Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound Announces Change

October 01, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

I guess it’s safe to say that NQC Turnover Season 2012 is underway.

In one of the more surprising moves in a while, the group announced the departure of their bass singer, as well as his replacement:

Dear Friends,

For the past two years the EHSS team and fans have been enriched by the voice and personality of Ian Owens. Ian has announced that he will be pursuing other interests (both musical and personal) and we fully support him and wish him great success. Ian’s last date with EHSS will be October 13th, 2012 in Sunnyvale, TX. Come out and support Ian and please pray for Ian and his wife Megan as they follow this new path.

We will miss Ian dearly. He is a funny, FUNNY man who has become a great friend and that will never change. We will update you at a later date with all information concerning Ian and his plans. Our new bass singer is a young man you are going to love. His name is Paul Harkey. We will fill you in on all of his information soon. Pray for EHSS as we navigate through this transition time.
Sincerely, Ernie

Color me shocked, first that Ian is leaving, and second, that Paul Harkey is coming in. Harkey joined the LeFevre Quartet several weeks ago, and was the featured bass vocalist on their new mainline release. For them to have a lineup change so quickly is surprising, possibly even more surprising than EHSS experiencing a change.

Owens brought a different style of bass singing to the quartet than they were used to with Tim Duncan, but it was one that left a positive mark on their arrangements, with a fuller upper register that allowed for tighter harmony. While Harkey has that same solid upper range, he is a bass in the Tim Riley/Jeff Chapman tradition, so look for this to change the group’s sound quite a bit.

For a good example of how Harkey sounds, here’s a recent video of him with the LeFevre Quartet:

For a showcase of his higher range, here’s “One Day” by the Anchormen. Paul has the first feature:

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29 Comments to “Ernie Haase & Signature Sound Announces Change”

  1. IMO, Mr. Owens, while an OK ensemble Bass, was in no way whatsoever as fine a bass soloist as Tim Duncan. Not even in the same realm. Also, I didn’t feel his bass line contributed nearly as much – in difference to your analysis in the above article – to the overall ensemble.

    Also only my opinion, but the finest Signature Sound Quartet ensemble was Ernie, Ryan, Doug and Tim. Their sound was absolutely marvelous and the CDs recorded during this quartet’s tenure will go down in history, IMO, as some of the best progressive Gospel Quartet recordings ever. I definitely miss their tight harmonies, and I believe Tim Duncan to be one of the finest ensemble/soloist bass singers ever to hold a microphone.

    I just haven’t been as fired up about SSQ since Ryan and Tim departed.

    James Z.

    • Since you say that, I think you’ll be pleased with Paul Harkey. He’s closer to Tim’s style.

    • Dear James Z:
      Wow! You took the same words out of my mouth! I TOTALLY agree with your solid assessment of Signature Sound…..just can’t get fired up anymore for the same reasons you set out.

    • Since I didn’t come across EHSS until 3 years ago, I was quite used to Ryan & Tim. But I always felt that Tim was more of a novelty than a true quartet bass. He was too low to blend, and there are a few vid’s out there where he is off rhythm or tone. But I love this group! It’s Ernie’s love and enthusiasm that will always keep EHSS going! Every member of this group oozes in their love for God and sharing His message.

      The blending of Ernie, Ryan & Doug just couldn’t be beat. And change is always hard, in all areas of our lives. I was unsure of Ian at first but got used to the change and just enjoyed hearing them at Moody last month. I am very anxious to hear them with Paul and have my tickets for December 13. EXCITED!

  2. When I heard the clip on on Daniel Mount’s I had the same thoughts about him sounding more like Tim Duncan…which is great in my opinion. While Ian is obviously a very talented singer, my preference was the EHSS of the Duncan years.

    • When Tim left EHSS, I didn’t think anyone could take his place, but I was wrong. Ian came along and was able to hold his own. I am so glad that I have CDs with both of these wonderful bass singers, and look forward to hearing Paul Harkey add his voice to the group.

  3. For a good example of Harkey’s sound, I encourage you to get The Anchormen’s Always A Road and Believe projects, as well as the LeFevre Quartet’s But For The Cross.

  4. I agree w/ James that the best years were with Tim and Ryan. I don’t think they’ll ever match that sound, they’re just moving on to different things. That’s fine, change happens, I’m certainly not blaming Ernie or anything. Still, it’s got to have been something huge that came along for Ian to make him leave, since he seemed so satisfied here and was just settling in.

    I think (if I can maybe be a little frank here) that popular opinion favors Harkey more than Owens. Mind you, I’M not one of the ones going around saying “Owens is a talentless hack, etc., etc.” I loved his sound when he was in his sweet spot. However, I did miss Tim, and Harkey seems to have more fans among traditional quartet aficionados because he falls more in that tradition. Ian was just a different animal and I think people outside EHSS’s core fanbase weren’t sure how to receive him.

  5. If you’re gonna assemble a Southern Gospel Sacred Quartet, IMO, a dyed-in-the-wool, bigger-than-life LOW NOTE bass singer is a must. What makes Tim Duncan so wonderful is both his ability to GRAB your attention when he is singing a solo feature, AND his amazing musicality as a really low timbre bass singer in the ensemble.

    When I listen to the classic Ernie, Ryan, Doug and Tim ensemble pieces, his bombastic bass PRESENCE is there without you realizing it. THAT is when you know how effective his ensemble singing is – when you FEEL his presence, but you don’t particularly HEAR it. In many quartets, both the bass and the tenor simply stick out way too much. Timbre-wise, not volume-wise.

    Which, by-the-way, is why Ernie Haase is so popular. It doesn’t matter how HIGH he sings – he always sounds musical. It’s just amazing how Ernie shapes his voice to BLEND. Sure, he comes out of the top of the ensemble, but never in an unattractive manner.

    There are several quartets out there where the high tenor just makes me cringe. Yeah, we know you can sing high – now show us you can sing musically…


    • I feel that Ian brought the same thing to the table, just in a much different way than Tim. Paul Harkey will be a good bridge between the two sounds, and those who have not heard him yet are in for a pleasant surprise.

      Edit: Right after I posted that last comment, I found a video of Paul with the LeFevre Quartet. Check it out in the post!

    • Well I’m glad to find someone else who shares my opinion of Ernie’s voice. 🙂 I’ve grown to like some other tenors like Brian Free, but the more melodious the better to my way of thinking.

  6. Everyone’s opinion is 100% valid – that’s why the world has both vanilla and chocolate ice cream!


  7. Funny how everyone likes something different….I thought Owens has/had the most beautiful bass voice in the industry. It has a rich depth that is different…..sounds polished and makes bass solos sound not so abrasive. I will truly miss that….truly.

  8. In the video above, that’s good bass singing, no doubt. But, honestly – not quite the “definition” that Mr. Duncan possesses. Plus, a tune should be pitched at least a step higher than the lowest note the bass can sing, not one step lower…..

    However, I think he’ll be a fabulous addition to the current Signature Sound Quartet. I’m planning on hearing them sing in March, so he’ll be well-rehearsed and certainly up-to-speed by then!


  9. By the way, can I suggest we all keep Ernie in our prayers through this time? I think change weighs heavily on him—really heavily. It seems that Ian initiated this latest change and while everyone’s thrilled for him, the space left behind is just tough for a group leader to shape and fill up again.

  10. I just listened to Paul singing “Everything But Time” with the Anchormen. I don’t think we have to worry too much about Ernie via this change… he’s gaining quite a talent…


    • That is a good one, probably one of my favorites by him during his Anchormen tenure.

      I wish there was a video somewhere of the Anchormen singing “This Is Where Love Stood,” since that’s a fine example of Paul’s higher range, but I’ve included “One Day” in the post.

  11. Mark Drennen says:

    What is it with EHSS and bass/lead singers?

  12. I am a little surprised that no one seems to be concerned about how this change has affected MLQ. After just a few short weeks of being a part of the quartet Paul is called to another quartet? I am personally disappointed that EH would go after a singer that had just committed to a position a few short weeks prior with another group. I haven’t seen a statement from Paul Harkey as of yet but as a gospel music fan these types of changes are just disappointing. This is unfortunately the business side of the industry. I just don’t believe that God changes His mind that fast. Just my humble opinion!

    • I’ll say this: we have a lot of questions, but we don’t see the “big picture” the way God does. What we see from both groups from here on out could be a lot bigger and better than anybody ever thought!

  13. I love Paul’s voice, but can he dance? Lol
    Check out this new blog speakoutfans.com

  14. Dave Whitty says:

    To me, Ernie, Ryan, Doug, & Tim had the best blend & sound as a quartet. The harmony was outstanding, the song selections & arrangements were incredible. One of, if not, the best quartet ever. Their music was very inspirational & I was blessed by it. The quartet will be fine. Ernie knows his stuff.


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