Monday, the first official day of the National Quartet Convention! To say that there was excitement in the air would be an understatement! I was so excited I spent almost the entire night in Main Stage and didn’t even realize it. LOL. Gerald Wolfe and Karen Peck were our hosts for the evening, and they were a blast…so…are you ready for this? Well, … here it is! Main Stage Monday night!
I walked into Freedom Hall somewhere between twenty after six – just in time for the “instrumental” of the night with the “Collingsworth Girls.” (Or so Gerald named them!) Brooklyn and Courtney played violin while Kim (their mother) backed them up on the piano. As with all events, the first night will have some “kinks” in it, and our kink for the beginning of the night was that there were no microphones for the violins! The girls began playing, and though you could see them pulling the bow over the strings, you couldn’t hear them! The sound man quickly remedied that and then a beautiful duet of No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus flowed from the instruments. When they stepped off the stage, all Gerald could say was, “Wow.”
“Well,” said Gerald, “You can’t have a quartet convention without a quartet…so next year, we are going to call it a trio convention!” Then he introduced a favorite, Triumphant Quartet!
Triumphant Quartet launched their set with a song featuring Clayton, I’m Amazed At The Change. The majority of the songs they performed were from their Everyday project, and another favorite from that Cd followed, When The Trumpet Sounds. From the get go, fans clapped to the beat, and from where I was sitting, it just wasn’t one section either! “How many are ready for the trumpet to sound?” Scott asked, and then they encored it, resulting in nothing but a standing ovation! David whipped out his harmonica and he and Jeff entertained us with an instrumental duet of Goodbye World, Goodbye. “Thank you so very much for making this week so special,” said Eric Bennett, bass singer of the group. “The Bible says that one might die for a righteous man, but God, in his great love commended his love to us while we were yet sinners. While we were yet sinners!” He emphasized. “I want Scotty to come and sing a song that has changed my life…” The song that Eric was talking about is Somebody Died For Me, which is also nominated for Song of the Year in the Singing News Fan Awards for 2011! In honor of 9/11, many patriotic songs were performed and Triumphant added Let’s All Stand For America to the remembrance of that fateful day. Each guy shared a line on the verses and by the chorus the whole auditorium stood in salute to the flag on the screens above. This powerful ballad closed Triumphant’s time on stage.
“Speaking of great,” Gerald commented, “My Dad loved Bluegrass, and he would take me to these all day Bluegrass Singing’s where 30 groups would sing…and when it comes to Bluegrass, you are about to see a legend, there is no one greater than Doyle Lawson and Quick Silver!”
Doyle Lawson and Quick Silver took the stage with an up-beat bluegrass tune called One Of These Days. This song transitioned so smoothly the next one, I had to listen to the lyrics to make sure it was a different song! So it was another song called I Found The Way. “I’ve been traveling on the road for almost 50 years,” said Doyle in introduction to the classic that would follow. “My dad was my biggest influence in gospel music.” As he reminisced about the days gone by, this set up for Precious Memories that had a beautiful dobro intro and equally lovely violin outro. The next song was an accapella number called Me Made It All Right. The intro was neat, in that it was sung in shape notes! “I grew up singing accapella and I love singing it!” Declared Doyle. He then realized that he forgot to introduce the drummer! He did so then and said,“If you’re going to be here all week, enjoy, because we’re not, we got to go work! So goodnight and God bless…” Their closing song was a very fast song called Sailing On To The Other Side. Doyle thanked the crowd one more time then they stepped off the stage.
Tim Lovelace came up on stage and told a story about taking his daughter to Dollywood for the water rides and related the punch line to supporting a child through Compassion International.
Squire Parsons was up next. His first song was a fast one called I’m Still Singing, which was a perfect fit considering his recent battle with Leukemia. When he came to the line that said, “I’ll be dancing down that street,” he did a little shuffle himself and said, “That’s as good as I can do!” He told a little of his battle with cancer and mentioned that this next song came from an experience he had while in the hospital, the ballad was I’m Still Here. Halfway through the song he asked, “Aren’t you glad for the power of Jesus?” Towards the end of the song, his son Sam came up and sang the chorus with him. Squire closed off his time on stage with an accapella singing of He Came to me. Before he stepped off the stage he had someone bring his father’s hat up to him. His father never had the opportunity to come to the NQC, but Squire said that he would have loved it, so he put his dad’s hat on in honor of him. Jim Brady put together a tribute for Squire, and they brought up the Booth Brothers, Talleys, Kingsmen, Mark Trammell Quartet, Hoppers, Gold City, Karen Peck, Nelons, Greater Vision, Tribute and the Whisnants to sing Beulah Land with him. What a special moment!
Continuing on, Gerald commented in all seriousness, “The program says that Karen and I are supposed to be funny, … well, we’re not funny people, we’re serious!”
The New Gospel Singing Caravan performed next! This show combined The Blackwood Brothers, The Lefevers and the Chuck Wagon Gang all together on one stage singing together. That night, the Nelons joined them, making it four artists onstage together! Their first song was I’m Too Close To That Heavenly Home (to turn back now). Sing His Praises and Always Have A Song followed. While the singers moved across to the other side of the stage, a video played on the screens of each group singing back with their original members (in black and white too!) giving the nostalgic feel to the moment. Old Time Religion was up next, and Shay, from the Chuck Wagon Gang, took the first verse and the tenor from the Blackwood Brothers sang the last verse. This snappy song went right into I’m Bound For The Promise Land, which featured the Nelons. Our attention was once again directed to the screens where clips of Eva Mae preaching could be seen and heard. A chorus of When Jesus Washed My Sins Away was up and then Jimmy Blackwood stepped up and declared what a privilege it was for the New Gospel Singing Caravan to be there that night. On a funny note, he added, “Never before have I thought that I would stand on this stage with all of these great singers and be the oldest one here!” How Great Thou Art finished off their set and brought the audience to their feet!
“Welcome the Talley’s and Greater Vision!” said Gerald as he skipped up the steps with mic in hand, ready to take the stage with the Talley’s. Both groups sang God Is Great, God Is Good, God Is Merciful together, then, the Talley’s sang their segment for the evening.
The Talley’s began their set with The Promise Coming Down That Dusty Road. “Praise the Lord! It is good to be at the NQC this year!” Roger exclaimed. “If you’ve seen us before, you know that we’ve always sung as a trio, but tonight is the third night we are singing as a foursome!” Then, he let Brian loose on a fast song called Searching. “I’ve been listening tonight,” Debra began,“and a lot of groups have come up here and done patriotic songs.” She went on to tell of how they did a 9/11 celebration this Saturday in Graham , North Carolina and the whole town was shut down for the event. She mentioned how we all remember where we were ten years ago, and how she thought it fitting to be in a place called Freedom Hall. Debra encouraged the audience by saying, “This is what America is, not what you see in Hollywood or on TV, but people like you who are not ashamed to come and lift up the name of Christ!” Then, she sang the first verse of a ballad called Who Will Pray, and Brian took the second verse. Their closing song was a melody of our nation’s most loved patriotic songs: God Bless America and Star Spangled Banner. It truly was spectacular!!!
Roger introduced Greater Vision, who came out and sped things up a bit with the snazzy He Could’ve Passed By. I couldn’t help but notice that Stan Whitmire was playing piano for them that night! “Well… thank you so much! Tonight and this week we’ve had a lot of requests,” said Gerald, and went on to tell of how they planned on fulfilling as many as possible. Rodney was featured on a new song he wrote called No Longer Chained. “I’m telling you,” said Gerald,“he just keeps crankin them out! They (Chris and Rodney) are both prolific songwriters. Prolific, yes, I’ve learned a new word since last year! Prolific means you do it a lot!” Gerald also told a little story of how they came about adding this next song into their set list, a song featuring Chris, known and loved by many – I Know A Man Who Can. They audience loved this one! A standing ovation prompted an encore and they did so from the last verse.
A new thing the NQC is bringing to the Main Stage is a chance for the winners of the afternoon showcases to perform one song on the big stage every night. Our winner this time round was a trio called Freedom, who sang a ballad called If It Wasn’t For That Cross.
The Collingsworth Family began their set with a song, and I’m not sure of the title, I think it had something to do with “God” and “Penalty” but I couldn’t be certain. Kim played a piano solo, after which was none other than arrangement of Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho. (Another standing ovation!) Phil introduced the next song by mentioning that he wants his teenagers to sing lyrics like it, the title in itself makes the message clear without having to hear the whole song, the title was, I’ve Found It All When I Lost Everything – and it featured Courtney. At Calvary was the fourth and final song, Phil Jr. sang a few lines in the third verse of this well-known hymn, which also received a standing ovation.
So how do you end the first night of an event such as the NQC? Well, Brian Free and Assurance couldn’t be a better pick! And I have to say, for being the LAST artist on stage that night, they brought the house down and had the fans on their feet…though, whether some were still awake might be questionable! (For being the last group, when they were introduced, the amount of hollers and whistles pleasantly surprised me! I didn’t know fans still had that in ‘em at eleven o’clock at night!) Matthew Holt accompanied them on the piano, and BFA kicked off their oh-too-short-set with What A Beautiful Day (for the Lord to come again). At the close, Brian asked, “How many of you believe that tonight?” Anything Is Possible With You followed, and Bill declared that, “It doesn’t matter if it is great, or if it is small – nothing is impossible with God!” Brian gave a short intro of the guys, then asked, “How many tonight still believe in the Holy, infallible Word of God? I know we do.” This set up for their current radio single, I Believe, which Brian sang with all his heart. Jeremy Lile was featured on God Will Close The Door, then the night ended with none other than Long As I Got King Jesus! Brian had everyone standing, clapping and enjoying themselves on this final note of the evening. What a night!