NQC 07: Friday night

Tonight’s concerts were a strange mix of the mundane, the magnificent, and the mediocre all jumbled together. If, as I suggested last night, NQC feels different this year, it is equally true that NQC Friday and Saturday are no longer the climax days for the convention. I can remember when I first started attending 15 years or so ago, Friday night was – or seemed to be – the high point, when all the diehards were joined by the weekenders and groups really worked hard to bring to the new weekend arrivals a special experience. Friday was the Exhibit Halls killer day. No longer. The booths in the exhibit hall were half empty or more last night and the performances from the stage often had a tired feel to them. A lot of groups seem to see the Fan Awards as the unofficial end of NQC. Maybe those need to be moved to Friday?

THE BIG STUFF

Tonight was the Mark Lowry Show, with some concerts from some other people before and after. Seriously. Lowry and LordSong came on about halfway through the evening schedule and created the most extraordinary 25 minutes of musical entertainment I’ve ever seen at NQC. To call it a “set” in the sense of a program of songs or musical choices beggars the seamlessness of Lowry’s performance, the command and dexterity of his stage presence, and the deeply impressive way story, song, and spirituality were merged into a single captivating experiential unit.

This was the first time I’d seen the new arrangement with the Ruppe women and Michael Lord singing with Lowry, and at first the group as a whole very much stages like MARK LOWRY … and his back-up singers. Now, LS makes for pretty amazing bgvs. But it was a little strange initially to see the way LS’s identity has been almost entirely submerged beneath Lowry’s character and command of the stage. For instance, LS just stood in the center of the stage – all four of them – watching stolidly as Lowry did a few minutes of comedy near the opening and remained standing until Lowry called a song and they sprang into action. Kind of awkward.

But once that next song started, spectacular things started happening and I forgot to care one way or another whose name was what or why and instead just sat slack jawed in awe. Stan Whitmire (one of my favorite pianists, who’s freelanced for several groups this week) kicks off “Oh Happy Day” – no track, praise glory, and it is by far the most technically flawless and musically astounding song of the evening. The acoustical energy was enormous, made all the more powerful by the simple, gimmick-free style: just voices and piano soaring aloft, enveloping everything around them in their transformative force.

I think the crowd was a little unsure of how to take all this at first – the audience clearly was trying to respond throughout “Oh Happy Day,” either with rhythmic clapping or smatterings of spontaneous applause that never quite took hold – but they never seemed sure of the right reaction – and I don’t really blame them. Compared to the largely ho-hum sets that had come before and combined with the (for NQC) unorthodox performance style that Lowry was modeling (image a Homecoming concert crossed with prime-time network television special), the audience could have maybe used a bit more guidance early on from Uncle Mark signaling it’s ok to fall hopelessly in love with his backup singers too.

But that’s a minor criticism. Lowry’s was the best paced, sung, and staged – most thoughtfully constructed and smartly executed – set of the night. “Out of Your Hands” followed “Oh Happy Day,” followed closely by “What You Want,” followed uinterruptedly by a long stretch of Lowry monologue – a virtuoso hybrid of comedy, reflective contemplations on religious living, snappy one-liners, and what I can only describe as post-modern Christian comedic critique of the Bible: Jokes about virgin births (that at times got pretty racy, and not just for an NQC crowd), jokes about how God has no standards (he’ll use anybody, you know), how awful Mary and Joseph were as parents (they lost their son for four days and didn’t notice until they were half-way home etc) and on and on. Not only is all this very very funny: it’s humor that proves sg audiences are much smarter than sister tenors cracks and Bapticostal one liners that pass for comedic relief in gospel music.

Running through all Lowry’s comedy is an acknowledgment that the Bible can seem distant and remote , even a little strange, when read literally through the prism of contemporary life and mores (“I sure would like to have known what Jesus was like as a teenager and young adult … what music did he listen to, how long was his hair, did he have a girlfriend … but nothing … nothing in the bible about him from 13 to 30 … COME ON, PEOPLE … keep a journal or something, this is the son of man here!”). And no matter what their official position on biblical inerrancy, this approach resonates widely with the NQC audience. If you listen to the kinds of laughter Lowry generates, it’s qualitatively different – more authentic and diaphragmatic, less perfunctory and predictable – than the kind that Jerry Goff’s “two Baptists and Methodists are on a cruise ship” stories or the slapstick stuff that so many groups resort to for laughs (the only person whose humor even comes close to Lowry’s in originality and effect is Michael Booth’s, but even then Lowry is in his own class of comics). And woven into Lowry’s comedy is a thread of concern for the basic human experience that searches for personal meaning and purpose within a larger religious framework. Lowry works patiently, nearly perfectly, with unparalleled sense of timing and tone, so that when he moves from music, to monologue, to comedy, to a few verses of a wonderful song I can’t recall hearing before, “Come to Jesus,” it all seems like a single organic unit of artistic expression, like a multimedia work of art from a single voice. Halfway through “Mary did you know” – Lowry segueing to this song: “I’d like to sing a medley of my hit” – LordSong was reintegrated into the show, helping to put on a gobsmackingly good arrangement of the song, made all the more pointed (as much of the set was) by the absence of a tracks (I only heard a track on one song). By the end of things, I was speechless and wishing that NQC would have given Lowry 3 hours instead of 25 minutes.

People all the time want to know is southern gospel dead, is southern gospel dying. And if by that question you mean are male quartets in matching suits singing I-IV-V-I-II-V-I standards and trying to re-create the classic style – if this is what you mean when you ask if southern gospel is dead, I’m afraid that that music died on the table ages ago (given the chance, as they were for the first time this year, to select their single favorite group across all styles and configurations of southern gospel, the SN Fans chose the Booth Brothers – a trio).

In place of this hidebound style is a set of hybrid approaches and techniques that, at its best (in, say, Mark Lowry’s hands and LS’s voices), manages both to capture the spiritual vitality and intimacy that southern gospel is known for and reinvigorate those artistic conventions with newfound relevance and urgency, freeing the music to be newly meaningful instead of narrowly constrained by a tradition that was only ever as successful to begin with as it was able to insist on the creative authority of the musician to pick and choose the best of what was said and sung in adjacent genres, leave the rest, and in the process fashion a music that spoke to people in a particular moment about the soul’s search for grace and salvation, in terms that make sense for the way we live now. I’ve suggested elsewhere that in our time this might best be understood as post-gospel, and after tonight I’m convinced Mark Lowry and LS are living, breathing embodiments of the post-gospel at pretty near perfection.

Gold City: Hands down the best quartet – and perhaps the best group of male singers – to perform in the last two days. To begin with, their song selection was smart, moving from “Get Up, Get Ready,” through “After Awhile,” “Alone in the Garden,” an old-style song with wonderful contrapuntal echoes that manages to showcase the tight ensemble and the individual strengths of each voice. Most notably, perhaps, the tenor, Steve Ladd, has dramatically improved since his debut with the group a few years back. He still doesn’t have (nor will he ever) a sonorous, rich open tone, but he’s always in tune now and his tones are well-placed without being overly shrill. Meanwhile, Aaron McCune’s bass work is really a study in control and tastefulness: unlike so many basses I’ve heard at NQC this year, McCune focuses on placing his notes roundly and pleasantly at all registers, rather than blowing out the subwoofer or overpowering the ensemble or just being flashily low for its own sake. And unlike so many other groups who walk on at 1130 and try to talk a tired audience into liking their music, GC kept the talking to a minimum and just sang.

The Talleys: I wish they’d use more live music and back down the stacks a bit, but their intonation and musicality are first-rate. Increasingly, the Talley Trio is becoming a vehicle for Lauren Talley, who more and more looks and acts like her own star. She seems steadily progressing toward her own solo career and I’ve got to think with the right direction she could enjoy some measure of success in Christian music more widely. She took the lead singing what has been perhaps the best new song of the convention that I’ve heard: “The Broken Ones” (anybody know who wrote it?). Contrasting with so much lyrically derivative and conceptually flaccid junk that’s being passed off as new music, “The Broken Ones” is descriptively vibrant and tells a strong, engaging story in a musically compelling way. My only complaint about the song – and what kept it from rivaling “Oh Happy Day” as Song of the Night – is the ending, which is too anticlimactic and muted to match the emotional force that the song builds toward. As it is, the song just sort of wanders off instead of making a final, declarative statement.

The Hoppers: The Hoppers are trying very very hard to live up to the historical greatness they seem to be convinced they have achieved, and while I’m not sure it’s humanly possible to fill the shoes created by the Hoppers’ own PR, the set was slickly produced and often deeply pleasing. Mostly this has to do with Kim Hopper, who is a certifiable gospel diva. She looks extraordinary these days on stage, positively irradiated with her own magnificence. And though I wish she’d lay off the diphthongs and stop chewing the ends off her phrases for effect, her voice has never been better. Tonight’s set opened with a video intro – and the Hoppers relied on a video accompaniment through much of their set – about the making of “The Ride.” The idea was clever – promulgate a sense of the song as destined for greatness from the moment Ronnie Hinson, the writer, stumbled his way through it in a pitch to the Hoppers, which is where the video begins (Btw, note to Hopper video editors: yellow on yellow text was unreadable on the monitors). Still, it’s an unconvincing sell, to my mind. The song is good, but not great. That shouldn’t stop the Hoppers from singing it, but it probably should give them pause when making overblown claims about its status in the gospel music songbook of greatest hits. Points for creative thinking, though.

A four-piece string quartet joined the Hoppers on stage, a classy touch. And when the quartet played “Grace that is Greater” and the arena sang along, it was one of the most unique moments I can recall. “Grace will Always Be Greater,” which followed the hymn singing, naturally, was the set’s highpoint, but the Hoppers relied too much on old tricks – namely, singing “Jerusalem” and closing with a few rounds of “Shoutin’ Time” – to sustain the energy that the new song created. Mainly, I suspect this has to do with the video accompaniment. I get the point, I think, of using videos with songs, but what I don’t get is using videos that simply show the group singing a song in the past to an audience somewhere else while the group is singing that very same song live right in front of you. I don’t get it. Why would we want to watch the Hoppers sing along with themselves and sing in perfect tandem with the Hoppers on the video, thus gutting any sense of spontaneity and improvisation? This pervasive feeling of an over-programmed set (the Hoppers are certainly not the only culprits here) was born out at the end of the set, when the producers asked them to turn around “Shoutin’ Time” (because, you know, we haven’t really got used to the song yet) but … lo! “I’d like to,” Dean Hopper said, “but the computer is already unplugged.” Unplugged indeed. Like so many groups, the Hoppers act is a slave to technology, at the expense of the human. Which is to say, the Hoppers could also use a bit more humor. With all the emphasis on their outsized place in the pantheon of gospel music families – the Hoppers Heritage Tour, the Hoppers singing in Jerusalem, the Hoppers singing in Canada, the Hoppers singing with a string quartet – there was not enough room for the Hoppers as human beings to make an appearance.

BONUS STANDOUTS AND OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING

I’m afraid there’s not much Bonus Standing Out to talk about but some B-list moments include:

The Kingsmen: why oh why do groups whose strong suit is decidedly not acapella vocalizing open with an acappella number when anyone could tell you they’d stink the place up with it? Which they did. And yet here are the Kingsmen, leading with their weakest side, shrill and sloppy. Harold Reed was regularly flat and excessively tinny (at least more so than I remember with the Florida Boys; in fact, when he went back to sing with FB’s later, he was in much better form, which suggests that he may still be adjusting to his new gig with the KM and/or that the FB’s may have keyed their stuff a few steps lower than the KM, but I didn’t think to check this out for sure). Meanwhile, Ray Reese missed his lines – repeatedly, on the big ending. Things got on track about half-way through the set and the crowd got in on the act with “Saints will Rise,” much safer territory for the KM. And I gotta say it was fun to watch Bryan Hutson call encores and tags on the fly as the crowd got more and more into it. With so few groups using live bands these days, you just don’t get to see artists genuinely construct a made-from-scratch live experience in the moment the way the KM can thanks to their band. I appreciate that.

Dino: Judging by the crowd’s rowdy ovation for him, I suspect I’m alone here. But that’s never stopped me. So here goes: I know that Roger Bennett and Dino worked out an agreement before Bennett’s death whereby Dino got the DVD rights to last year’s Parade of Pianos/Pianorama/Piano Parade performance (Dino used all three names to describe the same event tonight). But Dino seems to think this makes him a bonafide gospel music artist and fan favorite. I don’t know, maybe he is, but I do know his TBN meets Vegas via Branson act is jarring and cringe-inducing (“I was telling my wife, you know my wife, Cheryl, you’ve probably seen her on television…”). And his outsized manner – the rhinestones and theatrical flourishes of the hands and arms – is that much harder to take when it takes so much of his attention that he can’t even play his lines well. He conspicuously dropped several notes in the opening measure of his solo, and nevermind the fact that this “solo” was really more of a big cheesy orchestral track with some piano licks interspersed here and there. Please. This is one of those NQC innovations that I could do without. Bennett was a shrewd bidness man but his style couldn’t have more different than (and, to my mind, superior to) Dino’s. I don’t usually get territorial about this kind of thing, but I hope Dino’s invitation will get lost in the mail next year, after calmer, cooler, less sparkly and bedazzled heads prevail.

Phil Cross and Poets Voices: they got one of several lackluster introductions from the voice of god (voice of god also rushed the Kingdom Heirs on tonight and Steve French testily insisted on a do-over, which was understandable but seemed a little silly, the house lights going back down and everybody acting like we didn’t just see them get stranded centerstage with their mics in their hands and no music to sing to ). And their set got better toward the middle when they brought out “I am Redeemed,” which the crowd responded to enthusiastically. But in general this group puzzles me a little. Year after year they persevere but they never have settled into an identity that they can capitalize on. All male trios have the formidable challenge in sg of not being Greater Vision or the Booth Brothers. And in PV’s case, with only competent vocals (which doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of more, only that their material doesn’t require more than competency of them) and too often lyrically forgettable music (“Why” and “Dear God” for instance), it’s hard to tell what we’re supposed to remember them for once they walk off the stage. The peppy song “Center of the Father’s Will” suggests a style they could productively mine and use as a foundation for their sound, but nothing like a coherent musical profile ever takes shape. They need more songs like “Center” and “I am Redeemed,” and less reliance on Phil Cross’s name to do the heavy lifting for them. Cross spent three long minutes near the end of the set reminding everyone that he wrote “Champion of Love” and clearly leading the crowd to believe that would be their closer. And just as he had people salivating for it, he begged off .. not enough time, no no no … I can’t really, and besides that song is for Gerald Wolfe and Legacy Five, … a song for others, not me. Oh, come on, Phil. Either sing the song or don’t bring it up. But stop drawing on that long-ago account. This is a cut-throat bidness and if you’re going to bank your group’s reputation on your fame as a writer, it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sorta game.

The NQC tribute: I’ll be honest, I thought that for 30 minutes worth of precious real estate from the evening’s concerts, the tribute was pretty weak. A lot of legendary figures and songs, a lot of sentimentality and ceremony – complete with a candlelight performance of a made-to-order song about carrying the torch to the next generation (note to NQC producers: if you’re going to use candles on stage, turn down the footlights so the idea of a torch shining out in the night can have its full visual effect) – but a bunch of thin-soup musically. The audience didn’t seem that moved either. Jerry Goff forced us to get on our feet and commanded us to applaud to express our commitment to NQC, but this kind of stuntery is self-discrediting. The video of Glenn Payne’s death bed phone call was riveting, of course. And it was great to see some of the old timers, but the torch passing ceremonial stuff felt phony (the made-for-order song is the kind of material whose debut is its “premiere and death,” as an old music professor I knew used to say). A better way to pay tribute to the past and pledge yourself to the future is stage solid, well-rehearsed music, not dabble in nostalgia.

Florida Boys: I wish I coulda heard their set with Gene McDonald earlier in the week. That was evidently their artistic night. Tonight was their “have fun and be funny” night. They succeeded. Les Beasley is hilarious when he’s on, and there’s so much goodwill surrounding the FB’s right now, it was hard for them not to hit this one out of the park. Buddy Liles needed to lay off the subwoofer booster, which created an overpowering roar when he got out of his comfort zone. But that’s minor stuff. It was great to see him on stage again, and the group was entertaining and self-deprecating, a perfect way to be endearing.

THE GRAB BAG

Synthetic: In this era of big orchestral arrangements from eastern European for-hire symphonies, the cheesy synthesizer strings that the McKameys and the Kingdom Heirs use sound preposterous. My nephew called, and he wants his Casio keyboard back.

Greater Vision: Yup, Wolfe did “O Holy Night Again.” The thrill is gone for me. I still maintain that his vocal ability, which is unrivaled (if also, I’ll admit, a bit uhm, how do you say, affected), makes this something else or more than just another Christmas song, but enough is enough. Isn’t there a Bible verse about perishing for lack of a renewed vision? At least that’s what I jotted in the margin of my notes when GV was on.

Palmetto State: Bryan Elliot, their pianist, has grown up, calmed down, and evened out a lot. Burman Porter was muddy and out of focus at his low end, and the tenor was screechy above the staff, but the middle ranges were decent. Unfortunately their material is just horrendously unremarkable. I can’t recall a single hook or lyric or tune that stands out. But on the other hand, Kerry Beatty’s new look makes him a dead ringer for Roy Pauley.

Mike Speck Trio: The man’s a force to be reckoned with in the choral music world (though I gather even that typically reliable sector of the market is getting eaten into by P&W music). And his choral work makes a lot of people happy. But it’s never been clear how from this premise it follows that he and Speck Trio are mainstage quality material? Tonight, alas, they earned their place on the C-list. Not only did the singing range from dodgy to amateurish, but Faye Speck spent a good five minutes trying to convince us that they were going to close with one of the songs from one of their choral books (something we don’t usually do) but this had nothing – nothing – to do with the fact that that’s their livelihood. Honestly. But on the other hand, Speck may well be the first artist to make a hot-flash joke about menopause from the stage. I will say, Speck did a flawless job recovering from a miscued track at the beginning of their set; indeed, this acoustical stuff (with Stan Whitmire accompanying) was their strongest material.

Why oh why do the people next to me think it’s ok to sing along with their favorite songs when the artist hasn’t invited us to join them?

I miss the Crabb Family.

Oddest lyric of the night: “A paramount God with a paramount love for me.” Huh? This is pure songwriting by thesaurus.

Hope’s Call: They tried very hard to bring a show big enough for an NQC crowd … and in some ways, maybe they were a bit outsized? At any rate, they opened with an acapella “How Great Thou Art” that was strangely arranged, climaxing prematurely and then oddly recoiling back into decrescendo right as the arrangement was whipping up excitement from the audience. And though I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: I don’t get opening acappalla and then immediately singing with a stacked track of vocals so full it sounds like the Brooklyn Tab choir is backing you up. It’s not that this is dishonest (everybody does it, unfortunately), but that it’s not done more gracefully.

Compassion International: either give us the video pitch or force us to sit through the live hard sell, but don’t use both. And just once I wish the artists who push these charities so hard would tell the crowd whether or not they get a cut for every child signed up through their efforts.

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Comments

  1. Bob Crichton wrote:

    On Compassion International – great cause – unfortunately, very devious to the fans in how it’s being delivered. It’s a tragedy such a great cause is being sold this way. I have two BIG problems with all of it. First, when it’s pitched to the artist (as a business person behind the scenes, I’ve gotten the pitch), it’s all about the money you, as an artist, will receive – “Oh yes, and you’ll also be helping children”. Second, I have always wondered how many of the artists pitching Compassion would have devoted time on their program to promote it if they were not receiving money to do so? Where were their altruistic feelings before? Only they can answer that question, but I think most people know the real answer. And one more thing – please don’t tell me how many ice teas a week you’re giving up when you’re getting TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS back (the numbers are that big, even for “small” groups). I am becoming more and more concerned about the number of artists jumping on this band wagon due to the hard sell and peer pressure. Some of the artists I’ve talked to privately will say, “Yeh, you’re right, but…” Others are sqweemish about it, take the money anyway, and then feel horrible every night pitching it.

    Final word – talking about Compassion in an artist’s program is a business transaction. Keep it that way. I have no doubt that these artists do indeed care about the children. That’s not the point. It would be better for artists to say something like “Compassion is helping us to help them in telling you about their work”. Full disclosure is good business practice, and in the investment world, not doing so is grounds for going to jail. Keep business as business and heart stuff as heart stuff.

  2. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    1. Talleys - “The Broken Ones” (Jerry Salley, Vip Vipperman, and JB Rudd) I think the ending is perfect, because it doesn’t take the predictable ending route.

    2. Regarding people who sing along loudly…at some point, look over at them and ask, “Do you really like that song?” When they invariably say, “Yes,” declare, “Well so do I. Why don’t you shut up so I can hear it?” This works every single time.

  3. quartet-man wrote:

    Thanks for the review and assessment. As with the previous one, interesting reading.

  4. Trent wrote:

    “My nephew called, and he wants his Casio keyboard back.”

    Great lines like this are why I read your commentary. Absolutely hilarious.

    You are right about the Mark Lowry set. 25 minutes of wonderful comedy interspersed with insightful thoughts on scripture that most of us hadn’t thought about before. Lordsong was riveting as well. Mark my words, they will be a high-charting, Top 5 group in SG within a couple of years. Also, you cannot understate the significance of Stan Whitmire’s presence on the piano. He is stunning, he is sensational. Halfway through a slow ballad, Lowry turns to Whitmire and commands him to lower it a couple of steps. 90% of the piano players at NQC would have, at this point, went into complete cardiac arrest. Whitmore lowered it a couple of steps without losing a beat.

    I must disagree with you about Hope’s Call. I thought they had one of the best performances of the night. With the possible exception of Lordsong, their harmonies are unmatched in SG music right now. Their stage presence is unmatched. Their second number, “Good News Bad” was a bit over the top for most of the crowd, though. Way hipper and more progressive than most of the patrons wanted to hear at the quartet convention. However, their versions of “How Great Thou Art” and “We Shall Behold Him” were delicious.

    Also, you are right about Gold City. Solid from top to bottomuss. Aaron McCune is better than sliced bread. Daniel Riley is the most under-rated singer in the genre.

    One comment about the Hoppers’ set. The orchestral team that played with them…I think Dean Hopper referred to them as the Jackson sisters or the Johnson Sisters or something. A little more introduction would have been nice. Are all five of these girls really sisters? What is their story? They did an exceptional job, but placing them in the middle of the stage forced the Hoppers to dance and sashay around them all night.

  5. Joshua Cottrell wrote:

    Thanks for all the info, really enjoying your take on things. Although, I still wish I could be there, maybe next year.

  6. Keith wrote:

    Doug, you’re on target with your review of the Mark Lowry/Lordsong set. It was one of the most wonderful presentations I’ve been privileged to witness. Mark’s flair for showmanship never interfered with the message. His comedy was intentional and set up perfectly each song. The song “Come to Jesus” (written and recorded by Chris Rice, incidentally) was so beautiful and moving. While Lowry’s voice has lost some of its rich Vocal Band-era luster, he uses the instrument to passionately communicate and sell a song.

    While this phrase is often overused to the point of irrelevance, I have to say it:
    That was awesome!

  7. quartet-man wrote:

    I find it sad that artists are paid to endorse Compassion. I understand Compassion doing what it takes (legally and ethically) to get more money with the reason of helping more kids. I understand artists being draws in getting more people to sign up. I even understand Compassion’s people pitching it as “see what’s in it for you.” However, it is sad to me that artists are being paid to help hungry children and especially doing so secretly.

    To the observer it would appear “oh, isn’t it nice that they are doing such a great thing”, but in essence the money they receive to do so is taking food out of children’s mouths all the while appearing they are doing it to be charitable and because they support the charity. This is not to say that some aren’t doing it at least partially to do good, but I also think that the giver has a right to know how much money is going to the child, how much is going to support staff, and how much is going to pay the artists for the pitch. Perhaps this is available in their financial records, but this has soured me on giving to Compassion (or at least going through an artist to do so.) Part of me ( a mischievous part) would love to tell artists “oh, your pitch last time really sold me on it, so I went to the site and sponsored a child.” It would be funny to see their reaction presuming that they got no cut this way.

    As far as pitching it from stage, on one hand I think if someone has paid to have a concert there should be little or no advertising from stage. However, in a case like this I think it is acceptable to make a quick mention of it along with telling about your table. For instance “we strongly support this charity and if you are interested come to the table for more info.”) I don’t think a huge amount of time for a video should be part of a concert stage. Maybe they could announce it being shown during part of intermission (if someone wanted more info.)

  8. John wrote:

    While one can always quibble with an observation here or there, you always write your impressions in an entertaining and readable way, Doug…nice job, as always.

    And add my hearty “Amen” to your remarks about the Hoppers’ tiresome use of their videos during their live performances. When we go to see the Hoppers sing their songs in person, does it really add to our experience to watch a video of them doing the same song at some other venue?

    As you say, Doug, their overreliance on technology for seemingly its’ own sake saps the human factor from their concerts…in addition to being a confusing application of media.

  9. Mandy wrote:

    John, some of us enjoy the videos that the Hoppers play during their performances.

  10. Mama Susan wrote:

    I know that I can’t sing (unfortunately) and I don’t, but I wish a lot of other people who can’t would shut up

    Also, PLEASE have some Compassion and shut up about it. If I had been inclined to donate, I would not have given anything after hearing about it ALL the time.
    And, did anyone else notice the misspelling of anniversary on the sign projected on the front of Freedom Hall?

  11. Buick wrote:

    Trent (#4) wrote:
    “you cannot understate the significance of Stan Whitmire’s presence on the piano.”

    I trust you meant that you cannot OVERSTATE the significance… To say that you cannot understate Whitmire’s significance on the piano would be to say that it is so insignificant that it is not possible to trivialize his contribution any more than it is already trivialized by his playing. You didn’t mean that, did you?

    (It reminds me of a “compliment” I received once after I spoke at our church. One of the deacons put his arm around me and said, “You always cease to amaze me.” I hope that is not what he meant!)

  12. bbq wrote:

    Thank you Doug for the elloquent description of Mark Lowry and LordSong. I felt as though I had sat through this masterful set myself. This is why I started reading your blog.

  13. Trent wrote:

    Buick,

    You are so right. I apologize, and Stan, if you are reading this, I meant you cannot OVERSTATE your skillful playing on the piano. You are one-of-a-kind, truly a God-given talent. Thanks for sharing that talent with us.

  14. Glenn wrote:

    I watched most of the nights through their telecast, and I that Mark Lowry’s performance was the highlight for me. One of my main complaints with all of the groups is that they talk to much and don’t sing enough, but that is not the case with Mark Lowry. He is truly inspriing.

  15. Judy wrote:

    You spoke of Stan Whitmire alot, indeed a truely gifted pianist, but when Gold City started up “Alone In the Garden” I had to take a double look to see who was playing. I thought it was Stan Whitmire again. Apprently Gold Citys pianist Josh Simpson and Stan Whitmire have the same style and touch. I was just amazed at how close there styles and touch are. Its just like the keys of the piano know what is about to happen when one of them sits down and start to play a song like that.

  16. WV wrote:

    Thanks for the great comments on Mark’s performance. I was there for three nights and heartily agree. By the way, for the record, the songs you referred to that Mark did were “Whatcha Need” from his “Be The Miracle” CD, and “Untitled Hymn(Come to Jesus)” from his new hymns CD.

  17. Diva0427 wrote:

    About Compassion ….

    Yes, artists can and will get monetary “reimbursement” for their involvement with the ministry IF they so choose. Believe it or not, there are those artists that choose to partner with Compassion and receive no monetary compensation.

  18. Ben Harris wrote:

    The best singing of the evening was done by the Melody Boys Quartet. Dead in tune, arrangements far beyond the average group, and blend that most aspire to but never reach.

  19. DM wrote:

    Some “ole timers” would remember that Cheryl married Statemen Jack Toney during Qt. convention years ago. I know some people do remember her. Maybe, Dino does not that, but facts are facts. That makes Cheryl an “ole timer” too.

  20. WC wrote:

    http://jacksonsisters.com/

  21. jb wrote:

    I am one of those who only attend on Friday and SAturday due to working schedules. I thoroughly enjoyed Friday night, but, must say that we only stayed until after the Perrys sang on Sat. night. I will not make comments about any group, but, I wish they would redo the lineup for Sat. night. After watching it via-internet Mon. thru Thurs., I was “Florida Boyed” out…… They are done, retired, no-more. Give them a couple nights and go on with someone else. I am not a true McKamey fan, but, I always enjoy them at NQC. So many other comments, just not enough time.

  22. thom wrote:

    re: the 50th Anniversary Tribute thing.

    I agree that the 50th anniversary tribute was a let down for me. Maybe I was expecting too much - something like a BIG 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION? It left me saying, “is that it?”

    Counter-point: I thought the overall production of the convention was better this year than in the past. Most of the time the house sound was good and rarely were there mic issues or feedback issues. kudos to the sound guys.
    Also, the lighting was the best I have ever seen at NQC. And “Phil” - the producer of the Awards SHow -(who has a GREAT VOICE) - added a professional element to not only the Awards Show but also to the entire week. Things seemed to flow better than in the past and the balance between video fade ins, emcees, group line ups, etc. was better than before.

    And with all due respect to Dr Buck Morton who emceed for years - no endless commercials and pitches from the floor between every set.

    Overall a good production - but the GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION was terrribly lacking in my humble opinion.

  23. mf wrote:

    Was it me or were the Specks(women) not dressed appropriately for the main stage? I’m sorry but I love the Specks, but Faye’s dress made me look at her backside all too often. And the soprano-lawyer wore a sleaveless long flowing number that washed her out(except when her arms were flying about). These women artist need to have someone-other than their husbands-look at their outfits.

  24. AD wrote:

    I don’t believe Cheryl and Jack married at NQC…her brother Gary and Carol did. ad

  25. WhoamI wrote:

    Why were there so many no-shows at NQC this year? The Galloways weren’t there. Neither were the Nelons. Why was there no Mike and Kelly Bowling or Jason Crabb or very little Crabb Revival? There was no appearance by the Isaacs either. Was that due to the Isaacs being a part of the Gaither Music label now?

    Do lots of the artists look at NQC considerably differently than they did in the past? Do some feel that NQC is not that big of a benefit? What are your theories?

    What about the Crossmen, Songfellows, Ed Enoch and Golden Covenant? I’m just trying to think of former main stage acts that I never heard from nor saw.

    Why do TK and McRae not have their own booth? It’s hard to find groups that are included in other artists’ booths like that.

    There were other no-shows that I’m forgetting.

    What do you all think and/or know?

  26. Dave wrote:

    Whoami/post#25. You asked why wasn’t Ed Enoch and Golden Covenant there? , actually his group now called The Stamps Quartet again, and no longer uses the “GC” name.

  27. gc wrote:

    There are many groups who do not attend NQC because it is not financially feasible.If you are not on mainstage, you find it difficult to sale and be acknowledged in the hall. For up and coming or new gropus, it is a great time to make contacts, find new songs and make friends that might make a difference down the road. For groups like you mentioned, there is no benefit for them to attend other that to support the genre of music. That would be nice but it does not happen very much….

  28. aaron wrote:

    This was my second year going to convention. Last year I went for 2 days, this year for 4 days. Because of averyfineline, there were 3 people that I wanted to meet this year and feel them out so to speak.

    1) Dean Hopper - He actually was one of the nicest people that I talked to. He was really excited as I referred to one of his songs making a difference in my life. When Kim walked up to apparently rescue him from me, he casually asked if I would like to purchase one of the CDs with his song on it. I did purchase it, but only to be nice.

    2) Jonathan Bond - The first time I went by Young Harmony’s booth I didn’t know that it was theirs. I asked around and found out later that it was. As I stopped by just to chat and find out what kind of cat he was, he was way to busy talking to people that had stopped by also. I wanted to laugh as I seen him give a few CDs away, again because of what I read on here. Finally when I was able to talk one on one the Jonathan he seemed really nice and concerned about me. I asked about certain CDs just to open the conversation. I found out that all of their CDs were $10 each. I asked why do you not sell them for $15 and was surprised by the answer. He said I would rather more people have them than not. I am really not sure what that meant. He then of course gave me a Testimony CD. When the conversation was ending, he reached and hugged me and told me that Jesus didn’t have to die for me, but that chose to. I haven’t been able to get that out of my mind. The booth looked very religious.

    3) Donna Bova’ - I walked around Hope’s Call’s booth for about 30 seconds and immediately was asked if I was interested in purchasing a CD. I wasn’t for sure who I was talking to, so I introduced myself as Andrew Phishie from Mississippi. This lady said that she was Donna. She looks much smaller than in her photos. We talked, she was very cordially nice, but I was just a consumer at this point. I mentioned that I was a concert promoter in the MS area, she suddenly became my best friend. She asked if I would like a promo kit. I was told that they would love to come and work some for me. I honestly couldn’t wait to get away from there. She was my biggest disappointment of the week. The spiritual act was more evident than any that I have ever seen. I didn’t purchase a CD nor did I accept the promo packet.

    Just my $.02 worth

  29. dkd wrote:

    The reason (I’m assuming) that many groups no longer stay the week at NQC is it is just not financially feasible. It is a very expensive week for these groups, if they can make the money somewhere else I’m thinking that is where they will go.

  30. cdguy wrote:

    Those videos the Hoppers use during their presentations are meant to be advertising. The premise goes like this: If you see these videos playing during your favorite song(s), you’ll want to go to their product table, and purchase the video(s). I think it’s a tactic learned from Gaither.

    I was at the Hoppers’ Saturday afternoon event, and saw the videos. At first, I was confused. They had been showing the live presentation, then suddenly cut to video. Puzzled, I said to myself, “that’s not this stage.” Then I saw the caption stating which video the clip was from. And as soon as I got accustomed to that, they switched to a different video. Different stage, different clothes. I became acutely aware I was watching an infomercial, instead of a concert.

    For me, it was distracting.

  31. thom wrote:

    CD GUY! You Nailed It!

  32. jp wrote:

    Aaron, (#28)
    Actually, your $.04 worth, since you posted it on 2 different threads.
    How is it that your admitted dishonesty (introducing yourself by a fake name - or posting under one, I’m not sure which) is less offensive than Donna’s perceived change of attitude?
    Just wondering.
    Doug,
    LOVE the phrase “slack jawed in awe”. I don’t know why, but everytime I hear Mark sing I wonder why I think of him as a comedian first - that guy can SING. The dynamic with Lordsong is kinda hard to figure out, though - they are so much more than background singers, but he’s so much larger than life it sometimes seems that way - whatever - it’s a great combination, so who cares about the labels?

  33. WhoamI wrote:

    I hear that Donna is a tremendously hard-working artist who is a real cheerleader and supporter to those in or interested in the industry. I don’t know her, but I have friends who do. I’m surprised she came off that way to you.

    She’s super nice from what I hear.

  34. AD wrote:

    Donna is super nice

  35. bhy wrote:

    Hoppers~the reason for the video~people,it’s called RAISING THE BAR….look it up…….

  36. JDMC wrote:

    Right on bhy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that people who find it “distracting” nead to realise that to our younger audience these concerts can be a bit, well…….boring the Hoppers are simply trying to “entertain” those who are there because “Mama said so!” Believe me I have seen PLENTY of that situation,and I’ve also seen how when the video starts their eyes light up. Their message has stayed the same they have just put a little more fun into the whole experience…..as for those who don’t like the video just DON’T LOOK. simple as that.

  37. Jim E. Davis wrote:

    Donna is super, super nice. Perhaps you should have observed more than 30 seconds…

  38. JB wrote:

    Donna to me is VERY fake. FAKE FAKE FAKE FAKE wait did I mention I thought she was FAKE

  39. Grigs wrote:

    Reply to #35 & #36:

    Normally, I’d agree that the video footage on the screens is a nice touch, but at NQC, it defeats the purpose. The purpose of the big screens in a venue like Freedom Hall is to let the folks in the “cheap seats” get a better view of what’s happening on stage.

    Of course, if I’m in the upper level, I bring binoculars, so they can play Looney Tunes on the screen for all I care. ;-)

  40. scope wrote:

    First, I would like to say that I have observed Donna Beauvais in concert, at the product table, and as a person in ‘real life’. She is a beautiful human being with a truly giving spirit.

    Most of the groups mentioned who weren’t at NQC were those not on stage, therefore they were out making a living. Since the NQC board continues to have the same, tired lineups every year, we will continue to lose the upcoming, exciting groups. That is another reason that we are losing the young people from NQC.

    Lastly, as good as Mark Lowry was, I can’t believe that no one else noticed that this was straight off his “Broadway’ video. No wonder he has it down pat.

  41. DM wrote:

    The Nelons said that they didn’t get invited to come.

  42. AD wrote:

    I don’t think Mark was “right off Broadway video”…LordSong wasn’t even with him then…and the songs he did, for the most part, were released since Broadway.

  43. aaron wrote:

    NQC will continue to loose groups when they are having to pay to come and then not play. I would like to see groups from the charts on stage. I seen groups this year that I haven’t even heard any thing new from in quite a while. Here are some groups that I predict will be on main stage next year: The Dills, The Browders, Young Harmony, Paid In Full, Crystal River & Everyday Driven. I would like to see NQC have one time a night an upcoming group as a feature at 9 pm for 10 minutes. A group that is building their name. What do you all think?

  44. WhoamI wrote:

    aaron,
    To add to your idea, what if NQC had a 20-minute spot that include three, four or five up-and-coming groups (one song per artist). And how’s about positioning that spot right around 9 p.m., early enough so that everybody will still be there (many start heading for the exits as 10 and 10:30 roll around). And how’s about placing that spot right in between a couple of big-name groups each night (like the Kingsmen and Hoppers, or Gold City and the Perrys…groups that have big fan bases).

    That would get more groups on the main stage, even if only for one song and even if only for once or twice during the week. It’s better than nothing, isn’t it? If they show what they can do during their spot, then they have people coming to their table to buy their latest project.

    I know that I often (not always but often) don’t want to hear a full 20-minute set from some group that I am not familiar with. However, I’d love a sampling of what’s new and quality.

    Any takers?

  45. Trent wrote:

    Aaron & WHOAMI, I love those ideas.

  46. Grigs wrote:

    People don’t pay to see “up and comers” on the main stage. They want established artists. On the other hand, Aaron makes some good nominations. Paid In Full has been there before, did well, and should be there again. Considering that Mullins, Lancaster, and Eleton are big time SG performers, I could make a great case for Everyday Driven. Crystal River should at least be considered…they have a really good sound and seem to get plenty airplay.

    Not as familiar with the rest of the groups aaron mentioned.

  47. JDMC wrote:

    Grigs,
    I do agree that 4 those who nead tissues to sit n their seat, the video may not go over well but 4 the rest, u have to admit that they had the most entertaining set….

  48. LLG wrote:

    I came back enthused about the NQC. It’s too bad some people are so critical.l

  49. Grigs wrote:

    LLG, I enjoyed every group that I listened to on Thursday and Friday. I did skip 3 or 4 groups Friday night, so I can’t comment. If I got as little enjoyment out of it as some people apparently do, I would stop going.

    JDMC, I don’t get your comment about tissue.

    Apologies to Aaron for not capitalizing his name in my last post.

  50. aaron wrote:

    #49 no problem, thank you.

  51. TLN wrote:

    OK, to respond to some of the comments above…please allow me to insert my personal choices for “newcomers” on the main stage next year, if only for a song or two (not listed in order of preference):

    EVERYDAY DRIVEN (true passion lives here!)

    AUSTINS BRIDGE (what can I say…they’re just huge)

    THE (NEW) IMPERIALS (hugely talented…incredible and innovative vocals)

    CROSSWAY (magnificent, transparent, ministry oriented, and so cool)

    …and last-but-not-least, THE COLLINGSWORTH FAMILY (incredibly talented and SO real…God exudes from their very beings)

    As I mentioned recently on a post, the NQC decision-makers NEED to quit being so “cookie-cutter” and political when it comes to deciding who will be performing on the main stage.

    IMO, many of the mainstream sg artists have just become so boring and have so much “sameness”, sorry to say. Some have not even tried to “keep it fresh”, thus allowing their appeal to “die on the vine”.

  52. TLN wrote:

    (Apendage to my comment above)

    …I’m 49 years old and (as you can see by my choices) not ready to die on the vine myself!! Keep the fresh music coming, sg artists, or I might just have to swim across the creek to get more of what my ears and heart need!!

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