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Southern gospel fans’ annual convention includes plenty of sofas in exhibit hall

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Even a Gaither Homecoming sing pales in comparison to the fervor of the annual National Quartet Convention in Louisville — an entire week of nothing but Southern gospel music sung by all the best and favorite groups in the industry today, including the Gaithers.

“It’s like a continuous revival,” said Dave Schwinke of Richland Baptist Church, Kingdom City, Mo. He and his wife, Marilyn, and two other couples have attended NQC for five years. Marilyn added, “It’s the highlight of the year.”

The Schwinkes aren’t alone in their annual pilgrimage to Louisville, Ky. Up to 21,000 fans packed Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center each night from Sept. 18-23. Fans attended from as far away as Northern Ireland.

“I fell in love the very first time I came 15 years ago,” said John Johnston, who lives near Belfast, Ireland. For the past four years, he has brought two other couples with him.

“I was always interested in Southern gospel music in the ’50s, and one day I looked on the back of a Blackwood Brothers album and read about the quartet convention. So I always wanted to go there.”

Half of the fun of attending NQC is the six-hour evening concerts with group after group singing top songs and fan favorites. An array of other events are featured during the day, including devotions led by various groups, breakfast cruises with artist performances and “artist showcases” hosted by individual record labels.

The other half of the fun is walking around in the exhibit hall. Aisle after aisle after aisle is chock full of CDs, T-shirts — and sofas. Unlike typical concerts where artists are often at their booths just long enough to sign autographs, this week was different. Most groups offered sofas and chairs where their families and fans could sit and visit. Or simply rest their feet. Artists mingled with each other and with fans like family greeting family at a reunion.

“I’ve always loved gospel music, and I just love the atmosphere here and the fellowship,” said Ruth Cartwright of Spring Creek Baptist Church, Rolla, Mo.

Also during the week, Singing News and Gospel Voice magazines announced their annual awards:

Singing News award winners, as voted by the magazine’s readers, were:
Traditional Male Quartet — Gold City
Mixed Quartet — The Hoppers
Trio — Greater Vision
Soloist — Kirk Talley
Pianist — Roger Bennett of Legacy Five
Musician — Steve “Rabbit” Easter
Band — Gold City
Male Singer — George Younce
Female Singer — Kim Hopper of The Hoppers
Young Artist — Jason Crabb of the Crabb Family
Soprano — Kim Hopper of The Hoppers
Alto — Connie Hopper of The Hoppers
Tenor — Jay Parrack of Gold City
Lead — Jonathan Wilburn of Gold City
Baritone — Mark Trammell of Gold City
Bass — Tim Riley of Gold City
Horizon Individual — Josh Cobb of Legacy Five
Horizon Group — Legacy Five
Songwriter — Rodney Griffin of Greater Vision
Album — “Far Beyond This Place” by Greater Vision
Song — “Just One More Soul” by Greater Vision
Video — “A Farewell Celebration” by Cathedrals

Gospel Voice Diamond Award winners, as voted by readers of that magazine, were:
Sunrise Award — Legacy Five
Video — “A Farewell Celebration” by the Cathedrals
Instrumentalist — Roger Bennett of Legacy Five
Songwriter — Rodney Griffin of Greater Vision
Female Vocalist — Sheri Easter
Male Vocalist — Guy Penrod of the Gaither Vocal Band
Voice of the Gospel Impact Award — Dove Brothers Quartet
Soloist — Ivan Parker
Trio — Tony Gore & Majesty
Living Legend Award — Hovie Lister
Album — “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” by Gold City
Song — “My Name is Lazarus” by Greater Vision
Group — (tie) Gold City and Crabb Family

Launched in 1957 in Memphis, Tenn., NQC was held in various cities before settling in Louisville in 1994. For more information about NQC, call (502) 961-0988 or visit www.natqc.com.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: THE FLORIDA BOYS, SHOUTIN’ TIME, GOLD CITY.

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  • Stacey Hamby