Singing News Fan Awards to return to NQC

Singing News and the National Quartet Convention announced yesterday afternoon that the Singing News Fan Awards will return to the NQC mainstage this year.

Rick Francis, Singing News’ Operations Manager, explained that the details had been in progress for several weeks, adding, “It just makes sense for the Singing News Fan Awards to take place during the week of NQC, during a time when the entire Southern Gospel music community —fans, artists, and industry—is together in one place. We are very pleased about this agreement.”

NQC Executive Vice President Clarke Beasley added, “The Singing News Fan Awards and the NQC were inseparable institutions for decades, and we are delighted that the Fan Awards will once again call the NQC home.”

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2013 in Review: Southern Gospel’s Biggest News Stories

Site Statistics

In 2013, SouthernGospelBlog.com reached a significant milestone: It was our first year with more than 1 million unique visits (1,070,730). We’ve come close several previous years, but this was our first to actually pass that mark. Thank you for reading! For anyone interested, here a report with other interesting site statistics.

Top Posts of 2013

The top posts of 2013 included several from previous years, and several that were not news stories.

  1. Michael English and Mark Lowry to Leave the Gaither Vocal Band (October 29, 2013; 13,509 views)
  2. Updates on Tracy Stuffle [Update 5] (May 21, 2013; 8,982 views)
  3. Tim Duncan Joins Canton Junction (October 7, 2011; 5,886 views during 2013)
  4. Joseph Habedank Leaves The Perrys (May 22, 2013; 4,619 views)
  5. Tim Duncan leaves Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; Ian Owens Joins (January 19, 2011; 4,609 views during 2013)
  6. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (April 25, 2013; 4,461 views)
  7. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (January 18, 2013; 4,380 views)
  8. An Interview with Tim Duncan (October 27, 2011; 4,302 views during 2013)
  9. Tracy Stuffle Suffers Stroke [Update 1] (January 22, 2013; 4,004 views)
  10. Gaither Vocal Band to perform 2014 tour with Phelps/Hampton/English/Gaither Lineup (October 24, 2013; 3,606 views)

Due to the mixture of posts and topics, this list doesn’t really answer the question of what were the year’s top stories.

Top News Stories of 2013

The two biggest stories of 2013 unfolded over multiple days and were covered in multiple posts. To determine the top stories, we combined the view counts on all posts in the unfolding story.

  1. Tracy Stuffle’s stroke (1 2 3 4 5) (18,653 total views)
  2. Michael English and Mark Lowry leave the Gaither Vocal Band (1 2) (17,115 total views)
  3. Joseph Habedank leaves The Perrys (4,619 views)
  4. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (4,461 views)
  5. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (4,380 views)
  6. Mike Holcomb Leaves The Inspirations (2,407 views)
  7. Dan Keeton Leaves Gold City (2,189 views)
  8. Shane McConnell Joins Canton Junction (2,157 views)
  9. David Ragan leaves The Inspirations (1,959 views)
  10. Debra Talley injured in fall (1,825 views)

Incidentally, these view counts do not count readers reading the post on the home page, via RSS, or via email. So they don’t measure a story’s full reach; however, home page, RSS, and email views stay steady enough that the numbers provide a valid apples-to-apples comparison, even if the numbers are similarly incomplete for each post.

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National Quartet Convention posts 2014 Schedule

This afternoon, the National Quartet Convention posted their 2014 mainstage schedule. Here are the changes:

New to 2014: Allen Boys, Archie Watkins & Smoky Mountain Reunion, Ball Brothers, Blackwood Brothers, Bowlings, Browders, Canton Junction, Childress Family, Down East Boys, Driven, Erwins, First Love, Forgiven, Freedom, Gospel Harmony Boys, Guy Penrod, High Road III, Hyssongs, Jay Stone Singers, King’s Heralds, Littles, Lore Family, Marshall Hall, Masters Voice, Mattingly Family, Michael Frost Trio, Mylon Hayes Family, Paul’s Journey, Penny Loafers, Porter Family, Renaissance Quartet, Roarkes, Shaffers, Sheri LaFontaine, Skyline Boys, Sneed Family

Not returning from 2013: Browns, Gaither Vocal Band, Inspirations, Ivan Parker, Torchmen, Voices of Lee

Unchanged: 11th Hour, Booth Brothers, Brian Free & Assurance, Collingsworth Family, Crist Family, Diplomats, Dixie Echoes, Dixie Melody Boys, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Gold City, Greater Vision, Hoppers, Isaacs, Jason Crabb, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Karen Peck & New River, Keepers of the Faith, Kingdom Heirs, Kingsmen, LeFevre Quartet, Legacy Five, Lesters, Mark Bishop, Mark Trammell Quartet, McKameys, Nelons, Old Paths, Perrys, Primitives, Providence Quartet, Rick Webb Family, Soul’d Out, Squire Parsons, Talleys, Taylors, Tribute, Triumphant, Whisnants, Wilburn & Wilburn

For the last few years, NQC has incorporated two to four of the best performances from the evening’s showcases into their mainstage slots for a single-song set. Instead of being selected that day, it looks like they’re selecting many of those shorter sets in advance this year. 

NQC also posted an incomplete daytime showcase schedule. The Wednesday-Saturday mainstage programs are largely familiar, mostly repeats from previous years: Dennis Swanberg, David Jeremiah, a Bluegrass Jamboree, a Redbook congregational sing, NQC Music Awards, Guy Penrod, and Jason Crabb. It looks like the marquee event—at least, of anything that’s new—is a 90-minute Cathedrals Family Reunion showcase on the Saturday schedule.

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Farewell, Louisville

Farewell, Louisville.

It has been thirty-two hours since the final notes of Louisville’s final National Quartet Convention echoed off the rafters of Freedom Hall. Booths have been torn down, chairs and speakers have been put away, and artists and attendees have returned home.

Louisville, you had quite the difficult acts to follow: The Memphis conventions, where Elvis hid backstage in a broom closet to hear the Blackwood Brothers and the Statesmen, and the Nashville conventions at Municipal Auditorium, which saw the Happy Goodmans, the Big-and-Live Kingsmen, Gold City, and the Cathedrals their prime. 

In fact, when the convention left Nashville after 1993, people wondered if you could ever measure up. But measure up you did.

Freedom Hall seats over twice as many people as Municipal Auditorium. Many thought it would never sell out. But it did. There were days when every seat was filled to hear the Cathedrals, the Martins, and the Gaither Vocal Band.

There might be a few who thought that Freedom Hall was just another stage. There was a little truth to that—the other fifty-one weeks each year. But one week each September, it was a different story.

Southern Gospel has had many unforgettable moments over these last twenty years, and most of them took place in Freedom Hall. There are the moments I’ve only heard about: The Speers retiring. Glen Payne calling in from his hospital bed. George Younce’s final appearance. Gerald Wolfe singing “Redemption Draweth Nigh” on September 11, 2001.

And then, for some of us, there’s the part where we come in.

How I wish every Southern Gospel fan could have experienced at least one night in Louisville. Even the highest-resolution video fails to do it justice. Park somewhere near ten and a half miles from the entrance. Hear subwoofers rattling a few rows over; walk closer to find that it is a grandma rocking out to the Perrys’ Happy Goodmans CD!

Enter, and look for the correct seating section. There’s a delightful incongruity to the Heavenly music echoing through these pedestrian concrete-brick hallways filled with popcorn vendors and irrelevant plaques commemorating long-forgotten sporting achievements.

Find the section, and feel Freedom Hall before seeing the stage. Something’s physically different compared to every other Southern Gospel venue. There’s the hum of the ventilation system in the background, the commotion of fifteen or twenty thousand fans, and the music coming over the loudspeakers. Bones feel the sounds as much as ears hear them.

Reach the top of the steps and look in. The smoke or mist machines create an initial haze around the stage. But eyes quickly adjust to bring into focus the stage where a new chapter is being written in this genre’s history.

How could I ever forget the Florida Boys’ retirement? Being on the front row for the first Brian/Ivan/Mike/Tim Gold City reunion in two decades? The Bowlings’ return after their bus accident, with Kelly still in a body cast? Tracy Stuffle’s return after his heart attack?

The first night I was there in person, I posted, “NQC is something that has to be experienced. Words don’t do it justice.” It’s not just the historic moments that make it what it is. Will anyone who was there ever forget Ernie Haase trimming Tim Lovelace’s and Tim Surrett’s ties or Michael Booth getting “shot”?

But the on-stage moments are only a fraction of the experience. You just don’t forget things like getting locked into the parking lot  or witnessing the ghost of conventions past on teardown night!

Louisville, you had a tough act to follow. In 1994, people wondered if our genre’s best days were in the history books, and wondered if you could ever measure up. That kind of reminds me of another point in time . . . today. Can the Booth Brothers, Collingsworths, and some new groups we’ve never heard of yet sell out Pigeon Forge? Can tens of thousands more join via the live webcast, giving NQC a live, paying audience that even Freedom Hall could never have contained?

We don’t know, but we do know this: Louisville, you were so far past expectations that you give us every reason for optimism that Pigeon Forge will do far more than measure up.

Farewell, Louisville.

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NQC 2013, Day 5: NQC Music Awards

Daniel is at work, so Daniel’s Siblings are live-blogging the afternoon showcases.

For all those who signed up, remember the Friday NQC coverage is free!

3:25 Favorite Male Group: The Booth Brothers. Ronnie: “This is called a Quartet Convention award…” Michael, “We did a quartet album this year, so we’re okay.”

3:19 Les & Clarke Beasley brought on stage to explain that a CPA firm validates the results. They introduced the individuals representing the firms. The Southern Gospel Music Guild chooses a business who has made an impact on Southern Gospel. This year’s winner of the Les Beasley Impact Award is Herschend Properties, the parent company of Silver Dollar City and Dollywood.

3:16 Favorite Song: “I Played in the Band” by the Booth Brothers. Michael Booth talking about Bill Gaither believing in the body of Christ and each person doing there part to honor the Heavenly Father.

3:12 Booth Brothers singing “I Played in the Band.”

3:07 Favorite Album: Through the Night! The Perrys.  Libbi, “I’m totally blown away.” David Ragan has his baby on stage with him! Bryan Walker and Leah Page are up there with Libbi. She is saying how Tracy usually is the one who accepts the awards and has something to say. She never dreamed they would live every song of the album. Every song needs to have a message and say something and be scriptural. Someone will need it. This year she was one of those people who needed the songs (and songs from other artists). Libbi thanking Leah for helping and being her right arm and doing an incredible job. She’s thanking the guys in the group and is asking for prayer. Libbi said “Next year, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Tracy Stuffle will be there.”

3:05 Radio Stations of the Year: WGUS & FWFC.

3:05 Promoter: Landon Beene.

3:05 Producer of the Year: Ben Isaacs.

3:04 The Hosts are introducing Autumn, the award girl.

3:00 Favorite Songwriter: Dianne Wilkinson…and the feed went down! She didn’t expect it. She is saying how she feels such a responsibility. “Sinners need to be saved. Christians need to be encouraged, The Church needs to be awakened, and God needs to be Glorified.”  Thanking the singers and studio players, who do her songs. She is overcome!

2:55 Hoppers singing, “He Didn’t Just Carry the Cross, He Carried Me.” Claude was absent, but Mike and Karlye were singing, making the Hoppers a five part group.

2:53 Video of the Year: “I Wanna Be That Man” by Brian Free and Assurance. BF&A were not in town, touring in North Carolina. The producer accepted the award for them.

2:50 Presenter Gordon Mote brought on and said his trick worked. “I swapped glasses with Kim Collingsworth and it worked!” referring to when she said she couldn’t see to read what was on her card. They continued with a series of humor as would be expected from Mote, Williams, and Easter. The crowd was laughing!

2:46 Favorite Bass: Eric Bennett. Says he’s amazed. Every bass loves to do what he does. “All of them deserve to be up here.” He hopes to never let the fans down. He’s thankful for his wife, the super guys he travels with, and to God.

2:43 Kim Collingsworth’s card didn’t say who was to sing next, so she said, “Whoever is supposed to sing now, come out and they’ll welcome you.” Greater Vision appeared and sang, “He Didn’t When He Could Have Passed By.”

2:41 Favorite Lead:  Ronnie Booth. He said, “I don’t know what to say.” He talked about growing up in Florida, hearing his dad sing for the Rebels Quartet. He talked about the day when there will be an award show like no other and we will lay our awards at Jesus’ feet.

2:40 Presenter Kim Collingsworth introduced. She will be presenting the Favorite Lead award.

2:36 Triumphant Quartet singing “Take it From Me, Meshach.”

2:32 Favorite Tenor: David Phelps. “I’m just amazed by this.”  He’s thanking the fans. “I have nothing other than great appreciation for this.” He loves singing for the people in the seats.

2:29 Legacy Five singing “I’m Still Amazed.”

2:26 Favorite Soprano: Kim Hopper. Saying thanks to the fans. It has been a wonderful year, but one of the most trying years of her life. She was sick at the beginning of the year and enjoyed being at home with her kids, but became homesick for being on the road, doing what God has called her to do, encourage the Christians. She is thankful for God’s sustaining grace.

2:24 The Hosts brought up Josh Singletary as the next presenter.

2:14 Favorite Musician: Kim Collingsworth. Kim’s says she’s at a loss for words. Before she is a musician, she is a wife and a mama. Thankful for parents who introduced her to music and taught her to love God with her heart, soul, and mind. Thankful to her visionary husband. Matthew Holt asked her to play a song.  Kim played “His Eye is On the Sparrow” with just the piano–no tracks! She got a partial standing ovation.

2:09 Kingdom Heirs singing “Just Beyond the Sunset.”

2:07 Favorite Baritone: Jim Brady. “This music is all I ever wanted to sing.”  Psalm 37:4 is true. He is doing the desire of his heart, singing for the Lord. Thanked Booth Brothers, his wife, Melissa Brady, and NQC.

2:05 Presenter Matthew Holt introduced.

2:01 Favorite Alto: Sheri Easter. Sheri saying how she watched Libbi and was thinking of the Grace of God that it takes to sing on stage after 30 years of it being different. “We are blessed.” Sheri thanking fans.

1:57 The Perrys sang “I Got A Hold of God.” (Libbi Perry Stuffle, David Ragan, Bryan Walker)

1:53 Favorite Mixed Group: The Collingsworth Family! Phil Sr. saying 10 years ago, they never envisioned standing here.  He thanked fans for their support and prayers.

1:49 Presenter Jeff Stice brings on the Gaither Vocal Band to sing their top ten nominated song “Glorious Freedom.”

1:47 Favorite Soloist: Guy Penrod! Guy Penrod is in Canada so Jeff Easter held his award for him.

1:45 First hosts: Kevin Williams and Jeff Easter.

Dixie Stampede sponsored the Gaither Sing-a-Long, and it looks like Dollywood is sponsoring the Awards show.

1:42 The NQC Music award show was kicked off by Gordon Mote. There was no microphone at the piano and he shouted something about someone saying he didn’t need a microphone. A microphone promptly appeared at the piano and he started with “Ain’t It just Like the Lord.”  As long as the feed stays up, we plan on bringing you play by play coverage of the award show!

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NQC 2013: A note for the uninitiated

A note to NQC webcast watchers, especially those who have never made it to Louisville in person: Don’t judge singers’ abilities based on their NQC sets.

Freedom Hall lies next to a horse barn. That aggravates numerous singers’ allergies. To make matters worse, add four to ten hours of talking to fans per day, and, this far into NQC week, voices are worn out. This seems to especially impact tenors.

I say that to say this: If you see one of the best singers in our genre have an off night, don’t read too much into it. It’s NQC week, and, to appropriate an over-used cliché, NQC week is what it is.

One other thought: This genre’s tenors have to be some of the happiest people in our little world about NQC’s move to Pigeon Forge. 

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NQC 2013, Day 3: Live Blog

Far and away, this evening’s program has been the strongest so far. In fact, this evening has had so many highlights that it will be rather hard for the days later in the week to top it.

Perhaps a much better attendance has energized the performers. @jon_leighton posted this picture on Twitter, commenting: “ironically,  a huge crowd on quartet night at quartet convention!”

I missed the first three hours; I was at my church’s Wednesday night service. My siblings, who live across the country and don’t have a midweek service, provided our coverage of the first three hours. 

Highlight of the Night

The moment of the night was the retirement performance of The Couriers. It was the final time most of the people in the audience or watching the webcast will see these legends live and in person; they have announced that their final performance is later this year.

One song into their set, the Mark Trammell Quartet sang one of The Couriers’ signature songs, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” Mark then talked about how he had seen the Couriers for the first time at NQC 1974, and talked about the impact they had on their fellow performers, on the fans, and on his life.

Then Mark said that the Couriers—Duane Nicholson, Neil Enloe, and Dave Kyllonen—were there, and he was going to call them up on stage. The artists in the artist circle, surrounding the stage, stood for a standing ovation.

If the audience had any clue what was coming next, the audience would have joined them.

Gerald Wolfe and Jim Brady join Mark to present The Couriers with plaques from the National Quartet Convention thanking them for their years of faithful service and integrity and commemorating their retirement, coming later this year.

Mark Trammell introduced “Statue of Liberty” with these words: “As we pay tribute to the fallen heroes tonight on 9/11, I want to pay tribute to living heroes who show us how to do what we do with grace style character, and integrity.” The Couriers sang most of the song; the Mark Trammell Quartet joined them for the dramatic final choruses.

The audience stood throughout much of the song. Based on the video feed, it looked like there wasn’t a person in Freedom Hall still in their seat by the midpoint of the song. After the song, the standing ovation was enthusiastic and prolonged. It was as if the audience didn’t want to sit down because they didn’t want that moment to end.

Mark Trammell deserves credit for giving up most of his set for this moment. The Couriers deserved this moment—their NQC retirement, and probably their final appearance at a major venue. (Their retirement concert is in two or three months.) It was the final moment most of the people in the room and watching the webcast will get to see them live, and thanks to this, they went out in grand style.

This is one of those NQC moments fans will still be talking about in ten or twenty years.

Other Highlights

My siblings noted these highlights from the first three hours.

  • The Booth Brothers Quartet (see 5:56)
  • The Quartet Choir (see 5:53)
  • The Basses Quartet (see 6:51)
  • Quartet Gilead of Rio De Verde, Brazil (7:17)

I picked up around 8:30. These are the highlights from 8:30 on:

  • The Couriers’ final NQC performance (see above).
  • Legacy Five singing “We Shall See Jesus” (10:22). Of all the times I’ve seen them stage the song, this was easily the best. They had a tough act to follow—the moment of the night, the Couriers’ retirement performance. It’s hard to turn around from that into another evening highlight, but they pulled it off. For about a dozen years after Glen Payne’s death, no major group was willing to touch the song, but, as Fowler said, “the song is too good to die.”
  • The Confused Quartet (8:35): Jeff Easter on tenor, Scott Howard on lead, Arthur Rice on baritone, Mark Trammell on bass, and Gerald Wolfe on piano. This was a highlight for comedic reasons; Easter did a brilliant Kingsmen tenor impression.
  • All-Star Quartet (8:58): On the other hand, this was a highlight for musical reasons. Riley Clark, Clayton Inman, Mark Trammell, and Jeff Chapman did an outstanding rendition of “Glory Road.”
  • The Old Paths set: They’ve had two #1 hits within the last year, and those songs carried their debut NQC appearance.
  • The Kingdom Heirs set was perfectly paced.
  • Triumphant was a great pick to close the night. Their set just kept getting better and better, and they were tearing Louisville up by the last two songs. Clayton Inman reprised his classic Singing Americans feature on “Welcome to Heaven.” And when you thought it couldn’t get any better, they pulled their best fast song—a song a few too many fans have forgotten—out of their back pocket, “I Know I’m Going Home.”

Live Play-by-Play

Click “Read More” to read the entire play-by-play; it’s hidden from the home page for space considerations.

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NQC Explains Last Night’s Video Issues

This afternoon, the National Quartet Convention and TechWerks (their streaming video service provider) sent out an email to customers who had purchased the $60 live video feed, explaining last night’s technical difficulties:

Ladies & Gentlemen,

We understand that some people could not access the website from 5:30 pm EST to 6:30 pm EST. This was due to hackers trying to shut down the NQC website. We had to add additional security measures to prevent these attacks.

Please rest assured no hackers were able to access any information and none of your confidential information was stolen. We do not keep any of your sensitive information on our servers or in any of our systems. Once we confirmed payment during the purchase of your video pass, we then destroyed any sensitive information that we had collected and as a result, the hackers did not have anything to steal. The only thing they were able to accomplish was to disrupt the video stream last night.

We are making on-demand videos available ahead of schedule. Those of you with Roku devices have already been able to view several on-demand videos, but now everyone else who is viewing the video(s) via the web page will be available to view on-demand videos ahead of the conclusion of the convention. The on-demand videos on the web page should be up before the start of the live broadcast this afternoon at 5:25 pm EST.

We refuse to be deterred by those with ill intent and we continue to improve not only our security measures, but also your experience when watching our online videos. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience you may have already experienced. Please be in prayer for not only us, but also for the numerous people traveling to and from the convention, the singers and artists, all the staff involved with the National Quartet Convention, and anyone who may be blessed through the efforts of this National Quartet Convention. We are excited about the rest of the convention and look forward to a smooth ride from here on out.

We will be rebroadcasting the first 2 hours of last night’s event starting at 2:00 pm EST today. This will give you an opportunity to watch the first two hours and test your Internet connection. If you have any issues, please email us.

This a model of how a customer service apology should be done. They explained why the downtime happened, assured customers that their financial information was safe, and offered a sincere apology. Then they offered an alternate way to catch the missed footage, and a way to test that things are working properly prior to the commencement of tonight’s festivities. If they can add to that a smooth streaming experience tonight, I think it will go a very long way toward building goodwill after the frustrations fans expressed last night.

Well done, NQC and TechWerks.

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NQC 2013, Day 1, Live Blog

Highlights of the Night

In no particular order:

  • “My Jesus, I Love Thee” – Collingsworth Family. (See the live blog, at 8:40).
  • “I Know a Man Who Can” – Chris Allman with Greater Vision. (Is the man incapable of having an off night?!) (See 9:30.)
  • Triumphant Quartet’s set. There wasn’t a single moment that stood above the rest, because the entire set was so solid. (See 7:59.)
  • “When I Wake Up to Sleep No More” – Eagle’s Wings. (See 9:01.)

Webcast Quality

As always, the camera work was exceptionally strong. Thinking back to the endless primary Presidential debates last year, I doubt if a single network crew doing one of those events could top the NQC crew in this setting. The audio work was also fairly good; there was the occasional soloist buried in the mix for a few notes, but the audio team did a fantastic job, overall, of keeping the featured soloists prominent in the mix and the harmony vocals blending in smoothly.

The website serving up the video feed, though, had a number of issues through the evening. The live feed went down in seven or eight of the evening’s twelve multi-song sets, making it all the way through four or five. The website itself went completely down at a couple of points. But to their credit, the customer service agents @NQCOnline on Twitter put in a valiant effort to check in one-on-one with fans reporting problems. They also posted a “Thanks in advance for your patience” message on Facebook here.

Live Play-by-Play

Due to length, we’ve hidden the complete play-by-play from the home page. Click “read more” to read the complete play-by-play.

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NQC announces NQC Spring Break

The National Quartet Convention has announced a new event, NQC Spring Break. While the main convention itself is moving to Pigeon Forge next year, NQC will maintain a presence in Louisville, Kentucky with this event. It will be held from March 27-28, 2014 at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

This Thursday/Friday event features a star-studded lineup. The Kingdom Heirs, The Hoppers, Jason Crabb, and The Collingsworth Family will appear on Thursday, March 27th. A Friday afternoon matinee features Bluegrass stars Dailey & Vincent and a special appearance by the Booth Brothers Quartet (with Gene McDonald). The Friday evening headliners are the Jubilee artists—Booth Brothers, Legacy Five, and Greater Vision—plus the Mark Trammell Quartet, a group that, thanks to the Cathedral Quartet connections, appears frequently with Legacy Five and Greater Vision.

It sounds like quite an event, and should do quite a bit to quell disappointment by northern fans as the main event makes its way southward. Tickets will be available here.

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