Video from Stephen Hill’s Homegoing Service

Stephen Hill passed away suddenly on Sunday, August 6th. His memorial / home going services was eight days later, on Monday, August 13th. Friends, family, and fellow Southern Gospel artists gathered to commemorate his life.

At the service, Sisters sang the song he closed his final concert with, “It is Well.” This isn’t just worth watching because of the context; this rendition is a work of art on its own merits. The apparently effortless key changes, airtight unison lines, and lush cascading harmonies—all achieved without the help of tracks or stacks—are part of why Sisters’ fellow performers have such a high respect for their abilities.

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Stephen Hill Passes Away; Funeral Arrangements Announced

ORIGINAL POST, SUNDAY, 10:04 P.M.: Several Southern Gospel performers, including Jeff & Sheri Easter, Karen Peck Gooch, and Shawn Degenhart (who performed with Hill in the Heritage Harmony Quartet), are reporting that soloist Stephen Hill passed away suddenly today after a heart attack. He was in Lumberton, North Carolina for a concert at Antioch Baptist Church (Wesley Pritchard’s home church) (UPDATE: Early reports that it was Pritchard’s home church appear to be incorrect.)

Hill was best known for his Gaither Homecoming appearances as a soloist. He was also on the Heritage Harmony Quartet’s debut recording, which we gave a five-star rating here.

UPDATE, 7 AM 8/6/12: The Gaither organization has officially confirmed Stephen Hill’s passing. He suffered a massive heart attack during soundcheck for yesterday evening’s concert. They added:

Stephen was a “gentle giant” with a kind, soft-spoken nature and a tenor voice as versatile as it was beautiful. He had a sincere heart for people and for sharing the hope of Christ with audiences throughout his career. He was dearly loved by his friends, family and the music community. 

Stephen is survived by his wife, Kathy, and their three children, Melody, Miriam, and Caleb.

UPDATE, 8:58 AM, 8/7/12: Funeral plans, via Woody Wright on Facebook:

I hope everyone will make plans to be with us on Monday August 13 at Grace Church of the Nazarene near Opryland in Nashville at 1 PM. Kathy, Melody, Miriam and Caleb appreciate your prayers as they deal with the shock and grief of this sudden, unexpected tragedy. They have asked for a great celebration of Stephen’s extraordinary life.

UPDATE, 9:25 PM, 8/7/12: Updated time for service: The funeral will be at 3:00 pm Monday, August 13; visitation will be (before) 1:00-3:00pm.

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3:1 CD Review: Gospel Echoes: Treasures from the Stamps Quartet Music Company (Heritage Harmony Quartet)

Gospel Echoes (Heritage Harmony Quartet)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Concept. Few Southern Gospel releases can claim to be completely unique, but this is one of them. Shawn Degenhart, lead singer and visionary behind the project, had special access to the Stamps Quartet Music Company’s extensive 5,000+-song catalog. While every Southern Gospel fan recognizes perhaps a dozen of these songs, and committed aficionados might recognize 200, there are still thousands of forgotten gems. Degenhart brings back ten largely forgotten gems (as well as one that is slightly better remembered, “My Nonstop Flight to Glory”).

2: Performances. The performances of these forgotten gems leave nothing to be desired. With a cast including Allison Durham Speer, Stephen Hill, and Mike Allen on vocals, you know it will be good vocally. The instrumental tracks complement the vocal performances perfectly.

3: “Look for the Silver Lining”: With access to a multi-thousand song catalog, you would expect Degenhart to come upon some gems, and he does not disappoint. Of these, the strongest is certainly “Look for the Silver Lining.” It is a wonder this one hasn’t been done far more often.

:1: Nothing: This project accomplishes exactly what it sets out to achieve. Nothing could have made it stronger. It’s sheer delight for the ears of the fan of good convention singing. 

Traditional or Progressive: Delightfully traditional!

Radio Single Picks: “Look for the Silver Lining,” “Happy in Knowing.”

Album Rating: 5 stars.

Credits: Produced by: Shawn Degenhart. Review copy provided.

Members: Allison Durham Speer (alto), Stephen Hill (tenor), Shawn Degenhart (lead), Mike Allen (bass).

Song List: Song list: Gospel Echoes; On My Journey Home; My Nonstop Flight to Glory; Wonderful Savior; Happy in Knowing; I’ve Found Something; Look for the Silver Lining; Call Upon the Lord; Tell the World of Jesus; Won’t You Come with Me; God’s Beautiful Somewhere; Wonderful Savior (Bonus Track).

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CD Review: No Trace of Rain (Paid In Full)

traceofrainPaid in Full started in 1991 and really took off when the late Jake Hess started mentoring the group in 1996. For years, they have been content to be weekend warriors, even as an increasing chorus of critics and fans say that they’re on par with the best out there.

It’s not the sort of situation where “potential” is the topic of discussion. Gaither Homecoming artist Woody Wright has produced or co-produced all their releases since their 1998 debut recording In All I Do, and he returned for this recording. This provides stylistic consistency with their other recordings, though the added talents of David Staton and Gus Gaches are particularly evident in the album’s more progressive tracks.

Wright’s contributions were not limited to producing; he also contributed a two songs. The first was a quartet song, “My Soul is Firmly Anchored,” recorded with a guest bass vocal by Gene McDonald. It’s the same song Legacy Five recorded on Just Stand; it’s a tossup which rendition is better. The other song Wright contributed was probably the biggest standout track for aficionados of thought-provoking lyrics: “Light Doesn’t Make a Sound.”

PIF baritone Bradley Littlejohn co-wrote “Lead On” with Dianne Wilkinson. His lyric fits well with a melody that has the unmistakable Wilkinson groove.

The album closes with “The Other Side,” a track with a timeless feel that makes you feel like you’ve surely heard it before, that it must surely already be a classic that you’ve heard done by a half-dozen other groups. It features lead singer Lance Moore and was written by Gaither Homecoming artist Stephen Hill.

This album will delight current PIF fans, and undoubtedly win the group new fans.

Rating: 4 stars. ♦ Average song rating: 3.7 stars. ♦ Group members: Lance Moore, Bradley Littlejohn, Brock White. ♦ Produced by: Woody Wright, David Staton, Gus Gaches. ♦ Available from: Group. Review copy provided. ♦ Song list: Truth Be Told; I Go to Jesus; This is the Day; Praise Makes the Walls Come Down; Lead On; My Soul is Firmly Anchored; Waiting for the Morning; Light Doesn’t Make a Sound; It Takes Faith; Faith Moved a Mountain; The Other Side.

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