The Ruppes, RIP

With just about as little fanfare as possible, the Ruppes have dissolved. The dissolution didn’t even warrant its own announcement. Rather it got squeezed in between the lines of a press release announcing matriarch Brenda Ruppe is now available for solo appearances.

What a shame. In the first place, as genuine and earnest as Brenda Ruppe is, she’s simply not solo material, unless by solo you mean “preaching,” which she may well end up doing before it’s all said and done. Her voice is perfect for ensemble work but is not the stuff of which marquee performers are made, much less a stand-alone solo set. Too much warble and weeping. I’m sure her teary pietism will play well with a certain faithful church crowd, so she shouldn’t have trouble staying busy. But it will be the kind of work that virtually guarantees a slow drift into obsolescence.

But the real loss here is the Ruppes as a group. I can still remember hearing Seasons for the first time. It was an epiphany to me, the kind of sound and skill that epitomized what people mean when they refer to artists as “a singer’s singer.” There are few artists who can sing flatfooted and take the top of your head off with a smile and a pitch-perfectly sung passing tone the way the Ruppes could in their prime.

Meanwhile, I see while I was grieving for the Ruppes’ demise, Lordsong – the group formed when Kim Ruppe Lord left the Ruppes several years ago and started singing with her husband, Michael – have bon-voyaged soprano Amber Balltzglier. The timing makes a curious soul wonder if the remaining Ruppe daughters – Valerie and Heather – aren’t working on something that involves the Lords now that they’re free agents.

Anyway, if LS is scoring as big as it appears they are on tour with Mark Lowry, perhaps this is their chance to rescue the other siblings in a reconstructed and expanded LordSong (maybe, a la TK&McCrae, they’ll rename themselves LordSong, Day, and Ruppe, or somesuch … we can only hope not). I confess I don’t keep up with LS as closely as I did the Ruppes, mainly because their sound has gone a bit stylistically flabby since their partnership with Lowry – part P&W, part CCM, part southern, part pop, but without a defining center to hold it all together or give it a graspable shape. It’s smart bidness, this smorgasbord approach, given the Gaitherized crowds Lowry & Friends play to. But it puts LS in a unique position of not really having a home genre to roll their Lowry success into and not having enough stature or growing room to really establish themselves as a genuine crossover act. Thinking about this from a record company’s perspective, I’m hardpressed to see a label with whom LS would clearly fit at the moment – unless Lowry can convince Bill Gaither to sign them or, just as likely, Lowry sets up his own label.

Now, when is the Ruppes commemorative album coming out?

Update: Comments 1-3 make me out to be both a soothsayer and asleep at the switch. Looks like an expanded LordSong debuted recently at Branson and the Ruppes announced their disbanding a bit ago (told you I’ve been busy lately). The new LS included a husband, Greg Day, whom I hadn’t factored into my theory, but close enough for hand grenades and horseshoes, not to mention your average praise and worship team - let’s all sing harmony in unison.

Later update: Reader TK writes of the new LordSong lineup: “I saw [them] w/Lowry their 3rd night out about a month ago. They did a few songs with all of them–some with cool 5-6 part harmony expanded off their trio arrangement of “Lord of the Dance”. The 3 sisters did a song together. Mark, Michael Lord, Greg Day and Stan Whitmire did a quartet song. And there were other vocal configurations that made it a very interesting concert though nothing quite gelled.”

Even later update: Here’s an interview Chuck Peters did with Brenda Ruppes agent.

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Comments

  1. wv wrote:

    Actually, that’s already happened: Val and Heather, along with Greg Day, have joined Lordsong. They debuted at Mark Lowry’s Senior Trip in Branson last month.

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    You’re two months behind on this one, Doug.

    The announcement regarding Valerie, Heather, and Greg Day joining LordSong was made at the same time Lordsong announced Amber Franks Balltzglier’s resignation. Chuck Peters reported this on March 8, and I it on March 9. See:
    http://www.musicscribe.com/2007/03/another-group-merger.html

    (And here I thought you read my blog religiously!)

    It looks like the change happened sooner rather than later, though, as the press release initially stated that the Ruppes would continue through August.

    I had thought Brenda would most likely retire, given her husband’s health issues last year, but I suppose a solo schedule makes sense if she’s not ready to stay at home.

  3. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Doug, the changes with the Ruppes have been a while in the works. It wasn’t news when Chuck posted it. I’m not quite sure where I read it first, but it may have been somewhere else on Chuck’s website.

  4. Alan wrote:

    I too will miss the Ruppes. They filled a niche that was unique, and when they were on, which was almost all of the time, they were awesome. I also have no doubt but that Brenda will be as busy as she wants to be. My main thought, though, concerns your remarks about LS. I see your point, looking at them as you have; but to my way of thinking, their amazing versatility is a plus rather than a negative. I agree that it’s hard to pin them to one genre, but chances are if they were so monochromatic, they wouldn’t be on the Mark Lowry tour. His songlist is very eclectic, and so it only stands to reason that he’d carry people with him who can sing whatever they need to at the time. Now as a quintet, I can’t wait to hear what they can do, as much as I liked and admired Amber. I’ll always think of them as one of the classiest and most diversely talented of any groups traveling today. Just my two cents….

  5. Trent wrote:

    The Ruppes were awesome, especially when the whole fam was still together. Their cut of “Angels In The Room” on Gaither’s “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” video was one of the all-time highlights of the series. That one song is worth the price of the video, along with Gold City’s greatest cut ever, “God’s Building A Church” on the same video. Go over to youtube sometime and check them out.

  6. Practical Fellow wrote:

    I’ve been waiting for all three Ruppe girls to sing together. This feels like an early Christmas present! Does anyone know when a record is coming out?

  7. RNGfreckles wrote:

    I’m pretty sure LordSong has a note on their website regarding Heather, Valerie, and Greg joining them on tour. I figured, just as DBM, that Brenda would want to spend more time with Leo. They will be sorely missed in SG. I don’t know of any other SG female trios that come close to the sound those ladies’ had.

  8. thom wrote:

    i remember the night they first did “Under His Wings” at NQC - it was a magical few minutes akin to the sound of angels singing!
    That entire project was great.

    However, the next few projects never quite measured up to the bar they set with that song. Yeh, “Angels in the Room” was good, and probably the best one after that, but I can’t honestly remember a project after that one that created quite the same wonderment.

  9. scchick wrote:

    Man, I can’t believe I won’t get to hear the Ruppes in concert. I can still remember the first time I ever heard “Under His Wings.” I was in the car and I had to pull over because the harmonies were so beautiful that I was weeping from sheer auditory ecstasy! I mean I really believed at that moment that those voices together in that configuration must be as close as we’ll ever hear to angel choirs on this side of heaven. So I am bummed BIG TIME. They just seemed to have something unique amid all of the other family groups of Southern Gospel. I hope that the new group of husbands and sisters and others does well but ah, to hear “Under His Wings” live…

  10. Chuck Peters wrote:

    So,.. if Daniel hears about it before someone reports it.. it is no longer news?

  11. Pat Avery wrote:

    The Ruppes are special people that live what they sing and know how to sing at the same time. Brenda is a lady in touch with God in a special way. I believe that never in the history of SG has there been a ladies trio that can match The Ruppes. The wonderful thing about all of this is the family loves and supports one another in this time of change. I think it is also refreshing to see a group make a change without making some lame excuse. This is just a natural transition. By the way Leo Ruppe is doing very well and he and Brenda are looking forward to traveling together just the two of them. It is that time in their life.

  12. penny yoder wrote:

    it’s now September and when I go to Lordsong’s web-site it still has all of the old info from last year! I am a big big Lordsong fan! I’ve been listening to the Ruppes forever, but found I only enjoyed the songs where the the “girls” were the focus. (as much heart as Brenda has, her voice and style just don’t speak to me at all.)I am so excited about the new nmix with the 3 sisters!
    It seems like since Lordsong has traveled with Mark Lowrey, they just don’t make any effort to produce new music, or make cd’s! I am ready for a new Cd, and an updated web-site! I like Mark, but let’s hear more of those awesome voices and harmony of Lordsong!!

  13. mary e. wrote:

    i disagree with your opinion of mrs. brends voice. there will never be a better song than redemption domplete.

  14. jack wrote:

    To me there is no Ruppes with out Brenda. Looks like the sisters have gone a little to the way of the world.

  15. Blake wrote:

    Jack, it is obvious you have never seen Sisters in concert. You have never felt the spirit so thick as when they sing & minister. God is using their ministry to change lives and win souls for his glory. In my opinion, they sound BETTER than they have ever sounded and are able to reach a wide variety of audiences with their incredibly versatile style. I am a little confused by what you mean by “gone a little to the way of the world”? Please elaborate.

  16. JL wrote:

    I just saw LS & Mark Lowry at Bear Creek in Bryant IN. Great night of fun, good entertainment, and ok music.

    LS did very little, as Michael ran the sound. Sisters sort of stole the show. They do have marvelous blend and can deliver a song is a powerful way.

    Kim has a beautiful voice, I especially enjoy her higher range. Heather is the JD Sumner of female singers, yet has a nice upper range also. Valerie has an awesome soprano voice. I’d like to see her take on some songs that “sore” into higher places though.

    SOAP BOX - ok, I’ve had enough hair tossing, and ear monitor hooplah to last a lifetime. Kim and Heather drew so much attention to their hair and monitors I though I had been transported to the 1970’s Charlie’s Angels. Then, before they ever went off stage, as they were turning around, they start playing with the receiver pack attached to their backsides - looked as if they had major wedgy issues.

    If I may editorialize for Jack, I too wondered about going the “way of the world.” IMO, Kim was inappropriately flirty with Mark. Heather was consumed by advice from her nutritionist. HOWEVER, Valerie was so genuine, on stage and off. She conducted herself in such a sweet, personal, Christian manner, her demeanor is very impressive.

    I bought LS and Sister’s new cd’s. I will keep Sister’s because I liked 2 songs. I will give the LS cd away to my friend who doesn’t care for SG music, as this LS cd certainly is contemporary.

    Props to Stan Whitmire - awesome pianist. I could do with the Gaither trax and him playing melody in octaves. He is one of the best and should ditch the background orchestration!

    Finally, Mark is a great comedian, vocalist, and entertainer.

    I shouldn’t be so critical - I’m sure these folks have led tons of souls to the Lord, and more so than myself. But I’m fearful of the direction of their music. Another CD like this latest one, and I’ll not buy them anymore.

  17. Blake wrote:

    JL, all I can say is WOW. I think the old saying “If you can’t say something good, don’t say nothing at all” would apply well to your SOAP BOX section. I know these folks personally and I can say with 100% certainty that both Sisters & LordSong are wonderful ministries. They are touching lives through the wonderful music they sing. The Ruppes are special people that live what they sing and know how to sing at the same time. These ladies are in touch with God in a special way. I believe that never in the history of Christian music has there been a ladies trio that can match The Ruppes (Sisters). Yes you have a right to your opinions, but please remember, by voicing them on a format like the internet you are exposing it to a lot of other people. Somebody here may be that next soul that hears the gospel through song at a Sisters or LordSong concert. As Christians we are to lift each other up…not tear them down.

  18. Dr John Collins wrote:

    I do not know Avery but I would greatly differ with his conclusion that Brenda is not soloist material. Brenda and her husband, Steve Hurte, were just at my church. Brenda sang two songs and I am sure along with all who were there would also say that she is soloist material. As Christians our responsibility to the Lord Jesus is to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters and not tear them down.
    Whatever and wherever the Lord takes Steve and Brenda I know He will use them in a great way.
    Read Deuteronomy 1:38 where Moses tells Israel to encourage Joshua. Deuternomy 3:28 Encourage and strengthen him. This is our responsibility to our Saviour.

    I find it hard to believe and understand that the Lord would lead another Christian into a ministry that would intentionally tear another Christian down. As I said before we are to encourage one another and not discourage one another.

    Pastor John

  19. Dr. Alan M. Hutchens wrote:

    I first heard the Ruppes in the late 1980’s, and then only on radio and on record (remember records?). Their singing of Evangelist Tom Haye’s songs was remarkable. (That’s why I’m remarking!) I could hardly sit still in the car, when I heard the Ruppes singing “The Truth Remains, He’s Coming Again.” Their rendition of “Put That on My Account” certainly put the Gospel in the story of Onesimus in a clear and evangelistic light. The Ruppes went on to record many more of Brother Hayes’s music.
    In the 1990’s, I was privileged to schedule the Ruppes to sing in a couple of churches where I served as music director. I began to know them quite well, I think, and was always especially welcomed whenever I attended their concerts. In fact, the last concert to which I was privileged to take my dad, before his passing in early 1998, was a late-1997 Ruppes concert. Brenda had called earlier that week, and had begged (not that she had to beg) me to be there. I’ll always remember that evening with fondness.
    One song, which few seem to choose to remember, but which is my all-time favorite Ruppe song, was actually a Rambo song from the 1970’s. The Ruppes titled one of their Dawn projects “Until He Comes,” and featured (along with another couple of Tom Hayes’s songs) Dottie Rambo’s much-overlooked composition. They sang “Until He Comes,” with no soundtrack, and with Brenda at the piano, in the first concert which one of my churches booked with them. I cannot express what that performance meant and means to me. How the Lord ministered to me through that performance! Thank the Lord that I have that concert and that performance on videotape.
    These were and are real people who face real issues in life with the grace of our Lord. I confess that I was not following any Gospel groups to any degree during the past few years. And, I also confess that, when the Ruppes became Gaitherized and left their distinctive Southern Gospel sound, I lost much interest in the Ruppes’ music. During this time, Brother Leo became ill and passed away. I was not there for them, as I should have been. Sister Brenda has always referred to me merely as “Preacher.” That may be because she has trouble remembering my exact name. But, I prefer to think that she has sensed in me a love for the proclamation of the Truth. I failed this family as “Preacher.” I wish Brenda, Steve, the girls, and their families all the best which the Lord has for them. Such Holy Ghost anointing coupled with professionalism in performance is rare. A group will often have one or the other, but rarely both. Let us not be paralyzed by the past, even by the Ruppes’ past. Let us trust that our Lord will use them in even greater ways, even if He chooses to use them in different ways than He has in the past.

  20. jack wrote:

    Blake, the Ruppes was members at my church i have heard them sing a lot thanks you sir. The world MONEY.

  21. victoria wrote:

    I grew up listening to the Ruppes and Lord Song. I was older when Lord Song came out, or when Kim joined rather, but they were always such a blessing. It is sad that they arent together anymore, but I beleive that the work that God is doing through Val, Heather, and
    Kim is absolutly amazing. I love their songs. I get glory bumps everytime I hear them. I think the negativity in some of the posts on this webiste is kind of immature. Quite a few of my friends got saved listening to their songs on the radio. I thank God for the ministry that the Sisters have.

  22. Cindy Farris wrote:

    Gee…so OK…all of these posts are old news. I just happened upon this site as I was listening to lots of music this morning…The Ruppes/Sisters included.
    All I can is WOW!
    So much criticism wrapped in the disguise of “love”???? One person quoted the old adage “if you can’t say something good, then don’t say it” I totally agree!
    Who of you have that much God given talent! And if you do…you want people saying the same things about you?
    Mercy! Just kills my soul when I see and hear things like this!

  23. Sheree Jennings wrote:

    You might want to take a look at the group now!! They sound pretty good!!

  24. Betty Nicks wrote:

    I agree with Cindy Farris, Oct 4, 2010 post. The Ruppes delivered God’s Word through the incredible voice He gave to each of them, singley and jointly. Let them go on and serve the LORD as they are led.

    We need to be holding the standard high for ourselves and not be too worried about holding others up to our own standard.

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