NQC 2007: Follow-Up Suggestions

My first National Quartet Convention was one of the most amazing events I’ve ever been a part of. It would be hard to improve something this good, but I did keep an eye out for ideas throughout the week. Here are a few ways in which NQC could possibly be improved:

  • Move the vendors’ hall closer. Fortunately, they’re already doing that next year.
  • Close the vendor’s hall at midnight on Friday. That way, the groups who leave for a Saturday evening date (and there were several) can do that, and all the exhibitors that do not can pack out Freedom Hall for the big finale.
  • Do more special lineups like the Eric Phillips / Joseph Habedank / Scott Inman /Jeremy Lile / Josh Singletary quartet. If you put a lineup that strong together, give them a whole set (and make and sell a video, too!)
  • In that same light, I’d like to see a trio with some genuinely young artists on the stage. Just imagine what kind of a response a trio with Olivia Collingsworth, Andrew Brown, and Avery Wolfe (with Josh Pope on piano) would get! All three are vocally capable enough to handle a few serious songs; they don’t just have to sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
  • Every year, there are always a couple of artists who deserve to be on the main stage but aren’t. This year, the top three in my opinion were the Collingsworths, Jimmy Blackwood’s Blackwood Brothers, and the Browns.
  • There have been complaints about lack of draw after Thursday’s Fan Awards, probably the highlight of the convention. The Hoppers’ 50 Anniversary celebration sparked the idea that NQC could schedule a group reunion for a favorite group each year, offering the incentive of giving them a full hour and making a videotape for them to sell. Just imagine the draw a Gold City, Kingsmen, Dove Brothers, or Cathedrals reunion would have.

I just put these ideas out there for whatever they are worth. There is no way that all of them would (or even should) be adopted, but perhaps out of the list, there will be one or two worth using.


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28 Letters to the Editor

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  1. These are great, man! I know mentioning certain performers to the NQC heads helps in getting acts on the schedule, but I’d like the attending fans to have a more definite hand in voting for who appears and who doesn’t. You’d think the mass exodus between sets would do that, but some acts get on the sched year after year who might be better equipped to teach a Sunday school class, organize a shut-in catered meal, or such. Sure, some get on because of ties other than popularity, and I understand that. You gotta have a break for snacks! It’d be nice to have a powerhouse line-up to make that a challenge, though.

  2. Those are great suggestions Daniel.

  3. And for every two or three acts that don’t make the main stage, it’s perhaps a bromide of sorts that there are two or three who DO make the main stage that perhaps ought NOT to be there. (Don’t ask me who this year…I wasn’t there!)

    It’s good to know that someone who WAS though is making positive suggestions to improve the NQC rather than just complaining about what he/she didn’t like!:-)

  4. I agree with Inquirer.

  5. Good suggestions. The only thing that causes concern for me is the exhibit hall closing on Friday night. While I know that some of the vendors starting packing up on Saturday and I know they are very tired after a full week, it is a shame for those visitors that were only able to come on Saturday and not be able to purchase items that they might be interested. But I also don’t really know have a good solution for this problem either.

  6. Did anyone else catch the Hunters from Canada? Young professional handsome Hockey players – but they surprized me. They can sing! And very entertaining. If NQC wants to attract a younger audience (which isn’t a bad idea when you consider the demographics and the future of SG), it might want to give these five brothers a bigger platform.

  7. Inquirer is right.

    Suggestions #3 and 4 would probably interfere with #5 being enacted. But, like you said, not all should be “adotped”.

    Mentioning Jimmy Blackwood reminded me of something I’ve been pondering for a while. Did anyone besides me find it curious that, despite the tribute to JD Summner, James, Cecil, and RW Blackwood for founding the NQC in the September Singing News, none of their respective name-sakes’ groups (any of the 3 Blackwood groups, or the Stamps) were scheduled at the 50th NQC?
    Check their shedules in the back of the Singing News: none had the NQC marked as a booking. I would think surely that the groups that are associated with the founders of NQC would be scheduled, especially at this year’s. Was this just a coincidence, or something more?

  8. I think you’re onto some great ideas, Daniel! I especially applaud the ideas of getting “Dream-team” lineup quartets like the one with Eric, Joe, Scott, Jeremy, and Josh to sing more. One of the biggest highlights of NQC this year was when they sang just 1 song!

    I also LOVE the idea of getting a GC or Kingsmen or Cats reunion together. Especially Gold City. Here’s wondering why in the world GC doesn’t get Jay Parrack and Tim Riley (for starters) back up there to do a remix of the “Walk The Talk” days??

  9. I guess I hadn’t thought about them not being a part of the 50th NQC because they haven’t been involved for quite some time…but truthfully I feel they should have been there. Something like that could really attract a greater number of people, especially those who have a great respect for the days of “great quartet singing.”
    RW’s sons Ron & RW Balckwood (the Blackwoods), Cecil’s son Mark Blackwood (Blackwood Gospel Qt), and James’ son Jimmy Blackwood (Blackwood Brothers Qt) all lead very respectible quartets and I don’t feel they have been given a chance to prove it to the public.
    As far as the Stamps, I have not seen what the “new” Stamps are doing since the passing of JD Sumner, but they could have been involved for this celebration as well.
    As we look forward with new groups, we can’t forget to take a look backwards every now and then to the groups that made this all possible.

  10. Another idea is to look at what is attracting some of the young people today to southern gospel music. It isn’t always necessarily the young and contemporary groups…sometimes the groups like the Dixie Echoes, the Dixie Melody Boys, the Blackwood Brothers, and so on, that are attracting a large number of young people to Southern Gospel music.

  11. Right Paul. I for one can say, from personal experience, that groups such as the DE, DMB, Blackwood Brothers, Dove’s, etc. DO attract young people. A group dosen’t have to change their style and leave behind the old songs just to bring the youth in.
    I’ve heard it said that NQC’s attendance is much lower than what it was even 5 years ago. My personal take on this is that, 5 years ago, there were not as many groups in the progressive/contemporary movement. To prove my point, think of the mass number of groups that have changed their styles in 5 years towards something newer.

  12. One example I have personally witnessed along these lines is the decision on the part of the Blackwood Brothers (led by Cecil Blackwood) in the 1980’s to go more contemporary. This decision took a “major” quartet and cut there popularity in half (if not more). I have much respect for the late Cecil Blackwood, but I think the end result proved that contemporary and new is not always better. Cecil, before his death returned the group to a more tradition quartet sound. I am glad to see that Jimmy Blackwood has decided to take over the leadership of the quartet and stick with that style which is true to Southern Gospel Music. (My only hope is that they introduce some new songs, and not simply rest on what the group had down over the past 70+ years).

  13. I don’t understand why Tyler and DJM think the NQC/Singing News “youth” quartet was so good. I was there too. It seemed to me that the character of the sound dropped off big-time when the “legends” handed over the mics to the youngsters. Don’t get me wrong, the boys were good. Very talented (one more than the others). Good pitch. Good presence. But “Dream Team”? REALLY?

    Well anyway, their problem was that they were following LEGENDS.
    Why is no one talking about how good the old dudes sounded?

    I guess that’s my cue. Bill, Buddy, Ed, Gerald and DS sounded like the old pros they are. Voices past their prime for sure. But with ton’s of maturity and unique tone quality. Many of today’s young singers sound so much a’like. I think that’s because most of them grew up listening to Michael English (or his ilk), and they try to sound like those singers. Not themselves. I prefer singers who sound like themselves. I like all styles, traditional and progressive. This comment is strictly about vocal tone.

    I hope nobody takes any of this as a personal afront to anyone.
    Just expressing an opinion. I’m sure those youthful singers will develop
    into the mature and original performers that they followed up those NQC stage steps last Thursday night. But they still have “a fer piece” to go.
    I’d guess, they would agree!

  14. gospelHog, finally there is someone that agrees with me…I thought I was the only one that felt this way. I have been saying this for years. Too many singers sound like each other. Sometimes when you listen to the radio you have to wait to hear the announcer to know who was singing. But not when people like Ben Speer sing, or people such as the late Kenny Hinson, the late Cecil Blackwood, Archie Watkins, Tom Riley, Ivan Parker, Brian Free, Mark Trammell, the late Glen Payne, the late George Younce, the late Jake Hess, the late James Blackwood, the late JD Sumner…should I keep going, because there’s plenty more.
    The new guys have nice voices, but I agree…they must have all listened to Michael English growing up or something. Thanks for posting that comment gospelHog.

  15. Thanks Daniel for this particular blog. It may or may not be staying on the theme you orignally posted, but I have really enjoyed this one.

  16. WOW!!!
    I’m so glad to know that someone besides me agrees about the trend of copying Michael English. Hearing the same thing again and again drives me nuts!
    I have nothing against him, but today there’s so much ‘imitation’ of his vocal style that it loses it’s affectiveness because “we’ve heard it all before”
    The next generation, I’m afraid, will try to sound just like Jason Crabb or Lauren Talley. We’re beginning to see some it even now.
    Again, they’re great vocalist. But, that vocal style won’t seem origional and will loose much of it’s appeal once everyone starts copying it.
    A few more examples: for awhile many singers tried to copy Josh Turner on “Log Black Train”.
    How many have tried to exactly imitate Ivan for the last 20 years when singing “Midnight Cry”?
    My point is that Southern Gospel can loose it’s “freshness” and “origionality” very quickly.

  17. Like Paul, I have absolutley enjoyed this topic and conversation.
    Thanks Daniel.

  18. Go on Paul and Quaid! you are not alone men.

  19. I respect your opinions guys. However, I couldn’t help but notice that several of the legends missed at least one intro to a verse of the song so I don’t think their set was flawless. That said, they did have a surprisingly great sound. Very full. Very rich. Great job.

    Now on the Michael English thing. I could agree on Joseph Habedank, but I’d like to know what exactly in Eric Phillips’ high, traditional tenor vocal reminds anybody of anything relating to English’s style? Or how Scotty Inman’s smooth baritone vocal (somewhat reminiscent of his father’s traditional lead voice) could ever be likened to the twang of English? …or how Jeremy Lile’s bass voice could even be mentioned in the same sentence as English…hmmm, maybe the piano player uses the same hairspray? 🙂

    I’m just giving you guys a hard time but I don’t think 1 out of 5 is a majority singing like English. Perhaps the sound wasn’t unbelievable, but the concept of having a mixture of the brightest new talent singing together on mainstage was enough to get me really excited. And I’m young.

  20. The Michael English reference, at least for me, has nothing to do with the quartet at the NQC…but more to do with the over all sound of quartets in the field today. Years ago you could hear a recording and know exactly who was singing right away…now days it is much harder to tell. Voices don’t seem to have their “own sound” anymore.

  21. Ok, I can understand a little more where you’re coming from now. However, from a personal standpoint, I can still tell almost immediately who’s singing at any given point on an SG radio station as long as it’s a full-time quartet. Triumphant, Brian Free & Assurance, Gold City, Kingdom Heirs, Dove Brothers, Legacy V, EHSS, GVB, and many, many more are nearly always instantly recognizable. Of course, I also keep up with most of the quartets. If you don’t, you’ll very quickly lose touch as singers change and groups modify their sounds.

    Personalities like tenor Brian Free, bass Jeff Chapman, lead Guy Penrod, and baritone Scott Inman are very easy for me to pick out.

    But like I said before, if you don’t keep up with the groups, turning on the radio might seem like you’re listening to the same group all the time.

  22. Yes, that is true. But even for me, one who has been listening to SG Music for over 35 years, and one who is a promoter of SG Music Concerts, I find it more difficult now to name a group simply by ear than it was years ago. It is true that groups like the Dove Bros, Brian Free and Assurance, and the Gaither Vocal Band are pretty distinctive, but I don’t feel that some groups are as distinctive as groups used to be…groups like the Blackwood Bros had a sound that no one else had. The Cathedrals were one of a kind. And, the Kingsmen of the 1980’s were certainly unique. There are no groups that have quite the sound distinction as the groups of yester-year.
    Not that any of the groups today are bad. Actually I feel there are many, many quality groups out there. I would just encourage groups to study what groups of the past did and then take what they have learned and create a sound that is there own.

  23. Tyler, I meant nothing about the quartet at NQC. In fact, I didn’t hear that group lineup at all. Like Paul, I menat groups in genaral.
    Were you suggesting a special lineup for next year’s NQC?? Free, Chapman, Penrod, and Inman together would be a great performance not to be missed!
    I in fact keep up with the groups today as much as anybody. But as Paul said, many groups are not as distinctive as they used to be.
    Especially when the majority of groups stack their vocals to such extremes (3, 4 or more layers of stacks), and with the amouts of heavy compression used on today’s recordings.
    Again, I agree with you Paul. Groups need to pay attention to the last sentence of your last post.
    Hope to have the time to chat with you at the Perry’s concert in a few weeks. I plan to be there.

  24. Ok, guys I think we ALL agree now! 🙂

  25. I personally would love to see more compiled young quartets like this at NQC. This year’s Singing News Fan Awards Finale Quartet was:
    Tenor: Eric Phillips
    Lead: Joseph Habedank
    Baritone: Scott Inman
    Bass: Jeremy Lile
    Piano: Josh Singletary

    Here’s a young quartet suggestion for next year:

    Tenor: Billy Hodges (Kingdom Heirs)
    Lead: Dustin Sweatman (Mark Trammell Trio)
    Baritone: Nick Trammell (Perrys)
    Bass: Aaron McCune (Gold City)
    -Band-
    Piano: Joshua Pope (14-year-old set to play for the New Florida Boys)
    Bass Player: Grant Barker (Kingsmen)
    Drums: Ricky Free (BF & Assurance)

  26. Quaid, hope to see you at the Perry Concert, Oct 5.

  27. One thing, responding to the comment made about “if you listen and keep up with the current groups,” that comes to mind is that I feel “we” recognize many current groups by the songs they sing and not necessarily by their voices. I just wonder that if a current group, I don’t know, such as Leagcy Five, sang a song that is not currently in the list of songs…would we really recognize them right away? Just food for thought…

  28. I think I could rocognize Legacy 5, but many other groups would not be easy to identify.

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