I walked into Freedom Hall just as our host, Michael Booth, was instructing the crowd in four different types of applause that our NQC stage staff wanted to record for the NQC video. First up, we were asked to do a “light applause,” and to demonstrate the lightness of the matter, Michael “floated” around the stage like he was dancing! LOL! Next, Michael asked the sound tech what was next, “Oh! This will be good for the Baptists here – more enthusiastic, with no cheers – just applause, that means, don’t raise your hand above your shoulder – that’s the ‘Baptist rule’,” then, Michael led us in a demonstration. After that round of applause, Michael added, “Just so you know, I am NOT getting paid for this!” On the next one, Michael said, “This is awesome, okay, you’re still seated, but you love it…what in the world does that mean?” After this round of cheers and whistles, Michael did the little director sign that means stop, and said, “This is really cool to be able to stop thousands of people like this! I’ve never felt so much power – if I could do this at home, it could be so much fun!” Looking down at the sound man, Michael continued, “You want a popcorn standing ovation? – Odd, even, odd, even.” (Maybe the crowd was just tired, but for some reason, this really had the audience rolling in laughter.) “Okay, so if you’re forty years or older stand, and slowly after that – if you’re fifty years or older, you stand and anybody else…you just do what you can! OK?” When he gave the okay, once again, he circled around the stage pointing to sections that exploded with cheers and just giving it all they had. After that, Michael preteneds like he’s out of breath and said to the sound man, “Please tell me you don’t need anymore!”
After that exhausting five minutes, Michael introduced the next segment of the program called the “Three Treasures in Southern Gospel Music.”
First up, was Triumphant Quartet who kicked off our three “T’s” with Saved By Grace. “Anybody in the house been saved by grace?” Scott asked while the intro of the track played. Not long after, we had, according to Michael Booth, a popcorn standing ovation! David Sutton delivered his solo, Mercy, Forgiveness and Grace, next. “Are you thankful tonight for that mercy, forgiveness and grace that Jesus bought us?” David interjected before the second verse. Speaking of this year’s NQC week, Eric told the crowd, “We’ve had an incredible time – this has been one of the best Quartet Conventions for us yet.” He paused a moment before continuing, “We’ve asked people what they would like to see out of Triumphant for the last show…so hear it is.” Jeff placed his elbow on the keys and made a sound that you would hear on a Halloween. Immediately, everybody knew what was coming and quickly, very quickly, white flags appeared everywhere! Guess the crowds’ pick was the Old White Flag! Their final number of the night was We’re Almost Home, featuring Scott Inman, and it brought the audience to their feet and a few encores accompanied it.
“Would you make welcome the Talley’s!” Michael introduced. The group came up and sang a slowed down version of the old hymn, Jesus Saves as their opening song. “These are some of our favorites!” exclaimed Lauren, and then went on to sing the next song, the old classic That’s Enough. “This is probably the most requested song that we’ve ever had, it’s a little story about a girl named Maggie, and how much she loved God,” said Lauren. The Broken Ones was that story song, and after that, Lauren just kept singing the “Talley standards” with His Life For Mine. They slipped one more fast song in to close their set, and that was none other than, Somebody Ought to Testify.
Roger Talley introduced the Mark Trammell Quartet, who opened their segment with God Knows How Much Mercy I Need, featuring Mark Trammell. Gerald Wolfe came up and played piano for them. (Pat! Where is your double breasted jacket? Guess there were two “group suit” nights on the week’s itinerary.) Boundless Love picked up the pace and as the guys made their way around the stage, Mark thanked everyone for accepting their quartet in this world at NQC. He went onto say how he loves songs about the cross and wanted to sing this next one for us, it was their Calvary Medley…and the crowd was on their feet again! The next song was Pat’s solo, one that will probably be his signature song – I Want To Know. Can anyone say, standing ovation? (Double breasted jacket or not, Pat can always get the crowd worked up with that one!)
Pianist extraordinaire, Jeff Stice, came up and soothed our souls with a beautiful piano solo. This wasn’t on the schedule, but I for one, enjoyed it very much! Another standing ovation! “What a gift God has given you!” exclaimed Michael, and then went on about the 88 keys and all the talent it must take to play an instrument like that. Jeff’s response? – “Yeah, and you’re just cute!” Michael replied, “Most people don’t realize how enjoyable I am!”
The Voices of Lee came up and sang an accapella rendition of the Praise and Worship song Amazing Love. All of the pieces that they performed on Main Stage were done accapella, and the next one especially pleased the audience, it was an old time favorite – Just A Little Talk With Jesus. When their bass singer sang the low notes, everyone just erupted with shouts and applause. He was absolutely wonderful!!! How Great Thou Art followed, a lovely arrangement, I’m not an expert to know what all is involved vocally, but even I could tell that it was a very, very involved arrangement! This last one they did received a standing ovation, and a well-deserved one at that!
“I love introducing this next fellow,” said Susan Whisnant, Michael’s co-host for the evening. She mentioned that his songwriting is most unique, as well as his voice…make welcome Mark Bishop!
Mark Bishop kicked off his set with You Can’t Ask Too Much Of My God. The people loved this song, when Mark came to the turn around, he asked, “Who believes that tonight, wave at me.” A song from Mark’s newest Cd followed, titled I’m Listening For The Call. This is one of my favorites from the Cd, and it was so cool to get to see it live – especially at this venue! “Anybody remember the Bishops who traveled around in Gospel Music?” Mark asked before going into the next number, “they were my favorite group!” The crowd chuckled over the joke. Mark talked about how we are all going to go home and be the ministers of the gospel to those around us who have never heard of Jesus. The next song, Go Reach The World , described just that. Mark brought up the Nelons and some other friends to sing his epic My Name Is Jesus with him. Lauren Talley Alvey came up and sang the verse about Mary, Bill Shivers took the second verse and I was very glad to see that Mitchel Jon remembered the words to his verse! (Yes, I’m still a little upset about that! LOL!)
“Brian Free,” Michael said, acknowledging the next artists to come on stage. When he said the name someone shouted from the auditorium and Michael said, “Oh, you’ve heard of him?” Then, turning to Brian, Michael asked, “How long Mark, oh! You’re not Mark, you’re Brian…hey! – it’s Saturday and I only took one pill this week!” Everyone was rolling with laughter over the joke! Once everyone calmed down, Michael continued, “The only thing I can think to say about Brian is – he was my best student! I can’t hit those high notes, so he does it for me!” Of course, everyone got a chuckle out of that also.
Brian Free and Assurance came on stage with an old classic, First Day In Heaven. “How many of you still believe in every single word?” asked Brian, introducing his solo and BFA’s current radio single I Believe. Matthew Holt filled in on the piano again for them tonight. Bill was featured next on the popular Praying Man. “Is there anyone here tonight that still believes in the power of prayer?” asked Bill. They were really rocking on this song and at the end, Bill exclaimed, “Don’t do it – it won’t ever work.” Brian took a moment and talked about their week here at NQC and how much they enjoyed this year’s event. His thoughts on the week were – “If you didn’t get blessed this week, something is wrong!” He began to share about a song that they recorded some years ago that’s making a come-back in their request. That ballad also features Brian and is none other than, For God So Loved. The number that closed their set was a quartet song I know the audience enjoyed, Looking For A City. Once they reached the chorus, the guys let Brian have the spotlight and sat off to the side of the stage. The fans ate it up while Brian “pretended” like he didn’t want to sing it. When Bill would get up and say, “Just one more!” Brian tried to “kick” him and when that didn’t work, he resorted to a fake pout! Every time he would take it up higher the audience would scream louder! LOL! I just have to mention, I counted how many times Brian took the chorus up another notch, and the total was six! That’s amazing!!!!
Michael, being the goof that he is, just had to give Brian a hard time, so when the guys were leaving the stage, Michael said, “Hey, that’s enough for Brian!” (Which caused the audience to applaud again.) Michael turned to where Brian was and hollered, “Brian, get out of here!” Which made the crowd scream even louder! When Michael was done egging the crowd on, he mused, “Hmm, I think I know who’s going to win Tenor of the Year!”
Michael introduced the Kingdom Heirs by saying, “This is one of Gospel Music’s greatest bands…and they got a pretty good quartet with them too!” The Kingdom Heirs first song was Rest Assured, an upbeat bass feature. That Is Why Heaven is my Home, another fast quartet song followed. I liked watching the drummer play the intro on that one! A lot of fun! This was the night for fast songs from this group! It’s Real was the next number on the set and they encored it. Afterwards Steve asked, “Aren’t you glad it’s real tonight? Aren’t you glad that he died and rose again, so it can be real for us?” Steve and his brother played a cute “act” about Steve being married for thirty years. Their final song was none other than We Will Stand Our Ground. Arthur said, “It’s time we stand our ground in America, ladies and gentlemen…” This big ballad received a standing ovation.
Up on the big screens they played a Highlights Video, scenes from the week that stood out and made this year special.
The Whisnants came up with a medley of songs that ask if you’re ready for Christ’s second coming, this was called the Ready Medley. “Praise God that the Savior we sing about is alive and real!” exclaimed Jeff, and then began singing his featured song, He’s Living Today. After Jeff told of the great week they had, Susan stepped forward to sing their very popular ballad, Greater Yes. “I didn’t plan on doing that,” said Susan, “but so many people came by the booth…the Bible tells us to do a whole lot of things, but the only thing it tells us to do without ceasing is pray.” This lead up to I’ll Pray For You, which Susan also sang, and had everyone sing the chorus with her at the end. Their closing song was perfect – New Day Dawning! Across the auditorium people stood as the song went on…the Booth Brothers came up and shared the stage with them and Michael played the drums. After an encore or two, Gerald jumped up and shared the piano with Eric! They encored this song about four or five times – it was moving people to their feet! Towards the end, Eric threw his jacket off and into the audience.
“When I found out that I was hosting with Michael booth, I kind of freaked out,” Susan admitted, “I said to him, ‘Can’t we plan?’” He replied, “Plan what?’”
Michael sang the first song in the Booth Brothers’ set, Look For Me At Jesus Feet, while Eric played piano for him. Around me, I could hear others whispering the words to the song softly. When that song finished, the other guys came up on stage and sang He Saw It All, to which Ronnie said, “We’re going to sing it one more time, the story of the blind man.” As the closing group, the next comment made on stage expressed everyone’s feelings, and that would be…“AWWWWW, lets have some fun!” And Feeling Mighty Fine was sung back to back with the other. Everyone stood up from the get go, and Anthony Davis (Bass singer for Tribute Quartet) came up and sang bass with them. At the end of the song, Michael went over to the piano and said, “Eric, thanks so much for helping us out, we love free piano playin’!” Then, turning to Anthony said, “We love free bass singing too!” Michael introduced the next song, a ballad with a powerful question in its message, What About Now? This is just a line of what Michael had to say about what we point to when we are asked how we know if we’re saved…“Christ is too big to take residence in us and not produce results – a date is a beautiful thing, but the Word of God is the absolute.” Now there’s a thought that needs to reside in our minds.
When the Booths closed their set, everyone was ready to file out of Freedom Hall, but, the program wasn’t over yet! Karen Peck and New River came up and sang one more song called Reach Out And Touch.
“We pray that what you received this week, you’ll use to reach out to those around you and spread the love of Jesus.” – Karen Peck