My goal tonight is be in bed at a reasonable time!
Today was really wonderful! It started with the Vintage Quartet Showcase. Of all the afternoon showcases, this definitely had the best turnout. It was standing room only! And you could see why - The line-up included quartets singing classic songs, with just piano accompaniment. I was a little late arriving (due to last night's lateness!), but I arrived in time to catch the Kingdom Heirs, who I later learned are the 'house quartet' at Dollywood. They also sang on tonight's main stage, and their powerful voices were a real treat. The Dove Brothers' harmonies made me think of dark chocolate - so rich and warm. Gold City couldn't make it due to illness, so Tribute Quartet filled in. This is a young group, but they have that classic sound, with a killer pianist who treated us to a solo rendition of "Goodbye, World, Goodbye". But my favourites were The Florida Boys. They got a standing ovation with every song, and not because of who they are, but because of how they sang. They were awesome! The soloists, including 79-year-old Les Beasley, were all terrific in voice and delivery. The harmonies were smooth and well-balanced, and the entire performance was relaxed and fun. They also performed tonight, and the good stuff just continued on.
In addition to the 12-hours-a-day of NQC sanctioned music, many record and management companies use this week to hold their own showcases in the hotels closest to the Expo Center. This afternoon, I attended one of these showcases to see Tara Jackson sing. Sponsored by Southern Spin Entertainment, and hosted by SGM Radio's Rob Patz, this showcase was a mix of trios, quartets, duos and soloists. The showcases are free, but they get a smaller audience because they are off site. Still, it was a great show with some solid talent. Sunday Edition is a family trio which, ironically enough, I actually saw 2 summers ago on my first trip to Nashville, when I attended the Fan Fair at River of Life Church. They sounded great today. They are managed by Tara and Kyle's company, so after the showcase, we were joined by singer-songwriter Jonathon White, and we all went to dinner together ... in Indiana! It's just on the other side of the Ohio River, but it was still funny to see those "Welcome to Indiana" signs.
Back to the showcase - Each act did 2 songs, and Tara totally nailed her's. I'd heard her recordings before, but it's always more satisfying to hear someone live. I'd heard of the group HisSong, but I'd never heard their music before. Wow! Incredible voices and great songs. It was a small audience in a hotel meeting room, but they made it into church. Just awesome! The final act was the (new) Imperials. They've gone back into the song vaults and chosen classic Imperials songs for their new album. It's getting a lot of buzz, and you can see why. The songs are great, and their delivery is terrific. Each voice is interesting and strong on its own, but then they have great blend too.
I decided to watch the entire 6-hour concert tonight. Jeff and Sherry Easter kicked things off, and they were great. They gave Charlotte Ritchie the stage for a song from her solo project, and she was fantastic. Such a clear and beautiful voice! Valor had to cancel for some reason, so we were treated to a solo number by Roy Webb. Such talent! The Hoppers performed next, and they were just awesome. They have a new song called "Yahweh" which follows Christ from birth to resurrection. It's a really neat melody, and a well executed song idea.
Did I write about the Hopper Express on Monday? This is brilliant - It's a very short walk from the exhibit hall to Freedom Hall, but some of the senior guests find the walk a little difficult. So, the Hoppers are running the Hopper Express. Each night, before the concert, you can get a ride in one of four golf carts, driven by the Hoppers, from hall to hall. Brilliant! Not only do fans get to meet the band, but they're filling a need too. I've heard that Claude Hopper is a great businessman, and this just proves it.
There were a few more new-for-me acts tonight. The Primitives are a 6-piece bluegrass group that I'd heard great things about, and their sound was a nice addition to the program. I was also looking forward to Gold City, and they didn't disappoint. They finished with a song called "Preach the Word", accompanied by a video celebrating people who dedicate their lives to spreading the Gospel. After Dad's retirement this year, this song hit very close to home!
I also got to see Brian Free and Assurance. I'd seen their Dove Awards performance, but this was a very different setting. These guys are huge, and you can see why. Amazing vocals and really great song choices. They are also great performers, managing to cover the whole stage and engage all sides of the in-the-round audience.
The Dixie Echoes were featured on the cover of Singing News this year, but again, I'd never heard their music before. They do traditional SG, and tonight they were accompanied only by piano and electric bass (and even that was just a song or 2). Here's the other cool thing - Instead of each singer holding his own mic, they just had 2 mics on stands. They would move around in different configurations, such as 2 singers per mic, or having a soloist on 1 mic and the other 3 singers on the other mic, or sometimes even having all 4 singers gathered around the 1 mic. They were so tight, yet so relaxed, and it was all very entertaining. The mics on stands also allowed them to clap, or hold a hymnal, or play the bass. They ended with Albert Brumley's "If We Never Meet Again", and it was great.
The Booth Brothers followed with a strong set. After singing "His Grace is Sufficient", they dropped the track and did a near acapella version of the last verse and chorus. (Roy would just add a little on the piano here and there.) It was such a treat to just hear those smooth, smooth harmonies without the blurring effect of the track.
We ended the night with the Whisnants (again, new-for-me) and the Greenes. As the show got near the end, a lot of the tour groups started to leave, and I felt just terrible for the artists. I mean, they left in droves! Within the last hour of the show, the audience dropped by half. And they missed some great singing! Most of the shows I've seen this week have ended big, but they went for something different tonight. They ended with worship. Both groups got up together and started a gentle hymn medley, reminding us that Jesus is the best friend we will ever have. They gave a bit of testimony, lead us in prayer, and then invited us to sing "Through It All". Such an intimate and powerful way to end the night. All week long, I'm hearing artists talking about putting God first. Tonight, the Whisnants and the Greenes did just that, and I'm convinced that lives were changed because of it.
Must get some rest tonight. Tomorrow: Blogger's Roundtable!