NQC 2007: Saturday: Pianorama

This year marked Gerald Wolfe’s first time to moderate the Pianorama / Parade of Pianos, a position previously held by Roger Bennett and by Anthony Burger. He did a superb job during the first half; Dino moderated the second half.

The first half of the program had songs by several of the most notable Southern Gospel pianists. Jeff Stice performed the Cathedrals’ “Jesus Saves” as a tribute to Roger Bennett.

Joshua Pope performed a no-soundtrack rendition of “New Born Feeling.” It was well received by the audience; the couple next to me looked at one another after his solo, and one of them said, “That kid’s good.” Their reaction seemed to be par for the course.

Channing Eleton performed a complex but rousing arrangement of Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, also without soundtracks.

Darrell Stewart introduced his piano solo, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” by saying that he wanted to play the song in such a way that the audience actually recognized it.

Stewart Varnado surprised me slightly by playing his solo, “Gloryland Way,” with a soundtrack. During the Dixie Echoes’ live performances, he typically performs without a soundtrack, and in my opinion is at his best in that setting.

Tim Parton performed a fairly mellow and pleasant rendition of “In My Heart There Rings a Melody.”

As I tried to come up with an adjective to describe Roy Webb’s “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the word that kept coming to mind was “rollicking.” At certain points in the song he used his hands as drumsticks and the piano as a drum, keeping rhythm. He had at least three rounds of applause in the course of the song, one of which occurred after Gerald Wolfe came out and improvised some choreography. (I believe that last phrase may be an oxymoron, but I could not come up with anything better.)

On the spur of the moment, after Stan Whitmire came to the piano and was about to begin his solo, Gerald Wolfe asked him to play a Christmas song; Whitmire obliged with “Winter Wonderland.”

Josh Singletary performed a solo next; I was unable to determine the song title.

Kim Collingsworth performed “When They Ring those Golden Bells” without a soundtrack. She built the song to a climax before ending on a more subdued note.

The second half of the Pianorama featured Dino. Wolfe, the announced emcee, went behind the pianos and said nothing for the rest of the show except when called upon by Dino. Dino performed several solos, including several movie theme songs that had no evident connection to Southern Gospel. One medley from the segment stands out as a highlight of the show; Dino performed a medley of Onward Christian Soldiers, at Calvary, and Standing on the Promises, sharing the keyboard with Gerald Wolfe, Josh Singletary, and Kim Collingsworth, respectively.

A video of Roger Bennett singing “It is Well” promised to end the Pianorama / Parade of Pianos on a high note, but a long product pitch followed and closed out the program.

I’m not sure whether the program was called Pianorama or Parade of Pianos this year, and the performers themselves seem to be not quite positive themselves. Either way, the Parade of Pianos was a mixed bag containing mostly highlights and a few forgettable moments. It would be improved next year by limiting Dino–if he comes back–to one song, the same as the other pianists, and using the time freed up to feature a few more top-notch Southern Gospel pianists such as Matthew Holt, Andrew Ishee, Brad White, and Brian Elliot.

I will observe briefly that I also attended the Hoppers’ 50th Anniversary Celebration. The modern-day Hoppers sang “Freedom Band,” “Yaweh,” “How Great Thou Art” (featuring the Jackson Sisters string ensemble), “Yes I Am,” “I’ve Come Too Far,” and Jerusalem.” The original Hopper Brothers–tenor Will Rogers Hopper, lead Steve Hopper, baritone Claude Hopper, and bass Monroe Hopper–sang “Try a Little Kindness,” “Everybody Ought to Know,” “I’m Bound for that City” (featuring Steve), “More like Jesus,” “Already Mine” (with Connie singing a fifth part), and “Where We Ever Shall Be” (featuring Steve). The modern-day Hoppers came back on to sing “I’ll See Him When He Comes Down” and “Shoutin’ Time.” It was an excellent production, but I don’t have enough original observations to merit giving it a post of its own.


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19 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I wish you had just said that it was Roger Bennett’s song “Jesus Saves” that Jeff Stice played instead of mentioning the Cathedrals. (Perhaps you weren’t aware that Roger wrote it.) I don’t know if the Cathedrals performed it or not, but the tribute had nothing to do with the Cathedrals and was Jeff’s personal tribute to his great friend.

    I agree with your comments about Dino. I thought it was pretty obvious that Dino is NOT a Southern Gospel artist and I would love to see the program left to the SG performers next year.

  2. I knew Roger Bennett wrote it! They said that, and I *was* listening. 😉

    And yes, the Cathedrals performed it. It was the Cathedrals’ rendition that won Song of the Year in 1995. The Cathedrals did it on the album that got me hooked on Southern Gospel, High and Lifted Up, a splendid album.

    I think the statement that it has “nothing to do with the Cathedrals” is a little strong, since it was introduced on a Cathedrals project while Roger was a Cathedral–and it was the Cathedrals’ recording of the song that won Song of the Year.

  3. I guess my statement wasn’t strong enough. Jeff did not perform the song because the Cathedrals sang it or because it was song of the year. Not everything is about the Cathedrals, Daniel. It was all about Roger.

  4. Jeff performed a song the Cathedrals recorded while Roger was with them as a tribute to Roger Bennett.

    I still think “nothing to do with the Cathedrals” is too strong. Of course, not everything is about the Cathedrals. I know that well. But I’m trying to give credit where credit is due–both to Roger, who wrote the song, and to the group where he became a legend.

  5. This is a lot of ado over one or two words. Judging by the fans’ response in the 1995 Fan Awards, the song was one of the most popular the Cathedrals ever recorded. So I believe it is accurate to call it a Cathedrals song.

    I also believe it is not inappropriate to refer to Roger Bennett’s time with the Cathedrals. Suppose his first professional job was as Legacy Five’s pianist. Take the nearly 25 years he spent with the Cathedrals off of his resume, and he would not be the legend he became.

  6. I give up, Daniel.

  7. I sincerely apologize if I offended you, or if I offended anyone who might not care for the Cathedrals, or otherwise be offended when I mention Roger Bennett’s years with them.

  8. About ‘High And Lifted Up’, I totally disagree. The amount of orchestra and stacked vocals was totally unnessecary for a whole project. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s fitting on most of the songs. I just think that they choose too many songs of that nature to put on one release. All the songs sound the same when listening to them back-to-back on ‘High And Lifted Up’.
    Yet, on a positive note, “Jesus Saves” is a great song.
    I also agree about limiting Dino next year.

  9. Mary,

    It was indeed a heavy amount of orchestral songs for a Cathedrals recording. But I am personally glad they did it for that one project, since that is the style I liked when listening to CCM, and it was precisely what I needed to get me hooked on Southern Gospel.

    Now that I am a Southern Gospel fan, I like other projects they recorded more. But I am grateful they did that one! 🙂

  10. “Jesus Has Risen” was Song Of The Year in ’95. “Jesus Saves” was nominated in ’95.

    To say Roger Bennett and the Cathedrals have nothing to do with each other is as ridiculous as saying Larry Bird and the Celtics have nothing to do with each other.

  11. Ooops, “Jesus Saves” was nominated in ’94!

  12. Jeff Stice was absolutely incredible in that song. He cried the whole time he played, faltering only once at the end. I sincerely hope that they filmed this year’s Parade Of Pianos, because that, ladies and gentlemen, shows how talented Stice is. A very bittersweet moment, and a definite highlight in the tribute.

  13. Quote:
    Cathedralmaniac says;
    “To say Roger Bennett and the Cathedrals have nothing to do with each other is as ridiculous as saying Larry Bird and the Celtics have nothing to do with each other.”

    I’ve tried to stay out of this, but I just can’t. Cathedralmaniac, you don’t understand either! If one of Larry Bird’s best friends was giving a PERSONAL TRIBUTE to Larry, it would not have mattered to that friend where Larry HAD WORKED during his lifetime. His “celebrity” status would not have mattered to Larry’s friend. And to Jeff Stice, where Roger had worked in the past had nothing to do with his personal friendship or his tribute. It was a personal act that was (fortunately) viewed by other people who also didn’t care at that particular moment about where Roger had worked when he penned the song. If the song had been a “flop”, it wouldn’t have mattered either. Roger was a man, a husband, a father, and a friend. THAT was what Jeff was celebrating with his tribute. As Diana said, IT WAS ALL ABOUT ROGER. It was about Roger ONLY. Nothing else.

  14. Please, Donna and Dinana, calm down just a little. I did not say Jeff did it as a tribute to the Cathedrals, for goodness’ sakes. All I said was he did a Cathedrals song–which Bennett did indeed write and have the solo on–as a tribute to Roger Bennett.

    I knew it was a tribute to Roger Bennett. We all know that, and I did not mean to minimize that in the slightest. Roger was a great musician and deserved the tribute.

    So you may wonder why I chose the phrase I did. Well, I’ve been wondering the same thing all day, myself. I finally remembered a few minutes ago. When I was typing the blog post, I originally typed it without the words “the Cathedrals’.” But then I realized people might think I was referring to the hymn by that name, or the Hoppers song by that name. So I decided I had to put the identifying tag on the song to save confusion.

    I have been so saddened by the firefight that I am considering deleting this post and all the comments on it. I had the best of intentions, and thinking back the only reason I used an identifying group was to make sure my readers knew which song it was.

    Donna and Dinana, please accept my apologies. I said it was a tribute to Roger Bennett, and I never intended the reference to the group that introduced the song to minimize that in any way.

    If you are still offended by my reference, and not satisfied by my explanation, I will delete this post tomorrow morning. This will be the first time in the year I have done this blog that I have done that. Incidentally, the blog celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow. What a way to turn one.

  15. Diana and I absolutely accept your explanation, Daniel. It makes a lot of sense in context. And we certainly don’t want you to delete your post!
    Grief and giving tribute are pretty deep subjects, so emotions naturally get involved. I think Diana just wanted to make sure that everyone understood that the tribute was all about Roger, and now that we understand why the “Cathedrals” reference was included, it’s okay.

    But I will say that I found Cathedralmaniac’s use of the word “ridiculous” to be extremely offensive. Diana NEVER said Roger Bennett and the Cathedrals had nothing to do with each other. She said the TRIBUTE had nothing to do with the Cathedrals. Perhaps Cathdralmaniac should go back and reread Diana’s comments. And before casting negative words about, maybe he/she should get the quote correct!

  16. Thank you, Donna; I really appreciate you coming back on and posting. It’s amazing how words can be misunderstood online. If you had just heard me say that phrase in person, this misunderstanding would have never happened.

    ….Whew! Now that that’s out of the way, I can make a happy post tomorrow. 🙂

  17. Daniel, Roger was one of my favorites of all time and I didn’t see anything wrong with anything you posted. I know that Jeff Stice did a great job paying tribute to his friend.

  18. I’m just curious about what Donna and Diana have said to my friend Cathedralmaniac (good grief, man, I feel silly typing that!) and Daniel. Feel free to delete this post, Mr. Moderator, but here’s my question to the ladies: Were you offended by the tribute presentation on the awards show that showed footage of Roger with the Cathedrals and Legacy 5 as well as pictures of him and his family? If not, what’s the difference?

    I just wish Roger was here…he’d make a joke about all this. 🙁

  19. Clarence, all that I was trying to say was that the song Jeff played was written by Roger Bennett and that was what made it special. Daniel thought it would be more clear if he said it was a Cathedrals song because there are several songs with the name “Jesus Saves.”

    I really and truly have nothing against the Cathedrals, although by the time I started listening to SG music, the Cathedrals were no longer singing as a group. I was not offended at all with any of the footage of Roger with the Cathedrals. I just wanted to make it clear that the tribute during the Pianorama by Jeff was a tribute to Roger and not the Cathedrals. That’s all.

    Hope that clears things up. I sure didn’t mean to cause this big of a problem.