What group would you invite an operatic soprano to see?

My voice teacher is an operatic soprano. Unlike some of operatic inclinations, she is able to appreciate other styles, including Broadway, choir music, and Praise & Worship. However, to the best I can tell, she seems to think all Southern Gospel sounds like the Primitives or the Inspirations. (It’s an understandable mistake, since both are based in this general area.)

If you were inviting an operatic soprano to see any Southern Gospel group in concert, who would you invite her to see? Why?


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69 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I think the obvious choice might be GVB, considering the operatic tendencies of Phelps. Also, stylistically they are pretty diverse so she would probably enjoy them.

    • She might, though I think she wouldn’t like Phelps’ phrasing. 🙂 She’d probably be impressed at the innate characteristics of his voice, though!

      • Real opera singers don’t appreciate popera. 😉

      • Attaching an emoticon to the end of your statement does not supernaturally transform it from a negative to a positive comment.

    • I agree with Eric, GVB because of David, and Wes is great too. Just dont get any better than GVB.

  2. Easy! The Kingdom Heirs! Their harmony, their style and their excitrement. Their sound is consistent, when you listen to a CD or watch a video then see them in person the quality does not change. Right now, IMO, there is none better than the Kingdom Heirs!

    • The Kingdom Heirs do come to this area each year, so that is a distinct possibility. 🙂

  3. Hmmm…this seems to imply that she thinks the Primitives and Inspirations don’t sound good. I’d listen to them any day over any opera singer. 🙂

    I would take her to see the Dixie Echoes. Authentic harmony, without the twang.

    • Cool! I do think that their all-live presentation would appeal more to an operatic singer than canned tracks.

  4. I’d invite her to see a Homecoming concert. Gaither has good talent, production, quality etc. David Phelps has had vocal training and there is a variety of people there. Ideally
    people like the Martins, Taranda Greene, Talleys, Hoppers (I don’t think they are on the circuit with them anymore), Ivan Parker (not sure about him), Larry Ford are there. Sandi Patty and Lanelle would be good additions, but I don’t think they are at a lot of them. Also although not as much my cup of tea much of the time, Allison Durham Speer and Ladye Love Smith would be good if there.

    • She’s probably at least find something to like at a homecoming concert. 🙂

  5. If they were still touring, I would have picked the Original Hinsons.

    • I’m intrigued. As I hinted at with my Inspirations / Primitives comment, she doesn’t like twangs.

  6. can’t believe no one has said this one yet – the Collingsworth Family!! i think she would appreciate their obvious dedication to detail and practice.

    • I am confident she would love Kim’s piano solos.

    • This discussion is ironic, because I took an operatic soprano to a concert in June that featured the Collingsworth Family and two other prominent groups. It was her first exposure to SG, and while she said she appreciated the other groups, she definitely favored the Collingsworths. Although their music is very polished, I think this was, more or less, due to the delivery of their performance. They are really a class act!

      • Very cool! Glad to hear she appreciated them!

        I think operatic singers are used to seeing more variety in a stage presentation than the same four singers standing in essentially the same position all evening. That would probably be a plus of a Collingsworth concert, where they rarely do more than two songs in a row with the same singers.

  7. How about the Blackwood Brothers?

    • I was debating that one myself, just now.

  8. She would probably enjoy Squire Parsons.

  9. I invited an operatic soprano to a Weatherfords concert my church had, but I invited her as one of the opening acts. She was impressed with Lily Fern.

  10. The Nelons as they have a progressive sound.

  11. Just leave her at home. You’ll both have more fun. I know this from experience!

    • 🙂

      Another detail worth mentioning: She has several children, young teens and pre-teens. She went with them to see TobyMac not too long ago and found something to like – I think she thought one of the musicians was decent. I figure if she can handle TobyMac… 🙂

  12. TobyMac is awesome…just lost all credibility there.

    David Phelps automatically came to mind. Probably some of the same background…

    • On that first part: Surely you jest. 🙂

      • Toby is really one of the best performers that CCM has seen in probably 2 decades. His songwriting is innovative and very commercial. I love his stuff personally…

      • For those who like that sort of music, he’s the sort of music they will like.

  13. I would take her to see Greater Vision and specifically request them to do O Holy Night, I Know A Man Who Can, and I Know He Heard My Prayer because of the powerful vocals and arrangements on those. If she has young kids, I’d definitely take her to see Collingsworths and, this may be a stretch, but Tribute’s Riley Clark singing “Who Am I” or Josh Singletary’s unique “Rat Pack Crooner” vocal style and piano mastery may catch her attention and certainly be fan friendly for her kids.

  14. I’m a recent fan of SG and I can enjoy a wide range of religious music. I can enjoy his energy. It also seems like TobyMac is real, where as SG requires such tradition and a certain style it pushes people towards being fake.

    Also, TobyMac has a song called “Lose My Soul” that has great lyrics…the message is as good as any song any where…I’m my option.

    I’m sure I’m now forever banned…

    • Around here, people don’t get banned for liking CCM.

      However, if they’re making personal statements about other posters losing all credibility for disliking CCM…that’s the area to be careful!

  15. I know they may not be your favorite… but recently I introduced many of my friends to the gospel music industry by taking them to see BF&A. They have since become open to exploring many of the other groups in SG and have since acclimated their tastes accordingly.

    Just a thought since you said she had teenagers as well.

  16. I think she would enjoy Gene McDonald. He studied classical voice/opera and has a very nice baritone range for soloing that melds right on down into the sweet low notes seamlessly.

    Greater Vision and Legacy Five give a nice program together that is well balanced.

  17. I was thinking probably the Collingsworth Family hands down for the “classical” sound. But based on vocals probably the best way to get a whole gamut would be a Gaither event. Since you have TaRanda and David right there who are two of the greatest vocalist in SG if you want to go with sheer power. However for something truly Southern Gospel. Greater Vision or Triumphant but then you have the Ball Brothers who are new and high energy, but I think a Gaither event would probably be the best place to start.

  18. What about The Perrys? Tracy, Joseph, and Bryan all have exceptional voices, with great clarity. Plus, Libbi’s distinct timbre would have to spark some interest. The put on a great concert!

  19. How about Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. They do a great concert.

  20. Ah, this is something I can relate well to. I’m a classically trained singer as well. Soprano.

    First and foremost, I’d take her to see the Isaacs. Classically trained singers (whether they spend most of their time singing opera or whatever) will listen with a more critical ear than most. They will listen for the technical side of things moreso than the average person because that’s you’re trained as a classical singer. It’s very, very technical.

    The Isaacs are a perfect choice. They are spot on in every technical aspect. Their harmonies are impeccable and their instrumentation is very intricate and extremely creative.

    Besides the Isaacs, Greater Vision would be my second pick. Their voices (especially Gerald’s) all lend themselves a bit towards classical-style vocals. They pay attention to musical details that many groups tend to overlook. Their lush, extensive tracks and broad use of instrumentation are things a classically trained singer can not only appreciate, but enjoy.

    I would definitely NOT take her to see David Phelps or the GVB. At least not at first. He sings Nessun Dorma at pretty much every concert nowadays. And while I think he does a wonderful rendition of the song, I have some classical/opera singing friends that are immediately turned off when they hear someone attempting to cover that song when they do not typically song that style of music. Nessun Dorma is one of those “pinnacle”
    songs in the classical/opera genre and people get easily annoyed and almost offended when a non classical/opera singer attempts to cover it.

    That being said, I think David does a stellar rendition of that song. He, too, is a classically trained singer and knows how to do it well and give it the justice it undoubtedly deserves.

    Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes!

    • It is true; both classically trained singers and those who would adopt the affectations of a classical singer without the actual training or talent often come down on the side of not caring for Phelps’ more contemporary version of “Nessun Dorma.”

      As to Greater Vision, I would say that Chris Allman, especially, has the sort of voice and style which would blow her away.

    • Phelps sang “Nessun Dorma” when I saw the GVB last week here at the SC State Fair.


      Please, can we do songs that are in English, and about, you know, the Gospel?

      • 😆

        I’d be more forgiving if he sang it correctly. The “show-off” impression is largely a result of stylistic choice.

      • I couldn’t agree more!!

  21. None of the above… I would take her to dinner – or to the movies, but not to a SG concert. My wife is classically trained and has a tremendous appreciation for music. On occasion, I will play a specific song for her – but SG is just not something she likes. I learned this early (35 years ago) when I took her to see the Kingsmen with Hamill, Parsons, Reece & whatever sqeaky tenor they had at the time. She enjoyed some of the comedy, but none of the music.

    The one song I’ve played for her in the last several years that really caught her attention is “God’s Been Good” by L5 featuring Tim Parton.

    So rather than be stressed – I take in several concerts a year on my own or perhaps take my sister who is a huge fan. But for my wife – I take her to a movie or out to dinner.


    PS: She does like Chris Allman, but then; who wouldn’t?

    • At least she likes Chris Allman! 🙂

    • JEB’s answer is the best so far. Some people just can’t be converted.

      • I doubt JEB’s wife could get to where she enjoyed TobyMac, though…

  22. Hmm… I’d find a different voice teacher!

    (Just joking, just joking!!)

  23. I think the best tenor is Jeremy Peace from The Old Paths.

  24. So far, no one has mentioned Daniel Mount & The Mountaineers. . .

    • Oh, she’s heard me all right.

      I love the group name idea, by the way! 🙂 That almost makes me want to do a spoof series – not sure what I’d spoof, but surely I can come up with something!

      • You’d spoof Brian Free, naturally…

      • Oh. Yeah. But only if you’re on board, to spoof Ray Dean.

        Oh, and a requirement for being a Mountaineer is a full red or reddish beard. 😛

      • Yes…so Brian can tell you “Don’t hurt yourself!” 😀

  25. I remember talking to Jerry Martin when he was with the Kingsmen years back, and he told me he had taken opera lessons to help his voice range and control.

  26. I don’t know Brian, but he often says what I think but do not say. You GO, Brian. I’m a huge David Phelps fan, but I don’t think they’d sing “Boundless Love” at the Met. I’d LOVE to hear David Phelps sing THAT. No tellin’ how high he could go on that last note 🙂

    • Thanks, Mrs. Dianne…that means a lot coming from one of my heroes, and my all-time favorite songwriter!

      I totally agree that David should try out “Boundless Love”. I’m sure you are aware that the Gaither Vocal Band has never cut one of your songs. I don’t know if there’s another major group that has not had that pleasure. Maybe I’ll write a letter to Mr. Bill. 🙂

  27. Well, the Singing Americans sang “We Shall See Jesus” when English was the lead, maybe it is time for a GVB version with Phelps on tenor. 🙂 How many times has that song been cut, Dianne? I know recently it has picked up, and I am sure some local groups has done it, but the Americans and Cathedrals are the only two versions I can think of other than EHSS and Legacy Five.

    • The Melody Masters also did it, back around 2002 when they were mainstage-tier. I’m not sure if Eric Phillips was with them at the time or not.

      • Fascinat…. I mean interesting. 😉 When searching for that version, Daniel, I found this. Interesting resource, but just looking at that song alone, they need to add L5 to it. 🙂


      • The Melody Masters sang on the main stage when they were between tenors, and the guest tenor was Ernie Haase…they’d just recorded a tribute to the Cathedrals, so it made sense to get Ernie to fill in. I don’t remember if they ever sang on main stage after Eric Phillips joined or not…

      • Yes, I remember seeing footage of their set with Ernie. I also don’t recall hearing whether or not they were on mainstage with Eric.

  28. lol, I don’t really like the Primitives or Inspirations. 🙂 Just show her some more modern music, like the Kingdom Heirs or Collingsworth or something.

  29. Mark Trammell’s voice has a bit of classical influence on it, and I think she’d enjoy MTQ’s concert.

    And I feel like I mention Vocal Union every time I post here, but the group has some exceptional vocalists and a great, full sound. And they sing in the traditional SoGo style.

    I’d also suggest my friend Jose Young — an amazing vocalist who has never had any training. His music tends to be on the conservative side — it’s like CCM “lite”, and he does sing some SoGo standards too. http://joseyoung.com/

    And you couldn’t go wrong taking her to see Whitney Phipps in concert. Billy Graham’s a big fan. http://wintleyphipps.com/

    • Boy, I really butchered Wintley’s first name there, didn’t I.

  30. I know this will sound totally prejudiced to most of you and I understand that! However, I would truly take her to see Gerald Williams and The Melody Boys Quartet. I have spoken with opera trained singers who have seen Gerald sing and they so appreciate his breath control, voice control, pronunciation, range, etc. Gerald one time had aspirations to sing opera, and his extensive vocal training is still extremely evident even at 78 years of age. Of course, the entire Quartet sings interesting arrangements, modern harmony, and focuses on pronunciation, singing correctly, and singing “in the pocket”. Also, there are no “stacks” – just pure 4 part harmony.

    • I would agree that Gerald’s bass voice would be one of the most impressive bass voices to a classically trained singer, right up there with two other classically trained bass singers, Royce Mitchell and Pat Barker.

  31. I would take her to see The Lesters. Flat out, best harmonies and arrangements in Gospel today.

  32. Would she be turned off by a concert with only 50-100 in attendance? Would she be turned off by a group using tracks only?

    After thinking about it, I would take her to a EHSS concert. Full house, live band, cream of the crop. If you want to show her the best SG has to offer, its EHSS.

  33. I haven’t had any of the short list of groups book a date in the area just yet, but I have just taken a first step – I sent over a YouTube video of the Perrys singing “Celebrate Me Home.”

    (I had already piqued her interest there by mentioning at my last voice lesson that our genre’s most popular alto singer for the last few years running was ~80% deaf. That, unsurprisingly, got her curious!)