National Quartet Convention 2011, Day 1
This live blog will be updated throughout the evening.
Moment of the Night
The Perrys’ “Plan of Salvation.” It would have been one of the evening’s strongest moments with no introduction, but with Tracy Stuffle’s introduction (see below) tying it to the one-year mark of his return to the stage, it was an incredibly emotional moment.
Runner-up: Collingsworth Family, “At Calvary.”
Brian Free & Assurance (10:38)
Set list: What a Beautiful Day, Anything is Possible; I Believe; God Will Close the Door; Long as I Got King Jesus.
Highlights: “Long as I Got King Jesus,” of course. The Collingsworth Family came back up for the encore, and the groups left the audience on their feet.
Collingsworth Family (10:18)
Set list: I Feel Like Traveling On (with Brian Free & Assurance), Part of the Family; Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho; I Found It All (When I Lost Everything); At Calvary.
Highlights: Kim’s piano solo on “Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho” got a standing ovation—despite the late hour.
“At Calvary” was utter magnificence. The hymn has quite possibly never been done better. It, too, got a standing ovation.
Click “more” for the rest of the coverage:
Josh Garner’s and John Rulapaugh’s group Freedom sang “If It Wasn’t For the Cross.” This is the second consecutive year they have done so well in the showcases that they have been invited to sing a song on the main stage. This is one of those groups that, provided they keep pressing on in these troubled economic times, a slot of their own on the main stage is more a matter of “when” than “if.”
Gold City (9:54)
Set List: Where is God?; Peter James and John; When He Blessed My Soul; It Won’t Be Long; God’s Building a Church.
Highlights: “Peter, James and John,” a new song penned by Wilkinson. It’s about time that Gold City had some new material to sing, and this one’s worth the wait.
To those wondered if Craig West is still singing lead with Gold City: He is.
Set List: Marriage Supper of the Lamb; He Remembers to Forget; Jerusalem; If I Can Help Somebody.
Highlights: “He Remembers to Forget” was a new song from their last album, Something’s Happening (good catch, Nate!) Jim Brady, who wrote the song, came on stage and joined them for the second verse.
Set List: Blue Skies Coming; Damascus Road; Plan of Salvation; If You Knew Him.
Highlights: Seeing Tracy. To go from heart attack patient this year to the skinny bass singer this year is an inspiration and a testimony to God’s grace.
And, I’ll say this in public: I don’t cry often, when Tracy Stuffle sang “Plan of Salvation,” I cried through the whole song. He set it up by saying that last year’s NQC was his first year back after open heart surgery. He said that he felt so defeated vocally after that week that he had a conversation with God and came to terms with the fact that he wasn’t ever going to be the best bass singer in the world. But, he added, there was one song he had always wanted to sing. He said he wasn’t even worthy to hold the microphone for the man whose song it was, but this was a song he had always wanted to sing. After he had set expectations about as low as he possibly could, he turned in a magnificent rendition which received a prolonged standing ovation.
Naturally, the set closer, “If You Knew Him,” got the Perrys a second standing ovation.
Greater Vision (8:28)
Set List: He Didn’t When He Could’ve Passed By; No Longer Chained; I Know a Man Who Can.
Highlights: “I Know a Man Who Can”; need any more be said? Last year, the NQC audience was happy to have Chris back. This year, they were thrilled. Three voices and a piano, no tracks, no stacks, and an enthusiastic standing ovation. This is what Gospel Music is supposed to be.
Lowlights: It took the whole first verse of the first song for the sound engineers to get the microphones on!
Set List: God is Great, Good and Merciful (with Greater Vision), The Promise, Searchin’; Who Will Pray; God Bless America / America the Beautiful Medley.
Highlights: The set was anticipated more than usual, as it was Brian Alvey’s first NQC appearance with the Talleys—and, now that the Talley Trio has turned back into the Talleys, the first time the ensemble has appeared at NQC as the Talleys in about two decades.
Intriguingly, the Talleys chose “Searchin'” as the song to introduce Brian. It makes sense in one way, since it originally featured a guest vocal from Jason Crabb. It’s surprising in another way, though, since saying that Alvey’s and Crabb’s voices are totally dissimilar is an understatement! It was, however, well-received.
For “Who Will Pray,” Roger moved to the piano, until the bridge and the big mod heading into the chorus. Standing and joining the singers there provided a dramatic moment.
New Gospel Singing Caravan (Blackwood Brothers, Chuck Wagon Gang, LeFevre Quartet, Nelons) (7:45)
Set List: I’m Too Near Home; Crown Him King; I Always Have a Song to Sing; Old Camp-Meeting Days; How Great Thou Art.
Highlights: The Nelons made an unannounced, surprise appearance. (It even surprised emcee Gerald Wolfe!) Intriguingly, the LeFevre had six singers on stage, with outgoing lead singer lead singer David Staton and bass singer Mike Allen, and incoming lead singer Jordan LeFevre and Brandon Barry. “Old Camp-Meeting Days” permitted each group to be featured for a verse, a nice touch.
Squire Parsons (7:25)
Set List: I’m Still Singing For My Lord; I’m Still Here; He Came to Me.
Highlights: Squire’s son Samuel joined him on stage half-way through the second song. The acapella rendition of “He Came to Me” was a strong acapella moment.
Squire closed, naturally, with his all-time greatest song, “Sweet Beulah Land.” The Booth Brothers, the Hoppers, Karen Peck & New River, the Whisnants, Gerald Wolfe, the Nelons, the Kingsmen, and the Mark Trammell Quartet joined him on stage for the closing number. Squire asked Jim Brady, who produced the recent Squire Parsons tribute project, to sing the second verse. Naturally, the song got the audience onto its feet.
The highlight, though, was when Squire said that his father, who passed away in 1997, had never been able to make it to NQC. One of Squire’s sons brought up his father’s hat, and Squire put it on for the closing song in his father’s honor.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (6:50)
Set List: One Of These Days; I Have Found the Glory Way; Precious Memories; He Made it All Right; On the Sea of Life.
Highlights: Quicksilver’s 2010 set was criticized as lacking some of the energy and tightness they had brought in previous years. No question: That energy and tight sound is back. The exquisite rendition of “Precious Memories” was the set’s highlight.
(Full disclosure: I’m their webmaster, so I might be biased. But this set does have more energy than last year’s.)
Triumphant Quartet (6:26)
Set List: Amazed at the Change; When the Trumpet Sounds; Goodbye World Goodbye (harmonica/piano duet with tenor David Sutton and pianist Jeff Stice); Somebody Died for Me; Let’s All Stand For America.
Highlights: Triumphant did “Somebody Died for Me” with only a piano; a nice change of pace. The closing song was the only new one; thanks to Nate in the comments section, it was penned by David Sutton and is found on their brand-new table project, From the Heart.
Instrumental interlude: Collingsworth Ladies (6:18)
Set list: No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.
Highlights: Brooklyn and Courtney played violins; Kim, naturally, was on piano. The violin microphones were completely off for the first verse. While a stagehand ran a microphone with boom up to the stage, Kim provided some spontaneous fills, seemly seguing into a re-start of the song. It was done so professionally that the Collingsworth ladies earned an appreciative hand of applause as they re-started the song—and though it was hard to tell in the low light, it looks like they got a standing ovation from the artist circle.
Karen Peck & New River (5:56)
Set list: I’ll Fly Away (with Gerald Wolfe on guest bass vocals); Last Night; I Want to Thank You; On the Banks of the Promised Land; National Anthem.
Highlights: Perfectly paced set. Karen Peck knows that you just don’t kick off the opening set of the National Quartet Convention with untested songs. The only new one was song four of five, “On the Banks of the Promised Land,” a song catchy enough to grab listeners on the first spin. Great delivery, but the acapella encore was even better. Karen closed the set citing 9/11 and saluting the veterans by singing the National Anthem acapella. That might be the only way to get the audience on their feet during the first set of the night, but it worked—and the rendition was so spot-on that nobody was inclined to complain.
Greater Vision kicked the night off with the title track to their latest CD, The Only Way. Gerald Wolfe then led the audience in a sing-a-long of “He Keeps Me Singing,” and opened in prayer.
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For more about Brian Free and Assurance and Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and Gold City and Greater Vision and Karen Peck and New River and Squire Parsons and the Blackwood Brothers and the Chuck Wagon Gang and the Collingsworth Family and the Hoppers and the LeFevre Quartet and the National Quartet Convention and the Perrys and the Talleys and Triumphant Quartet—and other Southern Gospel news and commentary—follow our RSS feed or sign up for our email updates!