael pretended that Anthony was his son, funny. Apparently he has been mistaken for Michael’s son before. Then Ronnie and Jim teased him about his tie, trying to get him to loosen it or take it off. He said “No,” and when they asked why, he drew himself up and said, “Because I’m BAPTIST.” Huge laugh. Then he began talking and paused to turn over their timer. “They already gave us the check!” THAT got a REALLY big laugh.

Eventually he settled down and began talking some serious theology, setting up their new song “What About Now.” This will be good. Thought-provoking closing number. Michael delivers the lyric with so much feeling. You can tell he means it from the bottom of his heart.

I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on after that… Michael began leading the audience in “Nothing But the Blood,” then Karen Peck came up and joined him… Michael said something about the “machine” not cooperating with what had been planned. More a capella singalong, “Reach Out” and finally the “Doxology.” Then it was good night to all. Not sure what happened there, but I think there was some grand finale that was supposed to happen involving a track, and they couldn’t get the track to play and had to cut it off. That’s too bad! But in any case, it was a great night. Brian Free & Assurance and the Booth Brothers brought some amazing moments tonight, and there were other good sets too. But in the end, it was Michael Booth’s night all the way. His emcee work was sparklingly witty and brilliant as ever, and he delivered moving performances as well. Truly one of a kind. His touch may have made this the best night of the week.

Please leave comments. I am signing off and going to bed. It has been an awesome week, and I may try to do a post-NQC thing some time next week. Meanwhile, thank you to all the artists who made this week awesome, and to all of you in the chat room. You guys were great. Especially wanted to say to Mrs. Janice Allman and Mrs. Donna Wolfe that it was a pleasure to “meet” both of you! Blessings to all and good night.

NQC Hasty Notes: Song of a Lifetime Showcase

This installment will be briefer than usual. I decided to just enjoy the showcase and not blog much. But I’ll provide a song list and brief comments here and there.

Up On this Ridge, written and performed by Channing Eleton: Inspired by his mother, who he would often see “talking with God” by the fireplace, this is an upbeat take on the mental picture of praying to God. Channing brought his accordion up on stage with him!

One Holy Lamb, performed by Tribute Quartet: Phil Cross told a great story about how his co-writer Cindi Ballard got the idea for this song in a dream, and Riley Clark turned in a PHENOMENAL performance. Standing ovation from all the writers and the audience.

He’s Everything I Need, performed by the Kingsmen: Joe Habedank introduced it. The Kingsmen encored it twice and got a great response.

Hear My Heart, performed by Sheri Easter: Sheri shared about how when she was going through chemo for her breast cancer, Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey went through her notes together with her and found two slips of paper with what became the chorus to the song. Joel, who had also battled cancer, came up with the beginning verse. Sheri performed it movingly.

Preach the Word, performed by Gold City:  Writer Jim E. Davis set this up great, saying that when he brought the chorus to his wife, she said, “That’s good, I like that. Don’t mess up the verses.” He comes from a family of preachers, and the tradition has been carried on. Dan Keeton delivered a powerful vocal with Gold City. It was not as strong as it could have been, but he carried it well, and people were standing before the end.

Hands of Grace, performed by the Talleys: Tony Wood is one of my favorite Christian writers, and he got up to introduce this song. He said Jim Brady had the song title, and immediately Tony’s mind went back to some photographs his daughter had taken of Tony’s grandmother’s hands. It inspired the song’s focus on Jesus’ hands and all the people he had touched with them. Great story.

When You Bow At Jesus’ Feet, performed by Jim Brady: Jim wrote this song by himself and had the Booth Brothers there to back him up. Their mikes were deliberately turned down, and they stood back aways behind him to let him carry it. I wouldn’t have minded it if they had been a little more present, but it was nice for them to intentionally give him the main spotlight as the writer. I hope they do this on mainstage tonight.

We Will Stand Our Ground, performed by the Kingdom Heirs: Dianne Wilkinson came out and said:  “I’d rather be an old-time Christian than anything I know.” She then spoke about how the devil “hates old-time Christians” because we have the truth. “So he’s scared of us, y’all.” She had everybody standing before the song had even begun! The Kingdom Heirs came out and knocked it out of the park. My one complaint is that Arthur Rice was miked so loud that he drowned out Jerry Martin, which means we lost the melody towards the end. However, everyone was on their feet before it was over. A tremendous moment.

Side Effects, performed by Tim Lovelace: “This’ll be in your hymn books next month.” Maybe not? 😆 Mark Bishop afterwards: “Wow what do you say? So many places you could go with that.”

My Name is Jesus, Mark Bishop: Something feels off about this song, but it was neat to see various guest vocalists up there to “play” the various roles in the song. Bill Shivers sang Ivan Parker’s part as Peter and did a great job, but it was Lauren Talley who really stole the show and got people standing by the end.

Fall On My Knees, performed by the Browders

Another Child’s Coming Home, performed by Chris Allman and Jeremy Medkiff: This may have been my favorite moment. Chris said that this was the song God sang over him during a time when Chris was wandering. He did it completely unplugged with Jeremy Medkiff—Chris had a guitar, and Jeremy had a guitar. Very simple and tasteful.

Almost Home, performed by Triumphant: Scotty said his wife told him to put this on the new Triumphant record, and we’re very glad she did!

Do You Love Me, performed by Sisters: Phil Cross introduced this powerfully by saying this was his heart’s cry at the age of eleven, when he wondered if God really loved him. He said that out of all the songs he’s written, this one means the most to him. I was unfamiliar with the song and was deeply moved by Sisters’ performance. Just wow.

No Longer Chained, performed by Greater Vision

Redemption Draweth Nigh, performed by Greater Vision: Gordon Jensen told a great story about how this song came to be. As a very young writer, he took it to a major group, and when they heard the line “war and strife on every hand, and violence fills the land,” they said it would never work. “People are trying to get their minds OFF of war and strife.” Gordon was totally crushed and almost threw it away. But when Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys heard it, he told Gordon that even though it wasn’t an ORB song, it would become a timeless classic. They took another song Gordon had written and said it might be a hit for a few years, but this one was going to last and last. Duane was absolutely right. Gerald Wolfe sang it very powerfully, although my favorite version will always be the one Ernie Haase did for a Homecoming.

I was very glad I caught this showcase, and I’d encourage anyone who’s got the webcast to go find it and watch it On Demand. There were some great songs sung and stories shared. I actually enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed some of the NQC mainstage stuff this week!

NQC Hasty Notes #5: Friday Night

Enjoy…

I just came in to catch the last section of the Kingdom Heirs’ set: “No Bones About It.” Now they’re into “What We Needed.” I’ve never heard this song before, but I really like it. It starts slower then picks up speed at the chorus. I’m having trouble hearing Jerry Martin’s solo because his mike is either off or really low… sigh.

Steve just did a great set-up for “We Will Stand Our Ground.” Arthur is singing it great. This song is awesome. I’ve been waiting all week for them to do this. It was a little bit patchy but sounded all in all quite good, got quite a few people on their feet. Very cool moment.

[Pointless video break]

Now Jeff Stice is playing a patriotic piano solo. Or I should say “solo,” since most of it is being carried by the instruments in his backup track. (Not that the piano isn’t important, it’s just that “solo” isn’t technically the right word…) It’s all armed forces songs. Now we’re on to the Marine anthem. This is really cool, something different. Hey, neat, now it’s the Bridge On the River Kwai theme! Jeff tried to get people to whistle along, not sure how that worked out. 😀 Now it’s “God Bless America.” Finished with a bang.

Now the Collingsworth Family is up, rocking “I Know.” Phil Jr. is a little croaky tonight. He just handled his high note really well—he immediately realized it wasn’t working and improvised with a lower riff. Very professional. Courtney is looking beautiful tonight in a classy black dress. Not sure how to classify what her sisters are wearing though… Brooklyn has some stripy shirt, and Olivia has…are those leopard spots? What is it with the leopard prints? It seems like every other lady at NQC is wearing them.

Phil Sr. just set up “That’s the Place I’m Longing To Go” with a great story of how they found it. The father of the music director at Kim’s sister’s church wrote this song 40 years ago, and it had never been published until Kim’s sister introduced it to her. After Kim heard the song, she said “I believe that’s  one of the finest lyrics about heaven I’ve ever heard.” This is gorgeous. Whooops, just had a goof with the track, not sure what happened… I think they may actually have taken too long on the a capella part and had the track cut in on them sooner than they thought. Wow, I can’t believe it. The Collingsworths made a mistake… this NEVER happens. (Then again, maybe it was just a sound glitch on my end.) Ah well, they’re human after all. 🙂 Now an a capella encore.

“Resurrection Morn” is building in intensity now, I predict a standing-O by the end. Okay, some people were standing, this is good. It was a powerful performance. Now Kim is trying to play a piano solo without her piano being miked right…? Oh no. “Hallelujah Chorus,” but I can’t hear Kim!!! Nooooooo! Or maybe they need to lower the track? Either way, something’s wrong. Oh well, she smoked it and got a standing-O anyway. More than for anything they sang even!

This was the Collingsworths’ last set, and they delivered consistently good stuff all week long. Arguably the most consistent group of the week both for vocals and song selection.

Ugh, now it’s the Pfeiffers. I mean, I’m sure they’re great people, but a saxophone version of “We Shall Behold Him?” The trumpet does work better, but still… now the singing is working a bit better. There’s a blonde lady singing with them tonight who I don’t recognize.

Now it’s Karen Peck & River doing “Love With All of Your Heart.” I’m hoping Karen can make it through her set, she had BAD laryngitis earlier. She’s doing pretty well though. Now singing “Hold Me While I Cry.” I’m not sure why she’s not sharing the vocal load a little more, maybe give some of the solos to Susan? She’s obviously feeling terrible, and this isn’t that great for her vocal cords. Just a thought…  I just saw Susan give her a pat on the back of encouragement. Now my favorite song of theirs, “On the Banks of the Promised Land.” Hope Karen can manage this. She did, and they did a little a capella “What a Day That Will Be” afterwards. Now it’s “Four Days Late.” Karen pulled through it like a trooper and led the audience in “God’s Unchanging Hand” to close out. She said that when she realized she was sick, she saw she had two options: Not sing, or realize that “God doesn’t need my voice, He just needs me to be willing to come up here and sing.”

It’s time for the Compassion International pitch now, but Gerald Wolfe has done something different. He’s introduced a Compassion kid named Ben who’s gone all the way through and graduated. He’s from Kenya and is sharing a very powerful testimony! Right now he’s talking about how Compassion doesn’t only feed and clothe children—it disciples them to become Christian leaders in their own community, as Ben himself is now.

The McKameys came up, been singing some oldies, now a really pretty one called “When Faith Steps In.” They were as lovable as ever.

Then the Isaacs did something forgettable, now Bill Gaither is joining them for “No Shortage!” Fun!!! Then “Why Can’t We,” a powerful song I hadn’t heard before. They did an awesome a capella encore. Now they’re gonna do some bluegrass… “Love Lifted Me.” Never heard this done bluegrass before—like it! They made it a medley and closed with “I’ll Fly Away.” Great instrumentation.

Now Ivan Parker is up. I’ve just been recognizing a bunch of people in the chat room during his set. Some hilarity and confusion… much too hard to explain, LOL. And the Southern Gospel Gardener is on here! That’s right, THE Southern Gospel Gardener. Hi Chris! He tells us that the advantage of being on the West Coast is that he doesn’t have to stay up late, but the disadvantage is he missed some work to watch the beginning. Ruh-roh. Wow, Ivan Parker is still going. This is draaaaagging, big time. He’s closing with the chorus of “When I Get Carried Away.” Smart idea, it’s something everyone knows and can get into.

Now Gerald is leading the congregation. First “He Touched Me,” then “Family of God.” Now “Because He Lives.” He told everyone to raise the roof. Gerald can really draw a crowd out.

All right, here we go. The GVB and “Journey To the Sky.” This is it folks! The big guns are out! Great opener. Wes is singing now. They’ve taken to having him do the lower octave stuff too. Good for his voice. So much fun. Mark is hopping! (Bill: “MARK!” “Mark: “WHAAAAT?” Love it.) And…. Wes just nailed his WOOOOOO. They’re doing an encore, sweet. Mark and Michael picked Wes up on the encore and almost dropped him. Uh, careful guys… he’s your best singer! Now Mark and Bill are doing comedy. Cracking me up. Mark is in fine form. Have already laughed out loud a couple times. Although Wes was looking a little bored there (he’s probably only heard these jokes 500 times). Now it’s “Greatly Blessed.” They’re not using any stacks that I can hear. Hey neato, “Where No One Stands Alone.” But their mix is really bad. They’re having “issues.” David is doing his solo now. His curls are looking a bit more well-ordered now than usual, a little less girly. Mike has a much better haircut too.

Now Wes is singing “He is Here.” This song is a little saccharine, but Wes can sing anything and turn it to gold. What a sweetheart. What a voice. He’s wearing a hideous green tie, but he sounds fantastic. Just piano, amazing. Wes delivered a pitch-perfect performance. Incredibly pure and lovely. I will never get tired of listening to that voice.

Now I could tell Gordon was playing the chords for “Please Forgive Me,” and that is indeed what they’re launching into. Michael is taking the lead. I have to admit, this has never been a huge favorite, but the ending is good and powerful live. Bill is leading the crowd in another chorus. Everybody has their lighters out. 😀 Huh boy, now David is singing “He’s Alive.” I know everybody thinks he’s incredible, but he really needs lessons… this is way too emotive. Even though it’s technically a man’s song, Lauren does better with it. This should be cool once the chorus hits though. I just have to wait through David’s solo. THERE we go. Big Homecoming crew up on stage with them, great choir sound. Crowd up on their feet. It was a great moment at the end there, I have to admit. The crowd was way more electric than I’ve seen them all week at NQC. Then Bill led the crowd in another round of “Because He Lives.”

Kevin Williams just did a hilarious comedy bit, a true story about Gordon that I’d never heard before. I won’t spoil it for any of you in case you go to a Homecoming and Kevin tells it there. 🙂 Now he’s telling an older one… Okay, now their time is up. Too bad. Honestly this is not my favorite GVB lineup, but they and the rest of the crew brought something special to the stage tonight. Just hard to put my finger on it, but it was exciting and vibrant in a unique way. It must be that Gaither pixie dust…

Now Greater Vision is up. They opened big with “I Know He Heard My Prayer.” Very big, power ending. Now “My Name is Lazarus,” here we go! That was great, then Gerald told a funny story (he is funny), and now Rodney is singing “It Pays to Pray.” YES, Chris is singing “I Know a Man Who Can” now. This is so great because even though he did it on Monday, we had terrible sound problems with the webcast and couldn’t enjoy it properly. Sound is great tonight and we’re fixing to be blessed in the Spirit. He just nailed that high note. And to make it really special, Chris’s MOM is watching with us on the webcast! She is very proud of her boy. She says she wants to breathe for him though. 😀

Swan did some “comedy,” and then Clarke Beasley introduced two very special guests: Two soldiers who were able to attend! One of them had asked for tickets from Afghanistan last year, and Clarke didn’t even need to say he was a soldier when he first introduced him, he just said he had called for tickets from Afghanistan, and the whole crowd began applauding and standing… The soldier said when he was in the hospital in Afghanistan, his little boy sent him clips of gospel music, and he became a fan and knew he had to make it to NQC the next year. And tonight he has. It so happened that he had a friend on leave from Iraq at the same time, so they’re attending together this year. Their names are A. J. Ketcham and Jason Moore. This may be my favorite moment of the night. So, so, cool. God bless them. The audience gave them the reception they deserved.

Now the Hoppers are up singing “I Will Serve Thee.” This is nice, I didn’t know they had a version of it. Oh, how awesome, they’re singing “Jerusalem” now! Has to be their all-time best song. Gives me goosebumps. Now they’re doing “Something’s Happening.” I’ve never heard this one all the way through, I know it’s going to be big though. Uh-oh, Connie is doing a spoken narration… I hate spoken narration. Nothing against Connie, I hate it when just about anybody who isn’t named George Younce does it. But the song finished huge. Kim’s voice grates a little bit, but she does pack a big punch—lots of power, which is what these songs need. Claude is doing “My Living Shall Not Be In Vain” now, which is a big shift from the last song. I think it’s a sweet number though. (By the way, somebody just noticed that Dr. Charles Stanley doesn’t seem to have showed up. Grigsby suggested maybe he was reading David Jeremiah’s new book in the hotel and lost track of time. HA!)

And… they just ran out of time, and Dean said, “Oh no, I don’t know, can we do one more? I don’t know…” Kim was already starting up, and the whole gang came up and did just one round of “Shoutin’ Time.” That was just right. It’s just right when they don’t beat it to death.

Now for the Gospel Palooza… 84 uninterrupted minutes of gospel music. Well THANK THE LORD for that “uninterrupted” part! The Perrys up first. Singing “Plan of Salvation.” This is a great idea—they got a great reception when they did this Monday night. Tracy turned in another great job on his solo. Love their version even though the Cats can never be bested. Now they’re doing “Blue Skies.” Joseph Habedank is one top-notch, consistent young singer. I think he and Jordan Wilburn are cut from the same cloth. A pleasure to listen to.

Libbi then sang “Celebrate Me Home,” and Tracy just set up the last song with a great story about a little boy who was watching the Perrys on the webcast for his birthday party on Wednesday (they’re his favorite group). Well all his little birthday party guests got so riled up by the Perrys that he decided to march them all into the basement and start pulling out his southern gospel DVDs, and they ended up having a southern gospel birthday night! So Tracy wished him a happy birthday from the  gang, and now they’re launched into “Wish I Could Have Been There,” his favorite song. This is a terrific song. I gotta get my ipod loaded up with some Perrys stuff, I don’t think I have much on there yet…  Wow, this song is tearing it up. That little guy is going to be awake all night tonight if he’s watching this!! They encored it a few times and passed around a “Happy Birthday Andrew!” sign. How sweet. Poor Andrew’s mom. Tracy said they heard he got so wound up Wednesday night he couldn’t sleep and got into some sort of trouble… LOL.

Gold City is up, and hey, they’re opening with an oldie, “Robe of White.” Dan Keeton is nailing the tenor part. But wait, did he just go sharp? Never mind, a fast-paced song, so it’s hard to tell. Now “Peter, James and John.” I have to say, this isn’t a bad song, but did they have to do it every time they were up? I guess, because it’s their new single… okay, now it’s “When He Blessed My Soul.” DBM is watching and I bet he’s happy. Tim Riley is still da man. Now they’re doing that Dixie Hummingbirds song again. I do enjoy the song, though this is basically the same set they had Monday night. Time is running out if they want to have Craig sing “Midnight Cry!” There’s also some confusion over whether the new guy was supposed to be featured on a song tonight. I guess we’ll have to see what happens. Now they’re doing “God’s Building a Church,” again, same as Monday. This is kind of disappointing. I can see repeating some of your stuff, but at least mix in a little new… Bummer, it’s looking like they’re not going to do “Midnight Cry” after all. I am bummed. In fact, I just discovered the crying emoticon in the chat room by typing out a crying smiley face—that’s how bummed I am. Craig could have made a big exit with that song. I believe he sang it the best of any of their lead singers.

Legacy Five is up now singing “Destination Known.” Not bad, just a little ho-hum. I wish they had done some “bigger” songs this year. But let’s wait and see what else they do. I’d really love to see Gus pull out “I Stand Redeemed.” It would also be cool if they did “Faithful To the Cross…” Okay, now they’re doing “Just Because Of You,” which is a sweet, sweet song. It features Gus, so I’m happy. Anything featuring Gus, I’m happy. That was just gorgeous. Now Scott is setting up “Ask Me Why” by telling the story of the Muslim lady who became converted. This is going to be great! Some of you may have read Scott’s blog, where he talked about how this lady came to Celebration by accident and asked why everybody was so happy. That was two years ago. Now both that lady and her little girl are believers. And sure enough, they’re singing “Ask Me Why” now. Very powerful, Gus is sounding a little bit hoarse tonight but did great. They added an a capella encore. It may have been a bit pitchy but it was tender and very moving. Now they’re doing “Boundless Love.” The sound is doing odd things, but this is fun! I like their version of this! Gus is rocking it! Awesome. I love it.

Brian Free & Assurance is hitting the stage on fire with “Go Tell the World.” This is a fantastic opening song. Terrific lyrics, terrific sound. They are ON tonight. Did I mention Bill Shivers is underrated? Still? Awww, now Jeremy is singing “Save Me a Seat.” Some of you might remember when he did this a couple years ago after his dad died. Sweet song. I just caught a shot of Matthew Holt playing live piano for them—very nice touch. Holt has been doing some tasteful playing this week. Now they’re doing “You Must Have Met Him.” This isn’t my favorite song of theirs, but it’s solid. They have very few bad songs. Wow, I’d forgotten just how high Bill goes on this one… I think I already said he’s underrated, but, well, he is. Seriously, he is a lead, but he can hit tenor singers’ notes. I think their mix is one of the best of the night. They have a powerful, well-blended sound. I can’t tell if they’re using stacks, but if they aren’t, I’m impressed.

Brian set up “Never Walk Alone” by talking about what it was like to lose his mom and dad within six months of each other. He’s doing well with this, though I think he may have flatted in a few places… there’s this one note in the verses he seems to have trouble with for some reason. I wonder if it’s because this is lower than usual for him? Anyway, it is always moving when he sings this. Clear voice, very simple. Oh, awesome, they’re closing with “Jesus Will Pick You Up.” This always works. Always. Jeremy does so well with this. Somebody just compared him to Randy Travis… you know I’d never thought that before, but they DO sound similar come to think of it. Oh here we go, now, this is getting good. Okay, so Brian just BLEW THE ROOF OFF at the end there. And then L5, Gold City and the Perrys all back up on stage for the big finale: “Long As I Got King Jesus.” They did it once, did it twice, then bade us adieu. The perfect finish.

Well, I was left disappointed by last night, but this one more than made up for it. I believe it may be the best one yet. There were literally so many highlights I’m too tired to think of them all and type them up. But you guys can! Please share any thoughts or observations of your own. What did you enjoy about tonight, if you were there or watching?

In Defense of the NQC Sound Guy

Keith Waggoner offers an interesting perspective on NQC’s chronic sound problems:

As a guy who has sung on the main stage at NQC a few times, let me offer a defense for the sound team. Most groups (including, I’m sure, EHSS) bring in their own sound guy to mix their sets, rather than trusting whomever happens to be sitting at the sound board. This is to be expected, I guess, since the group sound man “knows” their sound. The problem comes when the group sound man isn’t experienced on the console they’re using at NQC or is unfamiliar with the room dynamics. The NQC sound guys let them do whatever they want. They let them set the sound and save presets on the board. They also let the group sound man come back and do the live mix for the performer. That’s why the sound can differ wildly between groups. I’ve worked with many of the NQC sound crew members at various events and they’re solid. For the most part, they know what they’re doing. We haven’t always used them for our sets, but when we have they’ve done a good job.

What I don’t get is the lack of communication between the stage hands distributing mics and the house sound guy. This results in those awkward stage moments while groups are singing with no amplification. There really is no excuse for not knowing who has what mic. While occasionally someone (usually an emcee) will grab a random mic and run up to the stage to say something real quick (creating a panic attack for the sound guy), most of the time the groups have their mics and are ready to go 10 minutes before their main stage slot. Groups use presets from sound check which require vocalists to use the same mic that they had in sound check. It’s up to the mic handler to make sure they have that same mic. If someone has the wrong mic, let the house guy know about it. The house guy has to be in tune to figure out which mic they DO have and prepared to mix on the fly.

It’s not a perfect system by any means. Until they have only the “official” sound crew running sound, NQC will suffer from sonic inconsistency. I’m not saying that the NQC sound crew would always do it better, but at the very least it would be uniform.

Thoughts? Comments? I will say that this explanation does make sense to me. The thing that still puzzles me is how a group like Signature Sound, who should have this kind of thing down, could have a rotten mix? Last night was better than the previous night, but it was still a little rough. Are we to assume they’re doing their own sound as well? Because I’ve been to two of their concerts and never heard problems of that sort.

NQC Hasty Notes #4: Thursday Night

Enjoy…

Wilburn & Wilburn just lost their track on Fire in the Choir. It was on, then it wasn’t. Jonathan started singing “And what I need right now is a track playing….” Waiting. Waiting. Tim Lovelace is killing time… this is embarrassing for somebody. I don’t know his name and he’s probably glad. Okay, it eventually came back. Jonathan and Jordan are tearing it up! Jonathan hit some pretty powerful notes and got red in the face. So did Jordan. Like father like son. 🙂 Jordan is honestly one of the best young singers in gospel music, and I’d really like to see him get some recognition. I could see him landing a job with a top-tier group some day.

Okay, congregational singing with Brian Free was up next, but now the Hoppers are up singing “Victory Shall Be Mine?” This is kinda important, ‘cuz Brian is supposed to be co-hosting tonight?? Hopin’ he’s okay?? We’ll see. I’m enjoying the Hoppers in the meanwhile… without describing what she was wearing last night (others already have) Kim is wearing a much better outfit tonight.

Okay, Brian’s here now, good. Did I mention I love this guy? He’s leading the crowd in “Victory in Jesus.” LOL, he’s switching between the girls’ and guys’ parts. Now he seems more comfortable with the girls’. LOL. He seems to be having trouble getting the crowd to sing. He picked a key they could sing too!

Now the Collingsworth family is up singing “Joy Unspeakable.” At first their mix seemed off, now it’s good. Hey, just noticed Brooklyn’s bright red shoes/boots look just like Morgan Easter’s! Great opening number. Yay, now they’re doing “Fear Not Tomorrow.” This will be good. But it sounds like Kim is louder than the girls. Must be more mix issues… They are sounding great tonight though, just finished big. Now Phil is introducing a family friend who happened to work for Donald Rumsfeld under the Bush administration—Lieutenant Colonel Billy Watts. Now Phil Jr. is singing “Tell the Mountain.” I must say, I’m learning a LOT about parts singing by listening to some of these bad mixes (ahem). I just caught sight of Signature Sound in the crowd even though they’re not on until 9:00. They must have come to catch the Collingsworths. Phil is doing a terrific job with this song. Now Kim set up “Jesus Is All I Need” by talking about the scare they had in December when Phil Sr. had brain surgery. She is a very powerful communicator. I didn’t realize that this song started with just Kim and the two Phils. They make a great trio! Aw, did I just see Momma make Phil Jr. shed a tear there? Now the whole family is coming together for the last part. Oooooh, acapella encore, sweet.

Now the Pfeiffers are doing “How Great Thou Art,” trumpet, sax, and clarinet instrumental. Then vocals at the end. A lot of people have complained about this group. Admittedly they’re not that great, but not as bad as all THAT.

Now Brian and Sheri are up. Sheri is wearing some drapy thing that’s black with large pink pokodots. Brian is wearing a pink tie and just said, “Sheri you’re looking beautiful, and I just noticed that we match. We’re both wearing black and pink.” He then defended himself by saying every tenor singer is entitled to wear pink. “Isn’t that right? Michael Booth?” (I think I heard Michael respond from somewhere in the audience, but it may have been my imagination…) Not many people realize how funny Brian can be because he’s got such a clean-cut, polished singing presence, but just watch Assurance’s on-the-road videos some time.

The Kingsmen just blew my ears out on “When I Wake Up,” and not in a good way. Ouch. I like their lead singer though (Bryan Hutson), and I believe Randy Crawford used to sing for Brian Free & Assurance, before Derrick Selph came back. He’s singing “If Not For the Love of Christ” right now. This is a nice song. Now “After the Sunrise,” a pleasant up-tempo number. They’re sounding better now—it may be the mix (surprise). When Harold did his high thing, it didn’t hurt my ears this time because his mic was turned down. Oh, now he’s featured. “I Knew It Was Him.” This might grab me more with a different singer, not sure. Now they’re doing “That’s All I Need.” You know, it’s not that they’re bad, they’re just not good enough to distract me from the hot GVB debate I’m having in the chat room right now… maybe that’s not a fair standard though. 😀

I took a short break, and I think they may have sung another song in the meanwhile, but now Bryan Hutson just introduced the Kingdom Heirs. These guys are one of my favorite quartets. Singing “I’m Not Worried About Forever.” Some of us are speculating whether Arthur and Steve are THAT tall or whether Jerry Martin is THAT short. We’re thinking the latter? Or maybe both? Now we’re musing on the fact that Jerry is the only one in the group with real hair (and not much of it either… maybe that will mysteriously change one of these days?) Oh, the singing? They sound great. Now it’s “Tell Me Why.” Just a great sound, and what do you know, no mix problems yet! A new song.  I’m hoping they’ll do some more of their new stuff, but I think they have three slots, so they probably want to spread things out. By the way, their band is great. The bass player just did a great comedy bit with Steve French where he claimed that he got pulled over for running a stop sign and got an $80 ticket he wants Steve to pay… I hear they did this on their Live from Dollywood DVD too. Somebody said it was a waste of precious time, but I thought it was funny. 🙂 Now Jerry just sang “When Heaven’s Gates Swing Open Wide.” Does he have a cold or something? Cuz that was kind of thin. Now into “He Locked the Gates,” which always gets a good response. Encored, of course.

Now my favorite piano player in gospel music… Kim Collingsworth! “My Tribute.” I remember the first time I watched her do this I fell over backwards in my chair. Whoa, she is killing it now. I feel sorry for the piano. Standing ovation. Hallelujah. 😀 Sheri just summed it up: “I believe she believes it!”

Legacy Five. Opened with “Every Day,” now they’re singing “God Cares For Me.” Expecting them to move on to a ballad in a moment. Sure ’nuff, now Glenn is singing “I’ve Been Changed.” I like this song. Glenn always puts his heart in it. Gus is sounding awesome on the chorus. Now singing “Thankful For the Change” — nice sequencing! Ahhhh, now they’re doing “Something About That Name.” I love it when they take their time with this. Just like the Cathedrals. Now Scott is reading the Easter story… I bet I know what he’s setting up, it’s gotta be “We Shall See Jesus.” This is a creative arrangement. I like the idea of changing the lead around. Though I admit I prefer it the traditional way, this is neat. Scotty going for it on the climax now. Standing-O.

[Pointless video break. This is longer than usual. I think maybe it’s finally over?? Yes!]

Talleys are up, opening with “He’s So Good To Me.” Wondering if maybe they should have done something else since the Booths have picked this up now? Now Brian Alvey is singing “Why Me, Lord?” The song isn’t a favorite, but Brian is. They’re doing it as a trio with Brian, Lauren, and Roger. Now it’s “Applause.” Brian, Lauren and Debra. Have to say, I’m coming to think they do sound tighter when they stick with the trio configuration. Gotta say they got kind of thin “Applause” at the end there. Ironic? 😉 Now Lauren is singing “He’s Alive.” I’d rather hear her sing this than David Phelps. I’m really liking the quartet sound on this chorus. Bringing the house down, have to say. Rock it guys.

Calvary’s Voice, a showcase group is up now. They’re okay, don’t know the song. I’ve just been finding out about Sheri’s outfit. Apparently it is called an “overlay,” and we’ve decided it’s sheer, with the black dress showing through. Ouch, the tenor singer just tried to sing a high note. Ack. If you can’t hit it, don’t try. It’s simple. Poor guy.

Now MTQ is up singing “Echoes From the Burning Bush.” (And David Bruce Murray is happy in the chat room. He was about to fall asleep with all the slow songs, and we all know how much he LOVES slow songs…) Pat Barker is great, and Joel Wood sounds like he’s struggling with allergies or a cold something… blech, that’s not fun. As others have pointed out, it is the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center after all, so often they have animals penned up in the hallways. You can just imagine what that does to people with allergies. Now Dustin is singing “Testimony.” Next, “That Day At Calvary.” Mark Trammell is now setting up “Statue of Liberty,” I assume. Wow, how classy. He just asked all the veterans to stand, then thanked the military members who have sacrificed for freedom. Then he said that even though there are people who try to say  this is not a Christian nation, “That is a lie from Hell. There is still a remnant.” They did indeed bring the house down with “Statue of Liberty.” Have to admit, I’m not as good with very long drawn-out ballads as some people, but this is one of the better ones.

Now David Jeremiah is talking for a pretty long time about his new book (and over-stepping his 5 minutes) but boy is he saying some good hard-hitting things, especially about Israel. Then he rolled some old Cathedrals footage I’d never seen before. Wonderful. And somebody thinks we’d rather watch pointless motivational videos? Never mind.

Now it’s a group called Smoky Mountain Reunion. Really old guys. Sweet. I’m told they’re former Inspirations. Just did “A Rose Among the Thorns.” Now the original Inspirations baritone came up to sing “My Best Friend.” (His name is Jack Law I think.) Now “Wonder of Wonders.” This is nice and all, but it’s running a bit long… hopefully this will be the last song? No, wait, they’re doing “Roll On Jordan” acapella! This is actually fun! They’re doing great. That bass is great! We just remembered his name is Marlin Shubert. He always was a great bass. They just did an encore. 😀

I left and came back to find the Isaacs singing “Walk On.” Band is doing great. I see Sonya’s current husband playing guitar. Now they’re singing “Little Jimmy Brown.” This song is hopelessly saccharine, but…. now they’re playing “Love You Through It,” Martina’s latest hit which Sonya co-wrote of course. They had some cancer survivors come up on stage towards the end with posters saying how many years they’d been clean, but a couple said just “survivor” (maybe still battling) or “diagnosed 2011, keeping praying.” Honestly, it was a nice idea, but seemed just a little bit forced. A nice idea though. Now singing “I Will Praise Him” acapella. I’d forgotten what they can do acapella. Mercy. Beautiful.

Then Dennis Swanberg came up, maybe killing time so EHSS could get their sound right? Brian and Sheri are killing more time… is it taking EHSS that long? Okay, now they’re up singing this new song called “Here We Are Again.” Come on guys… Sheri said you were going to “tear it up.” I’m already tired, now you’re trying to put me to sleep? And… the pink shirts… well, that’s all I’ll say about that. Come to think of it though, somebody mentioned it might have something to do with breast cancer awareness month. Oh wait, that’s October. The mystery remains… maybe it was the cancer walk Janet Paschal did this morning? Anyway, now they’re singing something brand new called “I’ve Been Here Before.” Devin is singing lead. This is a pretty neat song. I like it! They’re doing an encore. Ernie’s mic is a little cold… could someone maybe turn it up? Ernie paused for a word about the inspiration for the song, then launched into it one more time. Probably could have left off that last encore… time is precious at NQC. Now they’re sitting down and letting Doug sing a solo, “I’ll Take What’s Left.” That was gorgeous, and now Ernie launched right into “Oh What a Savior.” He led the audience a little, then did the high part. He was a little croaky, but he still hit it (might be he has a cold?) Then an encore of “Glory to God in the Highest.” No special guest hoppers this time. Ernie did confetti at the end… hmmmm. Maybe not the best idea for NQC? All in all, their set yesterday was better. But it wasn’t bad.

A showcase group called Omega is singing now. The lead singer is very talented, but this is a ho-hum song. There was a really bad line in there: “Our problems bring us down… our smiles become frowns.” Then Brian came up and showed off a picture of his little grand-kid. Have to say Brian’s been a great emcee. I really enjoy his style—nothing forced, just a natural, genuine guy.

Now the Dixie Echoes are up! Been looking forward to this! They are singing around two mics with an all live band. This is how it’s done. Mike Jennings is singing “How Big is God” now. He was a great hire. Now Scott is introducing Michael Helwig. He is a great singer, this will be good. Oh MAN, he’s singing “Walk With Me!” Unbelievable. I love Randy Sr.’s understatement. He just said, “What a good job. What a good job.” Now the band is playing an instrumental. Some mics are NOT on. Get this fixed, please? Okay, Randy’s guitar mic came on, this is good. Now the violin please? That was short but sweet. Awesome electric GUI-tar pickin’. These guys are so refreshing. A breath of fresh air tonight. I just typed “This is the group of the night. Click ‘like’ if you agree.” So far seven people have typed in the word “like.” Now they’re doing “I Am A Pilgrim.” Guys, this is classic music! Their piano player is doing the McCray shuffle behind them. Love it. 😀 Then he tried to do a spectacularly unsuccessful Richard Sterban impression. I just got a few more “likes.” Now they’re doing “I’ll Have a New Body.” They left in style.

Gordon Mote is up for a blazing piano. And he’s singing at the same time. We’re cookin’ with gas folks. As somebody in chat just said, “We needed him about an hour or so ago. Now I can wake up!” Amen to that sister. The Easters sang with Gordon, and now their set is starting with Morgan singing “I Need You More Today (Than I Did Yesterday).” She’s got that country sound, for sure, though I would go with Amber Thompson first. Still, I can hear a little of her mom is in Morgan’s voice. Now Sheri set up “Hear My Heart” with a thoughtful word about how sometimes words are completely superficial in the middle of a terrible storm, but if we listen in the quiet, we will be brought close to God. Hey, James Easter is back tonight, and this time he’s singing “A Heart That Will Never Break Again.” Never heard this song before, but it’s great. And the violin guy’s mic FINALLY came on. Would have been nice to hear him for the ENTIRETY OF THE DIXIE ECHOES’ SET TOO. But, ah, I digress. This sounds great. Great song. Some fun stuff with Jeff and James, now another great song called “Morning’s Coming.” I just realized the music is ALL live. Gordon on keys, Kevin Williams on guitar, Jeff Tolbert on violin, another guitar player, a bass player, drums. This is some of the best live music I’ve heard all week. Fantastic.

Then a showcase group called Eternal Vision came up and sang. They ended up finishing okay. Then Brian and Sheri came up and were funny together. Brian said, “Can this woman sing?” and Sheri said “Oh, well thank you, and can this man sing?” Brian: “No.” Love ya Brian. 🙂 Then they were congratulating each other on looking just like they did in 1986… then the Dove Brothers’ band had finally gotten their instruments tuned, and they came up and sang “I Still Recall.” Burman Porter is rocking orange tonight… hey, better than fuchsia! (Ahem. Ernie.) McCray is doing “Still Singing the Song.” Everybody says it’s terrible. Hey, let me be the judge of that. I think it’s sweet. So there. But have to admit, it’s slow for this late. Great, so just as they were launching into “Didn’t It Rain…” it froze. Faaaaaantastic. Okay, back now. They launched into “Get Away Jordan” and smooooked it. McCray did some great shuffling. Some people on their feet. Brian Free came up and said, “Whoo, didn’t it feel good to get up and stand this time of night? [crickets] I just heard somebody say NOOOO. All right!” LOL.

Okay, now the Booth Brothers. Doing “He Saw It All.” Great choice. Now “Feelin’ Fine.” Bless Ronnie’s heart: “You GOTTA clap on this one.” Good luck cowboy. Hey, the audience is standing! And clapping! They’re still alive. Michael is rocking it! They’re just… wow, how can you not love them? Now Jim is singing “Tears Are a Language.” He sounds great. (And in other news, the sky is blue.) Very nice song. Now Michael is taking a moment to thank the audience: “God knows it’s easier to sing to people than chairs.”

Then Michael did something pretty daring. He verbalized the unspoken rule of late-night sets at NQC: “You’re supposed to sing something fast and get people on their feet.” But then he said he would rather sing something that would help people get through next Monday morning instead of just getting them on their feet. Apparently this is something he’s said before, and he shared a story about one man whom that personally touched. This man told Michael that after going to a concert of theirs where Michael said that, he began feeling like God was telling him “I’m going to get you through…” something, he didn’t know what. Early next Monday morning, the police came to their door and said their adult son had been killed in a car accident. Michael summed it up by saying, “Isn’t it amazing how God uses us in spite of ourselves to touch lives?” Then Ronnie started singing “Then I Met the Master.” It really is a great message of assurance: We BELONG to Him, the master. After the song was over, I swear I saw the crowd stand as one. For eleven something at night, that is INCREDIBLE. I don’t care how big-name a group you are, if you can get a unanimous standing-O this late at NQC, that is an Accomplishment with a capital “A.” It shows that the Booth Brothers really do have something special, something that sets them apart even from other top-tier groups.

Brian came up and saw them off very warmly (he’s a big fan) and closed in prayer. I have to say that the Brian/Sheri combination worked splendidly tonight. Both are a class act. I thought it was sweet how when a showcase group stood out (even if it was only towards the end of a song, or only because of one singer who managed to keep it all from falling apart), Brian would come up and say “Good job guys! Really good job.” That is CLASSY.

Highlights… honestly, this night was pretty slow and mediocre on the whole, but there were great moments here and there. Right now I am leaning towards the Dixie Echoes and the Booth Brothers as my two stand-out sets. Looking back though, I’m remembering that I don’t want to leave out the Collingsworths. So maybe those three. Please share more thoughts in the comments, you know I love them. Good night all!