“There’s nothing like Eastern Tennessee hospitality,” said Gerald Wolfe at last night’s bonus concert. And it’s true, from the moment you drive into Pigeon Forge and see the Great Smoky Mountains towering above the town, you feel like you’ve come home. For fans of Southern Gospel Music, it is home. Home to the industry’s largest (and my favorite) event, The National Quartet Convention!
The evening began with Gerald down in the audience asking where people were from – and the answers were as far away as Scotland, Norway and the Netherlands! Back on stage, Gerald welcomed Mayor David Wear to the platform, said hello to the crowd and shared his hopes that the week would be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. After the mayor, Claude Hopper came and spoke for a few minutes on behalf of the National Quartet Convention. When he finished, Gerald brought the first group on stage for the night – The Hoppers!
The Hoppers began the night with a stirring rendition of “I Sing The Mighty Power Of God.” Halfway through, Dean, Mike and Claude stood to the right of the stage and sang a verse and then the ladies; Kim, Connie and Karlye sang another verse before they came back together and ended the ballad with a few more stanzas and a high ending. Keeping on with the spirit of a Sunday night worship service, the Hoppers sang “He Is Mine and I Am His” and “Looked Beyond My Fault” before stepping off the stage. Gerald commented as he walked back on stage, “That was beautiful.” Gerald took a moment and explained that last year, NQC brought three of America’s best emcees to the event for the evening concerts; and this year, they are doing it again! Right then, Gerald called Duane Garren to the stage and introduced him to the crowd. Duane said hello and introduced the next feature on the program called, “Piano ALIVE” with Gerald Wolfe and Melissa Brady. When he called them to the stage, Gerald took the mic and said, “I don’t know why they have me go up and down those stairs so many times!” LOL. He went on to pick on Melissa by explaining to the crowd that they didn’t have their piano duet picked out because Melissa was late to sound check and they didn’t have time to practice. Melissa made a face and denied that she was late, but in the end, Gerald convinced everyone that it was true, so they had to figure out their song on the spot. Melissa suggested that they let the crowd shout out something and immediately, people were hollering out hymns. They settled on “When We All Get To Heaven,” which the crowd loved. Afterwards, Gerald, still seated at the piano announced, “Greater Vision, here they are!” Jon, Rodney and Chris walked on and sang “You’ve Arrived” and “He’d Still Been God.” Jon sang “Song About The Blood” and then Duane came back on stage and asked, “How ‘bout it, Greater Vision! Did you enjoy them?”
A video played from the Cathedrals of George picking on Scott and then Duane asked, “Do you miss George Younce?” After a pause, he introduced the next artist. “This next young lady coming to the stage has one of the most unique voices in Gospel Music – Lynda Randle!”
Lynda walked on stage and began singing the familiar tune, “Glory To His Name.” While Lynda sang, the Hoppers – Dean, Kim And Karlye sang BGVs off to the left side of the stage. “I love these old songs,” Lynda said. She continued to explain how thankful she is to have a personal walk with Jesus. This led into her next song, “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.” After that fun tune, Lynda shared, “What an honor it is to be here tonight. I’m so thankful that God made something beautiful of my life and He can do it for you. Something beautiful and something good.” No one was surprised to hear the old Gaither song, “Something Beautiful” follow.
The next artist on stage Sunday night was Jim and Melissa Brady. “Living In The Rhythm Of Grace” and “I Have A Anchor” kicked off their set and then Jim said, “This week is one of my favorites because I get to see so many familiar faces.” He went on to talk about how one day, he’ll get to see the face of the Lord in heaven. Their ballad, “When I See His Face” spoke of what that would be like and featured Jim on the first verse and Melissa on the second. The following artist was The Mark Trammell Quartet, who walked on stage and kicked off their set with “Be Saved,” complete with a lyric video playing on the screens. Their next two songs were “Leave Your Sorrows” and “Too Much To Gain To Lose.”
As MTQ left the stage a funny video played on the big screens and then Duane came on stage and chuckled, “How ‘bout that?!” Changing topics, he went on, “We heard just a little bit from this couple a while ago but I want them to come back for some more singing! How ‘bout it for Jim and Melissa Brady!” Jim and Melissa came back on with a familiar old hymn, “In The Sweet By and By.” “Wherever I Am” followed and then Jim said, “If you ever had to say goodbye to someone in this life, then these words might mean something to you.” Those thoughts introduced their song, “Homesick For Heaven,” which transition into Jim singing the first verse and chorus of “Going Home” A Cappella at the end. On the chorus, Melissa moved to the piano and Jim invited the crowd to sing with them. When that tune ended, Jim led the crowd in another hymn, “What A Day That Will Be.” Jim went on to talk about the many songs Squire Parsons has written and how everyone knows “Beulah Land.” Jim told how they asked Squire if he’s written any new songs – of course, the answer was “yes” and one of those new ones just happened to appear on Jim and Melissa’s latest CD. They sang it for us Sunday night, it’s called, “Walking On The King’s Highway.” When the last note was sung, Jim mentioned how he loved their closing song – “The Love Of God.”
Another video played while Jim and Melissa left the stage and Duane chuckled again, “Where do they find those?” He went on to briefly mention the Gospel fest at Silver Dollar City a few weeks ago and how the next artist did exceptionally well in Echo Hollow. The Hoppers came to the stage with their upbeat song, “Life Is Good.” As the intro played, Dean encouraged the crowd to, “Turn to your neighbor and say, life is good.” Afterwards, Connie was featured on “I’ve Come Too Far To Look Back.” Kim continued the set with, “I don’t know about you, but I’ve come too far to look back…because there were times He had to carry me.” Her solo, “He Didn’t Just Carry The Cross, He Carried Me,” followed. At the end, Kim added, “It feels good to be saved!” This transitioned to their song, “Saved” and then Dean spoke a few words before Connie took the mic. “There has been enough gospel sung tonight to save the whole world,” Connie contemplated, then, went on to introduce a song that is all about that subject, “His Wounds Have Paid My Ransom.” At the end of Karlye’s solo, Claude walked over and gave her a hug. “Then My Living Shall Not Be In Vain” followed. Before the Hoppers left the stage, the big screens showed an American flag gently waving and then they sang a patriotic ballad to close out their second set. Directly after that ballad, the announcer, Phil, came on stage and recounted the last battle of the War of 1812, when Francis Scott Key penned the words of our National Anthem. With hands over our hearts, the crowd sang out those words of freedom before the next artist came on stage.
While folks were taking their seats again, Phil exclaimed, “You love this girl and she’s gonna come sing some good, good Gospel songs. Lynda Randle!” Lynda came back on stage and sang, “I Need You Jesus, To Walk With Me.” Halfway through the tune, we enjoyed a Jazzy turn around on the piano and then went into “At The Cross.” “I wasn’t going to do this song tonight,” said Lynda, “I was going to save it for Friday night, but this sweet little old lady came to me asked if I was doing to sing ‘God On The Mountain’.” At the mention of that song title, the crowd applauded and Lynda went on to explain how this song came along during a dark time in her life. She shared how several family members passed on in a short period of time. “It was the lowest valley I’ve ever been in,” she said. When she sang, “God On The Mountain,” the testimony she shared gave the lyrics an even deeper meaning and by the first chorus, hands were in the air testifying their own stories of God’s faithfulness. “One Day At A Time” followed and then Lynda shared how she had been singing for over thirty years and never takes an opportunity for granted. “It’s not just for the audience,” she said, “but for the One.” She briefly spoke of how her parents taught her to sing with reverence and in their honor, she wanted to sing a closing hymn for them. It was the ballad, “It Is Well With My Soul.” Once again, the lyrics of the comforting hymn gripped people’s hearts and either brought them to their feet or lifting their hands in praise.
“God has good plans for your life, no matter what it looks like.” – Lynda Randle.
At this point in the evening, it was getting late and so Phil came back on stage with a question that was going to get folks moving a bit. “How many of you went to Sunday School?” Just to prove that folks were unresponsive, barely anyone raised their hands. Phil tried again, “C’mon, how many of you went to Sunday School?” This led into a short segment where he led the folks in some “action songs” like the “Hallelujah” song sung in rounds and “Deep And Wide.” On the last one, Phil called up Dean and Kim to do the “actions.” Dean acted like he didn’t quite know what he was doing, so Kim grabbed his arms and did it for him! It was a fun moment! Before the next artist, Phil handed the program back over to Duane, who led the crowd in a verse and chorus of “It Is No Secret,” and then MTQ came up for their next round.
“When We All Get Together” and “Jesus Is Coming Soon” kicked off the Mark Trammell Quartet’s second set and then Mark said, “I hope you have been enjoying NQC so far.” He went on to tease the crowd a little by saying he could tell there were a few folks asking, “Who’s that guy on the end?” while they were singing. He asked Stephen to come stand next to him while he introduced him and explained to the crowd that this was Stephen’s 10th concert with MTQ! “We’re gonna let him sing a song for you. If you enjoy it, let him know, if not, stare at him like you’re staring at me right now…” Stephen sang, “He Hideth My Soul” and the crowd applauded. Right afterwards, Randy jumped into his solo, “Led Out Of Bondage.” “I love straight ahead quartet music,” Mark explained as the next track started,“see if you like this!” As promised, the tune “Not If But When” featured four male part harmony and afterwards Mark explained, “Yes, amen!” MTQ closed their set out with the upbeat tune, “God Has Provided Himself A Lamb” and then Greater Vision took the stage.
Greater Vision kicked off their final set with “You Were Faithful Yesterday,” “Paid In Full” and “Rolled Back Stone.” “That’s one of our newer songs,” said Gerald, “and the fella who sang that song also wrote it.” Gerald continued to talk about Chris as Rodney strapped on his bass guitar. Their next tune is probably Chris’ signature song, “I Know A Man Who Can.” GV closed their set with “My Name Is Lazarus” and then Gerald introduced the finale, where each group came up and sang their favorite song.
Conclusion: The Sunday night bonus concert is quickly becoming my favorite night at NQC. It’s a mix of a Sunday night worship service and Gospel concert in a fun atmosphere. All the artist’s did a fantastic job and made the evening a great start to the week!