Southern Gospel Quintets

The new Gaither Vocal Band may be the best-known quintet (as a quintet) in Southern Gospel in recent years, but it’s not the only oneβ€”and by some standards, not even necessarily the best. (Though with the level of talent they have, they’ll have to be somewhere near the top of a best quintets list.)

The final lineups of the Cathedral Quartet did a fair number of songs as a quintet, with Roger Bennett or Gerald Wolfe joining in on a fifth part. The final lineup particularly shone when Bennett added a fifth part on convention songs like “Hard Trials,” while the Wolfe lineup’s quintet arrangement of “Champion of Love” is one of the best remembered songs the Cathedrals ever recorded.

Along those same lines, in the one chance I had to see Legacy Five live with Roger Bennett (in 2005), the highlights of the concert were moments when Roger joined the group vocally, most memorably on “Joy.”

The Statesmen also sang some numbers as a quintet, whenever Hovie Lister would take the lead.

Though not strictly Southern Gospel, the Fairfield Four quintet has appeared on the Gaither Homecoming Series, notably here.

What are some other examples of prominent Southern Gospel quintets? And if you had to make an all-time top 5 list, who would make the list?

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38 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I almost choked on my coffee when I read the part of this post that said “by some standards, not even necessarily the best” and “they’ll have to be somewhere near the top of a best quintets list.” Huh??? I heard “Joy” and other songs by L5 with Roger several times live and on recordings and I really enjoyed them, but they don’t come close to the sound of the Vocal Band. I can’t comment knowledgeably about the other groups you mentioned but I also can’t think of any groups that I would put on a Southern Gospel quintet list except the Vocal Band. To me, adding a fifth singer on a few songs doesn’t mean that they should be considered a quintet.

    Good way to get a discussion going, DM!!

    • I said “not even necessarily the best” mainly because of the Cathedrals. A quintet arrangement I forgot to mention: “Champion of Love.”


      • There may be others besides me that really aren’t crazy about Champion of Love!! And still the name of the group was the Cathedral Quartet.

      • Yeah, there are others. πŸ™‚ (But it’s OK with me that a lot of people are crazy about it!)

        I’m anxious to hear some of the GVB’s new music. My dad was asking the other night where they find the fifth part – are they always singing 6ths & 7ths? I had to say I haven’t heard and don’t know yet.

      • Hi Amy, in any triad chord one can position a 2nd, 6th, 7b, or a 7th without changing the root chord. It is far more difficult to add to a chord like a diminished, but still it can be done. GVB seem very enamored with 3b’s for some reason, and you hear that a lot in their arrangements. Other chords they use from time to time are add 9’s, which I also like and we use quite a bit. A 9th is just a second on top of the chord an octave up. You hear string arrangements many times with this “add 9” shimmer on top.

      • “…in any triad chord one can position a 2nd, 6th, 7b, or a 7th without changing the root chord. It is far more difficult to add to a chord like a diminished, but still it can be done…”

        What you have described here is still just 4 parts. I consider myself to be relatively musically inclined, and I have yet to hear 5 part harmony on any of the new GVBs songs. “I Am Loved” may employ 5 parts on a couple of chords here and there, but not throughout the whole song. What I am seeing a lot of is Wes and David sharing the tenor part, either as dubbing it or featuring one or the other on “their” songs. Also, it allows them to add a lead-in/repeat part to a song without losing the part in the regular lines, something that usually can only be done in a studio, not live. As far as actual 5-part harmony, I haven’t heard it done by the GVB yet as a whole. I know they are working on a new CD with all new songs written and arranged for this particular group, so maybe we’ll hear it on that.

        Another possibility for 5 parts is that when the chord moves to a 4-note chord, Bill keeps singing the “regular” bass part and the other 4 guys do the 4-parts as described above.

      • Oops. But you did mention “Champion of Love” Daniel.:)

      • No, I edited it in, since it made the post so much better. πŸ™‚

      • Joe you missed the intent. A normal triad chord has only three notes, although the bass will usually be on the root, doubling with another singer an octave down. By adding a 2nd, 6th, 7th or a 7b, or a combination of two of these you can easily have a chord with true 5 part harmony. And believe me, GVB uses this approach somewhere on virtually every song and have for as long as they have been in business. It is one of the reasons their harmonies sound so think. The 5th part may be really a 4 note chord, with the bass on the root, again doubling with someone 8 down, but it is still 5 notes and it sounds thick. Many times when you add a 2nd to a chord you mix it so that it is faintly heard. Just enough to add tension to the chord. That is what makes the chord sound thick. L5 recently recorded a song I arranged and we cut a few years back called “Why”. It has within the arrangement sections that are true 5 notes, no one doubling. When L5 did the song they pretty much copied my arrangement, and I was flatered that they did that! Take a simple C chord. The basic note makup is C, E, G with the bass on the C root 8 down. Now add an A and you have a C6th. Add a D to that and you now have a C6th add9, and that is a true 5 note chord. I use this type chord structure a lot. It makes the sound clustered tight.

      • Ben, thanks for the clarification! I am still learning!

  2. So I guess Horizon Group of the Year, The Crist Family, would be a SEPTET, since all seven sing on many of their arrangements.

  3. ooohhh…for a senond I thought we were going to talk about stacks again LOL.

  4. I should thing to be classified as a quintet they would have to tour as a quintet rather than adding a fifth person for a song here and there?

    • For awards purposes, maybe.

      Not necessarily for informal discussion.

  5. sorry, thing should have been think!

  6. How about the Hunter Family from Saskatchewan? Mom, Dad and five sons whose personal appearances are totally captivating. Like the Liberty Quartet, the Hunters live so far geographically from the mainstream of the SG beaten paths that it’s hard for them to put roots down into the heart of the concert circuit. But they are no only the best kept secret in SG, but an extraordinary group in every way.

    • Unfortunately, I haven’t heard any of their recordings yet. I hope to one of these days!

  7. I like the Hayes Family, Howard, Lucy, Janet, Sharon, and Mylon. They sing all types of songs but my favorites are the old time hymns and gospel songs. They are the ( quintessential ) of the quintets. πŸ™‚

  8. Well, if we’re going to redefine quartets as quintets simply by virtue of the fact that they occasionally allow their accompanist to sing, I feel compelled to cite Neil’s own Couriers during the time L. David Young was a member of their group.

    Already known as a fine singer upon his joining the Couriers(Young was in such noted groups as the Foggy River Boys and the Sons of Song), Young’s featured singing on such Couriers sides as “Jesus Hold My Hand”(1963), “Just A Closer Walk With Thee”, “Jesus Knows About You”, and “Led Out Of Bondage”(all 1964)were among the most well-received songs the Couriers performed in those days.

    Of course, you mentioned Hovie Lister with his Statesmen as well, and his performances on “Get Away Jordan” and “My Home” have become recognized as gospel music classics.

    But I think even Hovie would have resisted the labelling of the Statesmen as a “quintet”, even on those songs. They were, after all, singing quartet arrangements, just doubling on the lead part.

  9. About 7 years ago, there was a group that recorded on the Faith Music Missions label. They were called the brothers. Two sets of brothers and a brother.

  10. Let’s not forget about the Rex Nelon Singers.

  11. And the Blackwood Brothers in the early 80’s often a quintet…for at time with, I think, Robert Winston (not RW Blackwood but another gentleman who really was a pretty good tenor…I think he was only with them for maybe a year), and then again with Kenna Turner.

    • Just remembered, his name was Robert Crawford.

  12. You could also include the Isaacs who, in years past often used 5-part harmony. In their early days it was Lily, Joe, Becky, Sonya, and Ben. Later on, the 5 parts were Sonya, Lily, Becky, John Bowman, and Ben. Nowadays, they use primarily the three parts of Sonya, Becky, and Ben, with Lily added in on some songs.

    Also, the earlier years of the Hoppers were often with a fifth person and harmony part.

  13. Gotta say I was shocked with those first two sentences as well.

    I say this in the utmost respect but if this isn’t is the best quintet in “recent years” then I don’t know who is.

    • Some would say the Cathedrals. πŸ™‚

      • The Cathedrals can hardly be considered “recent” since their retirement was over 10 years ago. Just saying. πŸ™‚

      • I consider them recent! πŸ™‚

  14. Speer Family frequently had 5 singers, and early on Ben often doubled the soprano on lead…that was their sound. But, I wouldn’t call them a quintet. They were still doing straight-forward quartet arrangements, just lots of doubling. When Harold Lane was with them, they did a lot of 6-part stuff: 3 ladies and 3 guys–gorgeous arrangements!

    • I thought one of the best Harold Lane arranged songs that the Speers sang was an a cappella number. I think the title was “I Sure Do Love the Lord, How About You?” I wouldn’t consider this a straight-forward quartet arrangement.

  15. Even the Collingsworth Family has 5 singers, but you do not hear much 5 part harmony out of them.

    • If you count Olivia, there are 6 Collingsworths!

      • I was just going to say that!

  16. The Dixie Echoes also were a quintet occasionally during the mid-70s when Keith Palmer was with them.

  17. What part does Tim Parton sing when he sings with Legacy V? I often see him singing along as he is playing. Lead? Baritone?

    • Baritone range, but frequently a fifth part.

  18. Oh, and I notice that nobody has tried to make a top 5 list yet.

    Don’t worry (for these purposes) about whether they sang every song as a quintet – just how they sounded when they were singing as one.