NQC 2012, Day 3: Live Blog

Our NQC live blog posts take shape through the evenings.

Moment of the Night

It’s hard to pace a four-song set at NQC. Start fast? Start slow? Finish fast? Finish slow?

The Mark Trammell Quartet’s set was perfectly paced. They started with the peaceful, relaxed “Gentle Shepherd.” They picked up the pace with “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” sung as a tribute to the Couriers (whom Mark saw at his first National Quartet Convention, 35 years ago). Then Mark introduced Pat Barker. It’s clear that the NQC audience loves him; he just had to say Pat’s name, and the audience let out a cheer.

Now, we’re talking about a song that’s a recent #1 hit. It’s the most successful radio single the group has to date. It’s also huge for them live. Pat conveyed the song with passion and confidence, and the audience responded in such a big way that two encores seemed like too little, not too much.

You might think that would be the highlight of their set. But you would be wrong.

“The King is Coming” was the moment of the night.

I have many versions of the song, including the Speer Family’s landmark live 1972 version on Jesus Sound Explosion—a version so powerful that it got the strongest response of the album in front of a Jesus Music audience, surrounded by the strongest Jesus Music artists at the time. Of course, the Bill Gaither Trio’s rendition was also incredible—and many others have been, too.

Despite all that, I suspected that I would eventually make the following conclusion. After seeing the Mark Trammell Quartet’s version live, I am ready to state that theirs is the strongest version ever recorded.

Other Highlights

Kingdom Heirs. The Kingdom Heirs’ set was solid. All four songs—”I’m Not Worried About Forever,” “Tell Me Why,” “Just Preach Jesus,” and “We Will Stand Our Ground”—come from their latest recording, We Will Stand Our Ground. (In fact, they’re the two opening and closing songs, in exactly that order!) The set captured exactly what quartet night is supposed to be.

Brian Free & Assurance. They started their quartet night set with a classic, “What a Beautiful Day (For the Lord to Come Again). They then went progressive with their second song, “When the Lord Says Do It.” Their third song, “Guard Your Heart,” was more mellow musically and put the spotlight solidly on the message. “No one is invincible / you gotta watch and pray / every hour of every day / guard your heart…”

They went from the serious to the fun with their next song, “Looking For a City.” By the final key, he sang the lines “where the sainted millions / never sing this high”!

The set was well-balanced for a night honoring quartet music. They portrayed the progressive side of what they do accurately, but was still something that traditional quartet fans can love.

Triumphant Quartet. They kicked off with some welcome energy with “When the Trumpet Sounds.” They slowed the pace down with the second song, “He Loves Me.”

Jeff Stice introduced his piano solo by talking about his mother’s recent battle with breast cancer, and how he played for her on the piano he learned to play on during her recovery. He said she asked him to make his next piano solo CD just-piano, and that she asked him to include the first song he ever learned to play—”Mansion Over the Hilltop.” It would have been a special moment on its own musical merits, but the story made it a highlight.

They made a smooth pivot from tears to smiles with their next song, “Old White Flag.” They then ended their set blazing with “Almost Home.”

Finale: Gerald Wolfe: “You would think they wouldn’t have to call in a trio man to end a quartet program.” He says he’s sat there all night, and not a single quartet has sung the greatest quartet song of all time! So he has Triumphant Quartet, the Mark Trammell Quartet, and Legacy Five sing it “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.”

The vocalists and band stumble over the transition into verse two, and the rendition grinds to a halt. A priceless comedic exchange follows:

Gerald Wolfe: “Guys! How long have you been playing quartet music?

Scott Howard: “Evidently longer than this band’s been playing quartet music.”

Gerald Wolfe: “You know as well as I do that it’s tradition that after the turnaround, there’s a 1-7-4 chord, and the tenor takes the lead.”

David Sutton sings verse 2. Then the bass singers shine on a chorus. By this point, a fourth bass singer (Paul Harkey of the LeFevre Quartet?) has joined the ensemble.

After the big ending, Gerald Wolfe says “That’s quartet night!” And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a wrap for the night.

Live Blog

9:56: Gold City. After a presentation honoring Gold City for having a #1 song in each of the last four decades (1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s), they started their set with “I Cast My Bread Upon the Water.” They continued in a similar vein with their second song, their recent #1 hit “Peter, James and John.” Third up was “When I Get Carried Away.”

The presentation at the start of their set made specific mention of “Midnight Cry,” in such a fashion that they practically had to include it. They did, and got a standing ovation.

They cut out almost all talking from their set, and so were able to fit in five songs. They closed with “Get Up, Get Ready.”

9:34: Legacy Five. The set began with the first major technical difficulty of the week; Scott Fowler’s microphone was off, at least in the live feed mix, for most of his featured verses. But the group soldiered on through the technical difficulties and came back for a strong ending.

The Scotts (lead singer Scott Fowler and baritone Scott Howard) were up next, with “Living in the Palace.”

Scott Fowler introduced their third song, “Life Will Be Sweeter Someday,” by saying he wasn’t sure he had even set the song to Matt Fouch to learn, and asking him if he knew it. Then, amusingly, it was Scott who forgot a line—whether intentional or not, nonetheless turning it into a fine comedic moment.

They finished with “I Found Grace.”

8:53: Paul’s Journey. There was a track malfunction just as Paul’s Journey walked onstage. It has to be unnerving for a group to walk onstage for their first set, but even more so when the track won’t play. The tenor did a remarkable job filling the dead time, with some audience banter and humor. He referred to a Statesmen video which had just been played, and said, “Now you know why they never sang with tracks, because it’s just a pain. Instead, they traveled with their own band.”

They started with “This is Just What Heaven Means To Me,” featuring their tenor. Their baritone was featured on their second song, “You Better Get Ready.”

5:41: Tim Lovelace is doing Fan Cam. More updates to come after church; consider this an NQC-related open thread till then.

5:15: Showcase Winners. The showcase winners of the day kick off the evening’s program. Revelation Trio from McKenzie, Tennessee was up first. They were a mixed trio—regrettably, not the Northern Irish trio that records with Crossroads. But they were good. The Mark Dubbeld Family was up next, singing an original song, “Inside the Gate.” It was a solid performance. The Diplomats were up third; they had a mainstage slot last year, but only appeared in the showcases this year. Thankfully, they at least got this song this year. They sang “I’ll Soon Be Gone,” from their latest album (reviewed here).

Then—fittingly for quartet night—they picked the strongest quartet from the day’s showcases, Union Street. Members are tenor Toby Hitchcock, lead singer Ryan Seaton (formerly of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound), baritone Andrew Goldman, and bass Aaron McCune (Palmetto State Quartet, Gold City). All members except McCune had a solo.

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58 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Highlight: Chris Jenkins nailing some high notes.

    • He sure has quite the range!

  2. Daniel,
    While you were gone:
    Lefevre, skyline,Dixie echoes and the kingsmen all did great. Strong song selections, strong vocals and great energy tonight. Ray dean Reese was fun tonight. DMB are next.

  3. DMB’s have an awesome band with Stewart, Scoot, Adam Crabb, Madison and Michael Booth. May not be the best vocally, but they sure sound good tonight. Once again, great energy and excitement tonight.

    • Sorry I missed that! I look forward to catching up in the archives.

    • I’m looking forward to catching the DMB with their live band on the archives. It’s always a pleasure to see them at NQC, Randy always makes certain to get a good group of live musicians to accompany the vocals. Looking forward to hearing them live later in the week.

      Also, very classy move that Stewart is playing with them tonight.

    • At first glance, I thought one of my favorite bloggers with that initial had started a new band!

  4. Gotta say so far Down East has been the best of the night at least for me

    • I look forward to catching it in the archives!

  5. Agree with David, Mr. Jenkins was a definite highlight for me.. He has a powerful voice. Enjoying listening to them all,been a good evening so far

    • Neat! If people give the new lineup a chance, they’re going to love them!

      • Daniel, we were both in Hickory that evening when Chris auditioned. I told Bob, that he definitely had that Kingsmen tenor sound. They all sound great together. Enjoying the great MTQ right now as well, what a great night of singing.

      • Yes – I was there, too (as I think we may have discussed), and I said much the same to Brandon Reese!

  6. If there is such a thing as the perfect quartet, Mark Trammell has it!

    • I agree. They are tearing the roof off Freedom Hall with “The King is Coming”!

      • May have been best version of this song that I have ever heard. Adding I’m Free in the ending was to me a perfect match. Wow that was just absolutely powerful……

    • I also think Mark Trammell has the perfect quartet, but look at his line-up. Mark is the best Baritone in the business, Eric is an awesome Tenor, what can you say about Pat Barker except he is amazing, and Nick is following close in his father’s footsteps, and it didn’t do them any harm to have Dustin on the piano……

      • Pat would want you to say that he was good-looking. 🙂 My position, when it comes to that, is that he sings well enough that it doesn’t matter if he’s handsome or the ugliest bass singer to hit this genre since J.D. Sumner. 🙂

  7. We sang with the Mark Dubbled Family this past weekend, and what a solid, strong sound they had! Also, they were nice people to chat with. We’re glad to see they are one of the showcase winners!


  8. Down East Boys were great. I have never been a fan of their tenor’s voice, but really enjoy Ricky and bass singer Stuart Carey. I had to miss Mark Trammell and the KH’s. Sounds like I missed a great MTQ set.

    • Definitely go to the archives for that one!

  9. You said Legacy Five went their whole set without featuring Matt Fouch. You also said they sang “I Found Grace,” which as I recall features a bass solo. Wouldn’t that be Matt?

  10. Dan Keaton has really grown on me. I am glad GCQ has maintained a tenor singer for more than a year now. I like their sound. (don’t know if hey should be doing Midnight Cry???)

  11. Daniel,
    We have focused on the singers and groups this week. We also need to look at the MC’s. If the NQC wants to attract some younger viewers they need younger MC’s like Jason Crabb, Scotty Inman, Dean Hopper, Joseph Habedank, Riley Clark etc. [edit]

    • I can certainly let the first half of the comment go through. Without being critical of current hosts, we can certainly say that mixing in some fresh faces would be welcome. They had Michael Booth one night last year – a delightfully crazy night – and have Mark Bishop tomorrow.

      They need at least a middle-aged emcee, most of the time, for this reason: It helps to have an emcee who has been around long enough to become personal friends with many of the groups. There will be far fewer mistakes than last year, when a certain emcee, who shall go unnamed, was reading from cue cards and had a number of stumbles.

  12. I agree about the MC having a relationship with the artists. I also completely respect and honor the “older” hosts, though I am tired of the same old shtick and jokes.

    • I understand – and that’s why a middle-aged host like Michael Booth is so good. I wish they had him back for another day this year.

      Riley Clark, for instance, is a great idea, about ten years from now, once he’s had time to build friendships with all the artists on stage (and perhaps gain some experience emceeing and delivering effective onstage humor). 🙂

      • On the other Scotty Inman grew up around this music, and he could probably do a solid job on a moment’s notice, if they called on him.

      • Emceeing is a tough job for your own group, let alone a 5 hour concert with a number of different artists taking the stage. Finding the right guy is hard to do.

        Gerald and Michael are two of the best in terms of artists who’ve emceed in the past. Dean Hopper is another good one IMO.

      • Agreed on all counts. One of the less obvious things that an emcee has to do is to be able to smoothly jump in and engage the crowd – filling as much dead air as necessary – when there are technical glitches. Old jokes or not, Jerry Goff handled the glitches last night during the Paul’s Journey set like the old pro that he is.

  13. I think you jumped the gun on moment of the night tonight. I did enjoy the Mark Trammell Quartet, but Triumphant’s set was the most solid of the evening, and their finale song would have been my pick for overall “moment.”

    • I still think the Mark Trammell Quartet set was the moment of the night—for the same reason that I also picked their set over the Kingdom Heirs’ set. Triumphant and the Kingdom Heirs had very, very solid sets of material that was already released by last year’s NQC. Since the fans already know that material, it is easier to get a big response. On the other hand, the Mark Trammell Quartet brought the house down with brand-new arrangements that—though familiar songs, at least in some of the cases—were new arrangements, and songs new to them.

      It’s also why I didn’t rank MTQ’s Tuesday Night set as the moment of the night, even though “Statue of Liberty” received one of the biggest responses of the night. They got a standing ovation with that song and arrangement last year, too. I was expecting that they would do it, do it well, and get a standing ovation.

      Besides all of that, I’m biased by default (and not afraid to admit it) that I am more inclined to rank a huge anthem that gets a standing ovation as the moment of the night over a blazing fast song that also gets a standing ovation.

      So, both on the freshness principle and on my admitted inherent bias toward anthems in this particular area, I would still have gone with the set the Mark Trammell Quartet did even if it had been, say, Triumphant doing it and MTQ doing Triumphant’s set.

  14. You nailed the highlights. Makes me wonder what I’ll even write tomorrow morning. Maybe I’ll just link to this post. 🙂

    • Cool. Wouldn’t bother me if you saved yourself the trouble. 🙂

  15. Daniel,

    Paul Harkey is with the Lefevre Quartet now
    Not the Anchormen. You covered the annoucement back on August 15th. ☺

    • Jeremy – yes, and as I was typing that, I was THINKING LeFevre Quartet, and thinking about Randy Byrd’s move to the Anchormen. Ah, well, those sorts of things happen at the end of the night, when I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open! I’ll fix it now.

  16. I really dislike the term “Showcase Winners.” It makes it sound like those of us on the showcases are in some kind of talent contest. That’s just not the case, especially for those of us on the Featured Artist stages. Those are invitation only spots, and I can say from Sunday Edition’s view – the main stage is really the furthest thing from our mind. Our main concern is how do we “do what we do” in 2 songs that will connect with this audience in this setting.

    When it’s put in the context of “winning” something – it just feels like a slight invalidation for those of us that sing this music for purposes other than appearing on main stage. Don’t get me wrong – Sunday Edition is honored every year we are invited back. That’s a little bit of validation for us. And it’s totally enough.

    That’s why I love the term “Showcase Spotlight!” It’s a great way to highlight specific ministries without making it sound like it’s a competition to everyone! Good job on that NQC!

    Ok I’m done venting! Haha!

  17. Thanks for these updates. But I’m just curious: why isn’t Signature Sound at NQC this year? I remember looking at NQC’s schedule and they didn’t show up anywhere. :/

    • Every year, there are always a couple of groups that either don’t come to a financial agreement with the NQC Board or have other dates scheduled. This year, EHSS, the Inspirations, and the Dove Brothers were among them.

      • Ah that makes more sense. Thanks!

      • I wondered where the Inspirations were.

    • Oh! I forgot to ask! Is there any new update on Naomi Sego?

  18. Jerry Goff was great!
    My impressions were a bit different of last night…I just didn’t hear anyone who put on a vocal set…beginging to end better than Gold City. Tim is so solid, the other guys were on at each song…
    Next for me was a toss upt between the next three-MTQ, Kingdom Heirs and Triumphant…
    I actually took someone who knows music but has never been to NQC (I am trying to generate new blood to NQC)…and his comment to me was how great several of the groups were…but GC was just the most full sounding and great for the entire 19 minutes…
    Midnight Cry was and still is a GREAT song!

    • I think that right now Gold City has the best group of guys that they have had since the days of Jay, Mark, Jonathan, and Tim. They had a very solid set last night, doing some of their older songs like Midnght Cry, and Get Up Get Ready. I was really impressed……

      • They’ve had a couple of vocal combinations that could have been really strong if they had stuck together, but it’s just a simple point of fact that it’s the configurations that stick together and have time to gel that have the best shot at making an impact.

      • I think this group should only get better….

      • Agreed.

  19. Guy: Gold City’s set last night was chosen by their fans and, in talking with them, they wanted to get in as many favorites as they could. Not surprisingly, Midnight Cry got the most votes even after 25 years. I’m sure they would have just as easly enjoyed singing their new record, but I applaud them for making this one night about the fans. NQC is the closest thing that the southern gospel industry has to a fan festival, and I thank Gold City for recognizing that. Of course, I realize they have three nights to spread out their music, and so giving a night to the fans will not necessarily keep them from doing all the music they hope to present to the audience, but still it’s nice when a group “gets it” and tries to do what the fans want to hear. And I agree with Sandy that they have a great line-up and I hope they stay together a long time. Their lead singer, Jerry Pelfrey, reminds me a lot of Ivan’s original cut of the song. Not comparing the two, but I do hear some similarity in their tone. I wish them well, and salute Tim Riley as arguably one of the best bass singers to pick up a microphone–ever! The man defies age and time and I would venture to guess that every bass singer in the building under the age of 60 secretly wants to be him when they grow up! LOL

    • I enjoyed GC’s set last night.
      Did anyonme watch the GVB Reunion this afternoon? If so, please post comemnts and highlights. Any suprises or awesome moments? I will watch it once it becomes avaiable On Demand.

      • I’ll say a few things about the GVB Reunion. Penrod was there, MxSpadden was not. Otherwise, I think it was the same cast as last year. They did do some different songs than last year and some that they did do last year. They opened with “One Voice”, they had all of the members do the National Anthem, they did “Glorious Freedom” which went over well I think. They called Joe Moscheo to the stage and talked about the Imperials connection. Jim Murray did “Sail On” joined by the Booth Brothers and Lee Young stepped up and sang bass on it. .

      • I’ll add a few more things that were different than last time or the DVDs. Jon Mohr interrupted Bill and said how Bill had helped him become a better writer, how Bill and Gloria have so many songs that we have sung that say just what we want to say, and asked the audience to stand and give them a hand for what all they have done for us (paraphrased). Guy complimented Mark and said he finds himself saying things Mark had said and how much Mark has meant to him (once again paraphrased). Also after Bill had Mark sing the baritone part of the National Anthem by itself, Guy quipped that it took him a month to teach it to Mark (probably not far off of the mark no pun intended). There were other good moments (some of songs that were on the previous Reunion DVDs or from last year), but I need to go.

  20. What is the criteria or how does a group go about getting to perform at the NQC?

    • That question has two different answers.

      (1) If you’re talking about mainstage performances, those are at the sole discretion of the Board of Directors of the National Quartet Convention (a privately owned company).

      (2) If you’re talking about showcase performances, I believe that all musical groups who purchase a booth to exhibit are allowed to sing in the Regional Artist Showcase (unless they’re invited to one of the more prestigious showcases instead.)