The Thursday night Main Stage performance at NQC was one of the longest nights I spent in Freedom Hall. It was just one of those nights that everyone I wanted to see was on, so when I reached my seat, I settled in for a long night! Tim Lovelace entertained the audience with some “Fan Cam” while fans meandered to their seats. There was a poor lady, and I say poor, because after Tim was done with her, well, you’ll see…she was sitting down on the floor and was texting someone on her cell phone. Tim couldn’t help himself; he went up to the lady and said, “Are you texting? Why don’t you just call her up?” So the lady did, and gave the phone to Tim, who began talking to this perfect stranger on the cell, telling them how he was at NQC and kidnapped the lady and her husband and needed a so-many-$’s ransom by midnight. It was just hilarious!
Jonathan and Jordan Wilburn led the Fire in the Choir segment that opened Main Stage for Thursday Night with a song called A Church On Fire. Father and son took turns singing the verses while the choir, dressed in black, backed them up on the chorus. Jonathan sang the first verse and not long after that, the track just quit. They did a few lines accapella until Jonathan sang these words to the tune of this song, “And what this lead singer needs now is a…TRACK!” Well, it took ‘em a few minutes to get it going again, during that time, Tim told some jokes, then, we were back on “track” with the song! As both made their way around the square stage, I couldn’t help but notice that some of Jonathan’s dance moves have rubbed off on Jordan! LOL!
“Turn to somebody and say I knew it was gonna be good, but I didn’t know it was going to be that good!” said Tim Lovelace. Once in a while, a group will come up and sing that wasn’t necessarily on the program schedule, which happened to be the case with the Hoppers, who came up and sang their popular radio single, Victory Shall Be Mine. Mike contributed to the vocals and sang next to his father on this one. Afterwards, Tim introduced our host for the night, Brian Free.
“How are you tonight?” Brian asked, “Oh, that was weak, how are you tonight? Are you ready to have church?” Brian continued, “Speaking of victory, I want to lead you in a song that ya’ll will know, Victory In Jesus.” Then, the Hopper band struck up the beat and Brian lead the congregational singing with the same hymn.
The Collingsworth Family were the first group to sing a full twenty minute set on the main stage Thursday night, and the first song was an upbeat number called Down Inside My Soul. Fear Not Tomorrow followed, where Courtney, Brooklyn and Kim sang as a trio. After that ballad, Phil Jr. and Olivia joined them on stage. Phil took the time to introduce some very special friends of theirs; this man works in the pentagon and gathers all the intelligence from all over the world for the President’s morning briefing. When Phil asked the fans to make them feel welcome and thank him for the service to their country, everyone stood and applauded. The next song was a medium tempo one called Tell Your Mountain How Big Your God Is. “I want to say, really quick, before this last song, the last six months for the Collingsworth Family…thank you for your prayers!” said Kim. She told of Phil’s surgery. “When you’re down and things aren’t going the way you want them too, and you want to fix it and you can’t, and all that you care about is that you have the presence of Jesus and have a day to day relationship with him. Jesus is all we need.” This ballad was called Jesus Is All I Need and featured Kim. They encored it accapella – what beautiful harmony!
The Pfeifers delivered the instrumental of the night with a familiar hymn, How Great Thou Art. The ladies sang the chorus while Mr. Pfeifer continued to play his trumpet. “Let’s stand up and sing this chorus to Jesus our Lord and Savior.” – they said, and had everyone sing it with them.
Brian brought his co-host, Sheri Easter, on stage and introduced her. It was cute when he mentioned that he just noticed they were matching! Both were wearing pink and black. “Real tenors wear pink!…Michael Booth, c’mon!” Brian teased, “We’re getting ready to bring two great groups to the stage,” Brian commented, “Matter of fact, when I was just a little boy, and my daddy took me to concerts to go see Ray Dean…”
The Kingsmen kicked off their set with When My Feet Touch The Streets Of Gold. Next, a new song from this mighty quartet featured Randy and Bryan on the verses, The Blood Of Christ. “Here’s an old one!” said Bryan as the track for the next number played. That old song was a quartet song called After The Sunrise. They took it really soft on one of the chorus’s. Bryan began, “Make welcome our tenor singer as he comes and sings a beautiful song called That’s When I Knew It Was Him.” The first verse was about the woman who had the issue of blood for twelve years, the second was about Jarious’s daughter. Huggy sang his heart out on this one! “This is our radio single, number 15 on the charts already,” Bryan announced, as he introduced the snappy number, He’s Everything I Need. “You want to hear some more of that?” Bryan hollered. Well, that called for an encore and they got everyone clapping for them! Just when you thought it was over, they exclaimed, “Joseph Habadanck wrote that song!” – and encored it again…well, you wanna’ know what happened??? – a standing ovation!!! “Have you enjoyed the Kingsmen tonight, how about it?” Bryan asked, and then introduced the Kingdom Heirs.
The Kingdom Heirs began their set with an upbeat song called I’m Not Worried. The guys tried to get everyone clapping on Tell Me Why. The band had a little solo on the turn around, and Josh Simpson showed off on the keys! Steve said, “I love the line in that song that says, ‘I’m glad I asked why’…” Chris, their bass player said, “I know that this isn’t the place to do this, but I have an issue. I got a ticket out there…” Steve’s reaction? – “You were speeding!” Chris replied, “No, not really, it had something to do with a stop sign. I guess my foot slipped off the brake or something.” Steve continued, “You didn’t tell him that, did you?” Chris hesitated and said, “Well, yeah, I did tell him that…but, he got real mad and started hitting me on the head real fast and said, ‘do you want me to stop or just slow down?’” Steve asked, “What did you tell him?” “Stop!” replied Chris. Steve proceeded to say that there is a name for that, it’s called the California stop. Chris came back and said, “Well, in Louisville, it’s called illegal! That thing was 80 bucks!” He Locked The Gates was last, and of course they encored it a couple of times!
The Blazing Piano solo with Kim Collingsworth was scheduled next on the program, and she played a beautiful ballad-like piece. This magnificent arrangement brought the audience to their feet in no time!
Sheri introduced Legacy Five, who began their set with an old-fashioned Everyday. Trey played the intro, and another new song met our ears, this one is another from their brand new project, called God Cares For Me. Scott had the second verse as a solo and when Scott sang it, it just sounded so natural! “I know that you’re glad to see our bass singer Glenn Dustin!” Scott introduced. Then, Glenn added, “This song is my testimony song…” I’ve Been Changed was the one, and he was outstanding! Their next song was I’m Thankful For The Change, and the guys really got wound up on that one. There’s Just Something About That Name slipped in and they did it with just Trey accompanying them on the piano. This arrangement was very calm and soothing, setting the mood for what Scott did next. He brought out the Bible and began reading the resurrection story from Scripture…”Thank God the tomb is empty and one day, we will get to see Him just as He is.” We Shall See Jesus captivated the audience and L5 closed their set, but not before receiving an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd!
Brian stepped on stage and let everyone know that The Talley’s were next. Their first song was He’s So Good To Me. When it came to the part where it talks about heaven, Debra asked, “Are you going?” After the song, Lauren said, “Thank you so much! For some of you this is the first time you’ve seen us as a foursome, because ten short weeks ago, the love of my life and I got married!” Lauren made this excited looking face, and introduced her husband, Brian, who came and sang So Help Me Jesus. “This is for all of you who have served the Lord faithfully, this is our promise,” Debra said before she began to sing The Applause. “Here’s our most requested song this week,” Lauren announced. If you guessed He’s Alive, you guessed right! “Have you enjoyed the Talley’s?” Sheri asked, as the group stepped off the stage.
Calvary’s Voice, from Jacksonville, FL were the showcase winners for the day, so they came up and performed a lovely ballad called He Sees Me Through The Blood. Excellent job!
The Mark Trammell Quartet came up and launched their set with the classic Echoes From The Burning Bush. Lead singer Dustin Sweatman received the feature on Testimony, another upbeat song with a great message. Dustin nailed it too! Mark was featured next on That Day At Calvary as the guys huddled together and backed him up vocally. It was great – the harmony sounded just like the Cathedrals! “I look around at this hall, Freedom Hall, and think about what it cost – It costs dearly to be free,” Said Mark, then asked all those who have served in our armed forces to stand, and it was chilling to see about 50% of the crowd raise to their feet. “Today, I stand in Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, because those who just stood, once stood in harms’ way for me.” The marching drums began and a solemn mood settled over the room as they began singing Statue of Liberty. During the very first line, everyone clapped in honor of what the lyrics meant as ALL rose to their feet. There wasn’t a person seated, even at the top of the balcony. For the remainder of the song, everyone remained standing while many were waving lights back and forth.
Dr. David Jeremiah took a minute or two to promote his new book, I Never Thought I’d See The Day.
Smoky Mountain Reunion began their set with Jesus Is Coming Soon. This quartet was founded by Archie Watkins after he left the Inspirations. From their first number, they slowed things down to a medium tempo song called There Had To Be A Rose To Live and Die Upon The Throne. “Wait a minute,” said Archie, as he turned to the Old Bear Hunter who came up on stage and sang He’s My Best Friend with them. A song that I think is called Wonder of All Wonders was next; it talked about viewing Jesus through Mary’s eyes. Can you imagine watching a child grow up and yet, know that He was the One who created the world? The music stopped and we enjoyed some accapella singing with the old classic Roll On Jordan and they ended their number with a soft note. After the applause, Archie asked if we liked that kind of singing and encored it. “We are happy to be here tonight,” said Archie, “well, when you are my age, you’re happy to be anywhere!” Then on a serious note, he added that he is honored to be here and sing Gospel Music. “My prayer is that you would feel the Holy Spirit of God in our singing, it’s all about him and not about us. Listen to a great message.” That song was a lovely piece entitled Worthy Is The Risen Lamb that featured Archie. This song received a standing ovation. One thing that seemed odd to we, was when Archie introduced the group. It seriously sounded like he claimed that they were the original Inspirations, only with a different name! He mentioned that there is a “group here” called the Inspirations, but they are all young guys, and when he mentioned Martin being the old one, everyone in the audience murmured “Ooooo,” with caution. Though all the guys in Smokey Mountain Reunion once sang with the Inspirations, I don’t think it was right to claim to be them under a different name. Then again, maybe Archie was just being funny? Who knows! Anyway…
The King’s Herald entertained us with Dry Bones while the staff got the stage ready for the Isaacs.
“I’ve always been partial to family groups,” remarked Sheri, “and this is one of the best.” The Isaacs kicked off their set with one of my favorites, Walk On. Then, the family made their way to the other side of the stage and sang a song that Bill Gaither said was number one for Pop in July of 1959. This one featured Ben and told the story of “Jimmy Brown.” Sonya introduced the next song by telling of how they wrote it for their mother and the battle she faced with Breast Cancer. Then, Sonya asked if there were any here who have battled cancer and to stand…and again, a good portion of the audience stood. This song was called I’ll Love You Through It. Half way through the song, they had other artists come up with signs that declared how many years they’ve been free from cancer. Everyone stood in celebration for the healing that those on the stage experienced. They had time for one more song and they did this one accappella, it was Glory, Glory to His Name. Another standing o!
Eternal Vision was also a showcase winner and claimed a spot on the main stage tonight. The song they performed was a well-known ballad called I Must Tell Jesus, and they asked the fans to sing along with them.
While the staff was preparing the stage for the next group, Brian and Sheri came out and filled that time slot…which was a little longer than what they were prepared for! Sheri told of how she grew up singing with her family, then asked Brian if he sang with family before getting into Gospel Music. Brian told of how he grew up singing with his older and younger brothers. Sheri asked him if his brothers have voices like him, and Brian says, “Actually… I got my voice from my mother!” Soon the drummer thumped in the background and Brian asked, “Does that mean you’re ready? Was that a signal?” The answer was no, so they had to make up something to talk about, and the subject was…drum roll please…grey hair! I guess a lady came up to Brian one day this week and asked him when he started coloring his hair! He replied that he never did and that those grey hairs were God’s coloring, and that he worked hard for every one! Sheri then shared that she doesn’t have one grey hair on her head. Brian replied that his wife doesn’t have any either and he thinks it’s a guy thing…because men don’t really care! (Hey guys, he said it, not me!) LOL!
The Dove Brothers came out and sang All I Have To Do Is Hear the Call, an upbeat song that showed off their new bass singer nicely. Keeping the beat, a fan favorite Hold On came next. “Thank you so much,” McCray said, “That song was #1 for us last year…thank God I wrote it.” He teased. The next song he dedicated to everyone who was married for 50 years or more. He asked the men to take their wife’s hand and made sure that they have THEIR WIFE’S and not somebody else’s! The song was We’re Still Singing The Song. Afterwards, McCray him-hawed around, and said that they were still debating on what to do…which brought on a slew of request shouted out from the audience. So they started Didn’t It Rain and the audience stood immediately. Just as everyone was ready to sit down, they went into Get Away Jordan and everyone remained standing and the lights began dancing!
“We’ve got one more group tonight to bring on stage,” Brian announced. Screams from the fans could be heard throughout the room. “You don’t even know who it is,” Brian challenged the crowd, “I haven’t told you yet! – Then, he introduced the reason for the ruckus, the Booth Brothers!
He Saw It All kicked off the Booth Brothers set and some shouts were heard at the beginning. When they started singing Feeling Fine, Ronnie told the audience, “Now you HAVE to clap on this one!” I guess Michael was feeling mighty fine at that time of night, because at one point in the song, he went skipping across the stage!!! Slowing things down to a serious note, “If you’re having a rough time tonight, listen…” Michael said. Tears Are A Language was the song that Michael was talking about, and Jim executed it perfectly! “You know what?” Michael said, “You guys never ceases to amaze me…you drive this far to be here, pay money to buy tickets, hotels and food, and on top of it all, you sit here for hours, on hours, on hours, so we could have the privilege of singing to you.” Michael then talked about how what he was going to do was technically not allowed to do. “We are supposed to sing something fast and keep you guys on your feet,” Michael explained, “but I would rather give you something you can use on Monday morning, because you don’t know what Monday will hold for you.” This set up for Then I Met The Master, which featured Ronnie. And the night ended!