For the 98th year, gospel music fans and performers will gather at Benson’s Singing Grove for the annual State Singing Contest.
“We’re very pleased that through our forefathers and the people running it now, we have been blessed to run it continuously without any skips or breaks in this event,” said convention President Danny Holland.
The event features gospel performers from across the Southeast challenging for daily titles and — for those who dare perform for two days — a chance at the Grand Champion and Consolation cups.
Last year’s Grand Champions, The Ferguson Family from Mount Dora, Fla., will open on Saturday night for this year’s featured nationally known performers, The Martins.
“The Martins are one of the top groups in the country,” Mr. Holland said. “They are very nice people and they love gospel music and are helping to keep gospel music alive and well and running today.”
The sibling group is from Hamburg, Ark., and has been performing together for many years. After going along their separate paths for several years and entering the recording studio in pursuit of solo careers, the trio reunited in 2010 and has been performing together ever since.
The Martins have earned Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association and have earned Grammy nominations as recently as 2015.
For many years, they have been a part of the national gospel music scene posting a string of No. 1 hits on gospel radio that include “The Promise,” “We Trust In God” and “Count Your Blessings.”
They have been honored by the Gospel Music Association winning Dove Awards for Southern Gospel Song of The Year (“The Promise”) and Southern Gospel Album of The Year (“Above it All”) both came in 2004.
They were also honored with Dove Awards in 1999 when they claimed Country Recorded Song of the Year for “Count Your Blessings” and Southern Gospel Album of the Year.
In 1997 they were awarded for Southern Gospel Album and Song of the Year and in 1996 they earned the same awards.
In 2015 The Martins were nominated for a Grammy for Best Roots Gospel Album of the Year and in 1998 they were nominated for a Grammy for Best Southern Gospel, Country Gospel or Bluegrass Album of the Year.
They are slated to take the stage on Saturday night at 7.
The first night of the event, Friday night, features what is titled a Special Singspiration from 7 to 10 p.m.
During the Singspiration, performances from The Josh Harris Family, Full Reliance, The Shockey Family, Crimson Cross, The Horrell Family and Tate and Marthieah will be featured on the Singing Grove Stage.
“The Singspiration is something we started several years ago and pulled it into the program to give us a three-day event,” Mr. Holland said. “We use the Grand Champion from the year before and the Consolation Cup winner from year before. Then we draw the other four out of a hat of people that registered to be in the program this year.”
Mr. Holland said it was another way to give performers a chance to offer more of their talents to the audience.
“It benefits the spectators and the groups themselves,” Mr. Holland said. “Instead of doing only one or two songs, each one of the six groups gets a 30 minute time slot where they can do all their numbers instead of just one song or two songs.”
Competition begins Saturday at 2 p.m. and continues Sunday, also at 2 p.m., in several categories including Junior, Duet, Trio, Mixed Trio, Quartet, Mixed Quartet, Family, Bluegrass and Choir.
Contestants, who must register by 1 p.m. each day, must compete both Saturday and Sunday in order to be eligible to claim the Grand Championship.
Both Saturday and Sunday get underway with a round robin sing starting at 10 a.m. and Sunday will feature a memorial service starting at 1 p.m.
When all of Sunday’s competitions have wrapped up, guests will be treated to a special performance of the Singing Convention’s own Convention Choir, which will perform ahead of the presentation of awards.
“I’d just like to say welcome to all of our returning spectators for all the dedicated years they’ve been coming and all the groups participating,” Mr. Holland said. “If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to keep this thing running.” Story by The Daily Record