2013 SouthernGospelBlog.com Awards: Voting for Best Southern Gospel Concept Video

Quite a few Southern Gospel magazines and websites offer “best of” contests and awards shows. But they often cover much the same ground: Favorite artist, song, album, male singer, female singer, soprano, alto, tenor, lead, baritone, bass, and the like. Let’s do something different. Let’s honor the best Southern Gospel videos—concept videos, behind-the-scenes videos (including studio videos), and live concert videos. For each category, we’ll do a nominations post and a follow-up post with a poll featuring the top nominees.

The original intent in this category was to list the top five nominees, but since there were only nine overall nominees, and I would have had to cast a decisive tie-breaking vote to choose the fifth spot, let’s just add them all to the poll.

Let’s start with concept videos. What were the best Southern Gospel concept videos posted this year? We accepted nominations on Monday; now, it’s time to vote! Here are the nominees; pick the one you think is the best.

Final results:

  1. “Sometimes I Wonder,” Ernie Haase and Signature Sound: 32.85%
  2. “Cookes and Hinsons,” Zach and Rodney: 23.34%
  3. “While I Still Can,” Devin McGlamery: 14.18%
  4. “Something To Say,” Dills: 10.95%
  5. “Excuse Me, Are You Jesus,” Nelons: 8.62%
  6. “Love is Stronger,” Jason Crabb: 6.1%
  7. “Lead Me Home.” Freemans: 2.51%
  8. “Kneel,” Akins: 1.08%
  9. “The Scarlet Cord,” Southern Raised: 0.36%

There were 557 votes cast.

Links to nominee videos:

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NQC 2013, Day 5: Live Blog

Highlights of the Night

The evening kept getting better and better; it is safe to call the five-song finale the strongest part of the evening. 

  • Greater Vision kicked it off with “I Know a Man Who Can.”
  • Karen Peck and New River followed it with “Four Days Late.” It’s one of the strongest renditions I’ve ever heard them offer.
  • The Booth Brothers sang “Still Feeling Fine.” 11 PM or not, I’m not sure the audience will sit down at all between Greater Vision and the final notes! (Was that Gene McDonald who came up by the end? I had to look away for a couple of minutes.)
  • Mark Trammell Quartet, “I Want to Know.” I was surprised they didn’t sing it earlier; this was why!
  • To top it all off, there was an unannounced appearance by the Gaither Vocal Band, singing “It is Finished.” Wow! Talk about a strong ending!

Other highlights, in reverse chronological order:

  • Gold City’s set: Three classics and a recent favorite that unleashes the greatest legend amongst current Southern Gospel bass singers makes for a strong set! (And a cameo appearance from Jonathan Wilburn is never a bad thing.)
  • “The King is Coming,” Mark Trammell Quartet. A rousing standing ovation!
  • The Booth Brothers brought Bill Gaither up for the final song of their set, “I Played in the Band.” Before the final encore, Gaither had everyone who had sung in a choir, driven a bus, and done several other specific things he acknowledged, stand. Most of the room was standing.
  • “He’s Alive,” David Phelps with the Gaither Vocal Band. It deserves its own mention!
  • The Gaither segment. (Of course.) “That Sounds Like Home To Me” was particularly strong.
  • Canton Junction’s surprise appearance at the start of the Gaither set was very well-received.
  • The entire Karen Peck & New River set. It’s been their strongest of the week. They started with their current, catchy single, followed with two of their #1 hits, and left the audience on their feet with “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown.” They did their two biggest hits (“Four Days Late” and “Last Night”) earlier this week; that they could do a set without either song and still turn in their strongest set of the week speaks both to their ability as performers and to strength of their repertoire.
  • “If That Isn’t Love,” Isaacs, with Bill Gaither on the piano. We’re used to the Isaacs with Bluegrass arrangements; it’s nice to see them with Southern Gospel accompaniment once in a while.
  • “The Living Years,” Isaacs. As Bill Gaither walked on stage for the next song, he talked the Isaacs into doing an acapella chorus and tag of this one. Nobody can touch Gaither’s masterful touch at making a good moment unforgettable.
  • “Something’s Happening,” Hoppers. It was good throughout, but kept getting better and better. Then, when TaRanda Greene walked over to Kim Hopper and started singing a third above Kim’s soprano part, the raw musical power was simply too much for even Freedom Hall to contain.
  • The Nelons’ entire set was incredibly strong. They started with their recent radio single, “Excuse Me, Are You Jesus.” Then, they took the daring and risky move of singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” a cappella. The set just kept getting better and better; song 3 was the Sandi Patti song “More Than Wonderful.” Soprano Amber Thompson nailed Patti’s high ending, hitting notes I’ve never heard her hit before. Then, with the Gaither band backing them up, they pulled off an energetic rendition of “I’m Going Home With Jesus.”
  • Freedom’s Showcase Appearance: If this is any indication, John Rulapaugh’s new lineup is off to a spectacular start. But get Rulapaugh, Dale Shipley, and Burman Porter all into one group, and what do you expect?

Live Play-By Play

This post got so long that we’ve hidden the live play-by-play from the home page. Click “read more” or the post title to read the complete coverage.

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NQC 2013, Day 5: Homecoming Sing-A-Long Showcase

Daniel is at work, so Daniel’s Siblings are live-blogging the afternoon showcases.

For all those who signed up, remember the Friday NQC coverage is free!

11:02 “When the Saints Go Marching in” featuring Three Bridges’  Shannon Smith on verse 1, Danny Riley sings out for verse 2. Les Beasley crossed the stage (marching in?). Matthew Holt and Stan Whitmire closed it out with a piano duet.

12:58 Bill Gaither says they are closing the set with Glorious Freedom. David Phelps steps forward. The Gaither Vocal Band was joined by Jim Brady, Wesley Pritchard, Gene McDonald, Tim Duncan, and Jason Clark.

12:52 “My Savior’s Love,” featuring Amber Nelon Thompson on the first verse and Charlotte Ritchie and Jason Clark on the second verse. David Phelps sang verse three. Bill Gaither had the crowd sing an encore.

12:47 Mark Lowry was joined by Becky Bowman and Charlotte Ritchie for “I Call Him Lord.” Bill Gaither led the choir in another chorus.

12:43 Wesley Pritchard, Libbi Stuffle, and Mark Lowry sang “What a Lovely Name.” When Libbi had a feature, the fellow singers cheered.

12:39 Sue Dodge sang “Tell Them When You Saw Me I Was On My Way.”

12:31 Willie Wynn, Woody Wright, Reggie Smith, and Gene McDonald sang “Jesus is Coming soon.” Sue Dodge joined for an encore.

12:25 Woody Wright steps back forward for “Back Home Again.” Charlotte Ritchie and Becky Bowman added harmony.

12:21 Charlotte Ritchie featured on “Down to the River to Pray.” Sonya Isaacs Yeary joined her later in the song. They concluded with an A Capella chorus.

12:16 A video clip of JD Sumner was played and led into Charlote Ritchie, Ann Downing, and Jeanne Johnson singing “I Know the Savior Heard My Prayer.”  They switched to an old homecoming video for a middle verse.

12:12 Bill Gaither described how he learned music by counting with his teeth–Mark Lowry & Kevin Williams provided commentary. Bill Gaither lead into telling about the Stamps-Baxter School of music.

12:09 Introduction of band by Kevin Williams and Bill Gaither. Kevin Williams is playing guitar, Greg Ritchie is on drums, and Matthew Holt was playing the piano. They called Stan Whitmire over to play a “I’ve Got That Old-Time Religion” in a “windshield-wiper style.”

12:02 “Heaven’s Jubilee” featured Keith Oxendine who sang with soul, and the singers rose to their feet! The song was encored…and encored again!

11:58 “When God Dips His Pen of Love in My Heart” featured Wes Hampton. The Martin sisters, Jeanne Johnson, and Charlotte Ritchie joined.

11:54 The Martins are featured on “Life is Like a Mountain Railway.”  TaRanda Greene came up for the second verse then Matthew Holt did a piano feature.

11:51 “After Awhile” featuring Ben Speer, Jeanne Johnson, Gene McDonald (Sue Dodge, Kelly Clark and Ann Downing stayed up for this song.)

11:48 “I’d Rather Have Jesus” featuring Becky Isaacs Bowman, Sue Dodge, Ann Downing, and Kelly Nelon Clark on the first verse. Mike Bowling stepped out on the second verse for a feature.

11:44 “There is a Fountain.” David Phelps stepped out for a feature on a verse and chorus. The feed started cutting out towards the end.

11:42 We see Libbi Stuffle made it!

11:38 A.M. Event kicks off with a stage full of singers singing “Just As I Am” and then “Jesus Paid It All” on which Woody Wright sang a verse.

 

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Song Snapshots #10: Settled at the Cross (Nelons)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

Songwriter Lee Black got his start in the mid-1990s with a Brian Free & Assurance cut, “Flood the Altar.” He signed with Daywind Music Publishing for several years, and got a number of cuts with artists like Ivan Parker, the Ruppes, Misty Freeman, and the Nelons.

A few years later, he accepted a job working in publishing for a praise and worship label. He recalls that he put his own writing on the back burner for several years, explaining that it’s an honor system: “It’s an unspoken rule that if you’re working on that side of the publishing desk, you probably won’t concentrate on your own writing that much. You’re responsible for getting songs cut for eight to ten staff writers.”

He did get some praise and worship cuts, “when we had an 11th-hour deadline, and our writers weren’t turning in songs for it.”

One day about five or six years ago, Joel Lindsey called Lee up and invited him to a songwriters’ retreat. “We had written together years before,” he says, “and had just known each other for a long time. So I did.”

Shortly before the retreat, his pastor preached a sermon challenging our temptation to question God’s goodness. The pastor said that even if God never does another good thing for you, you can’t question His goodness; that was settled forever at the cross. “Those weren’t his exact words,” Black recalls, ”but that was the message I took home. I thought, ‘Man, I want to write that song!’”

He took that idea with him to the songwriting conference and mentioned it in a writing session with Lyn Rowell and Phil Mehrens. They wrote it together.

“I walked away from that weekend with three or four finished songs,” Black recalls, “and that was one that I felt really strongly about.”

“I just walked away from that retreat feeling like I wanted to write more than work in publishing,” he continues. “So I told my wife that, even if we had to eat beans, I’d rather be a writer than a publisher. She has been amazing; I could not have done this without her full support and belief in what I’m doing.”

Shortly afterwards, he heard that Word was resurrecting Canaan Records, under the leadership of Dave Clark. Clark had been his first publisher, so he sent him an email congratulating him on the position: “Hey, congratulations! I think it’s really smart when a label will put a song guy at the helm. Those guys know what works.”

“And just honestly, with my right hand up,” Black continues, “I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you sign me as your first writer, ha ha ha?”

Clark emailed back his thanks, adding, “What are you doing with your publishing these days?”

Black replied, “Nothing.”

So they started to talk, and Clark ended up signing Black. “Settled at the Cross” was one of the songs he brought into the contract. It was cut in choral music prior to making its way into Southern Gospel; both Lillenas and Brentwood-Benson issued anthems with it. The Nelons brought it into Southern Gospel on their 2010 Beside Still Waters album.

Videos

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3:1 DVD Review: Lari Goss: The Man Behind the Music

Lari Goss: The Man Behind the Music3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Song and group lineup: The lineup of groups appearing at this live tribute to legendary producer Lari Goss is basically a who’s who of Gospel Music: The Booth Brothers, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Babbie Mason, The Hoppers, The Mark Trammell Quartet, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, TaRanda Greene, The Martins, The Nelons, Karen Peck, Charlotte Ritchie, Reggie & Ladye Love Smith, Melissa Brady, Geron Davis, and the Christ Church Choir. 

Imagine each of these groups performing their greatest songs, with a…

2: Live orchestra: Lari Goss’s orchestrations are magnificent, but that magnificence just isn’t fully appreciated when they are delivered by three or four singers on stage with a soundtrack machine. The orchestra here wasn’t just any orchestra—it was the Nashville String Machine, the studio performers who are on so many of the original versions of these songs.

It doesn’t hurt that the house band includes Kevin Williams on guitar, Wesley Pritchard on bass guitar, Mike Hopper on drums, and, on many songs, the man himself, Lari Goss, on piano!

3: Video image quality: Thanks to the filming taking place at TBN’s studios, the cinematography—image quality, lighting, and resolution—is magnificent.  

:1: Nothing: This DVD doesn’t have a single flaw.

Here’s a case in point: Narrations. For those of you who enjoy them, they’re often pleasant, subdued moments. But many of you, on the other hand, skip the narrations. When was the last time you heard a narration get a standing ovation? That’s exactly what happens with Gerald Wolfe’s narration on “Statement of Faith.”

You can give this DVD to someone new to the genre, and comment “This is what Southern Gospel is all about.” If this doesn’t get someone hooked on Southern Gospel, there’s a fairly strong chance nothing will.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road, largely fully orchestrated.

Credits: Produced by Jim Brady, Gerald Wolfe, and Phil Brower. Recorded live at Trinity Music City, Hendersonville, Tennessee. Directed by Kim White and Graham Bustin. Live sound engineer: Robert Dixon. Post Production video editing: Jim Brady, Gerald Wolfe, Phil Brower, Cindy Carter, and Eddy Joyner at TMC Studios, Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Tre’ Corley and Paul Corley at Oak Tree Studios, Hendersonville, Tennessee. Post production audio mix by Bob Williams and Jim Brady.

Song List: Overture of Praise (performed by Lari Goss and the Nashville String Machine, conducted by Mike Casteel); I See Grace (performed by The Booth Brothers); Then I Met the Master (performed by The Booth Brothers); Glory to God in the Highest (performed by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound); Oh What a Savior (performed by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound); He’ll Find a Way (performed by Babbie Mason); Marriage Supper of the Lamb (performed by The Hoppers); Jerusalem (performed by The Hoppers); I Want to Know (performed by The Mark Trammell Quartet); It’s Almost Over (performed by The Mark Trammell Quartet); Champion of Love (performed by Cathedrals Alumni); Faces (performed by Greater Vision); Redeemed Medley (performed by Greater Vision); Thankful for The Change (performed by Legacy Five); I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked (performed by TaRanda Greene); Doxology (performed by The Martins); I Am Bound for The Promised Land (performed by The Martins); We Shall Wear a Crown (performed by The Nelons, Karen Peck Gooch, and Charlotte Ritchie); Oh For a Thousand Tongues (performed by The Nelons, Karen Peck Gooch, and Charlotte Ritchie); All in All (performed by Jim Brady); Statement of Faith (all artists); We Shall Wear a Crown reprise (all artists). Bonus tracks: Midnight Cry (performed by Reggie and Ladye Love Smith, Michael Booth, Julie Goss, and Jim and Melissa Brady); I Am is Enough (performed by Geron Davis, Bradley Knight, and the Christ Church Choir Singers).

Five-star songs: Pretty nearly every song.

DVD rating: Five Stars.

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The Old Rugged Cross and Tent Revival Homecoming: How a Taping Became a DVD

You’ve seen reviews of Gaither Homecoming DVDs. You’ve even seen occasional reports from news websites allowed into Gaither Homecoming tapings. But you probably have not seen coverage that starts with reporting from the live concert (found in its original form here) and focuses on the transition from the live event through the final product.

  • Daddy Sang Bass (#15 on Tent Revival Homecoming): The requisite fixes to the live performance were made. The humor in the live skit translated well to DVD.
  • On the Other Side of the Cross (#7 on The Old Rugged Cross): The intro was replaced by a post-production voice-over.
  • Yes, I Know (#1 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Unlike the other opening track, this one did feel like the start of a concert on the DVD. (Dailey & Vincent’s songs were taped ten or fifteen minutes before the main program began, to allow time for instrument set-up and tear -down,
  • When the Saints Go Marching In (#2 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
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3:1 DVD Review: 100 Years: A Celebration of Southern Gospel Music

3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1. Gold City set: When Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Mike LeFevre, and Tim Riley stepped on stage together for the first time in nineteen years, the atmosphere was electric. And they did not disappoint: They reminded everyone why that lineup of Gold City has been called all-star.

2. The Live Band: This is the way Southern Gospel is supposed to sound. Not only was there a live band, but the live band was in-the-pocket, knew the material, and delivered an all-around solid performance.

3. Groups Appearing: While it would be impossible to assemble an all-star program featuring every classic group with living members, Daywind accomplished more than anyone thought was possible. If you were stranded on a tropical island and could only take one DVD with you, this is the one.

:1. One thing I would change: Interlacing: The video was recorded with a professional camera and lighting crew, and looks excellent. But it would look even better if it wasn’t interlaced. (There were also a few audience shots where the aspect ratio was incorrect, but they went by fast enough that it’s a minor quibble.)

DVD Rating: 5 stars.

Cinematography: 4 stars. Average song rating: 4.5 stars.

Credits

Producer: Norman Holland. •  Review copy provided.  • Song list: This Great Caravan (New Gospel Singing Caravan); I Found a Hiding Place (New Gospel Singing Caravan); The King of Who I Am (Lulu Roman); Medley: Things Are Gonna Get Better / When I Lift Up My Head / New Shoes / Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing / Holy Hills of Heaven / Sheltered in the Arms of God / Remind Me Dear Lord / Too Much to Gain to Lose / He Looked Beyond My Fault (Rambos), Medley: Tears Will Never Stain / Things Are Gonna Get Better (Rambos); O For a Thousand Tongues (Nelons), We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown (Nelons); Operator (Downings); Greater is He that is In Me (Downings); I’m So Glad He Found Me (Hinsons); He Can (Hinsons); Lighthouse (Hinsons); When I Get Carried Away (Gold City); I Think I’ll Read it Again (Gold City); Midnight Cry (Gold City); Keep on the Sunny Side (Lewis Family); Something About That Name (Cathedrals Tribute); Champion of Love (Cathedrals Tribute); Home (Singing Americans); I Bowed On My Knees & Cried Holy (Singing Americans).

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Saturday News Roundup #82

Bus News

  • Beyond the Ashes tenor/manager posted the picture on the right on his Facebook early this morning, with the following caption: “God woke us up at 2:45 this morning and got us all out safely. Thankful for God’s protection.”
  • Kelly Nelon Clark posted earlier this week (Facebook login required) that the transmission went out on their bus, to the tune of $13,000. They are offering a limited-time $30 “Family & Friends Special,” here, to help cover expenses.
  • It has been a rough month on Southern Gospel buses, and the groups which try to keep one running! Five major bills have hit within the last month. Besides the two above, Jeff & Sheri Easter were in an accident with a drunk driver, the Ball Brothers had a $20,000 repair bill, and the Crist Family had a $22,800 bill

Other News

  • Triumphant Quartet will be releasing a project at NQC, From the Heart, that features two songs written by each member of the group. It’s a unique and intriguing concept.
  • This is Wesley Smith’s first weekend back with Palmetto State. Meanwhile, former Dixie Echoes tenor Gerry Stroup is filling in again until they can find a permanent replacement.
  • I am planning to catch one of Cody McVey’s first performances with the Ball Brothers on Tuesday. The Ball Brothers will be at Trinity Baptist Church in Asheville, NC at 6 P.M. (details here).
  • Front Porch Singin’ debuts in the Southern Gospel blogosphere with an important reminder to follow the law by paying song royalties.
  • Congratulations to Chris Allman’s son Dustin Allman. While Greater Vision was on their Alaska cruise, he proposed to his girlfriend, Amanda, and she said yes!

Video of the Week

Here’s our first look at David Mann’s new group, Promise. Mann takes the feature on a Greater Vision oldie originally featuring Mark Trammell, “He is Mine”—and owns it:

Toward the end of the second verse, his voice bears a striking resemblance to a young Gerald Wolfe.

Open Thread

As always, consider the comments section an open thread. Have a great weekend!

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(delayed) Saturday News Roundup #78

This got delayed due to the last-minute addition of a Blackwood Brothers concert review last Saturday.

In the News

  • Greater Vision will be doing a live online CD release party tonight at 8 PM EST via their UStream / Facebook page.
  • The Diamond Awards were handed out in Branson, Missouri; a complete list of honorees is here. [EDIT, 2/21/13: Broken link removed.] As Musicscribe noted [EDIT, 3/16/13: Broken link removed], the five-vocalist Gaither Vocal Band was, oddly, named as Quartet of the Year. It appears that the only winning artist present to accept awards was Driven Quartet, honorees for Christian Country Group of the Year and Favorite Artist Website. Other non-artist winners were also present; Rob Patz, owner of the Diamond Awards, received one of the awards himself; he was one of two honored with the Lou Hildreth Award.
  • Southern Gospel Review explains why Amber Nelon Thompson chose to drop out of the American Idol audition process.

Video of the Week #1

As Gerald Wolfe recovers from sinus surgery, Richie Hartsfield has been filling in on lead (with Wolfe remaining on piano). Reader Jessie T. submits this video of him filling in:

Video of the Week #2

The Booth Brothers recently did a creative and innovative remake of the Keith & Kristyn Getty song “See, What a Morning.” Here’s the original; here is what the Booth Brothers did with it:

Open Thread

As always, consider this News Roundup comments section an open thread.
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Concert Report: The Homecoming that Nearly Sunk (Charlotte, NC)

Last night, I attended a Gaither Homecoming concert and videotaping in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was held in an open canvas tent on the grounds of the Billy Graham library.

  • Daddy Sang Bass: Bluegrass mega-group Dailey and Vincent wowed the audience and proved why they have been winning seemingly every award Bluegrass has to offer these last few years. They did a tenor and bass routine that featured tenor Jamie Dailey trying to sing bass and bass Christian Davis successfully singing tenor. This was taped before the main program commenced due to the setup time a bluegrass group needs, but the audience ate it up anyhow. It is tough on a group to sing a song this challenging first thing in the program, without any warm-up, and so they will probably do some vocal fixes later. But they got what they needed visually for what will probably be one of the favorite numbers on the DVD.
  • On the Other Side of the Cross: Dailey and Vincent, who recently recorded a Statler Brothers tribute album, did this song with Jimmy Fortune. Their vocals were much stronger here; the additional time warming up with the previous song helped. This was also warmly received.
  • Yes, I Know: This featured solos from Ivan Parker, Jason Clark (of the Nelons), TaRanda Greene, Reggie Smith, and one or two others whom I couldn’t quite pick out from the back row.
  • When the Saints Go Marching In: This featured Stephen Hill (I think) and Ivan Parker.
  • Jesus, Hold My Hand: This featured the Gaither Vocal Band and TaRanda Greene. The vocal dynamite of this interaction makes it quite likely this one will make the cut onto the final product.
  • When He Calls I’ll Fly Away: This didn’t get as strong a response from the live audience as later songs, due to live sound issues. Yet it appeared to be a visually solid performance and, perhaps with audio fixes, should play quite well on the videos.
  • Just Over in the Gloryland: This featured a verse from the Hayes Family—a strong rendition vocally, but again plagued by live sound issues.
  • Life’s Railway to Heaven: This strong and energetic arrangement featured Marshall Hall, TaRanda Greene, Karen Peck, Sue Dodge, and several others. (Sitting in the back row, with about 1/3 of the stage obstructed by the center video camera setup, limited ability to see everything.
  • My Savior’s Love: This classic hymn featured three singers; the second two were TaRanda Greene and David Phelps. Greene’s and Phelps’ powerhouse renditions brought strong reactions.
  • The Old Rugged Cross: Bill Gaither set up the song by saying that Franklin Graham had told them to sing whatever they wanted—but to be sure to include songs about the Cross. Gaither said that he’d replied that that certainly wouldn’t be a problem, with this bunch! The live sound was much better with this song—and remained better than for the opening songs from here through the end. Partially because of this, and partially because it was perfect for that moment in the program, Ben Speer’s solo got what was one of the warmest responses of the night to that point.
  • The Ninety and Nine: When this song was recorded on a Gaither Homecoming several years back, it featured Donnie Sumner and the Talley Trio. The Talley Trio was not there, and I didn’t notice Donnie Sumner (not to say that he definitely wasn’t there.) This time, then, the song featured Guy Penrod and the Nelons. While I consider the Talley Trio’s rendition of the “But none of the ransomed ever knew” verse to be one of the strongest performances of their career, if not the strongest, this rendition will certainly hold its own.
  • Then came the highlight of the night. Bill Gaither introduced George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, and the audience came unglued. They got a standing ovation at their introduction, and the audience remained standing throughout the entire segment. George Beverly Shea—now 102—delivered a remarkably strong rendition of “The Love of God.” Even if his voice isn’t quite what it used to be, it is still as strong as probably any centenarian’s voice has been, at least since the advent of recorded music. Shea and Cliff Barrows sang “He Whispers Peace” together. Then Cliff Barrows led the audience in singing “Blessed Assurance.” It is hard to say how this will play in the more sterile setting of a commercially released video, but on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library, this was the moment that the live audience will never forget.
  • It wasn’t just the live audience that was moved by the Shea/Barrows segment. Before the program could proceed, makeup artists had to come on stage to fix many of the ladies’ makeup.
  • Down to the River to Pray: This featured a number of ladies—Charlotte Ritchie, Becky Isaacs, Karen Peck, Janet Paschal, and others—and Stephen Hill.
  • Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored: The Gaither Vocal Band and the Gatlin Brothers traded verses on the song, and got a huge response.
  • Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road: The Gatlin Brothers turned in a strong performance that had the audience on their feet.
  • I Need Thee, Oh I Need Thee: This featured Buddy Greene on harmonica and Jeff (Easter? not sure) on pump organ.
  • Precious Lord, Take My Hand: Marshall Hall kicked off the song. Jason Crabb took a verse, and Angela Primm—a black female vocalist whom I had not seen before—brought the song to a powerhouse ending.
  • I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me: Angela Primm was featured on the song; she did a dueling power soul vocal lick conclusion with Jason Crabb.
  • Heavenly Sunrise: The Hoppers pulled out a hit from way back. If my notes are correct, and I’m not mixing songs up, they were joined on stage by Gene McDonald, Reggie Smith, Kelly Bowling, and Charlotte Ritchie.
  • I’ll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus: The Hoppers offered a standout amidst an evening of strong performances with this one. Mike Hopper joined the group on stage, doubling Claude on the bass part.
  • How Beautiful Heaven Must Be: This featured Mitchel Jon.
  • I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted: While Mitchel Jon stayed in safe, mellow territory for much of the night, he let loose on this one. Before the song was up, he was joined by Larnelle Harris, Michael English, and Angela Primm.
  • His Eye is on the Sparrow: This featured Larnelle Harris; afterwards, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see it edited to be an intro, Bill Gaither talked with Cliff Barrows about Ethel Waters’ landmark performance at the New York City crusade.
  • At this point, the Oak Ridge Boys did some secular song. Since I needed to take a bathroom break at some point, this was the most natural opening. (Gaither said the cameras weren’t rolling; they were changing tapes, or something to that effect—seemingly odd, now that camera systems have rolled over to digital.)
  • Lead Me To That Rock: The Oak Ridge Boys engaged an enthusiastic audience with this one.
  • Bill Gaither brought Reba Rambo McGuire, her husband Dony McGuire, and their daughter Destiny on stage. He led the Homecoming choir in a Rambos medley that included “Sheltered in the Arms,” “Holy Spirit, Thou Art Welcome,” “Remind Me, Dear Lord,” and “He Looked Beyond My Fault.”
  • At this point, there was a probably unplanned interruption; Cliff Barrows said that there was a sweet, sweet spirit in the room, and volunteered to lead the audience in “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.”
  • Reba, Dony, and Destiny then sang “When I Lift Up My Head”; they were joined by Buck Rambo for “Too Much to Gain to Lose.”
  • Gaither brought Stuart Hamblen’s daughter and grandson on stage, and talked about his friendship with Hamblen and Hamblen’s connection with Billy Graham. The homecoming choir sang “It is No Secret,” and then Gene McDonald and Larry Gatlin sang what was evidently an unrehearsed version of “This Ole House”—made evident since Larry Gatlin forgot the second half of his verse!
  • At this point, a rain storm started coming in. Trust it to a stage full of lifelong performers to know how to kill time; Mark Lowry sang part of “It Won’t Rain Always” and did some impromptu comedy with Bill Gaither.
  • Returning to the Hamblen segment, Janet Paschal sang “Until Then.”
  • Do Right and Come Smiling Through: Stan Whitmire did a convention-style piano solo.
  • At this point, a thunderstorm came on in full force, and recording had to be shut down for a half-hour or more. Fierce winds started blowing the tent, shaking lighting and sound structures vigorously, and blowing in heavy rain to flood electronic equipment.
  • Trust it to lifelong performers to live it up; Ben Speer and Sue Dodge came down for a totally impromptu rendition of “Didn’t it Rain,” and, naturally, Sue Dodge’s “Rain rain go away come again some other day” got a soaked audience laughing.
  • It looked as though the taping might have to be scrapped, but after 30-45 minutes, it resumed with “Heaven’s Jubilee,” featuring Gordon Mote, Michael English, and Larnelle Harris.
  • Rock My Soul: Featuring one of the Imperials groups—it appeared to be the one with Terry Blackwood, Royce Taylor, Darrell Toney, and Joe Moscheo (hat tip, Dean).
  • Old White Flag: Triumphant made a triumphal Homecoming debut with their perennial concert favorite.
  • Since Jesus Came to Live Inside of Me: Booth Brothers
  • In Christ Alone medley: Booth Brothers – Michael Booth acknowledged Michael English when they got to his “In Christ Alone”
  • Consider the Lilies: Charlotte Ritchie led a ladies’ trio
  • This is Just What Heaven Means to Me: Tanya Goodman Sykes led this Goodmans classic; she was joined by Charlotte Ritchie and Becky Isaacs Bowman.
  • I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary: Isaacs
  • I’ll Meet You in the Morning: This was done by a quartet with Ben Speer, Gene McDonald, and two others whom I did not see
  • Old Camp Meeting: Les Beasley led a scrap-iron quartet (also including Gene McDonald) on his first-ever Homecoming solo.
  • Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho: The Martins
  • Help Me: Russ Taff
  • Now More than Ever: Karen Peck and New River
  • Sometimes I Cry: Jason Crabb’s live band took over the band area, to give his song a distinctly different feel than the songs from the remainder of the program.
  • Then Came the Morning: Guy Penrod delivered a performance that would have gotten a standing ovation with a crowd with more energy. In a sort of odd symbolism, Guy began the song almost precisely on the stroke of midnight.
  • There Is a Fountain / The Blood of Jesus: Courtney Collingsworth did a violin solo on “There is a Fountain”—amidst an evening of big ballads and high energy, the stark simplicity was a perfect and memorable change of pace.
  • Before Jeff & Sheri Easter sang, Jeff Easter did a comedy monologue about his daughter, drama, and puppies. Though this is perhaps unlikely to make the final cut, there was some great impromptu humor here for the live audience; after the craziness of the evening, when Jeff Easter started talking about puppies, Gene McDonald offered a monster bark into his bass microphone. Jeff Easter looked back at the bass section and said “What?” – at which point Gene barked again, and assorted other performers began barking and yapping!
  • Sweet Bye and Bye: Jeff and Sheri Easter
  • That Sounds Like Home to Me: Michael English had the solo, with the rest of the Gaither Vocal Band (except possibly one of the two tenors) joining on the choruses.
  • He’s Alive: David Phelps hit a home run with this big finish.

A few general observations:

  • The parking situation was atrocious. The staff was going to start parking at 5:30, and they didn’t have either the capability or the infrastructure to handle the influx of cars. The cars backed up down their entrance, down the access, road, and quite a ways down the Billy Graham parkway. Meanwhile, they reassigned a number of the early birds (including me) to park in the other direction, facing out the exit ramp—leaving it to us to figure out how to work our way back into the line, much later, without any guidance.
  • Oddly, they didn’t have the infrastructure to check tickets, either. I came in the entrance by which about half the traffic was coming in—the entrance where people who walked across the grounds of the library from their parking lot, instead of taking the shuttle, came in. I eventually figured out where my seat was, but oddly they did not check my ticket at any point.
  • Also oddly: This was the first live taping I’ve attended where there was apparently nobody designated to enforce a no-cameras-or-video-devices rule. I saw several cameras rolling at points. This was completely understandable during the time period when the building was shut down and flooding, but it was rather irksome during the regular program. If you are sticking a video camera (cell phone or otherwise) over your head and obviously recording a video during a professionally produced live video taping, it both obstructs the view of those around and behind you and gets them thinking that you must clearly be too cheap to buy the real thing when it comes out!
  • It took about eight songs for the live sound crew to dial in the live sound. Since I was sitting in the back row, I could see the monitor for the sound crew’s Pro Tools setup, and they were recording all microphones—not the live mix—so this should not affect the final product. Yet as they were scrambling to find out who was on each microphone, several of the early songs had unamplified vocals for most or all of the verses.
  • If the extent to which she was featured tonight is any indicator, expect to see TaRanda Greene playing a role as one of the most prominent Homecoming soloists in the future. (That’s not a bad thing at all, since she was easily one of the most talented and versatile vocalists on the stage.)
  • There were about 124 performers on stage. Since they kept moving around practically every verse of every song, it was hard to get a precise count.
  • Though they will undoubtedly work fine on the video, several of the slow songs, particularly the second-to-last “That Sounds Like Home To Me,” were actually rather challenging in the live setting. At 12:30 AM, it was hard to focus on a song that mellow; my mind shifted to planning an escape route for a prompt and efficient exit walking across the grounds to my car, and then in the car out of the rather confusing complex layout!

A Homecoming live video taping experience is not for everyone. Five and a half hours—perhaps without a break, since the only one here was unplanned—is not for the faint of heart. Yet there are also sure to be numerous memorable moments you will never forget.

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