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.