Saturday – the last day of NQC. Though I was sad that day came so soon, I was looking forward to the day’s events and showcases. The Song of a Lifetime showcase hosted by Phil Cross was definitely one of the week’s highlights for me; in fact, I would dare to say that it was the best showcase I saw this year!
This showcase began with Channing Eleton performing a song he wrote called Up On This Ridge. As one of my piano teachers this year at the Steve Hurst School of Music, it was great to see him at the showcase. The one thing that caught me off guard was when he played and sang with an accordion! (I didn’t know he played one!) After his song, which had an excellent music video, he lightheartedly said, “Somebody asked me the other day why I wrote that song,” I replied, “I needed an excuse to play my accordion!” He went on to introduce the man who started Song of a Lifetime, and who has given so many young artists their start, and gave Channing his when he was 25 years old…Mr. Phil Cross!
Phil came up on stage and began telling the story behind the song One Holy Lamb. He said it was inspired by a dream. In that dream there was a shepherd looking out over his flock with tears running down his face and asking, “How could the blood of one more lamb wash away my sin?” In the dream, Phil was there with the shepherd. Afterwards, Phil thought of the answer… “One more lamb can wash away your sin…One Holy Lamb.” Tribute Quartet came up and sang this powerful ballad. Riley executed the verses with power and sincerity. It was only the second song of the showcase and it received a standing ovation! (How often does that happen?)
Joseph Habedank was the next songwriter to step up and share his experiences in writing. One of the first things he said was, “What a privilege it is to write about Jesus Christ.” He went to tell of how on a Singing at Sea cruise the idea for this next song came about, a few months later, it was finished and the Kingsmen recorded it. He introduced the Mighty Kingsmen, who then came up and sang He’s All I Need. It only took to the second chorus, when the writers on stage began to stand in ovation, which encouraged the audience to do the same! With another great response like that, Bryan had ‘em encore it and invited Joseph to come and sing with them, which he did. What energy! (We had an enthusiastic crowd that afternoon!)
“I love this music!” said Sheri Easter as she introduced herself to the audience, “I’m a person who loves words, I love to read.” She and Dianne Wilkinson were the only women on stage, and noted how she and Diane were outnumbered by men where they were sitting. Sheri continued to tell of how statistics say that women talk more and men listen more, and since great songs come from listening, more men write great songs. Turning to Diana she said, “Diana, we need to do some more listening!” Continuing, Sheri said, “We write just because it’s inside, we have to put it on paper.” Telling the story behind the song Hear My Heart, She told of when she was going through her chemo treatments, and one on the bus one day in her “bus pajama’s,” Joel Lindsay and another writer came on board to co-write with her. Looking through a briefcase that Sheri has been carrying around for thirty years, came the inspiration for this song. On a couple slips of paper were the lines to this song, and when the other writers saw it they said, “that’s our title, let’s go from there.” Since then, those slips of paper turned into this beautiful ballad, Hear My Heart. Sheri sang it by herself with an emotion that only a writer could perform.
A music minister from California by the name of Jim Davis came up next and told the story behind his song, Preach the Word. A few years ago, he was sitting in a Wednesday night Bible study that was being preached on Timothy, when the pastor came to the verse that says, “Preach the Word.” Upon hearing that, he immediately wrote down these words, “preach the Word – preach the cross.” He said that his wife is his biggest critic, and when she heard it she said, “I like it, now don’t mess up the verses.” That made the audience chuckle! He told how he finished the song and now at National Quartet Convention at the Song of a Lifetime showcase, Gold City sang this powerful song inspired right from the Word of God. Dan Keeton performed the verses and did a fine job (I personally like Steve Ladd’s voice on the song though, but that’s just my personal preference.) Once again, the audience was on their feet before the end of the ballad, and with a message like that, who wouldn’t be? During the last few phrases of the song, Danny quoted some verses concerning the Word, to finish it off.
“You can tell the story of someone’s life just by looking at their hands,” said Tony Wood, co-writer of Hands of Grace. He began telling of how one time when their family was all together, his daughter took a lot of pictures of his mother. When he saw those photos for the first time, he found out that they were only of her hands. Later on, when the family was gathered together looking at the pictures, they all told of the memories that those hands brought back. That moment with family began to form an idea for a song that would chronicle Christ’s work through the Gospels – only talking about His hands. Since the Talley’s recently recorded this song, they were the ones to get up on stage and sing it.
Jim Brady stood up next and told of how grateful he was to be there and told of how he gets a lot of ideas for writing songs – from talking to fans!. One night in Lancaster Pennsylvania, he was talking to a friend of his and she told him of what He was doing in her life, and of her past. “I began thinking of how the grace of God works in our lives,” said Jim, “we don’t see the lines and cracks… we see something new.” He continued to share that God not only forgives us, He sets us free. The Word says, “He who the Son sets free is free indeed.” These thoughts inspired the song When You Bow at Jesus’ Feet. Jim sang this lovely ballad with Michael and Ronnie standing off to the side backing him vocally. It is said that the songwriters who get to stage their own songs are bound to perform them flawlessly and with emotion, because they know what they want to get across. I saw this when Jim was singing, he had perfect illustrations for the lyrics. When he sang, “Lay it down and walk away…” he faced the palm of his hand down towards the stage and actually walked across to the other side of the stage.
Dianne Wilkinson was next; she stood up and told of the unique warfare between Satan and the Lord that goes back to Genesis 3:15. She listed all things that Satan hates about the message of the cross, and challenged everyone to stand and not be silent in what they believe in. When she shared how this song came to be recorded by the Kingdom Heirs, everyone predicted the next song and stood as if to say that they were indeed willing to stand for the truth of God’s Word. The Kingdom Heirs came up and sang We Will Stand Our Ground. This was the day for standing ovations, and this powerful song was the recipient of one also.
“How many of you believe that Christians are happy people?” asked the next writer, “this next song I got from looking at a bottle of pills.” He began telling the audience of how he struggled writing it, he prayed, “Lord, who in the world is crazy enough to sing this song?” Then I knew, and the songwriter exclaimed, “Michael Booth!” However, Tim Lovelace snatched it right from under him. This silly yet serious number was called Side Effects. This song contrasted the side effects of medicine and the side effects of salvation…joy, assurance of salvation, eternity. With Tim Lovelace singing it, you can only image how good it was!
“What do you say?” asked Mark Bishop, who was trying not to laugh as he stepped up to the platform, “So much, so many places you could go with that!!!” He paused a minute then added, “This should let you know that the Lord can use anybody!” Back on a serious note, Mark went on to say that he wasn’t called to preach, but still feels compelled to evangelize, which he does in three or four minute songs! Mark brought some friends of his to the stage and sang My Name Is Jesus. Lauren Talley Alvey, Bill Shivers and Mitchel Jon came out and sang the verses with Mark. I was so excited about this song! I was at the first concert when Mark released his I Still Need Him project, and he promised that he would sing this song at NQC because everyone would be there to do their parts! Well, Ivan Parker wasn’t there, so Bill Shivers had to fill in. Lauren did her verse, Bill sang his (and because he wasn’t originally on the recording, I was impressed by the emotion he put into it. I’m not sure Ivan Parker could’ve done it better than that!) Then, there was Mitchel Jon, there’s no other way to say it – he plain forgot the words! Though I know that must have been embarrassing for him, I was really disappointed. Bill knew the words and he wasn’t even supposed to be singing it! In spite of that, the crowd still gave a standing ovation.
Matthew Browder from the Browder’s came and sang a song that Phil says is the greatest ever. (Phil teased and said that Matt is a skinnier version of himself). Funny, they kind of do look alike. Fall On My Knee’s was the song Matthew wrote and he had a music video to show with it. Psalm 16:11 was displayed on the screen – a perfect verse for the theme of the song.
“I’m Chris Alman,” said Chris, introducing himself. While he settled down in a chair with his guitar he explained to the crowd how he writes songs, “I write songs in different ways, I write on demand or I write because things happened in my life.” The one he was going to sing for us today came to him in a different way than usual. After quoting Zephaniah 3:17, he told of how the Lord convicted him on a road trip one day traveling by himself. He wasn’t living the way he should on the outside – everyone thought everything was okay. He asked us to listen to the words that the Lord sang to him on that day. This song, Another Child’s Coming Home, was sung with two guitars, one of which Chris played. It was the story of the prodigal son.
Scott Inman came up and introduced himself next, and expressed what an honor it was to be in this showcase. “Some of you don’t know this,” Scott shared, “but the first Gospel group I sang with was with Phil, and he gave me my first song.” He told of how when they were writing songs for their new project, his wife suggested this one, though he didn’t have it picked out originally, he ended up selecting it in the end. Before the song began, Scott teased, “If you don’t like it…my dad wrote it.” Triumphant came out and sang Almost Home. This one brought the people to their feet in no time! An encore was on demand!
Phil stood up next and said, “I’ve never exaggerated about being the ugly kid…people ask me what my favorite song is that I’ve written, well I’m going to let the cat out of the bag, it’s this one.” He went on to tell that it’s never been a radio single, and probably will never be one, yet it’s very special to him. The Sisters had the privilege of singing this song called Do You Love Me? Towards the end, one of the singers quoted John 3:16, and this heartwarming ballad received a standing ovation
Rodney Griffin asked everyone to sing the chorus to Jesus Loves Me before he began talking about his song. “Thank Phil for a beautiful song and thank the Sisters for singing it,” He added. Rodney shared that as Gospel singers who are out on the road every weekend, they don’t get a lot of time in church. But there was one time when he was listening to a message somewhere and the preacher was telling of how Roman soldiers actually chained themselves to the prisoners they were watching over. With this in mind, Rodney repeated the one statement that sent him out of the room…it was: “I wonder what it was like for that old boy when he got home from work that day after being chained to the apostle Paul for a whole shift?” That question prompted a song that Greater Vision recorded on their new project called No Longer Chained. Rodney sang this song, and when he did Gerald and Chris sang along with him.
“There are showcases at the NQC that have more star power for sure,” Phil said, “but I think this is the greatest showcase.” He added, “I know who’s it, and it’s not me.” Phil told of the reason why he loves the writers on that stage, and that reason is this: they would continue to do what they do even if they didn’t get paid. “Writers who are the greatest go unrecognized sometimes, and sometimes those writers are the best. One of the greatest writers ever in gospel music is here today, Mr. Gordon Jenson.
Gordon Jenson came to the stage then and reminded us that in the year 1969 the song Redemption Draweth Nigh was written. He recounted the interesting story behind, not the writing of the song, but of its being recorded. “At that time there was a group, a giant of a group,” Gordon said, “who asked me if I had any new songs, and if I did, they would listen to them. They heard Redemption Draweth Nigh and said, ‘that song isn’t going to make it, sorry Gordon, that song isn’t going anywhere.’” I was crushed; I nearly threw that song away.” The story continued with how the group he was singing with went to record a new project and wanted that song. After that, it skyrocketed, becoming one of the biggest hits in Gospel Music. “This was a song I nearly threw away!” exclaimed Gordon. Greater Vision has this song recorded and they were the ones selected to come sing it. Before the song Gerald said, “I’m rarely nervous, but I’m nervous singing this in front of you!” Gerald was featured on the verses and the house was on their feet by the last verse. What a powerful way to end the showcase!