NQC 2009: Friday
My day started with the Song of a Lifetime showcase. The original Couriers’ rendition of Statue of Liberty was probably the high point of the set. Dave, Duane, and Neil (as the group is now known after passing the name along to another group once they originally came off the road) delivered a magnificent performance with a lush orchestral Lari Goss-produced track that had the audience on its feet by the first chorus.
Rodney Griffin told the story behind a sermon his father preached that inspired “He’ll Carry Me”: “Today I carry you to Your grave; soon You’ll carry me from mine.” The song also received a standing ovation. Jacob Kitson’s voice was so perfect for the song that one cannot help but hope that Greater Vision would see fit to re-cut the song with his vocal at some point.
Triumphant Quartet involved the audience in a handkerchief-waving toe-tapping rendition of “Old White Flag.” Dianne Wilkinson, the song’s author, did not speak until afterward. Initially that seemed odd, but the reason quickly became evident when she presented him with a framed version of the piece of paper upon which she originally scribbled down the song idea and lyrics.
After the Couriers’ virtuoso performance at the showcase, their set on the main stage was a must-see. And what can I say? Three songs, three standing ovations. They started off with their classic a capella arrangement of “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” receiving a partial standing ovation. “One Nation Over God” got a virtually unanimous standing ovation. As I expected, they closed with “Statue of Liberty,” and the audience was on its feet before the end.
Greater Vision sang immediately before the Signature Sound / Gaither Vocal Band set. Probably the highlight was Gerald Wolfe’s rendition of “There Is a River,” set up by a humorous story of how a lady had quit begging him to sing the song each year and started threatening him that she wouldn’t come back if he didn’t. He said that he told her that the song was so long that he was afraid the program would run over and he would get fined. He asked if she would be willing to pay the $200 fine (for running two minutes over). She said she would. So he asked her if she’d pay it in advance, in case he couldn’t find her afterwards.
Before Signature Sound came on stage, Gordon Mote played an uptempo rendition of “Give The World a Smile.” Mote isn’t a convention-style pianist, and even when he plays something close to convention style, it still has a different feel from when a Stewart Varnado, Bryan Elliott, or even Anthony Burger takes the lead.
Signature Sound sang much the same set they did at the Together showcase. This time, though, they started with their recent hit single, “Reason Enough.” Ernie Haase did give a more detailed introduction to “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” describing a recent Opryland performance where they sang the song.
Then, in one of the most fascinating transitions in NQC, Doug Anderson sang several lines of a verse to “Reason Enough,” before Ernie Haase started into an acoustic piano-and-voice rendition of “Oh, What a Savior.” A little further into the song, the rest of the Gaither band kicked in, and the soundtrack was punched in for the final ending. It was a fascinating, best-of-both-worlds setup, with the spontaniety of a live song and the orchestra for the big ending.
Signature Sound closed their set with “Amen Chorus,” involving the audience in the fairly simple chorus while Tim Duncan, Ernie Haase, and Doug Anderson sang the solo lines.
The Gaither Vocal Band opened with a song that was probably the single most discussed event of the night: “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary.” Wes Hampton sang David Phelps’ verse…and, with an astonishing authority, his high tag for the big ending.
Another highlight was hearing Gloria Gaither sing live for the first time. I have probably heard her give recitations at previous Gaither showcases at NQC, but after her recitation on “Something About That Name,” she sang with the Vocal Band for the rest of the song.
Bill Gaither and Michael English closed the set with “Worthy the Lamb.” It wasn’t Guy Penrod, and maybe it wasn’t quite as awesome. But to be almost as breathtaking as Penrod on that song is amazing.
Speaking of Penrod: He is here at the National Quartet Convention. He got in last night, and word is that he will be appearing at the Featured Artist Spotlight showcase in the showcase some time between 12:30 and 4 PM.
The Booth Brothers had a strong set, with a good mix of slow songs (“Look for Me,”) recent songs (“Blind Man” and “Tradin’ The Old Cross”), and a group classic (“Still Feelin’ Fine.”)
The Diplomats only got one song (“That’s What Heaven Means to Me”), but they pulled out all the stops, pulling in Zane King to play steel guitar and the Hoppers’ bus driver (whose name escapes me) to play rhythm guitar.
The moment I wish I’d caught was when Brian Free & Assurance featuring Jeremy Lile on “Save Me a Seat at the Table.” Lile’s father had passed away earlier in the week. The funeral was that day, and he arrived at Freedom Hall less than an hour before the group’s set. I did catch the song on the live screens in the vendor’s hall. He was choking up in the first verse, but recovered to turn in a strong performance for the remainder of the song. He choked up again in the final tag, but by that point he had already turned in such a strong performance that he received a prolonged standing ovation.
One day to go!