NQC 2009: Thursday
Seeing the Gaither Vocal Band / Signature Sound Together showcase was an unforgettable experience–not least because I got in early enough (two hours before the concert started) to get a front-row seat. Seeing David Phelps hit a high note on a video is one thing, and seeing him from the nosebleeds and hearing it over the sound system is another. But being ten feet away and hearing the notes themselves before they hit the sound system is something else entirely.
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound started the program. Probably wisely, given the audience, they pulled heavily from the more traditional parts of their repertoire, starting with the classic “Our Debts Will Be Paid” (featuring lead singer Ryan Seaton) and the newer classic-in-the-making “Glory to God in the Highest” (featuring bass singer Tim Duncan).
Their recent #1 hit song, “Reason Enough,” went over quite well. Their acapella rendition of “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” also got a strong response.
They did sing one song from their brand-new Christmas recording (Every Light that Shines at Christmas), “Changed By a Baby Boy.”
Then they pulled out two vintage-style micropones for the remainder of their set. They sang “My Heart is a Chapel,” “Swinging on the Golden Gates,” “Walk With Me,” and “Since Jesus Passed By.”
As Signature Sound walked off stage, the lights were dimmed, and the Gaither Vocal Band walked onto the stage in hazy blue light, singing “Alpha and Omega.”
David Phelps was featured on “At the Cross”; as incredible as the song is recorded or on a Homecoming video, it is indescribably breathtaking from merely feet away.
Michael English was featured on “Temporary Home.” There was a round of applause when he stepped forward. There also was for his part and the other parts in the three-tenor rendition of “The Love of God.”
Mark Lowry and Bill Gaither were featured on “Satisfied.”
Lowry was featured again on Journey to the Sky, and received a standing ovation.
David Phelps sang “Nessun Dorma” solo. He ended the song on a powerfully high note and received a standing ovation.
Michael English and Mark Lowry were featured on “He Touched Me.”
English introduced “Lord, Feed Your Children” by saying that it had been a number of years since he stood on the National Quartet Convention stage, but it was good to be home. The song received a prolonged standing ovation. The Gaither Vocal Band closed their set with “It is Finished,” which received another standing ovation.
After Gordon Mote gave the other singers a break by singing “Old Gospel Ship,” the Gaither Vocal Band and Signature Sound did several songs together. They sang “Great Day,” highlighted by a particularly strong solo from Wes Hampton, “Love Like a River,” “Swing Down Chariot,” “Sitting at the Feet of Jesus,” and “I Then Shall Live.” On the final song, a trio comprised of Wes Hampton, Ryan Seaton, and Doug Anderson sang several lines. Their blend was phenomenal.
I had (and have) a crazy schedule, trying to get video up for a number of websites, so I was unable to spend as much time in Freedom Hall as I wanted to.
I did catch the Mark Trammell Trio set; they sang “Mansion Over the Hilltop,” “Sweetest Song I Know,” “If Only Just a Few,” and “Standing On the Solid Rock.”
The Hoppers and Collingsworth Family sang “Family of God” together. Then the Collingsworth Family started their set with an a capella rendition of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” featuring Courtney. Olivia was featured on “Little By Little.” A teenage trio of Phil Jr., Courtney, and Brooklyn sang a new Gerald Crabb song, “I Know.” (Come to think of it, though, I might not be able to use that any longer, since I recall hearing a reference to Brooklyn having heard twenty.) Courtney played a violin solo (truly solo, without even piano) on “There is a Fountain”; this led into their song “The Blood of Jesus.”
The Talley Trio sang four songs. They started with one of the strongest songs from their new project (Songs You Know By Heart), “Amazing Grace.” Debra sang the first verses, and Lauren finished with the last two. Roger was featured on “My Hope is In the Lord.” Then Lauren closed with two songs, the Talleys classic “Mountain Mover” and another song new to the Talley Trio, “He’s Alive.” It’s hard for a brand new song that many in the audience have never heard to get a standing ovation, but this one did.
Tribute Quartet started their set with two songs from their new project, “I’ve Been Blessed,” featuring lead Gary Casto, bass Dennis Dugger, and tenor Brian Alvey. I scribbled in my notes that it was remarkable how much Dugger sounds like Legacy Five bass Glen Dustin. Casto and Alvey sang solos on another new song, “That’s Why I Love Him So.” Brian Alvey closed the set with “Who Am I”; oddly, for whatever reason, even counting the “Who Am I” encore with the Perrys, Tribute Quartet walked off stage with 6 1/2 minutes left on the clock timing their set.
The Perrys featured Troy Peach and Libbi Stuffle on “Old Fashioned Altar.” For whatever reason (probably, like for so many groups for the rest of the week, microphone issues), one of Libbi’s feature lines in a final chorus was inaudible. And since the audience didn’t hear any vocals when that happened, the Perrys cannot be accused of over-stacking their songs.
One detour along those lines for a minute, if I may. Many singers use stacks–pre-recording their own voices–to help in certain situations. It allows the singers to ease off the power on big endings or save a set in a room with poor acoustics (Freedom Hall, anyone?) But, I am of the opinion that some amateur commentators mistake reverb for stacks. Most sound boards, including the ones used during the National Quartet Convention, have live processing effects. If a singer is minutely south or north of their pitch, and they were either on or slightly off in the other direction a moment before, reverb can add the choir effect that casual readers who know just enough to be dangerous can mistakenly assume to be stacked vocals.
Back to the Perrys’ set. They sang “If You Knew Him,” featuring lead singer Joseph Habedank, and received a standing ovation. They closed their set with “I Wish I Coulda Been There,” encoring it with Tribute Quartet, Morgan Easter (who had begged them to sing the song), and one or two other artists who had stayed in the artist circle to the finale.
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I know, I fell behind, and this post is late. Please accept my apologies, and I’ll do my best to catch up! Maintaining six websites is a bigger job than I anticipated, but it’s a job I love. You have to love this music to survive this convention! But if you do, then the long days are a joy.