PT groups and the survival of the genre
Writing that post on The Eddies, I was reminded of an email exchange I had with a friend recently. Thus my friend:
For a lot of different reasons, most of the concerts I’ve attended of late have been those of part-time groups. The weekend warrior types. To borrow the favorite euphemism of the Baptists - the bi-vocational ministers (of song). I was thinking about this as I was reading Ben Harris’s comments as far as teases go. Because part-time groups interest me greatly. First of all, most of them kinda KNOW that the chances of making it big are probably not that great. So most likely they are singing and playing for the sheer joy of making [good] music, maybe thinking they’re making a difference ministry-wise, and maybe indulging their hidden desire to be adored by at least a handful of devoted locals. And they definitely run the spectrum from an ensemble best heard VERY occasionally during the special music portion of a country church service to polished professionals that run circles around the full-timers. The polished pros normally know their stuff, care more about their blend and vocal control than about matching suits or a fancy bus. Some of them have buses but they are 25-year old Eagles that have been paid for rather than the latest Prevost. Some of them even - gasp - have a band.
And the truth of the matter is that I’m thinking maybe they’re the key to the survival of the genre. If you think about the fact that in a struggling economy headed south very quickly where gas is over $3.00 a gallon on average and food prices are skyrocketing, etc., people are definitely much more in the mood for a love offering event than a big ticket price. Especially if they pay the ticket price and get an average to less than average performance. Even more startling was that I recently attended a ticketed holiday event for a part-time family group (definitely one in the class of the polished pros) and their attendance was four times that of a love offering concert two nights later for a full-time well-known family group with a string of hits! The most striking thing about these two events were that both groups used some of the same tracks for a couple of the Christmas songs and the part-timers definitely sang circles and then some around the full-timers.
There’s a lot to agree with in this post in the abstract. And I even think my friend could be right about PT groups and the survival of the genre … if the genre is only to survive meaningfully in the four or five states surrounding
But in places like Florida, where there’s a thriving audience for sg (at least during the snowbird season) but not enough of the right kind of artistic culture and religious tradition to generate good and regionally visible PT groups (or in Missouri, another state I’m familiar with, where there’s plenty of PT groups but not very many of the quality my friend describes above), a southern gospel genre built on the backs of weekend warriors would mean a dramatically contracted scope and scale for gospel as a musical and artistic tradition, not to mention as a valuable form of religious expression. And that seems to me a bad thing, assuming the only other alternative isn’t for the music to cease altogether (and I’m assuming that’s not the case, hard times though these may be for sg).
My own sense is that sg will continue to limp along and maybe even thrive in a few cases, but the gap between the those groups that are perceived to be elites (for instance, GV, BB, L5) and all the rest unevenly talented groups that continue to be taken seriously will grow wider economically, with a few groups like the Perrys and Gold City in the middle. Gaither, of course, and his heirs (at this point, namely Mark Lowry) seem well positioned to carry on with the mass-market commercialization of what probably ought to end up being called something like adult inspirational or inspirational gospel or something other than southern at any rate. Or so says the great Carnack on this fine Friday morning.Email this Post