A prelude to NQC

My attempt to put NQC in perspective for the rest of the world is in today’s Louisville Courier-Journal. Enjoy.

Update: FTR my CJ piece incorrectly places RW Apple at the NQC when in fact he was at the Opry when he heard the Steeles’ “We Want America Back.” I suspect he’d have reacted the same way to the song had he heard it at the NQC (certainly it is a cringe-inducingly unsubtle number no matter where it’s performed), but I remembered it wrong and have notified the C-J. Thanks to alert reader CG for keeping me honest.

While I’m at it, let me second two of DBM’s suggestions for an improved (”perfect” may be a bit strong) NQC: namely, a house band for all acts and a “supergroup” performance. DBM has some other genuinely innovative ideas that are worth considering, even if you don’t agree with them all.

For my part, I think less is more in this case: less themed programming of the sort that DBM has in mind, fewer novelty shows, and instead emphasize sg’s best/most popular acts by reducing the number of artists on the evening-concert stage and elongating each group’s alotted time to 30 and in some cases — Greater Vision and the Perrys, for instance — 45 minutes (though only if each group used at least three pieces of live instrumentation). This gives sg’s strongest artists the time to put on a something more closely resembling a proper show or set and eliminates alot of the fragmentation and unevenness in the current format. Lest you think I have in mind only “my” idea of what best and popular mean when it comes to sg, I should say that the focused concert lineup would have to include the McKameys and the Inspirations (undoubtedly popular, even if not the best), for example, but not the Weatherfords and the Segos (neither currently popular or that good); the Doves and the Kingsmen (popular too, and good for a few bars here and there), but not the Steeles or the Pfiefers (pockets of popularity but, respectively, a cultural warrior imitating a musician and an off-Branson novelty act billed as a southern gospel trio). There are plenty of showcase programs that could include the artists and acts excluded from the evening lineups I’m imagining. And though no change will please everyone (and I concede that the changes I advocate aren’t the only ones that will be necessary and could include some of the themed programs and novelty acts DBM envisions), you could do worse, if you’re NQC, than err on the side of proven favorites and industry leaders.

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  1. ME wrote:

    Very, very well written! BRAVO!!!

  2. rr wrote:

    What a wonderfully concise, yet brief analysis of the big picture as well “the little picture” of SG music. I have often tried to understand why I am still so completely drawn to the music in all of its stages of quality and gaudiness when I get so disgusted by the misinterpretations and misapplications of the theology upon which it is based. However, your statement at the end says it all,. …”when especially gifted voices seem to transcribe the very voice of God into song.” I always try to remind myself that music is the language of the soul, and what is visible to the naked eye is often inexplicably erased “by the touch of the master’s hand.”

  3. Angel wrote:

    Good for you– I thouroughly enjoyed reading the piece, and your insights were, as usual, right on the mark.

    Have a great week in Louisville!

  4. Dean Adkins wrote:

    Great description of the many aspects of the NQC and how it impacts those who attend.

  5. Faith wrote:

    I love the line “untalented poseurs in garish outfits”…that hit the nail right on the head!

  6. C.J. Russell wrote:

    As usual, you are right on Target. After attending NQC for many years I got burned out. I haven’t been back for several years and the longer I am away from it the more I can see if for what it really is..your description is completely correct in every detail. There are some very talented groups and individual artist’s that still attend, but they seem to be in the minority. The costumes and hair or lack of in some cases is always good for a chuckle or two, I can truthfully say I don’t miss it (NQC) and doubt that I will ever go back..I still love Gospel music, but I can’t stand to listen to about 60% of it. Maybe I don’t love it as much as I thought I did!

  7. Doug Sword wrote:

    You have once again shown yourself to be the most erudite commentator regarding our beloved Southern Gospel music.


  8. Jim wrote:

    Excellent article! I’m looking forward to your reports from NQC. I think your insight last year is what got me hooked on your site. Keep up the good work and commentary!

  9. RF wrote:

    Right on target and perfect! My father used to say that getting through the horrible acts was just the price paid for hearing the wonderful ones which inspired you for months after. What I’ve give to be there starting this week to see some of my heroes in person even if from the rafters, but it’s not to be for another year. Maybe someday.

    The biggest news is that you live in Florida? Wow, I thought you were in Missouri. Matters not, but I’ll envy you when the snow flies up here in the Virginias.

  10. Grigs wrote:

    Wasn’t the New York Times article by Mr. [Apple] about a visit to the Grand Ole Opry that featured a Gospel segment with the Steeles singing “We Want America Back”?

    [Note: Looks like you’re right; I’ve notified the C-J. Thanks]

  11. Gerry wrote:

    I am in agreement with CJ. I suppose I thought that I liked SG more, but lately I find that most of it is mediocre - or worse!! There are only a few groups/artists that consistently put out good recordings; however, the majority of groups/artists out there today are just too amateurish. Why pay to go to NQC, only to have to sit through such horrible acts???

    A side note: DBM made a good point about having an “NQC band” for those groups that normally use tracks. All I can say is, PLEASE DO!!!!!!! Why not showcase some real talent, instead of “oh, here’s three guys who sing okay but sound better when we back them up with 10 more singers and some synthesized violins”?

  12. Dee Ann Bailey wrote:

    I really like the idea of groups having longer to perform and cutting some of the lesser knowns. I know that’s not popular with a lot of folks but I do believe the people who buy tickets for the most part would agree - 10-20 minutes for a top notch group isn’t enough.

    And I often miss groups because they only have 15 minutes, the groups before and behind them aren’t ‘groups I enjoy’ so walking back to my seat for 15 minutes isn’t worth it. I usually would catch them on the wide screen in the food court and stay in the exhibit area. Only when at least 3 groups together were groups I wanted to hear (I’d be guaranteed 30 minutes at least in my seat) did I venture to Freedom Hall.

  13. Elisabeth wrote:

    Great article, and more great insight. I enjoy Southern Gospel, but the phoniness and cheap tracks, stacks, etc. turns me off. One of my pet peeves is the whole “tracks/music WAY louder than the singers” deal…what are we paying to hear anyway? Our singers or some orchestra musician (who is often very talented, FWIW). Sorry…you got me going! Thanks again, though, for the thought-provoking comments!

  14. Kyle wrote:

    Great article and followup. One of the changes that really should get more chatter is changing the month of the year we celebrate southern gospel music (currently september), and with it moving the time of year NQC is held.

    I don’t see how you can have a family night planned at NQC when you hold the event at a time of year when most families cannot attend. Move it to the summer (like most other music festivals), and you’ll open NQC up to a new demographic - adults 20-50 with children. INSTANT GROWTH!!!

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