Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Joyful Noise

I've been anxiously waiting to see "Joyful Noise" since I first heard about it. Two of my favorite singers were going to be in the same movie, and, no, I'm not talking about Queen Latifah.

I heard Karen Peck Gooch talk about the movie when I saw Karen Peck and New River in Searcy this summer. It's such an exciting opportunity for her and for southern gospel music that she has this kind of national exposure. I think it's even more exciting that she was approached about the movie by a director who's probably not a big fan of southern gospel but was researching the genre for the movie. I think she was a great choice to represent southern gospel and to be a featured vocalist in the movie.

I finally got the chance to see it Sunday afternoon. And I loved it! In case you don't know, it's about a small-town church choir that competes in regional and national choir competitions. Dolly Parton's character, GiGi Sparrow, lost her husband who was the choir director. Vi Rose, who is portrayed by Queen Latifah, gets the job of the choir director instead of GiGi. GiGi's grandson comes back into town with new ideas for the choir and designs on Vi Rose's daughter. The music from the choir competitions is fantastic! It's definitely evident from viewers how the soundtrack has been number one!

Karen's part is at the end of the movie during the national competition. She explains about her role at the beginning of the clip above. Her amazing soprano voice shines through her performance. There is a little more to her part than the clip that has been circulating in recent weeks.

When I heard some negative comments about the movie, I was a little surprised. Yes, there is some language in the movie, but most of the time other characters will jump in to say something about it. Remember it's a Hollywood movie. What other Hollywood movies do you find cussing being so directly frowned on? No, it's not the most realistic plot line, but again it's a movie. It's fiction; it's ok. 

While it's not a Christian movie, but there are Christian themes throughout the movie. Don't go expecting something like "Facing the Giants" or "Fireproof." But God is evident throughout the movie. Queen Latifah's character, Vi Rose, is probably the most strong in her faith. She is portrayed at times as "holier than thou," but she has some moving speeches that show how real God is and how He works in our lives. One of the most touching scenes in the movie for me was between Vi Rose and her son, Walter, where he wants to hate God and questions why God works the way He does. I think through that conversation real truths about God become evident to the audience.

I would definitely recommend going to see the movie. We laughed and cried all within the span of two hours. Dolly Parton will definitely give you some one-liners that you'll want to use in the future! Where else do you get to see a southern gospel singer featured in such a great platform?

In the clip above, Karen also shares how she was able to talk to Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah about their faith. Not only is Karen getting to be a light for southern gospel through this movie, she also got to shine as a light for Christ while on set!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Three Hours With the Hoppers

I had the chance to go see the Hoppers on Thursday, Jan. 19 in Monticello, Arkansas at Oak Grove Assembly of God Church. Honestly, I hadn't been a huge fan or listened to their music until I saw them at Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City last year. They definitely won me over then, and continued to when I saw them on Thursday.

We got to the church about 15 before 7, and the church was almost full! I was hoping to get actual pictures from the concert but we were in the back, and it was not conducive to picture taking. However, it was a large crowd for the Hoppers and a great night with plenty of singing. Not being a fan of the group for a long time, I'm still new to a lot of them songs, but I got acquainted to many of them Thursday night. They sang for almost three hours, and I wasn't mad about it!

In the first half, they sang the Hoppers standards like "Yahweh," "Stepping on the Clouds," and "Jerusalem." During "Jerusalem," clips of them singing Jerusalem from various videos were playing on the screen. At one point, I couldn't help but chuckle watching how their mannerisms and movements during the song were the same live as they were from the clips! I'm pretty sure Claude even raised his leg like he does at the same times! :)

I had not heard their rendition of "I Sing the Mighty Power of God" yet, but I loved it. Love how they split up and just had the guys sings some lines and then Kim and Connie sing some lines. The arrangement of the song is great for them! I also had not heard "O It Thrills Me" or "Hope," but loved both of them!

Before Kim sang "That Sounds Like Heaven to Me," she talked about Tony's passing and also the more recent passing of her grandmother. She said that they got to spend time at Christmas with Tony and TaRanda's daughters, Belle and Josie. The girls wanted to go see their daddy at the cemetery. They went up there and sang Christmas songs to him. It was a precious story, and of course I needed a tissue by the end of it.

They started the second half with "I Will Serve Thee" and then sang "Grace Will Always Be Greater Than Sin," which is one of my personal favorites. Love the message of that song! They then picked up the tempo with "Shouting Time." The night would have definitely been incomplete without it!

The night wouldn't be complete either without funny stories from Claude. He started telling about three different stories and got distracted. Finally Dean and Mike both called him on it, which made for a funny moment. Dean told him to tell the second one that he started, but he didn't want to tell that one, he wanted to finish the one he originally started! Haha!!

Claude sang "If I Can Help Somebody," which I have to say has become another standout Hoppers song for me personally. The song fits Claude so well. Connie sang "I've Come Too Far To Look Back," and it was great as well. Connie had a few words to say after the song, and then had Kim start from "but I'm nearing the home shore" as only Kim can. She reminded me tonight of why she's won so many accolades as a female singer.

The night ended with a chorus of "Oh How I Love Jesus" and they had the audience join in. It was a great night of singing, laughs and even a few tears. This was only my second time seeing them live, but I'm becoming more and more of a Hoppers fan!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Never Happens

I strategically chose this time to get my blog started. I'm attending another concert tonight in Monticello, Ark. It seems that groups never come to Arkansas, and when they do it's all at once!

I get to see the Hoppers tonight. Like the Perrys, I had not seen them live until this summer in Branson. But also, I had not been a big Hoppers fan like the Perrys. I just had never really listened to their music that much. I am definitely anxious to see them tonight and plan on providing a full recap soon after!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Evening With the Perrys

I had the chance to see the Perrys in Wynne on Saturday night. This was only my second time seeing them live in concert.

They opened with “Plan of Salvation.” I’m glad to see the Perrys singing this song, I think Tracy Stuffle does a great job with it.

Next, they sang two songs from Blue Skies, “Blue Skies Coming” and “His Love Lights the Way.” Both songs are favorites of mine from that project. Tracy surveying the crowd said that he had on his mind to go back and do some old “campmeeting” songs. The group chose two Happy Goodman songs, “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for my Journey Now” and “I’m Living in Canaan Now.” It was fun seeing them go back and sing two songs not typically in their set, and really have fun with them.

Tracy started the introductions next. We were seated on the side of the stage, and Matthew Holt was traveling with them that particular weekend, so we had a view of him most of the concert. He started with Matthew, and talked about how Anthony Burger was his hero growing up. When Matt was younger, he was allowed to come up on stage and play with Anthony during some of the Kingsmen concerts. Tracy said that Matt was asked to play the piano when Anthony was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and so then Matt played the same piece.

He introduced Joseph Habedank and then Bryan Walker, their newest member. He told about how Bryan had been on American Idol, and had him sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” a cappella. Tracy told him to let loose just like he would on Idol. And he did. He got most of the way through the chorus, and Tracy stopped him to tell him to step it up. One lady from the audience just burst out, “He was doing a good job.” Tracy had to turn his back to the audience, because he couldn’t help but laugh. Bryan chuckled and then finished the song strong. If you haven’t seen Bryan sing it, check it out on YouTube, because he does a phenomenal job with it.

Tracy then introduced Libbi Stuffle to the audience. He talked about how much she likes bluegrass so when she did her first solo album, she wanted to include a bluegrass song. Dailey and Vincent sang “Jesus, Hold My Hand” with her, so she sang that next. The guys joined with her at the very end, since Dailey and Vincent were on the track.

Tracy told a funny story before they took a break. He said that they were at a church for a concert, and the pastor started asking him a lot of questions about his beliefs and the end times. He asked Tracy if he was pre-millennial or post-millennial. Tracy said that he knew the pastor wasn’t about to like his answer to the question. He told him that he was post, because when Jesus comes back he’s “post” to go with him! J

They sang one more song before intermission, “If You Knew Him.”  Honestly, this has never been my favorite Perrys song, even though it did win song of the year, but I was won over with Joseph’s performance of this song on Saturday night. He’s always struck me as a strong lead singer, but he sang with such conviction that everyone was on their feet by the end of the song.

They started the second half with Every Time I Need Him. This is another favorite of mine from their new album. They slowed things down a bit with “Celebrate Me Home.” Libbi does such a great job on this song, and they paid tribute to gospel music heroes who have passed away with a slideshow of their pictures and had people clap for the ones they wanted to.  Toward the end of the song, the pictures were of Perry family members. It was a touching tribute.

Tracy told how Libbi had lost two brothers both at the age of 13. After their older brother passed away, the three siblings started singing. Libbi sang “Daddy Sang Bass/ Reunited,” which was another song from her solo album. This one featured an old recording of her with her siblings singing “Daddy Sang Bass” as kids trying to learn their parts, and then “Reunited” is a song that Joseph and Matt wrote for her for this album. It’s a great song that’s so personal to how the Perrys ministry got started.

Next, they sang “This Old Sinner Testifies.” The night ended with “I Rest My Case at the Cross.” It was a powerful song to end the night on, and brought the focus of the night back to Christ and the cross.

While I was hoping to hear “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” especially since I had friends there who had never heard the Perrys before. However, it was a great night. Tracy, in my opinion, is one of the best emcees in Southern Gospel. And it’s evident from their interactions on stage that they all have a good time up there, and love what they are doing. I wasn’t disappointed in the least!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ain't That What It's All About

I saw Gold City on Friday, Jan. 13 in Jacksonville, Ark. One thing I love about seeing groups in person is hearing the testimonies and the stories and really seeing the different personalities. My theory is that I can always hear the songs later on, but you don’t often get the chance to really hear from the groups. That theory still definitely holds true, but set list for the night wasn’t what I expected it to be. While it showcased some of their new songs and songs that I wasn’t as familiar with, several Gold City standards were missing: "I’m Rich," "When He Blessed My Soul" (maybe not a standard, but they have been staging it a lot recently), "Robe of White" and "Midnight Cry." Honestly, I didn’t know that there could be a Gold City concert without the standard "Midnight Cry." However, what the night lacked didn't compare to everything that the concert was.
The group started off with "Where is God" which is becoming one of my favorite Gold City songs. Next was the song, "Peter, James and John," which is the Singing News #1 song for the month of March. The song has evidently gotten a lot of airplay, and rightfully so, it’s a catchy song with a great message. By "Your Grace, For Your Glory" was next, and then followed by "I Cast My Bread Upon the Water." So far many of the songs had featured Daniel Riley, and I was really struck by how strong of a singer he is. Not that I thought he was terrible by any means before this concert, but he really stood out and was spot on with his vocals.

However, I was anxious to hear Jerry Pelfrey sing. The next song was "He’s Still on the Throne," which I don’t remember hearing before, at least not them singing it live. After seeing the initial clips of him that circulated YouTube, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be a huge fan of his. However, once he got into his element on that song, it was one of the top power vocal moments of the night. Like Daniel Riley said on Friday night, while I might not be a fan of calling a grown man Punkin, I am a fan of Jerry Pelfrey in the lead role. You can definitely tell that in the months that have passed since he joined the group, they have gelled and blended more.

Then, they sang "I’m Saved, Sure and Ready to Go," which I didn’t realized until Friday night that the song was written by Doug Riley. Daniel introduced the group next, ending with Bryan Elliot who was turned loose on "Keep on the Firing Line." 

Daniel set up "It Won’t Be Long next." It has become one of my new favorite Gold City songs. It’s a catchy song that allows the group to show more of their personalities and fun sides. Daniel said that he couldn’t strut or dance like Dixie and the Hummingbirds because he was Baptist, but he did slide around a time or two. It was not only a fun song for the crowd, but also for the group.

The song before intermission was "God’s Building a Church." Dan Keeton does a great job on his solos on the song. I was impressed with how well he did when I saw them in August in Branson, but he’s gotten even better since then.

After a brief intermission, the guys started the second half with "When I Get Carried Away." Next they sang "I Have An Anchor," which to me sounded like pretty much the same arrangement that the Booth Brothers did.

Then, Tim Riley sang "Under Control," and it was another reminder of why he’s still one of the best in the business, and one that all other bass singers look to for inspiration. The group picked up the pace again with "I’m Not Giving Up."

Daniel then told the story of his brother, Doug’s, death and how it led to a period of depression for him. It was a stirring testimony where he opened himself up and became transparent to the audience and just spoke from a place of brokenness. It was also a great testament to how God had helped him get back on the right track. I love when singers are willing to open themselves up and show their scars to point people to Christ.

It led to the next song, "Never Too Broken to Belong," which is also from their new CD. I had not heard this song before, because I had only downloaded a few songs from the new CD from iTunes. After hearing it Friday night, it was the first song I downloaded when I got home.  Lyrically, it’s such a strong song, and Daniel does a great job with it.

Daniel brought the focus to Christ completely talking about how they were there to proclaim Christ, encouraging believers and telling the lost about Him. The concert ended with "Preach the Word," which led to the invitation. 

While I was hoping for one more song, "Midnight Cry" or even "When He Blessed My Soul" to end on an upbeat note, the concert ended how it should have focused on Christ. Gold City made it clear that they were there to encourage believers and to point the lost toward Christ, and that’s what they did. And after all, “ain’t that what it’s all about?” 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unusual Weekend

This is an unusual weekend in Arkansas. There are two Southern gospel groups coming to Central Arkansas. I've noticed that most of the time when one group comes, others often come around the same time, which makes for a fun weekend for me!

On Friday night, I'm going with a friend to see Gold City in Jacksonville. I was a fan of Craig West after seeing them this summer, but haven't seen them since Jerry Pelfrey joined the group. I've heard him compared to Ivan Parker, and honestly I've never been a big fan of his, but I'm anxious to see this new lineup.  I know they've had a rocky time with a lot of personnel changes, but I wish them the best and am still a loyal fan. I haven't seen them in a full concert by themselves since 2007, so I'm looking forward to a full night of Gold City.

Songs I hope to hear: When He Blessed My Soul, It Won't Be Long, Footprints on the Water, Where is God, and of course Midnight Cry

Then, the Perrys have a concert in Wynne on Saturday night. I saw them this summer for the first time. I'd been a fan for a while, but just never had the chance to see them in person. And I'm excited to see them in a full concert by themselves, there's something different about a group when they are by themselves, and you get to hear more of the testimony and talking between the songs.

Songs I hope to hear: I Wish I Coulda Been There, Almost Morning, Blue Skies, His Love Lights the Way

I'm going with different friends each night who are not necessarily strong gospel fans or at least not very familiar with southern gospel, so I'm also anxious to see what their reactions are going to be. Hopefully I can provide concert recaps for both nights!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hello, Blog World

Reading southern gospel blogs has become a daily habit. l love reading concert recaps, CD reviews and other people's opinion on the music that I love. So I've decided to join the blogging world.

I have always been a southern gospel fan. Our family are frequent Branson visitors, so I have heard the music as long as I can remember. However, it wasn't until I was in high school that I really began to learn about the industry, and names like Sheri Easter and Tim Riley became common names for me. Since then, this Arkansas girl has immersed herself in learning about this genre of music.

So I wanted to create this blog as an outlet for my thoughts as simply a fan of this music, the view from the pew.