The click of my high heels echoed in the hall quickly becoming lost in the countless sounds of other footsteps, voices and the occasional cell phone ring. I had just come from the Exhibit Hall and was anxious to weave through the crowd and find a seat in the arena. The buzz urged me to pick up the pace, but I had to be mindful not to get separated from the group that followed me. Making a left turn, my hand instantly reached for the wall as I walked down the ramp. Though the place I had just come from in the Louisville Expo Center was bustling with activity, all was quite in Freedom Hall as a man stood on stage with head bowed speaking these words, “And we pray that when we leave here we will be different than when we came…”
When he finished praying, Gerald Wolfe welcomed Les Beasley and Claude Hopper on stage. These two made some announcements about NQC and picked on each other all at that same time. One thing that they were especially proud of was how the Sneed Family brought 7 buses to Convention. When they asked where those folks were sitting, hollers and shouts rang out from select parts of the auditorium. “Have you enjoyed Claude?” Les asked, wrapping things up, “Let’s bring on Providence.”
Like Les mentioned, the first group on stage was Providence Quartet. They kicked off their set with I Feel Like Traveling On and then one of their members asked, “Anybody come to worship the Lord tonight?” The same singer began Ain’t That What It’s All About. Afterwards, the same gentleman quickly introduced the group, but with the applause from the last song overpowering his voice, I didn’t catch any of their names. Their last song was an up-beat one called I’m Going There. As they began the encore, they called up Bill Shivers (of Brian Free and Assurance, who co-wrote the song) to join them on stage. So Bill joined then on stage and encouraged the crowd to clap along.
The Browns were second on stage Monday night. I love how they always begin their sets at NQC with an instrumental. This time, Michaela, Adam and Andrew played a rollicking Irish tune, Joy of Life with Trout in the Bath. (There’s something about that kind of music that makes you smile!) “Ladies and gentleman,” voiced the announcer, “The wonderfully talented Browns! Make them welcome please!” Both Now and Forevermore opened the rest of their program. “Thank you so much,” said Adam, “We are the Browns and we are so excited to be at the National Quartet Convention. This next song we are going to do for you my little brother wrote, it’s called, What A Beautiful Day. Hope you enjoy it.” The three siblings went on to sing that song, after the crowds applause they encored it too! Introducing the next song, Shelly stepped on stage and said, “May this be the cry of our heart.” Then Adam sang Be Thou My Vision. A new song from their brand new project “Love Loud” came next, it was called Rock and Redeemer. Not only did this one have a good beat, it had some fiddling in it too! Place In The Choir, a fun song about all the animals singing in God’s choir finished their set. The two things that made me smile in this song was Andrew singing bass. (He did well! And the crowd loved it!) It was also very impressive to see three bows all playing Michaela’s violin on one of the fiddle parts! What I love so much about the Browns is their diversity – they balance their set with great singing and great playing!
A segment called “Remembering the Louisville Years” drew our attention to the screens above where a clip of Legacy Five singing I Found Grace played. The line-up back then was Roger, Scott, Frank, Howie and Glenn.
“Oh yeah!” Tim Lovelace (co-host of the evening) cried out as he jumped up on stage. “I’m all for looking back, but I want you to put your hands together for some family harmony, how about The Lester’s!” Their new song, Carry the Message, opened their set with a good up-beat tune. When Brian, Jonathan and Justin came to face the side of the stage I was sitting on they began a snappy tune called Anytime. “Here’s one that goes back a few years,” said Brian of their next number, My Lord Will Lead Me Home. “Oh! Thank you so very much!” He said afterwards, “It’s a delight to be at the NQC, we’re glad that everybody’s here tonight. I hope you’re having a good time, if you’re not, then it’s your own fault!” LOL During introductions they mentioned that their new tenor, Justin, was from Kentucky and the crowd let them know they liked that! “Fanny Crosby penned the words to this song many years ago,” said Brian, “it kind of sums it all up.” They sang My Savior First of All. Those kind of ballads snag your attention and still your heart – and it certainly did that too, because they received a standing ovation. “By what the clock says,” Brian teased, “We better get to this song and sing it!” From where I was sitting I could see the timer – with three minutes, they had plenty of time to let the crowd hear Hold On Tight.
“What about it for all the Lester’s!” asked Mark Bishop, Tim’s co-host. Mark took a minute to tell a little story about his computer, ending with a very frustrated lady from his community saying, “Would somebody tell Mark Bishop to stop driving around the county pushing buttons! We’re running out of technicians!” LOL “Tim,” said Mark, “we need to get back to the singing!”
The Sneed Family were up next and sailed through their set with songs like Sail On Over To the Other Side, More To Go To Heaven For, Hallelujah Square (standing ovation) and He Is Leading the Way. When the folks stood for Hallelujah Square those who came on the buses held up bright neon tote bags that had “Sneed Family” printed on them. They sure had their support! While leaving the stage they told the crowd, “Thank you Kentucky friends!”
While the lights dimmed low so the staff could set up the stage for the next group, the spotlight moved to the isle where the Penny Loafers sang Climbing Up The Ladder acapella and a few other songs to entertain us for a few minutes.
“Now we have already established we have a lot of folks from Kentucky,” said Mark, “Do we have any Northerners? Do we have any fans of Bluegrass tonight? Would you make welcome to the Main Stage the one, the only Primitive Quartet?” The first tune they picked was He Is Holy. “Do you remember how the Lord found you?” they asked, “You can write a song about a 55 Chevrolet.” Which introduced That’s The Way I Was When He Found Me. I Don’t Have to See the Tomb to Know That Jesus Lives Again followed. “You know what folks, it’s the same God today,” their emcee went on. He’s The Same God – an acapella tune about Abraham and Isaac illustrated those encouraging words. Then they sang Let Me Be More Like You and He Included Me, after thanking Clark for having them at NQC. As they concluded their set, the announcer encouraged, “They are absolute national treasures would you let them know it one more time, the Primitive Quartet!”
“One of the greatest quartets ever, Triumphant Quartet!” exclaimed Clark, after making some announcements in between the singing. Jeff Stice walked on stage, sat down at the black grand and played one of his amazing arrangements. (Standing O!) David, Clayton, Scotty and Eric joined him on stage while the applause still thundered and then the quartet sang some of the best songs in their repertoire. In order, they were: Don’t Let The Sandals Fool Ya’, He Is, He Loves Me and When the Trumpet Sounds. “God bless! We love you!” Eric directed to the crowd as they walked off stage.
Another “Remembering the Louisville Years” played. This one captivated me because it began as a black and white video of the Speer Family and then a second clip jumped to “color TV” of when they said farewell at NQC years ago.
“And this is a great moment too,” the announcer began, “The one, the only, Squire Parsons.” Squire walked on stage with his son and daughter-in-law and began Beulah Land. “Forty years ago driving through the hills of West Virginia, I wrote that song,” he said. The next song Squire wanted to dedicate to the Gideons for being so faithful in getting the Word of God in the public. The song called Bible In the Room, created perfect word pictures for what they do! After thanking Louisville for all the wonderful years we’ve had there, he ended his program with Wanna’ Go Out With A Shout.
My favorite part of the evening came next – the sing along with Gerald Wolfe, Phil (the announcer) and Dean Hopper. When Gerald walked on stage he told the crowd, “You will never meet a more gentle man. I don’t mean this to be funny, but I grew up going to see Squire sing and we wouldn’t get home until 1 AM…and we had to get up early to go to Sunday School. Who remembers when going to Sunday School wasn’t an option?” He went on to say that the Sunday School songs they learned had good theology in them…like This Little Light Of Mine. So, that was the first sing along song! When Phil came on stage he had us sing the Alleluia song – he had the audience standing and sitting on the different parts. Then Dean Hopper came on stage and we sang If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands. Well, that was all fine and dandy…but when they came to the part where they stomped their feet, Freedom Hall sounded like it was going to come apart!” Gerald’s final words were, “It was so easy to tell who never went to Sunday School.” (From watching who interacted and who different.) LOL
The Collingsworth Family was scheduled to be next and Kim and Phil played an instrumental (piano and trumpet.) The first song the family sang together was It’s Such A Marvelous Life and Phil talked about their new hymn album. A sample from that project met our years in their following ballad, My Jesus I Love Thee. “Do you love those old songs?” asked Phil. Turning to his wife he went on, “Kim, I think that you and I can agree that Charles Wesley was one of the greatest hymn writers.” Kim played one of his songs, And Can It Be, as a piano solo. (It was AMAZING!!!) The Blood of Jesus closed out their set with power. The message brought everyone to their feet…even those sitting in the balcony!!!
At this point in the evening it was time to hear a song from a showcase winner. Eagles Wings are from Jasper, AL and sang When I Wake Up To Sleep No More…bluegrass style!
“Gospel Music is their trademark,” said Phil (he announcer), “The Hoppers!” Dean, Kim and Connie walked on stage and began singing Count Me In. Poor Claude was missing! Dean said, “Someone find Dad,” in between lines of the song. Afterwards, Dean joked that Claude was probably out trying to sell something. LOL Yahweh was next and Claude appeared half way through the song. When the song ended and Connie gave him a look of reprimand, Claude said, “I’m sorry…Les was talking to me and I couldn’t get away from him!” He Carried Me and Yes I Am closed out their set.
As the Hoppers walked off stage and Rodney Griffin was coming on for the “Think About It” segment, he told Claude, “Glad you made it.”
Rodney finished his story with going into Faces, which began Greater Vision’s set. He’d Still Been God followed and the lights danced with the beat. Gerald greeted the crowd and said, “This week we’re gonna throw in some songs we’ve been singing since we’ve been coming here to Louisville.” With Stan Whitmire on the keys, they featured Chris on I Know A Man Who Can. (Standing ovation!) “That’s a great song, I wish I had written that one,” Gerald teased, then introduced Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is. “You like that?” Gerald asked when they finished, “Thank you guys!”
Ready for another Sing Along, Gerald asked Stan to go to “C” and then sang Blessed Assurance. This was one of those special, yet, bitter-sweet moments for me. My very first NQC was in 2007. Very vividly I remember sitting up in the balcony on Monday night thinking, “I can’t believe I’m actually here.” One of the first groups that sang that night was Greater Vision, after their first song (which happened to be their Redeemed Medley) Gerald asked the crowd to sing Blessed Assurance acapella with him. So this year when Gerald picked that hymn for the sing along it was extra special to me because it seemed fitting that my first and last visit to Louisville for NQC would have the audience singing that hymn on Monday night!
“While you are in the mood to applause, you get the opportunity to applaud one of the best lead singers,” Gerald said, “Too bad he is the ugliest lead singer…my buddy, Ivan Parker!” LOL Ivan came on with Big Change. “It is such a joy to be here tonight,” said Ivan, “I had a quartet before this started and they all quit.” *wink* After taking a moment to say that you can’t get better than this, he sang Sail On, I’m Going Home, Midnight Cry and When I Get Carried Away.