GMA week: songwriters showcase
It’s GMA week. Didn’t know? Don’t worry. Only two or three other people in sg do, and unlike me, most of them get paid to care. One standard feature of the weeklong string of Christian music-related events is a songwriter’s showcase. I’ve been getting notes from a few people who attended, so I thought I’d pass them along, not least of all because they both touch on everybody’s favorite/unfavorite southern gospel ambassadors to the Dove Awards in 2007, Young Harmony.
First up, let me note that songwriter Joel Lindsey, who also performed at the event, posted about the evening on his blog here.
But on to the mailbag. Reader JB writes:
I saw Young Harmony at the GMA writers night with Mandesa, Third Day, etc and the crowd loved them.
But wait, if Fox News can be fair and balanced, so can AVFL. Thus reader KF:
I don’t know if anyone else has written you about the Gospel Music Week Songwriter’s Showcase of not, but I wanted to write and tell you what I thought. The showcase is one of my favorite events to attend during GMA week every year and I always look forward to it. Last night was no exception as some of my favorites performed their hits and I got to hear the writer’s tell about how they came to write. I especially loved hearing Mandisa sing — what a great talent!
My one disappointment was the lack of southern gospel representation. Joel Lindsey sang “Orphans Of God” which was recorded by the Talley Trio, but everyone there knew the song as an Avalon song so you didn’t really get the feel that it represented southern gospel. Then later Young Harmony got up and sang their song and it was just awful. After hearing everyone else’s songs, it really felt like amateur hour. Plus, Jonathan [Bond] gave his full car-wreck testimony before they sang and it came off as just trying to get everyone’s sympathy to make up for just bad singing and a bad song. There really should be stricter requirements as to who gets to call themselves a songwriter. Any suggestions?
If you’ve read me for very long (most recently, this), you probably know where I would probably have come down on things had I been there. But since I wasn’t, I’ll make two quick points: First, there really ought to be more rigorous standards for what qualifies a performer for GMA Songwriters Showcase beyond being nominated for a Dove (because, as we’ve already seen, this can mean a lot of things, but being above averagely talented is not necessarily one of them). I’m not just saying this in reaction to YH. But they are a perfect example of why a showcaseable songwriter ought to mean more than that a group owner put pen to paper and then in his role as The Decider for the group decreed that his new song will feature prominently in the set each night and be the focal point of a relentless radio and (perhaps with the help of his record company and friends) an awards-show blitz. As for suggestions, pegging showcase songwriters to sales of their songs (and not just sales of other people’s tunes that they have recorded in their role as performer) might be a start.
Second, never has anyone got so much mileage out of a wrecked car. Bond isn’t alone in working a set-piece testimony for years at a time (I can recite John Pfeifer’s rock-n-roll-to-redemption story nearly word for word right along with him at NQC each year). But no matter the story and its original emotional force and enduring personal meaning (you can read a written account of Bond’s ordeal here), press a testimony into service long enough, and inevitably it will begin to tatter and ravel.
Even taking the serial testifiers at their word (and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of their accounts or the significance they ascribe to them), one might nevertheless legitimately wonder after a certain point whether or not the unmerited favor of salvation being celebrated in these stories is perhaps a scosh diminished by so melodramatically memorializing the imperiled soul miraculously delivered. If the thrilling account of the fateful near-miss with sin, hell, death, and the grave weren’t almost always privileged over the life made possible by deliverance, I might be more sanguine. But at any rate, and as I’m sure some preacher somewhere has already said: it is (or ought to be) a spiritual journey, not a nightly spin around the same block.
Update: Reader RPM contacted the Chattanooga Free Press about the paper’s archive stories involving Young Harmony’s Jonathan Bond. The paper’s response, from Emily Berry, a staff writer:
I searched our archives and found a few mentions of Mr. Bond in our Faith section, including one testimony written by him and run as a “Sermon Story,” definitely not as a news story by any of our reporters. This did not run in our news section, which as you suspected would definitely require some fact-checking. Whomever sent [the testimony on YH’s website] to you representing that it was a news story or written by a reporter was mistaken. If you need anything else, please feel free to contact me or any of our editors.
Thanks very much,