Concert Review: Colonial City Quartet

I first saw the Colonial City Quartet last October (and reported on it here). I took the opportunity to hear them again yesterday morning.

They had a lineup change since the last time I saw them. Lead singer Wynn Baker left at the end of the year last year and was replaced by tenor Steve Feazel. Steve is a former member of the group, but left six years ago. When Wynn left, he was interested in taking the opportunity to return.

By the way, the part Steve sings is not a typo. Yes, the group replaced a lead singer with a tenor singer.

Just like in the October concert I attended, the group started out with “Alpha and Omega.” This time, though, I already knew they could sing harmony, so I was able to appreciate the song a little more than when I spent the first two verses wondering if they knew harmony.

Tenor David Campbell was featured on Glory Road. Having two tenors on this song brought out some unique vocal textures not heard in most renditions.
David and his father Tim Campbell (the group’s baritone) were featured on “That Little Baby.”

Tim then introduced the group before bringing Steve forward to sing “This Could be the Dawning of that Day.” Steve has a powerful first tenor voice, and again the combination of two tenors on this song brought out some interesting vocal textures.

Mike Dean was featured on “God Made a Way.” The group messed up the first few lines of the song, and re-started the song. But they handled the transition so smoothly (with a few jokes thrown in for good measure) that it could as well have been planned.

David and Steve were featured on “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary.” They used the same soundtrack used by other groups, most memorably (in my opinion) by Mark Trammell with the Mark Trammell Trio. In fact, the soundtrack has been used by enough different groups that I’m not really sure which group actually recorded it.

On the other hand, I was able to identify the source of most of the soundtracks; for example, the group used the Gold City soundtrack for “God Handled it All,” their next song.

Tim Campbell sang “Nothing that You & Me Together Can’t Handle.” This is the one song in the program that I haven’t heard by another group. It may be original to the group.

Steve, Dave, and Mike sang the old Cathedrals song “You Can Walk on the Water.” I don’t know who originally recorded the soundtrack they used, but it clearly wasn’t the circa-1983 Cathedrals track.

Each of the singers had some solo lines on “Glory Glory Clear the Road.”

Nobody was featured on “I Love the Lord,” the song the Talleys did several years ago. An entirely different texture is brought to the song when it’s done by a quartet.

Lead/tenor Steve Feazel was featured on “I Will Go On.” The group used the Gaither Vocal Band track, but changed things a little by having David sing a tenor part above Steve’s, thus making the melody part the lead part. Given that Mike Deane was still singing a low bass part, this caused an extraordinarily wide vocal range on the song.

Tim was featured on two other Gaither Vocal Band songs, “Journey to the Sky” and “Give it Away.”

David Campbell took Kim Hopper’s part on the closing song, their rendition of the Hopper’s “Jerusalem.” Tim Campbell introduced the song by saying that he knew the song talked about John the Revelator, but that when he sang the song, he couldn’t help but thinking of his brother John, who had recently passed away. That put the song in a new light, when they sang “John saw a city that could not stay hid”…

The group is finishing a recording featuring the new lineup. I’ll be posting a review of that project once it comes out.

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GloryWay Quartet, Mountain State Quartet, Dixie Melody Boys

Last Saturday, I went to a concert put on by J & J promotions. Local group GloryWay Quartet was the host group; the Mountain State Quartet came up from West Virginia, and the Dixie Melody Boys from North Carolina headlined the event.

The concert started out with a 45-minute set by the GloryWay Quartet.

  • I’m Winging My Way Back Home
  • By and By (featuring their lead)
  • Jesus Will Outshine Them All (featuring their lead)
  • Glory Road (featuring their alto, Mary St. Clair)
  • Someone to Care (featuring their baritone)
  • Tears Will Never Stain the Streets of that City (featuring Mary St. Clair)
  • Living in Canaan Now

The set was entirely live, with a pianist and bass guitarist. The bass guitarist was the father of the lead singer, while the pianist had been playing piano for over 50 years. The baritone and bass had both been singing for decades and were in their sixties or seventies, while the lead singer and alto were somewhat younger. There were a few minor issues with microphone feedback, but with that brief exception the set was quite enjoyable.

The Mountain State Quartet from Nitro, West Virginia was up next. I was especially looking forward to this because my friend Levi Johnston, who comments on this blog from time to time, sings baritone with the group. I’m not entirely certain about the titles of some of the songs they sang, but here are my best guesses:

  • When I Dip my Feet in the Crystal River
  • I Believe He Died for Me, For You (lead)
  • I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary (lead, tenor)
  • Home (featuring baritone Levi Johnston)
  • I’m Not What I Wanna Be (bass, then baritone)
  • Jesus Knows
  • I’ll Put on a Crown (lead)

During the first few songs, there were a few feedback issues and the soundtracks/microphone balance was weighted a little too much toward the soundtracks. However, both problems were corrected quickly. In my opinion, the highlights of their set came about 2/3 of the way through, when they featured Levi on two songs, “Home” and “I’m Not What I Wanna Be.” Part of the way through the second song, he took the bass singer’s microphone and sang the bass part through the end of the song. He sang the part well (especially for a baritone), but the best part of the skit was his acting. He did a great job of playing the “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this” part.

An hour and a half into the evening, the Dixie Melody Boys came onto the stage.

  • Far Above the Starry Sky (featuring tenor Dan Keeton)
  • I’m Gonna Stand and Lift My Hands (featuring baritone Andrew King)
  • I’ll Meet You in the Sweet By and By
  • A Seat in the Heavenly Choir
  • My Anchor of Hope (featuring Andrew). I was slightly surprised to hear the Dixie Melody Boys do this song, since it’s a current radio hit for the Kingdom Heirs. I assume that the song, which I understand was originally written by current KH tenor Billy Hodges, was recorded by the Dixie Melody Boys a few years back and brought back when Hodges joined the Kingdom Heirs.
  • I’m Gonna Lift my Praise to the Giver of Amazing Grace (featuring lead singer Bryan Walker)
  • I Love this Man from Galilee (featuring Dan Keeton)
  • Give the World a Smile (featuring bass Ed O’Neal). This one was a lot of fun. Ed talked about how (back when he was “young and debonair”) he always listened to the Blackwood Brothers’ radio program, which would start with this song as their theme song. He then had his group do it acapella. It was easily the best live version I’d heard of the song, and possibly the best I have ever heard.
  • Roll on Jordan (featuring). The Dixie Melody Boys are at their best when they do this sort of song.
  • First Day in Heaven (featuring Bryan and Andrew on the talking parts)
  • Beautiful Isle of Somewhere (featuring Andrew). Andrew King hit the ball out of the park on this one. Later, during the product pitch, they referred to a CD as worth the cover price simply for Andrew’s rendition of the song, and I have a feeling they sold quite a few of that CD.
  • Peace in the Valley (featuring Ed)
  • Oh What a Savior (featuring Dan)

After intermission, each of the groups came back for a few songs:

  • Glory Way Quartet: Piano solo
  • Glory Way Quartet: When I Wake Up to Sleep No More (lead)
  • Glory Way Quartet: That I Could Still Go Free (also lead)
  • Glory Way Quartet: Shoutin’ Time
  • Mountain State: Holy Holy
  • Mountain State: I’ll Live Again
  • Mountain State: Well Done, Faithful Servant (lead)
  • Mountain State: Forever and a Day
  • Dixie Melody Boys: Victory Road (Ed)
  • Dixie Melody Boys: Over the Moon (Dan)
  • Dixie Melody Boys: Happy Rhythm (Ed)
  • Dixie Melody Boys: A Soul Such as I (Andrew)
  • Dixie Melody Boys: In the Garden (Bryan)

Before “In the Garden,” Ed O’Neal said that it would be the last song. But after the song, he changed his mind and invited the other two groups back on stage for a group sing on “I’ll Fly Away.”

Dixie Melody Boys tenor Dan Keeton closed the concert with an audience sing-along on “It is Well with my Soul.”

Beyond any question, the biggest surprise of the night (for me) was Andrew King’s performance at baritone for the Dixie Melody Boys. He had more charisma and stage presence than any other performer I have seen in person (something comparable to what I’ve seen of Gerald Wolfe on video, though Andrew smiles even more). He had a great voice, too. If he decides to stay in Southern Gospel, he will be able to write his own ticket in a few years.

Lead singer Bryan Walker, the newest member of the group, provides the group’s comedic relief, with facial expressions, comments, and even hand gestures during lines that have to do with “the prophets of old.”

Dan Keeton, tenor, hit some very high notes. But his voice is most powerful and expressive in the lower tenor range. If he ever tires of singing tenor, he could be a top-notch lead singer along the lines of Guy Penrod and Arthur Rice, though with a voice quality all his own.

Ed O’Neal turned in a great performance as well. When someone introduced me to him as someone who posted things on a blog and on the Singing News forums, he asked me to say something nice about him. So I will: Though he might primarily be known in some circles as one of the best columnists out there, he is a great singer, too.

All in all, it was quite an enjoyable evening.

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Inspirations / McKameys

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to see the Inspirations and the McKameys, both for the first time. They were appearing together on their Family & Friends tour. Due to the fact that forty or fifty songs were sung, I won’t put you through the exorbitant eyestrain of a full paragraph per song. I’ll just offer a song list with comments.

The concert started with both groups on stage together singing “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be.” The nine or ten vocalists (four McKameys and five or six Inspirations) produced a remarkably pleasant full blend that left me wanting more. All the way through the end of the concert, I was hoping they’d join for more songs, but the rest of the concert featured the groups in alternating sets.

After the first song, Reuben Bean of the McKameys introduced “the boys from Bryson City, the Inspirations!” They took the stage singing tenor Archie Watkins’ signature song, “Touring That City.”

  • Touring That City (featuring Archie Watkins). Archie didn’t disappoint on his signature tune.
  • We Need to Thank God (featuring lead singer Matt Dibler). It was greeted by enthusiastic applause. There were one or two standing ovations (see later in the post), but enthusiastic applause was pretty much as good as it got during this concert.
  • I’ll Not Turn My Back on Him Now (featuring Archie).
  • I Can Tell You Now the Time (featuring Matt, bass Mike Holcomb, and Archie)
  • He Made a Way
  • One Door to Heaven (featuring Jack Laws). Former Inspirations baritone / sometime specialty number vocalist Jack Laws was able to make the trip this weekend. I got to talk with him briefly beforehand, and found him to be quite friendly and down-to-earth.
  • He’s My Bread (featuring Jack Laws).
  • He Swept Me Off My Feet (featuring baritone Melton Campbell)
  • Two Shoes (featuring Archie). For some reason, the song seemed to lose just a bit of its emotional momentum near the end. It didn’t have quite the “punch” it sometimes does in the final verse, but it went well nonetheless.
  • I’m Not Ashamed (featuring Melton). This song got the only standing ovation except a general one at the end when the audience was getting ready to leave. The Inspirations responded by doing an acapella reprise of the chorus. It took several members of the audience until nearly the end of the encore to stand up, and there were no standing ovations for the rest of the evening.
  • I’m a Winner Either Way (featuring Matt).
  • Resurrection Ground (featuring Matt). Matt told the stories behind both “Winner either Way” and this song. He told the story behind this one after the first verse and chorus, while pianist Martin Cook and upright bass player Melton Cook (Martin’s son) played a musical interlude.
  • If You Only Knew (featuring Mike).
  • I Have Not Forgotten (featuring Matt). This song was well received and encored. Then Martin Cook had Matt preach a bit before Matt launched the group back into an acapella encore. The acapella encore was particularly impressive; they didn’t have any musical cues to start back on the right notes. Perfect pitch they might not have (as some bloggers remind us often enough), but they have a pretty good sense of relative pitch to pull off an acapella encore without musical cues after a few minutes of preaching. This song was easily one of the highlights of the concert for me.

The Inspirations’ set ended with this song, and the McKameys took the stage.

  • My Jesus I Love Thee (no solo). This song was a good choice to change the pace (from an all-live male quartet to a mixed group that uses soundtracks).
  • It’s All Good (featuring Peg McKamey)
  • Trophy of Grace (featuring Carol Woodward). This was followed by some improvised comedy from Peg while her husband Reuben Bean (the group’s “bass”) and their son-in-law Roger Fortner (bass guitarist / sound technician) replaced the battery in Reuben’s microphone.
  • Let Me Point You to the Lamb featured Reuben on his only solo of the night–a song on which, interestingly enough, his wife did not sing. He sang it as a trio with Carol Woodward and Connie Fortner.
  • Resurrection Morn (featuring Connie)
  • Over the Horizon (Peg). I’m not sure of the title on this one; it could just as easily be “The Rising of the Son”
  • It Takes Time (featuring Eli Fortner). Eli, son of Roger and Connie Fortner, is twelve. His voice has shown distinct improvement over the last year or two.
  • You’re Still God (featuring Peg)
  • How Sweet is the Victory (featuring Connie). Incidentally, Connie appeared to forget a few words at one point, and Peg filled them in without missing a beat.
  • I Will Trust You Lord (featuring Carol)
  • God on the Mountain (featuring Peg)
  • I’ve Won (featuring Connie)

After intermission, the Inspirations took the stage again.

  • I’ve Never Gotten Over Getting Saved (featuring Melton)
  • Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me (featuring Mike). Mike Holcomb hit his lowest notes of the evening on this song. Another reliable observer present observed that the ceiling could actually be observed to shake during his lowest solo.
  • They’re Holding Up the Ladder featured Archie Watkins on the first verse and Mark Clark on the second. Mark is a tenor who sings on stage with the Inspirations to help Archie out.
  • The Wonder of Wonders (featuring Melton)
  • Glory to God in the Highest. This was easily the shock of the night. Other groups have done it in the past few years, but right now this is primarily a Signature Sound song. To hear the Inspirations’ take on this song was both singular and extraordinarily memorable.
  • Amazing Grace (featuring Archie). This acapella rendition of Amazing Grace turned out to be the Inspirations’ last song of the night.

The McKameys came back on stage to close the evening out.

  • Walk a Little Farther (featuring Peg)
  • Over and Over (featuring Carol)
  • Joy Comes in the Morning (featuring Connie). Peg said this was a brand-new song, and that it was Connie’s first time to sing it without a lyric sheet. She appeared to forget a few words in the second verse, but did quite well elsewhere. I think this song will do well for the group.
  • Roll That Burden on Me (featuring Peg)
  • He Calms Me (featuring Carol). I must admit to taking my eyes off the stage for a minute or two when a cute little toddler came zipping down my aisle. It turned out to be Martin Cook’s grandson, who had come along for the trip. He made it as far as my row before he was scooped up and taken to the back by his father Myron.
  • How Does it Feel (featuring Peg and Connie)

With that, the McKameys concluded their set. I was expecting both groups to do a finale for a song or two, but Reuben Bean concluded the night in prayer.

I have to admit that I primarily went to see the Inspirations. (In fact, I didn’t even realize that the McKameys would be there until my tickets came in the mail.) Now I realize that there is some truth to the statements that Archie Watkins’ voice shows signs of wear and that the Inspirations don’t always sing every single note perfectly on key. I know that to be true, but I’m still simple-minded enough to enjoy a night of great quartet singing.

Simple-minded? Yes, perhaps I am. But if I ever become so smart that I cannot enjoy an evening like that one, may I also be smart enough to shut this blog down.

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Concert Review: Mark Trammell Trio

Last night’s Mark Trammell Trio concert in Marion, Ohio had an audience of between 175 and 215–a decent turnout, though it came nowhere near filling the theater and thus looked smaller than it really was. The most remarkable thing about this audience, though, was the average age. Children under 10 came free, and adding that to the fact that the concert was supported by a church and Christian school made for an average age of roughly 35. At one point, in intermission with the auditorium half-empty, I counted 45 children, and I believe it is safe to say that of the roughly 200 in attendance, at least 75 were children.
The Mark Trammell Trio walked out on stage and began with three mid-tempo songs, “Thank God I am Free,” and “Walking with Jesus” (from Journey Thus Far), and “When Compared to God” (from This Time).

At this point, Trammell introduced the group. Steve Hurst, who travels with the group some weekends, was not with them this week, so the introductions did not take long. Trammell got off a subtle joke, the sort where everyone laughs about ten seconds after the punch line: He referred to a trip his family took over the holiday weekend. They went to California, because his son had never seen the land of the fruits and the nuts.

Trammell then took his time introducing the fourth song of the concert, “Just a Little Closer Home.” The song, which featured lead singer Dustin Sweatman, was written by Dustin’s father Gerald Sweatman and was recorded by the Kingsmen in the 1970s. This is one of those songs that you don’t fully appreciate until you hear it live. To see Dustin put everything he has into the song, to hear the phrases punctuated by amens from a Baptist audience, to be so moved by the end of the second verse that it is only with difficulty that you remain in your seat–that is the experience of the song live that a studio version cannot convey.

The group transitioned into an up-tempo song featuring Mark Trammell with the next selection, “When They Ring the Bells of Heaven.” Incidentally, a close observer (and I was fortunate enough to sit in the center on the front row) would have observed that Trammell took the lead and that Sweatman switched to the baritone part on all the choruses after the second verse.

After this song, Dustin went to the keyboard to play a piano solo, “Wait ‘Till You See Me in My New Home.” He stayed at the keyboard for a no-soundtrack medley of “Something About That Name” and “In the Garden.” Trammell also played his bass guitar for the medley.

The meditative pace of the medley changed when the trio launched into an energetic full-blown quartet song, “Hallelujah, I’m Going Home.” Granted, there wasn’t a bass part, but the three singers sang their parts so energetically that they more than made up for the deficiency.

Trammell introduced the next song by saying that he was going to feature Eric on the group’s most-requested song. Trammell said that he lived in Ohio for ten and a half years, and he knew that Ohioans were honest. If they liked a song, they would let the singer know, and if not, they’d sit and stare like a mule looking at a new gate. At that point, Eric Phillips made that face–oddly enough giving a visual demonstration of a reaction audience members would only have if they disliked his performance.

Trammell finished the introduction, and Phillips launched into “Glory Road.” Before the end of the first line, the audience burst into a round of applause, and only got more enthusiastic from there. Every time Phillips repeated the part where he slipped into a falsetto on the phrase “I can see Him on His throne,” audience reaction grew until, at the end of the song, when he hit the G above high C, he received probably the most enthusiastic round of applause all night.

The trio closed out the first half of the concert with Dustin leaving the piano and returning to focus on singing the lead part as they sang the title song off their upcoming project, “Once Upon a Cross.” To those who have complained that the group has to date recorded material unworthy of their capabilities, let me reply that with this song, they have finally found the right sort of song.

After intermission, the group did four classic songs, “What a Lovely Name,” “Jesus Hold My Hand,” “Had it Not Been,” and “I’ve Got It,” before closing with three songs that had been requested.

The first of these was the group’s radio single “I Needed to Hear That Today.” It went over well, but the reaction to the second requested song, “Stand and Praise the Lord,” was even more enthusiastic.

The concert closed with the song “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary.” The song, featuring Trammell, received more “amens” from more audience members than I have ever before heard at a Southern Gospel concert. Every line was answered by a chorus of “amens,” and the response at the end was, as expected, quite enthusiastic.
Trammell then delivered an altar call and sang the song “Does Jesus Care” solo, asking the audience to keep their head bowed and eyes closed throughout the song. The concert concluded after an altar call.

It had been months since I’d seen a Southern Gospel concert. In a winter filled with many sentences about recorded Southern Gospel, it was nice to punctuate the season with this exclamation point of a live concert.

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Colonial City Quartet

I heard a regional group, the Colonial City Quartet, on Saturday evening. This was my first concert by a regional group. After all I’ve read on various message boards putting down the quality of local groups, I frankly was not expecting much. I was expecting rough harmonies, continual notes that were too sharp or too flat, and a low tenor and high bass.

I had set my expectations too low. The Colonial City Quartet had a good stage presence and a polished group sound. In my opinion, their group sound was at least as polished as the sound of most other groups I’ve heard live–the Palmetto State Quartet, Legacy Five, and the Blackwood Brothers come to mind. Understand that I’m not putting down those three groups; I’m just saying that the Colonial City Quartet had a polished group on par with these three groups.

The group is led by baritone Tim Campbell, who has been with the group since its inception about twenty years ago. Although he doesn’t look anything like Jake Hess, his stage mannerisms and facial expressions when on a feature reminded me of Hess.

Campbell’s brother-in-law, Mike Deane, sings the bass part. While I did not take a pitch pipe (and would not have used it, since I ended up in the front row), Deane was able to produce the low, subwoofer-rattling notes that make the floor shake. The group sang several songs originally recorded by a mixed group and arranged with a soprano in mind, taking the track several keys lower; Deane was able to handle the lower bass part without difficulty.

The lead singer, Wynn Baker, did an able job at singing lead. I must confess that I wasn’t paying that much attention to his voice for the first few minutes, though. I was trying to determine where I had seen him before. (It turns out I sat directly behind him at the Palmetto State Quartet concert I attended last month.)

I suppose I had set my expectations the lowest for the tenor. For some reason I wasn’t expecting that a local group wouldn’t have a true first tenor. I was wrong. Baritone Tim Campbell’s son David joined the group relatively recently, after singing for several years with another local group, the Heaven’s Harmony Quartet. David Campbell looks and sounds enough like original Legacy Five tenor Josh Cobb to the point where I briefly wondered if Cobb had possibly returned to Southern Gospel music. David has the range and confidence at the high notes that Cobb had, although Campbell’s voice quality is smoother and less strained.

The group started out singing their first song (“He is the Alpha and Omega”) in unison. After they sang unison for the first two verses, I was beginning to wonder if they knew how to sing in harmony, and was thinking that it could be a long night. But they broke into parts for the chorus, and I started forming my aforementioned high opinion of their smooth blend.

The second song, “Glory Road,” featured David Campbell on tenor. David proved that he could handle the Kingsmen style of tenor singing well.

The tempo picked up a bit with the third song, a cover of Gold City’s “That Little Baby,” featuring baritone Tim Campbell and lead Wynn Baker. The fourth song the group did was entitled “I’m on My Way.”

The group did their version of the Dove Brothers’ “Didn’t it Rain,” featuring Tim Campbell singing the solo. The group used the Dove Brothers’ soundtrack for the song. Interestingly, tenor David Campbell sang “rain” twenty-four times (if I counted correctly), instead of the typical twelve in the answer-back portion of the song.

Lead singer Wynn Baker was featured on “They Never Walked on the Water.” Mike Deane sang the J.D. Sumner classic “God Made a Way,” and, in case you were wondering, did take it down an octave where bass singers who can take it down do take it down.

After this song, Tim Campbell told David, who was also operating the minidisc player, to play another old song. David complained that they did too many old songs, at which there was some father-son discussion about old people and old songs. The discussion ended with Tim telling David that he liked old songs and that the audience liked old songs. Although that got a round of applause, David was still acting as though he would not play the old song. At that point, a storm outside caused the church lights to flicker. At this, Tim Campbell told his son, “Son, God likes old music, too!” While the rest of the routine was probably rehearsed, this obviously spontaneous line got the biggest laugh of the night.

At this, the group launched into “Gonna Open Up All the Doors of My Heart,” a rendition that was made most memorable by the facial expressions of David Campbell, who acted as though he did not want to sing the song except when his father would look at him, at which he would smile for a few lines.

After a song whose title I did not catch because I could not understand the words of the chorus (something along the lines of “Nothing that You and Me Together Can’t Handle”), David Campbell introduced “Hide Thou Me” by explaining that he actually did like old songs and old people.

The quartet did the first of several a capella numbers with “Life’s Railway to Heaven.”

They sang their next song, “The Old Landmark” twice. The first time, both Wynn Baker and David Campbell forgot several lines in their feature, so they did it a second time. Wynn got his lines right the second time, but David did not. He started the track a third time, but the rest of the group stopped him. It was not immediately clear to me whether the mistakes were intentional or not; they could have been mistakes, but on the other hand they joked about singing “a song that we actually know” for the rest of the night. On the one hand, it could have been a planned part of the routine; on the other hand, if it was an actual mistake, the group is comfortable enough with themselves on stage to be able to joke about themselves under the circumstances.

The first half closed with their rendition of the Cathedrals’ “Jesus Saves.”

After intermission, Wynn Baker was featured on “He Made a Change.” It was rather different to hear a country-tinged voice on the verses. (Baker is, incidentally, the only singer with a country twang in the group, and his twang is not evident in the group harmony.)

David Campbell went to the piano to accompany the group on a medley of “I Must Tell Jesus” and “Learning to Lean.”

The group did the Talleys’ “I Love the Lord / Total Praise,” taking a song that some would not think of as a quartet song and giving it a nice four-part harmony arrangement.

Bass Mike Deane introduced the next song, an a capella rendition of “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” by referring to his love for the Cathedrals’ music. That got a response from the audience, especially the front row. 🙂 The rendition was executed well, even the transposition in the middle of the song.

The highlight of the concert was David Campbell’s rendition of “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy.” When he introduced the song, I honestly wasn’t expecting much, figuring that the song needed a power singer along the likes of Michael English or Guy Penrod to do it justice. It turns out I’d underestimated David and the rest of the group. Whether on recording or live, I have never heard a rendition as powerful as this one. Campbell can do something most tenors only wish they could do; throughout the song, wherever there was a high note, he would back the microphone off until it was at waist level and project the high notes across the sanctuary with little if any amplification.

After audience sing-alongs on “How Great Thou Art” and “He Touched Me” and an altar call, the Colonial City Quartet closed with the song “Jerusalem.” They used the original arrangement transposed down several keys.

Throughout the concert, the group did an excellent job of starting well and ending better. For example, they sang in unison for the first two verses of the first song, leaving those hearing them for the first time wondering if they knew how to sing harmony. Then when they did break into harmony parts, the effect was somewhat more impressive than it would have been had they started with a classic harmony song.

Another example: For the first two songs, the group stood behind their microphones and sang. By this point, I was wondering if they would do that all night. But they set the stands aside with the third song, moved around on stage, and even did some choreography (on “Get Away Jordan”).

A final example would be the song selection. When I attend concerts by certain groups, I expect to hear a “moment,” a signature song that is the highlight of the concert. With the Cathedrals, it would have been “We Shall See Jesus”; with Brian Free & Assurance concert, “For God So Loved”; with Signature Sound, “Oh, What a Savior.” But I wasn’t expecting any such “moment” from the Colonial City Quartet. Yet they surprised me with David Campbell’s rendition of “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy.” I wasn’t expecting a song selection that built up to a big finish like that, but they did it, and did it well.

All in all, it was a well-planned concert routine for a local group. Start off slowly; if the audience members have made the effort to come out, they won’t get up and leave after a song or two. You have them for the evening; don’t show them everything you can do in the first three songs and leave them bored by the end. Build to a big finish, saving the best for last. That is something that the top groups do, and they are on top for a reason.

In all honesty, I think Colonial City Quartet is content to remain a regional group, even though they have a good enough group blend to be successful outside of the region. But I would not be shocked to see more from David Campbell; he is somewhat younger than the other members of the group, and I would not be shocked to see him get the call from a professional group some day.

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NQC 2006 Highlights

I listened to this year’s National Quartet Convention via the live Solid Gospel feed on my local radio station. For those who could neither attend nor listen, here are a few highlights.

Memorable New Songs
The anthem “Truth is Marching On” was introduced by no less than three grouls at this year’s National Quartet Convention–Gold City, the Talley Trio, and Legacy Five. Gold City will send it out to radio as their next single. That’s not a bad thing, because their rendition was probably the best.

Quite possibly the most memorable song debut was the Hoppers’ introduction of “The Dove.” They brought songwriter Ronny Hinson on stage to help them introduce and sing the song. Hinson, who has written classics like “The Lighthouse” and “Jesus Pilots the Ship,” said that this was the best song he had ever written–and he may be right.

Most Memorable Song Intro
The most memorable song intro this year was Roger Bennett’s introduction to “Truth is Marching On,” when Legacy Five performed it on their Saturday Night set. He talked about how the divinity of Christ was coming under attack, and specifically discussed Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. His concluding observation also provided a smooth segue into the song: “Long after those 52 million copies of the Da Vinci Code are dust, the Word of God will still stand.”

Fan Awards Ceremony
The Singing News Fan Awards ceremony was marked by the humbleness and graciousness with which Kim Hopper, the Perrys, and the members of Greater Vision accepted their awards. Kim Hopper said that she knew that one day the Female Singer and Soprano of the Year awards would go to other singers, and that when that happened, she would be content to sit in the audience and cheer them on.

Tim Duncan (of Signature Sound) won a well-deserved award for best Bass Singer for the first time.

The most memorable event of the fan awards, and quite possibly of the entire convention, would have to be a tie between the Inspirations and Signature Sound for Quartet of the Year. The Inspirations accepted their award in person, while Signature Sound accepted theirs via video.
Comedy
In their Saturday Night set, the Dove Brothers did their rendition of “Stand By Me,” complete with choreography and short ties (after Tim Lovelace came on stage to cut the ties in half). But the most interesting part of McCray Dove’s setup for the song was his reference to Signature Sound as “the hottest group in Gospel music today.” From anyone else, that would be a nice compliment, but it was a classy move from the manager of the group that was probably the hottest act in Southern Gospel until Signature Sound formed.

Members of some Southern Gospel message boards have portrayed new Gold City bass Aaron McCune as singer with a stiff, dry stage presence. Jonathan Wilburn helped him overcome that image in Gold City’s Monday set, where he explained that McCune was a card-carrying native American and used an Injun joke to set McCune up for the least expected one-liner of the night. McCune pretended to be greatly offended by Wilburn’s joke, and looked at Wilburn with such an angry look that Wilburn asked him what was up. Aaron said, “I’m admiring your scalp.” The skit ended with Jonathan begging Gold City road manager Danny Riley to calm Aaron down.

Special Moments
During the Fan Awards on Thursday, an All-Star Quartet composed of Inspirations tenor Archie Watkins, former Rebels / Kingsmen lead singer Jim Hamill, Florida Boys baritone Glen Allred, Dixie Melody Boys bass Ed O’Neal, and pianist Eddie Crook performed the song “I’m Winging My Way Back Home.” Jim Hamill was in classic form, making Ed O’Neal repeat his bass lines until he thought O’Neal had done a good enough job.

During the Kingsmen set Saturday night, Tony Peace announced that it was bass guitarist / vocalist Jason Selph’s final night with the Kingsmen, and brought him up to sing the song “Wish You Were Here.”

During the Crabb Family’s final set, Jason Crabb reminisced about the days he would set in the “nosebleeds” (balcony) as a child, wishing that someday he could sing on the mainstage. As he did it for the last time as a member of the Crabb Family, he thanked everyone for fulfilling his dream.

One final special moment was Nick Trammell’s first NQC appearance as the baritone for the Perrys. After Tracy Stuffle introduced Nick as their new baritone, he described how nervous Nick was, and that his daddy was probably even more nervous. He said that Mark walked all around the stage taking photos during the sound check. Then he said he hadn’t told Nick he would do this, because he would have been even more nervous, but he said he was going to do a song that featured Nick. He had him step forward and sing “The Blood of an Old Rugged Cross.” He told him to step forward, smile big, and show the audience what he could do. Nick, to no surprise, hit the ball out of the park and did a good job.

NQC set their 2006 Main Stage schedule well before Nick joined the Perrys, so it had to be a coincidence that the Mark Trammell Trio was scheduled to follow the Perrys’ Tuesday performance. Coincidence or not, it was quite a moment for Mark Trammell, who did a song or two before he started talking.

He told how before his son made the final decision to accept the Perrys job, they met together and Nick asked for his father’s blessing. He said he’d tried everything he could to keep Nick off the road, but as they met in that room, Mark told him that he was grown-up now and could decide for himself. But Nick insisted that he didn’t want to do it without his father’s blessing. So Mark said that if Nick could look him in the eye and tell him that he believed God had laid it on his heart to do this, that Nick would have his blessing.

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Concert Review: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound

I saw and reviewed an August Signature Sound concert. I pulled this review out of the archives to get the website off to a good start with plenty of content for new visitors to read.

They started off the concert with a familiar Cathedrals song, “Plan of Salvation.” Bass singer Tim Duncan did a moving performance on the solo.

The tempo went up a few notches when they launched into two new songs from their upcoming CD and video, “Someday” and “Our Debts Will Be Paid.”

They proceeded to an uptempo rendition of the Christmas song “Glory to God in the Highest.” The complex four-part harmony was executed flawlessly, even in the acapella part of the song. Few groups even attempt harmonies this complex, and even fewer do it well.

They did their comedy routine on “Telling the World About His Love,” featuring Roy singing three words (“of the Lord”). After this, they did another song that will appear on their next video / DVD, the old Bill Gaither Hymn “Lovest Thou Me.”

The audience was more subdued than some EHSS audiences have been known to be through the first part of the concert. However, “This Could Be the Dawning of That Day” got a positive response, with some of the audience standing for an ovation. However, with the next song, “Forgiven Again,” there was no question as to the reaction; everyone was on their feet by the big ending. Ernie took his time introducing the song, setting it up well and leaving the audience in just the right mood to appreciate baritone Doug Anderson’s performance on the song.

By this point, they had won the audience over to the point that even traditional quartet fans didn’t seem to mind “Do You Wanna Be Forgiven” and “Pray for Me.” They did a little comedy routine with “Pray for Me,” telling lead singer Ryan Seaton that his passport back to the bus depended on his performance. A quick check of Signature Sound’s website confirms that Ryan must have done a suitable job. [UPDATE, 3/26/13: Broken link removed.]

At about this point in the program, they did “Get Away Jordan.” To digress slightly, sometimes people on message boards will make comments that cause people to create impressions so extreme that the real thing is surprisingly normal. To correct a possible mistaken impression, Signature Sound stands relatively still for most of their songs, and only does noticeable choreography on some of the faster-paced songs. On most songs, they don’t do much more than any other quartet (stepping back as another member has a solo, moving together around one microphone, et cetera). With that said, they certainly had the choreography going on “Get Away Jordan.”

With that, Ernie brought the Ball Brothers on to sing two songs. They started off with a smoothly executed rendition of the familiar hymn “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” They also did a semi-contemporary song, “All Right.” Between the choreography, the volume of the soundtrack, and the arrangement, it was rather difficult to understand the words to the second song.

Roy Webb then did the first of two piano solos for the evening, “When We All Get to Heaven.” After he was done, Ernie Haase came on stage and, without any introduction, launched into “This Old Place,” a touching Dianne Wilkinson song that Signature Sound did at last year’s National Quartet convention.

To digress slightly, in the middle of Ernie’s introduction to the song at NQC, the radio feed went dead. He was referring to his father-in-law, George Younce, at the time. But after Ernie had referred to Younce in passing during “Get Away Jordan,” he probably felt that too many references would be overkill and would lessen the impact of “Suppertime” toward the end of the program.

The most unusual number of the program came next. Ernie Haase sang “When I Move to that Heavenly Land” without a microphone, and filled the 1,500+ seat theater with his voice alone. A hush came over the room; whie it might be a slight exaggeration to say that you could have heard a pin drop, since Ernie has a powerful voice, you could most certainly have heard a CD drop.

Signature Sound sang one of their more progressive numbers, Godspeed, next. They closed the first half of the program with their song “Then Came the Morning.” The room was completely darkened except for a blue light that silhouetted the four singers, and a video of three crosses on the video screen. As they came to the chorus of the song, the lights brightened and filled the room. (This is one of several songs in the program that the Cathedrals popularized; they recorded it in 1982 on Something Special.)

After the intermission, the Ball Brothers sang two songs, a smooth song entitled “Peace of God” and their current radio release, an uptempo number entitled “I’m Already Living Forever.”

Signature Sound took the stage again with four consecutive up-tempo songs, Heavenly Parade, Happy Rhythm, Dem Bones (Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones), and Stand By Me. Ernie Haase told a story about how a little boy met them in the parking lot before the concert and asked them to sing “Dem Bones.” They said they would see if they could fit it in, at which point the little boy asked them to do it first, because he was going to fall asleep after the first song. (Side note: The story is a regular part of their comedy routine for the song.)

The Ball Brothers joined them on stage for a reprise of “Stand By Me.” Both groups stayed together for the rest of the concert. Doug Anderson was featured in the song “Who am I,” an arrangement that Ernie said that they had worked out specially for the occasion, the final stop of the Summer Tour. The groups also sang “Something About that Name” together before Roy Webb did his second solo of the night, “Softly and Tenderly.” They then sang backup vocals on a video of “Suppertime” that featured George Younce.

Ernie closed the concert by taking the time necessary to properly introduce his signature song, bringing the audience to their feet with his rendition of “Oh, What a Savior.” After a prolonged standing ovation, during which the group left the stage, they came back on stage to sing a reprise of Get Away Jordan. The enthusiastic audience stayed on its feet for two or three encores of the song. Each time they left, until the last time, the bass part of the soundtrack kept going. Knowing the song, I knew that it wouldn’t end until Roy left his piano bench, where he had stayed during each of the times that the group had left the stage. After the final reprise, he got up and left the stage with the rest of the group.

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