NQC 2007: Friday: Artist Spotlight Showcase

The Friday Afternoon NQC Artist Spotlight showcase was about what one would expect–a mixed bag of groups that really belong on the Main Stage and groups that didn’t even belong on that stage.

Technical issues plagued the first part of the show, delaying the start of the showcase by fifteen minutes. Groups that were only scheduled to sing two songs still got to do that, but groups like the Collingsworth Family that were scheduled for twenty minutes (four songs) got cut to two.

The Collingsworth Family started the show, turning in an able performance. Emcee Zane King referred to the fact that Gaither was adding them to selected dates on the Homecoming Tour, and by the end of their brief set the audience knew why. The entire family ensemble sang on “Light from Heaven,” then Kim Collingsworth played a piano solo, “And Can it Be.” When I heard the introductory bars, I was honestly expecting a subdued rendition of the hymn, with perhaps a few runs and fills. Instead, she turned it into an anthem, building toward a big finish that brought the audience to its feet.

The Northmen were up second. I honestly could not understand enough words of their first song to even make a good guess at its title. Their second song, “Gonna Have a Meetin’,” sounds like it was originally arranged for a quartet. The  group introduced it as their signature song, and their enthusiasm for the song helped make up for any weaknesses introduced by the absence of a bass singer.

The Bradys performed two songs, “In Canaan We’ll Be Wearing a Crown” and “I’m Going Home Today.”

The Browns’ two-song set was the pleasant surprise of the week, so far, exceeding my expectations. (EDIT: 8/5/2011: Broken link removed) I was expecting some energy during their fiddle song, and “I’m Gonna Shout” fit the bill. Their enthusiasm (and, of course, musical prowess) on the song brought them a standing ovation. (By the way, one thing I didn’t mention was that in this showcase, nearly everyone stood for basically every standing ovation, unlike main stage concerts where nearly half of the audience seems to never stand for anything.)

While I don’t recall the precise words, they introduced their second and final song, “It Will Be Worth it All (When We See Jesus” by saying that they were going to sing an old hymn. Rather than using the Jim Hamill emceeing style of inflating expectations–sometimes beyond credulity–they chose the opposite course. The audience–except perhaps for those who had heard them before–went into the song expecting a relaxing breather after their first song. Instead, they started slowly but built the song to a big finish that had the audience on its feet by the final notes. They were the only group in the showcase–at least during the first hour (after which I had to leave)–to get a standing ovation on both songs.

Emcee Zane King came on stage and sang a song he’d written, “I’m Coming Home Lord.” It wasn’t announced as part of the program, and on first glance seemed like an odd programming choice. It almost seemed like a letdown after the Browns’ set. But as the song progressed, I think I finally hit on what he was doing. They say that a performer never wants to follow a child on stage–especially one like Andrew Brown who isn’t just cute, but is also talented and has an enthusiastic stage presence. I think King did the song not to show off his own abilities, or even to sell the song itself to the audience. His motives were probably exactly the opposite; he probably wanted to spare the next group (the Daryl Williams Trio) from having to follow an act like the Browns.

Despite cutting artists’ time slots, the show ran over time, and other commitments forced me to leave at that point. But the showcase remains one of the unexpected high points of the week.

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