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In reverse chronological order:
- “Till We Meet Again,” Legacy Five. It was fitting that the final full set at NQC was by the group that came directly out of the Cathedrals at their retirement.
- “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary,” The Collingsworth Family. There aren’t many singers or songs that could follow the emotional moment Freedom Hall just experienced. Perhaps the Collingsworth Family themselves, as good as they are, would have struggled prior to starting to sing this song earlier this year. But the song and the moment came together!
- Freedom Hall came unglued again at the end of the Perrys set. There was an emotional and prolonged standing ovation for Libbi Perry Stuffle as she walked off stage. It’s one of the longest I’ve heard in convention history. Then, Libbi held up a cell phone with Tracy Stuffle on FaceTime, watching live; when the camera picked up Tracy live, there certainly could not have been a dry eye in the house.
- During the Perrys’ set, the video crew played a video greeting from Tracy Stuffle, thanking everyone for their prayers. He closed with, “I’ll see you next year in Pigeon Forge. I love you!” At that, Freedom Hall came unglued.
- The Mark Trammell Quartet’s entire set was perfectly paced. This time, it wasn’t a song that stood out—it was Mark Trammell’s classy and elegant introduction to “Too Much to Gain To Lose.”
- “Movin’ Up to Gloryland,” The Voices of Lee. Verse one was performed like you’ve never heard it before; a young African-American man delivered the solo as a slow, jazzy, spectacular high tenor solo. The tempo kicked into the familiar high gear for the chorus and second verse. Another young man (this one Caucasian) did verse 2 as a bass solo. After a medley segment with “Just Over in the Gloryland,” the young man from verse 1 nailed the classic “Mo-ooo-ooo-vin” tenor feature on the final chorus. This young man, who was also featured on the following song, has a tremendous vocal talent and on-stage charisma. It would be an unexpected move, but it sure would be nice if one of the genre’s leading quartets hired him on board as their tenor after he graduates college.
- The Kingdom Heirs’ set was strong beginning-to-end, with three recent #1 hits and the strongest slow song on their latest CD. They ended with all cylinders firing—the sort of ending that the Kingsmen loved to pull off when their live band was at its very finest.
- After The Talleys’ set, Roger Talley stayed at the piano as Michael English walked on stage, singing “Going Home.” Dean and Kim Hopper walked on stage for chorus harmonies. After verse and chorus 1, Michael talked about losing his father three weeks ago, and how much the song meant to him at that point. He then sang verse two, going through the roof on the verse ending.
- The Talleys’ entire set. After one song with tracks, Roger Talley went to the piano for the next three. The piano-and-vocals-only portion of the set was a welcome change of pace from the rest of the evening. The high point of the night was “The Broken Ones,” The Talleys. Lauren Talley introduced it with an incredibly moving story a fan told her this week of how the fan shared it with a girl in an abusive situation, and how that girl learned the song and even sang it for her church.
- “All is Well,” The Whisnants; Melissa shared how, about the same time the Whisnants recorded it, both her parents were diagnosed with cancer. The song came full circle, as the Whisnants’ version ministered to her. (Thanks be to God, both her parents beat cancer.) Melissa sang the song with them.
- The Taylors’ set was strong beginning to end. It takes no small level of vocal confidence to attempt a complicated acapella arrangement to kick off an NQC set, and no small level of vocal talent to pull it off.
11:38: Dean Hopper closes by saying: “We love you very much. All these artists love you very much. Keep us in your prayers. See you at Pigeon Forge in 2014!” And with that, the Louisville era of the National Quartet Convention is in the history books.
11:08: The Finale begins with The Talleys singing “Testify.” Song 2: The Mark Trammell Quartet, “I Want To Know.” Song 3: The Perrys, “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” with Libbi FaceTiming Tracy as she sang. Guests, including Jeff Chapman, joined in by the end. Song 4: The Kingdom Heirs change up the pace completely with a piano-and-vocals rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” featuring Arthur Rice doing his signature hold-a-note-forever ending to the final verse. Song 5: “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness,” Collingsworth Family. Final song: “Statement of Faith” (Hoppers, Greater Vision, Booth Brothers, Legacy Five).
10:50: Legacy Five begins their set with “He Loves Me So.” It’s a good choice; after the emotional high point we’re still on after the Perrys moment and the Collingsworths’ solid set, most songs would have been jarringly out of place. That one fit. Song 2: “Ask Me Why.” Song 3: Scott Fowler shares memories; he was on the main stage (with the Cathedrals and then Legacy Five) at every single Louisville NQC. He uses those memories to introduce “Till We Meet Again.” Song 4: “Boundless Love.” And Michael Booth is on drums, which means things are about to get really good. (Let’s revise that. They were already really good. They’re about to get better.) They did.
10:50: We’re fourteen minutes behind schedule at this point, but given the sort of unforgettable moments that led to the delay, I doubt anyone minds.
10:29: The Collingsworth Family begins their set with “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary.” See the highlights section! Song 2: “The Lord’s Prayer,” featuring Phil Jr. It was wise to do another piano-and-vocals song, I think, before bringing the energy level back up. Song 3: “At Calvary.” Another standing ovation! Song 4: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” A Kim Collingsworth piano solo was listed in the schedule for the start of the set. But it just didn’t make sense to put it there, so it was moved to this slot. Song 5: “Hallelujah Chorus,” a piano solo; part of a medley with the previous song.
10:06: The Perrys start their set with “If You Knew Him.” This is their first time to stage at NQC after Joseph Habedank’s departure. Well, they pulled it off to a standing ovation! Song 2: “I Know It Was The Blood.” Song 3: “Celebrate Me Home.” Libbi Perry Stuffle nails her feature, as always. Then, there’s a video clip from Tracy Stuffle, thanking everyone for their prayers, and closing with “I’ll see you next year in Pigeon Forge. I love you!” That video clip got a standing ovation! Song 4: “This Old Sinner Testifies.” Leah Page, who has been filling on alto all year, came up for the final chorus. There is an emotional and prolonged standing ovation for Libbi as she walks off stage. See the highlights section!
9:48: The Mark Trammell Quartet begins their set with “How Long Has It Been.” Song 2: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” Song 3: “Way Past Ready.” Song 4: After some heartfelt testimony and recollections, song 4 is “Too Much to Gain To Lose.”
9:47: Clarke Beasley pays a heartfelt tribute to NQC’s twenty-year run in Louisville, mentioning some of the greatest moments in Convention history.
9:21: The Voices of Lee start their a cappella set with “The Old Rugged Cross.” A young African-American man offered an excellent solo on the final verse. Song 2: “Movin’ Up To Gloryland”; see the highlights section! The choir director shared that the young man who sang the first verse lost his sister to brain cancer recently, introducing him on another song, the Chris Tomlin top 5 CCM radio hit “I Will Rise.” He did an excellent job on both.
9:16: Showcase winners: The Stevens Family, singing “Unclouded Day.”
8:59: The Kingdom Heirs begin their set with “Tell Me Why.” Song 2: A second #1 hit, “Just Preach Jesus.” Song 3: “That’s When I’ll Know I’m Home,” one of the strongest songs from their current CD. Song 4: They close with their current #1 hit, “Just Beyond the Sunset.” Watch for a big ending! Afterwards: The video cutaway to Josh Singletary absolutely beside himself in excitement at the power ending was really neat.
8:58: Clarke Beasley came on stage and noted that attendees of the 2012 NQC reserved 2,600 hotel rooms that week for NQC 2013. He said it would interest anyone wondering if the move would be a flop to hear that, this year, over 5,000 rooms were reserved for NQC 2014!
8:52: See the highlights section!
8:35: The Talleys begin their set with “The Promise.” Song 2: Debra Talley sings her signature song, “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Home.” Roger Talley went over to the piano for this one; it’s a simple piano-and-vocals-only rendition that’s a welcome change of pace. In fact, it’s been two hours since the last piano-and-vocals-only song (and I’m not even really sure if we should count that one, since it was Susan Whisnant singing “Happy Birthday” to her son!) Song 3: “The Broken Ones.” (See Highlights section.) Song 4: “Orphans of God,” performed as a medley with “The Broken Ones.”
8:31: A video is played of highlights from the week. At this point, it looks like we’re now seven minutes behind. (A video clip from a past NQC, scheduled for 8:06, was bumped to bring us closer.)
8:17: The Down East Boys start their set with a medium fast song, “Every Word in The Word.” Lead singer/manager Ricky Carden has the solo. Song 2: “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion.” Song 3: Tenor Tony Jarman is featured on a strong slow song, “I Won’t Trade My Crown.” Song 4: “Waiting For The Day.”
8:02: The Crist Family begins their segment with “Where it All Comes From,” from their CD that (officially) releases next Tuesday. Song 2: Their new radio single, “The Closer I Get To The Cross.” Song 3: “Great Beyond,” from their debut recording. Song 4: The Crist Family closes strong with “Lift Up The Cross.”
7:57: An ad for TBN. We’re now twelve minutes behind schedule.
7:53: Showcase winner: High Road III. This isn’t the first time they’ve been on the main stage; I seem to think they’ve been a showcase winner before, and they also provided instrumentation for the Grassroots Rambos set a year or two back. They’ve never disappointed, either.
7:34: Tribute Quartet takes the stage, starting with their signature song, “Good News From Jerusalem.” If this is the start, then they surely must have something pretty incredible planned for the ending! Song 2: They do their version of Greater Vision’s classic “God Wants To Hear You Sing”—but as an Anthony Davis bass solo instead of Greater Vision’s tenor solo. Song 3: “Outside the Gate.” They went into the audience for an a cappella encore. It was quite the challenge for the camera crew (filming in the dark) and the audio crew (avoiding feedback), but it was effective for the audience.
7:17: The Kingsmen start their set with “Meet Me At The Table.” Les Butler is making a guest appearance on piano. Song 2: “I Will Rise Up From My Grave.” Song 3: “Land of the Free.” Song 4: “Stand Up”; an energetic ending.
6:57: The Primitive Quartet starts with “You’ve Been So Gracious To Me.” Song 2: “God Can.” Song 3: “I’ll Be Waiting At The River For You.” Song 4: “I Wonder What They’re Doing In Heaven Today.” Song 5: They close strong with “No Longer an Orphan,” quite possibly their most-beloved song.
6:51: Penny Loafers sing “Ain’t Got Time to Die” (? on title). The Primitive Quartet evidently isn’t set up yet, so Dean Hopper asked for a second song, “That’s When the Angels Rejoice.” At this point, we’re about seven minutes behind schedule.
6:35: The Whisnants begin their segment with “I’m In The Gloryland Way.” Song 2: It’s Ethan Whisnant’s 16th birthday today; he stands as Susan sings “Happy Birthday” to him. Song 3: The Whisnants bring up Melissa Brady to sing “All Is Well” with them. (See the highlights section!) Song 4: “New Day Dawning.” Encore: Melissa Brady, Kim Hopper, and Jim Brady join on stage. The audience is on their feet!
6:33: Several minutes of recording audience applause for later editing. This always a fun segment.
6:14: The Taylors begin their set with “I Can Call on Jesus Anytime / Operator,” performed acapella. There were some microphone feedback issues; they worked past those flawlessly, like the true professionals they are. Song 2: “Oh, I Want to See Him.” The Taylors are performing a very strong set. Song 3: “I’m Gonna Make It.”
6:09: The Browns had another instrumental feature; they performed “I Sing the Mighty Power/Canon in D” with three fiddles. They have had a number of instrumental features this week in addition to their mainstage headliner slots, and I believe they have performed this in three or four of them. In past years, the instrumental showcase slots were spread between a half-dozen players, most of them pianists. Most of those slots were given to the Browns this year; perhaps it is because fewer groups carry a pianist than in past years?
5:57: 11th Hour starts their set with “Steppin’ Out.” Song 2: Outgoing soprano Candice Jordan, who recently announced her upcoming departure from the group, sings the solo on the group’s biggest song so far, “Room With a View.” Song 3: “Adam’s Fall,” featuring alto Amber Eppinnette. This was a professional, nicely-paced set; the group acquitted themselves well for their first headliner (i.e. non-showcase-winner) appearance on the mainstage.
5:55: Dean and Kim Hopper will host this evening.
5:51: Dean Hopper leads an audience singalong, with Gerald Wolfe on piano.
5:46: Greater Vision sings “My Name is Lazarus.”
5:39: Tim Lovelace talks with audience members via the fan cam.
5:37: Showcase winner: The Erwins are singing a song you may have heard the Kingdom Heirs do twenty years ago, “That Very Moment.” There are three brothers and a sister; the sister, who is the youngest, isn’t merely good for her age; she’s good, period, and exceptional for her age. Tim Lovelace talked with her after the song and found out that she was twelve.