Friday, July 20, 2007

Stamps-Baxter - Day 4

Well, the best part of my day really didn't start til four o'clock this afternoon. The morning was quiet, but my eye was still really bothering me, and even good things like group singing were difficult. The doctor at the school referred me to a specialist, so after lunch I had my first American medical treatment. And you know what that means - I had to bring my visa card! I know that's how they do things down here, but I still can't wrap my head around it. The doctor's office should be a source of relief, not a source of stress. The doctor, though, was awesome. He confirmed my original diagnosis, gave me a stronger medication, and I finally got to head back to school.

Which brings us up to four o'clock.

I arrived back in time to attend a great seminar on radio promotion. With the new CD planned for this year, I just thought this was a great opportunity for me. Rhonda Thompson does radio promo for all sorts of artists, including indie, non-label, artists like me. She talked about how radio works, how to build relationships with the radio stations, and how a promo person can help you with the process. I took lots of notes, which will be very useful in the New Year.

After a lovely suppertime of visiting with people, we all headed back in for a great group singing session. We were singing a new song about the blood of Jesus, and the Spirit started to move. When we reached the end of the song, the conductor broke out in the chorus of "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power". Well, that was it! We all stood up and blasted out that chorus. And once wasn't enough. Three times we sang it, full voiced, in four part harmony. At the end, we all broke out in applause. And then the Spirit moved again and we belted out one more chorus with a big ending. Awesome! Where else do you get a moment like that? Just so awesome!

After the singing had settled a bit, we all headed outside to retake the school photo. (There were some problems with the first version.) As they were setting us all up in the right formation for the shot, the crowd couldn't help but continue to sing. Randomly, spontaneously, choruses of "I'll Fly Away", "This Little Light", and "Lean On Me" would rise and fall from different groups within the crowd. I love it here. People sing as naturally as they breathe. It's like being in a musical, without the choreography.

Tonight's concert was an incredible blessing: The Melody Boys. They are a legendary quartet, but what made it really special was their new tenor, Scott Baker. You may remember Scott as my "I've Just Seen Jesus" duet partner from last year! Well, not long after the close of school, the Melody Boys were looking for a new tenor, and Scott got the job. In the past year, he's toured the country, recorded a quartet CD, and they're just putting the finishing touches on a new Christmas CD.

This was my first time seeing the group. Their music is very traditional Southern Gospel - four part male harmony, accompanied by piano, with all old songs, like convention songs. They did a lot of songs with very little patter, and the show moved really well. Ben came out just before the end to do a short interview with the founder of the group, Gerald Williams. Gerald has been singing professionally for almost 50 years, and he had some great memories about the old gospel radio shows. Some of those shows aired live at 5:30 in the morning! Clearly, I would not have made it in the business back then.

It was great to hear Scott's tenor voice ringing above the harmony, and the whole group has a clear, vibrant sound. After the show, I helped out at their product table, which was a real blessing. It lead to lots of visiting and chatting. I just love gospel music people. There's almost an expected familiarity with them. "Oh, you like Southern Gospel? We're clearly friends already!". I know that made sound really corny to some people, but I find it more and more, and I like it more and more.

After the visiting, I wandered over to the bluegrass jam session. This is held every night, usually til a very late hour, outside, under the stars. All are welcome. I sang along on several songs, and we were treated to a beautiful duet by 2 of our younger students. The group had to move in as the wind and rain picked up, and that's when I finally left, so to avoid driving in bad weather.

I know I've sounded like I'm complaining a lot about my eye this week, but it's really caused me a fair amount of pain and discomfort. I think my visit to the doctor took a lot of that stress away. This afternoon and tonight were amazing, and they reminded me of the truly awesome beauty of this singing school. I can't wait til tomorrow!

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