Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NQC - Day 1

I'm here! I'm in Louisville, Kentucky, for the National Quartet Convention! Whoo-hoo! It is everything I though it would be and even more than I thought it would be!

(I first need to note that I'll be adjusting the "post time" on all my blogs this week. The night's activities don't end til midnight, and marking a blog as 1:00AM will mess up the dates. These are going to be late nights! Thankfully, most events don't start till noon.)

My drive up was pretty good. There was a lot of drizzle, and some nasty bits of rain, but nothing like yesterday's storms, so I'm glad I waited. My hotel is clean, safe and cheap, which is all I ask.

After a little time to rest from my drive, I drove over to the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center. I was given a parking pass by my friend, Wess Adams, so after parking, I entered the building. Okay, I'm about to confess it: I started geeking out! I was so excited! I couldn't believe I was finally at NQC! I saw booths set up through one door and heard people singing through another. I saw women with big hair, and, every once in a while, I'd see 2 or 3 men walking together wearing matching suits. Welcome to the land of Southern Gospel!

My invitation to Thursday's Bloggers' Roundtable also includes media credentials, so my first stop was the media room. My pass is quite snazzy, and gives me full access to all events. The only proviso is that I don't have a reserved seat for concerts. But the ushers are quick to point out empty seats, and if the owner arrives, you can just find another seat.

I picked up a program, which is full of colour ads from artists and record labels, and also has a little history of NQC. As I mentioned earlier, this is their 50th anniversary, so there are special events throughout the week.

I can't say I did a lot of organized stuff this afternoon - I was just in awe of being here! I visited Wess at his booth, which is sweetly set up to look like a rustic cabin. Right away, I started to run into people I know from Stamps-Baxter. I think this week will be an unofficial reunion. Then I found my friend Tara Jackson (who I met off Shoutlife) at her booth. We're actually neighbours at the hotel, so that's very cool.

Everywhere I looked in the exhibit hall, I could see people I know or people I admire or people I've read about but never met in person. I was just in awe of it all!

Each night, there are mainstage concerts in Freedom Hall, starting around 6pm and going til midnight. That's right, you thought Gaither concerts were long. 6-hour concerts each night! And there are other showcases running for another 6 hours in the afternoon. That's 12 hours of non-stop Southern Gospel music each day! I don't even have words to describe it. I will say, however, that this does lead to my one disappointment of NQC - I won't actually be able to do EVERYthing! I was hoping I could, but some things overlap, and at some point, I'll need to eat or go to the bathroom!

The goal of the evening concerts are to expose each audience to as many performers at possible. Tonight, the roster had 17 acts. The evenings contain only quartets, trios, and mixed groups, and people do anywhere from 1-4 songs. Ivan Parker is the only solo performance all week. Soloists seem to be listed for the afternoon showcases.

4 times thoughout the night, they showed vintage, 1-song videos of classic SG groups from their very early days. We saw black and white footage of the Cathedrals, the Statesmen, the Happy Goodmans, and the Speer Family. It was awesome! Because I didn't grow up with this music, I don't have that first-, or even secondhand, knowledge of the history. I've read a little, but I never saw any of these performers as I was growing. Watching a young Jake Hess or Glen Payne, well, let's just say, it's easy to see what all the fuss was about!

Unless you're a Gaither artist doing the Gaither tours, most SG artists rarely come to Canada, and almost never come to Toronto. Part of my excitment in coming here was to see all the groups I've seen on TV or read about in Singing News. Tonight, I saw 10 of those groups!

I had high expectations for the Perrys, the Talleys, and Greater Vision. They were all excellent, mixing good songs with great stage presence. The Talleys sang a wonderful new song called "The Broken Ones", which I really appreciated. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver provided the bluegrass touch for the night, and they were fantastic. The Torchmen are actually a group from Canada. (I'd been on their website when I was hiring artists for Gospel Vespers.) They were wonderful, and I think I'll introduce myself tomorrow.

There was a lot of acapella singing, which was such a blessing! The King's Heralds only did one song, acapella, and it was fantastic! I wish we'd had more of them. According to their ad in the program, the group as been in existance for 80 years, making it the oldest continuous group in North America.

Several of the groups did acapella numbers, and it was always beautiful. It was a reminder that, even though we love this music for the message, the harmony is what makes it special.

Part way through the night, I was taken aback. I looked around Freedom Hall, and it suddenly struck me, "I"m at NQC. I've seen all this on TV, and now, I'm actually here!". It was awesome!

They ended tonight's show big with triple trios. First were the Talleys, as I mentioned before. When they got to their last song, the next group, Karen Peck and New River (whom I love!!), jumped up on stage and joined in on the final chorus. The Talleys introduced them, and left the stage. When Karen Peck reached their last song, the Booth Brothers came up on stage to make the same transition. At their last song, all three groups ended up on stage to finish with "I'm Feeling Mighty Fine Again". It was great way to end the concert, and such a solid combination of groups!

Right now, it's late, and I'm exhausted. The last few mornings have been early, and today was long and exciting. I've spent a little time going through my program, making sure I mark all my friend's booths, and the events I really want to see.

I've wanted to come here for so long, and now I'm actually getting the opportunity. I just feel so excited to be here! Can't wait til tomorrow!

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