GMA Week: rethinking the SGMG showcase
Zane King, this year’s SGMG president, sassily offers that familiar critique that I’m all carp and no constructive help:
[I]n the future, I would love to hear your wonderfully expressed dialogue about the “problems” of our genre followed by a carefully outlined strategy that helps to us overcome the hurdles that we face. I’m sure with your constant use of the dictionary and thesaurus that will be a delightful pleasure to read.
Setting aside for the moment the baselessness of the charge, you don’t have to wait for someone like me to channel a (thesaurus alert!) soothsayer if you’re a new Guild president wondering how to put the Tuesday concert together under your watch. There’s a long, long history of successful SGMG Showcases at GMA to fall back on. Just ask one of the past presidents like, say, Judy Nelon. Her 2006 concert was packed with first rate talent – the Crabb Family, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Kingdom Heirs, the Isaacs, the Booth Brothers, the Talley Trio, the Lesters – and the Pfeifers. New artists made an appearance or four: what was at the time the Mike Bowling Group, Hope’s Call, JBIF and Crystal River.
But ok, let’s say you’ve decided to reinvent the wheel (anyone so hostile to reference materials as King seems to be might have some kind of congenital aversion to looking other things up, too, like phone numbers of colleagues). Right off the top of my head, I can think of several ways to organize the showcase thematically: Southern gospel says farewell to the Crabbs (in this their goodbye year as a family act); a whole string of artists could cover a Crabb classic, culminating in a Crabb finale (and of course any number of other “tribute to …” themes could work well). Or, piggybacking on the recent Shawnee Press publication of The World’s 50 Greatest Southern Gospel Songs (yeah yeah the title’s a little hyperbolic), the Tuesday night event could easily be an evening of southern gospel classics, wherein top-shelf artists each perform three great songs from the songbook. Conversely, artists could sing three new songs they’re recording or have just recorded. Most artists do this anyway at the showcase but what I’m driving at here is branding and promoting the concert. In this case, “the best new sg” or “songs of sg’s 2007 Dove nominees” or whatever the theme helps give the showcase a sense of immediacy and relevance that it was clearly lacking this year.
I’m just making this stuff up on the couch in my hotel room. It’s not cold fusion. But it is an event that requires its organizers to think of their task within the broader context of GMA week and to see sg as not only a close-knit subculture of aritsts and industry insiders who want to stand in the back of the ballroom and chat it up but also as the founding musical tradition of the GMA. The Tuesday night showcase should live up to the genre’s history.