Somebody Sing Me a Gospel Song.

October 11, 2008

This is a favorite photo of mine. It was taken in 2005 when the group that I sang with, “Potter’s Clay,” won that year’s Gospel Group Talent Contest at Renfro Valley.  (For those unfamiliar… Renfro Valley is… well, it’s… it’s kind of like Kentucky’s version of The Grand Ole Opry, except on a reaaaallly small scale, in the middle of nowhere and with no good restaurants nearby). Here is a link to the Renfro Valley website if you want to get an idea of what goes on there.

The two ginormous trophies in front of us were what we won for placing first in our division, and for being named Grand Champion. It was a pretty cool day.

I sang with Potter’s Clay for about 4 years. It was a lot of fun, and it all started for me with a giant misunderstanding. Other than singing a little bit in the church choir, I hadn’t ever sung “in public.”  Never sang a solo, never held a microphone anywhere near my face.  Then one day one of the gals in the group came up to me at church. She said “Potter’s Clay is looking for a new alto.”  So I got out a paper and pencil to take some notes, because I knew she must have been asking me to put an announcement in the church newsletter (which I put together each month).  But she was actually asking if I would like to join the group!  I was completely shocked. I don’t know how anyone had heard me sing enough to have formed an opinion of my voice, let alone think that I was capable of singing in a “real” group… on stage… in front of people. I think my first reaction was to ask her, “have you heard me sing?”  But she persisted in asking me to come to a practice and check it out.  So I decided to try it.  Because I have always loved to sing… I just never imagined that I would ever sing outside the privacy of my car, or at least outside the protection of 30 other choir members.

Here’s more proof that the thought of me singing “for real” was a bit unheard of. I called my parents a week or so later once I had made my decision, and told them that I would be singing with this group from church that traveled around and did concerts and such. And my Mom’s reaction was “what??”    As if to say, “ummm… honey? Do you sing, really? Because I’m your mother and I didn’t know that you did.”

Well, to make a long story short, I loved it. Once I got used to the microphone thing… and hearing my own voice in a monitor on stage… and just the whole “hey, I’m up here on stage in front of you, but PLEASE DON’T LOOK AT ME” thing, it was a lot of fun. There were about a dozen people in the group when I first joined. We sang southern gospel, mostly. As an alto, I was right where I loved to be… singing low, and singing harmony. Harmony! It’s the best.

Here is another great photo that we had taken as a publicity-type shot. I like the casual nature of this one:

Alas, as time wore on, the group experienced a lot of ups and downs. Members came and went for different reasons. We always had a good time singing together, but in between concerts there always seemed to be some drama going on. Eventually some of the smaller dramas grew up to become full-scale Broadway productions, if you will… and not all of us wanted tickets to the show. The group began to dwindle as more members hit the road. In fact, right after the publicity shoot which gave us the above photo, I was called upon to do some creative editing to one of the shots so that we could still use it to promote the group without spending a bunch of money on a new set of photos. And now, in a display of my fantastic Photoshop editing skills, here is the “before” shot with everyone in it…

… and the “after” shot, once a couple people had moved on:

Eventually I, too, left the group… it’s been almost a year ago, now. There were no hard feelings or anything, my time had simply passed.

Singing with Potter’s Clay for those four years really did me a lot of good. I made some great friends, I learned a lot about singing, and I gained a little confidence about my ability to sing “for real.”  I still have no delusions about being the next American Idol or anything… but in recent years I have started to actually sing solos in church, which is another thing I never imagined I could ever do.

I’m not sure why I wanted to post this entry… I’ve been looking at the Renfro Valley photo hanging in my office for a long time, and I guess I just felt like remembering some good times. And it was also a chance to let some of the people who read this blog know about my “secret life” as a singer 🙂  I doubt I’ll ever have an opportunity to be a part of something quite like Potter’s Clay again… so here’s to the great memories!



  1. I love that story! When I started reading it, I thought: “Hmm! I didn’t remember Laura being a music person!” Glad to see my memory isn’t that cloudy.

    Love your idea about searching for recipes based on random ingredients! I would LOVE to do the everyday market thing, but I find going to the market with children to be too painful to do daily!

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever shared one of my few experiences singing solo, well, actually duet. As a teenager, I sang soprano in the church choir. Tenor (and friend) Ronald and I sometimes sang duet in services. We were all set to make our grand public debut at a Youth for Christ rally in Cleveland: the pianist gave us our lead-in – and we froze…neither of us could squeak out a sound. Fortunately, everyone was very patient as we took deep breaths, recomposed ourselves and started over. And in the end we sang well, but I’ll never forget the beginning.

  3. And you do have a fine voice!!

  4. I always loved hearing Potter’s Clay singing in church, so I will vouch here for all readers that Laura has an awesome singing voice. And wow, you really do have some good Photoshop skills. I’d never have thought that was a doctored photo if I hadn’t seen the original.

  5. Good times, good times 🙂

  6. Great photos and a neat story. You all always sounded fabulous. 🙂

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