Slouching toward Pigeon Forge
So the NQC post-mortems have rolled in, including reactions to the announcement of NQC’s 2014 move to Pigeon Forge, and the responses range from mixed to meh, it would seem.
As for this year’s convention, comments here reinforce what folks on the ground and near to the heart of the NQC mothership have indicated to me: that attendance was down again (perhaps as much as another 7% from last year, which must have been pretty demoralizing, since there were plenty of empty seats already) and the music was for the most part pretty uninspiring, despite an improvement in the sound system (hear the same canned music you’ve heard every other year … but even more clearly!).
So maybe a move makes sense. Shake things up etc.
But still … Perhaps it’s because I’ve never known NQC anywhere other than Louisville, but the relocation to Pigeon Forge deepens a sadness that’s laced my NQC experiences for a while now. Indeed, my first reaction to the move, after I gave it some thought, was that southern gospel is finally, belatedly and irrevocably acknowledging that the NQC is no longer a national event.
Sure, it’s probably not been one for a while now. And it’s not just NQC: southern gospel has been not-so-slowly falling apart under its own lassitude and being sold for regional scrap for lo these many years (an insight that I assume was uppermost in the minds of the Memphis Quartet show braintrust). But as long as NQC was anchored in a major southern city and housed in a space befitting the storied history of the event and the great tradition of the music itself (Freedom Hall is, like southern gospel, old and a little sprawled out, a bit frayed at the edges but able to contain multitudes all the same, even if these days it’s mostly empty seats and karaoke), it was still possible to suspend your disbelief for a few moments every year in September … close one eye, squint with the other and experience the great gettin’ up grandeur of gospel in its highest glory.
And now, in Pigeon Forge? I dunno. Of course I’m sure I’ll give things a shot at NQC’s new digs in Bird Crossing. That is, unless the convention center indeed turns out to be only floor seating, in which case, I refer to you the image below, which is not only a screen shot from the video recording of a major NQC showcase in one of the big wings at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center - the Kingsmen Reunion back in the 90s - but also happens to capture pretty much the exact position and quality of view I had from my floor seat in row 800. This basically sums up my entire life experience with cavernous expo-hall concert venues. Pigeon Forge is not worth a floor seat.
But I digress: when I imagine telling my non-southern gospel friends that I’m going to the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I’m struck by a certain amount of self-discrediting implausibility that’s built into the very idea of anything truly national happening in place with such an obviously regional and culturally clannish name (not to mention the planes-trains-and-packmule ordeal it will be to get there for those of us who aren’t within driving distance). The NQC in Pigeon Forge sounds “national” in the way that breakfast is intercontinental at the International House of Pancakes. Why not just pack up and move everything to Possum Trot, Alabama, and complete the diminishment?
Ah well. Here among the shadows in a lonely land, we’re a band of pilgrims … slouching toward Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.Email this Post