Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Make It or Break It - My First Press Release!!!

In the continuing trend of new things, I've just sent out my first press release! I've sent it to 16 different websites and online magazines.

Here 'tis:


NASHVILLE, TN (Press Release) – May 26, 2008 - Allison Lynn's upcoming single, "Shepherd of the Hills," is the current song featured on Solid Gospel's "Make It or Break It". "Shepherd of the Hills" is the first radio release from Allison's debut CD, Real Big Fan. Produced by Aaron Minick, Real Big Fan mixes Southern Gospel with the sounds of big band, jazz, and western swing.

Written by Joel Lindsey and Tony Wood, "Shepherd of the Hills" is a soothing ballad that evokes images from the 23rd Psalm. "I love the message of this song: No matter how far or how often we may wander, the great Shepherd will always travel to the darkest places to find us and bring us home," says Allison Lynn. "The first time I heard this song, I knew I had to record it. I would have sung this song ten years ago, and I pray I'll still be blessed to sing it ten years from now."

Known for her blog, "Adventures of a Starving Artist", Allison Lynn is a Canadian artist who recently moved her ministry south to Nashville, Tennessee. Allison received her call into full-time ministry while attending Ben Speer's Stamps-Baxter School of Music in 2005.

"Shepherd of the Hills" will be featured on "Make It or Break It" until May 31. To vote "Make It", please visit www.SolidGospel.com

For more information about Allison Lynn and Real Big Fan, please visit www.AllisonLynn.com

Monday, May 26, 2008

Jackson Ridge Homecoming

Today, Gerald and I drove out to Rockvale, about an hour from our place, to sing at Jackson Ridge Community Church. They were having a Homecoming, and I was one of the 'groups' on the bill.

The church is way out in the country, and the setting is beautiful - clear fields broken by clusters of trees. This congregation has only been there for a few months, but the church itself was built in the 1880's. The pews were handmade and they're gorgeous. No ornamentation, but built from thick rough planks of wood, smoothed over time by generations of worshipers.

The congregation gathered after their morning service for 'dinner on the grounds'. Most people actually tried to escape the heat by sitting inside, but it was a gorgeous day, so we ate under a tent. The whole thing reminded me of being at a church in Botwood - everybody knew each other, and there was enough food to feed twice as many people for two days.

At 2pm, we all filed into the church for the 'singing' part of the homecoming. There were 3 of us on the program - Encounter (a trio managed by JMA), me, and Forever Changed (a 6-person local group). We each did 2 sets - a 25 minute and a 15 minute. I mostly did songs from Real Big Fan, but Gerald also accompanied me on 2 songs. I think the shift in dynamic really worked well.

This was my first 'homecoming' performance, so I really didn't know what to expect. The congregation seemed to like the traditional songs, and I was worried that my music might not be well received. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. The songs got rave reviews, and the biggest hit of the day - "Real Big Fan"! We had people coming up to the product table asking for it, and one gentleman felt so connected to the song he even shared part of his testimony with us.

It was a long afternoon, but a great one. Musically, I think the day was a success for everyone. Gerald and I felt that we got to connect with a lot of different people in the congregation, and that was wonderful. I knew I was in with kids when they invited me over to see the frog they'd found.

Partway through the program, I felt this wonderful feeling and thought, "This is what it's going to be - just singing and meeting people and trying to spread the message." I just feel so blessed that doors are opening for me, and I continue to pray for the courage to keep stepping through those doors...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Crave Bookstore and Cafe

First let me preface with this: I have been suffering with allergies all week. Not just a little sneezing, not just a little sniffling - suffering! I forgot how rough this was last year. I'm taking Reactine every day and I've started using a neti pot, but it's still pretty rough. I wouldn't normally make public complaints about this, but this is a big singing weekend for me, and any singer will tell you the dangers of allergies. Not only does it feel terrible, but sometimes you just don't know what kind of sound might come out!

Tonight, Gerald and I drove out to Lebanon for a songwriter night at Crave Bookstore and Cafe. Crave is a true treasure - a gorgeous store and a beautiful cafe. If we lived in the area, I would probably spend too much time and too much money there.

They've been holding their monthly songwriter nights in the cafe, but tonight, they decided to hold the event outside. Well, this is when you should refer back to paragraph #1. They have a nice quiet space in the parking lot behind the building. There's lots of room for tables and chairs, and a partial brick wall looks like it was built as a backdrop. The staff pulled out some sound equipment, and the set up was terrific.

I, however, did not feel terrific.

I was just so uncomfortable! Sniffing, sneezing, watery eyes, sore throat - I had it all. I just prayed, "God, please just let this stop long enough for me to sing tonight."

The show opened with a few bands, then a duo, and then us. Gerald did 3 songs - "Real Big Fan", "A Prayer Will Find You", and ... arg! I forgot the third! See how out of it I am tonight?

Next I stepped up and Gerald accompanied me on "Fear Knocked, Faith Answered". We wrote this last summer, but this was our first time doing it in public. I followed with "Wedding" and "Abide".

And at the risk of bragging - I did well! I left the stage area, got back to our table, and starting sneezing - non-stop! It was terrible!

We sat in the air-conditioning for a bit, enjoying some of the lovely Crave fare, and then politely dismissed ourselves. There was no way I could step outside again.

Who knew I would leave a city with bad air warnings and so much summer pollution you lose the top of the CN Tower, only to have my allergies get worse? Arg!!!

Lots of singing to do tomorrow. Praying tonight...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

CD Review, and upcoming Single Release Party!!

Long day - we were up at 4am to drive our friend, Deanna, to the airport. But sooo much good stuff going on:

has just received a review by David Bruce Murray. You can read the whole thing here.

We're out in Lebanon tomorrow for a songwriter night at Crave Bookstore and Cafe, and I'm singing a homecoming event on Sunday.

Gerald is getting ready for his Bluebird gig on Sunday, June 8, and I'll be singing back-up for him.

Then the next night, Monday, June 9, I'll be hosting my Single Release Party at Edgehill Cafe. So excited about this! It will celebrate the release of "Shepherd of the Hills". The party starts at 7pm, and admission is free! I'll sing some songs from the CD, and Tara and Gerald will perform too. I'm hoping a few more people will sing, but no official announcements yet...

And now next week (May 26-31) is Make It or Break It!

"Shepherd of the Hills" will be featured on this Solid Gospel show. People can listen to the song online and vote to Make It or Break It. If I get enough positive votes, it'll get added to Solid Gospel's regular rotation. Here's the link to vote MAKE IT.

Must practice a little, write a draft of a press release, and finally go to bed. Seriously - 4am! What are 'morning people' thinking???

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cinderella lost...

I was just on my way to bed when I saw the tragic news about Steven Curtis Chapman's little girl. I'm just heartsick for them.

Please keep this family in your prayers...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dottie Rambo's Home-Going Celebration

I had set tonight aside to write my SGM Radio.com tribute article on Dottie Rambo, but I'm so flooded with images from today's funeral that I'm having trouble getting my head around the article. Most of today was great, but some of it was disturbing as well.

First, The Basics: We arrived at Christ Church in Nashville at 12:30 for a 1:00 service. This was my first visit, and this place is huge!! We parked way up on the hill, and the shuttle bus came to pick us up. He said people had been arriving since 11:00 that morning. Inside, the results were obvious. The ginormous sanctuary was packed to the gills. They have a huge choir loft, and just before the service, each and every seat was filled by a singer - truly a 'who's who' of Gospel music.

And that's what brings us to ...

The Ugly Stuff: We knew going in to the service that the music would be spectacular, and we also knew that despite the gravity of the day, there would be people in the audience just there to see the 'big show'. For example, Andre Crouch was one of the people in the congregation. Now, if I ever meet Andre Crouch, I'll probably geek out and I will totally want a picture. But I wouldn't ask for a photo at a funeral! Well, apparently, not everyone has that standard. That's right, just before the service, a fan approached Mr. Crouch, sat in the seat next to him, and asked someone to take a photo of them together. At a funeral!

And my other favourite was the woman in front of us. She was clearly a fan, and I think it's great that fans would want to show up at the funeral to show their respect. However, is it really respect when you also sneak your camcorder into the service? First she pulls out these huge black binoculars so she can check out the people in the choir. (There were large screens around the church, so everyone could see everything.). Then she pulls out a camcorder and starts recording her favourite parts of the service. Unbelievable! We joked about it after, wondering where the video will show up first: YouTube or Ebay?

But all that aside, there was definitely...

The Good Stuff: I have never experienced a more joyful funeral than I did today. I've attended more funerals than most people - many as a singer, and far too many as a friend. Most of the funerals I've attended have focused on comforting the grieving and celebrating a life lived. (I'm struggling with the right way to say this, because I don't think one way is better than the other) Today's service focused on a celebration, not just of Dottie's life lived, but of the new life she is living today. It was a joyful expression of salvation, God's grace, and life everlasting given to us by Jesus. There was applause, singing, and shouts of praise.

Some of my favourite moments:

- We opened with prayer for those hurt in the accident that were unable to attend the funeral - a wonderful and generous way to start things off.

- Barbara Mandrell spoke about Dottie's gracious and generous approach to people; how she shunned praise, and always turned the attention towards other people.

- The "Choir of the Artists" was directed by Bill Gaither, and it really was great. They had a band to supplement the tracks, and performed 2 full sets of songs. Soloists would take verses with the choir on the choruses, and on most songs, there were several reprises of the chorus. (Did I mention the service was almost 3 hours long?) In all, 17 of Miss Dottie's songs were performed. What a legacy!

- Ben sang the solo on "Sheltered in the Arms of God". We all know what that song means to me, and this was the most emotional part of the service for me.

- The Voices of Lee sang "He Looked Beyond my Fault" - amazing!!!!

- "I Go to the Rock" had at least 4 full reprises on a double chorus, and another reprise at the end of the service. Truly, I have never attended a funeral where people where standing, clapping, swaying, and cheering. In some moments I didn't quite know what to think of it all, but I also found it to be incredibly wonderful too.

- The Isaacs sang "Mamma's Teaching Angels How to Sing" - stunning!!!

- A bishop read messages from Lily Tomlin, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and said there have been letters from all levels of government. The president sent a flag which was flown over the White House on Mother's Day.

- Lulu Roman sang "I Will Glory in the Cross". Lulu, Dottie, and Naomi Sego had been touring together as The Golden Girls of Gospel. Lulu sounded wonderful - her voice was strong, and her performance was a genuine gift to her friend.

- The Crabb Family sang "I've Never Been This Homesick Before". Again, more standing, clapping, swaying...

- Gloria Gaither gave a short speech where she tied together many of Dottie's own lyrics to celebrate her arrival in Heaven. Wonderful! (of course!)

- Sandi Patty gave us the finale with "We Shall Behold Him". It was gorgeous and powerful, and a fitting way to end the service.

As the family, choir, and pastors filed out, the pianist started to improvise, and ended up playing "I Go to the Rock". The choir and congregation, as if on cue, started to sing along again. It really was pretty amazing for me. Not just for the incredible display of talent, not just for the important guests and the impressive accolades - It amazed me that even in grief, the focus of this service was "joy". Joy for a life lived, joy for a legacy of music, and joy that, one day, we will all sing these same songs, gazing on the face of our Lord.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Summer's here! - Time to sing!

The pool is open! Summer is here!!! Yay!

This morning I attended GracePointe church in Brentwood. This fairly new church started in a living room, and now meets in an elementary school gym. Only in Nashville, you say? They're in the midst of a building campaign to build a brand new church, but I must tell, it's interesting to attend a service in a school gym. Every Saturday, volunteers come to the school to set up chairs, tables for coffee, etc. And each Sunday, they tear it all down again. The artwork and school posters in the hallways remind you of the importance of children in the church, and even of the "faith of a child" passage. The gym reminded me of the old hymn:

The church is wherever God's people are praising,
singing God's presence for joy on this day
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
(Carol Rose Ikeler, 1959)

The band was incredible, and the preaching was great too. They're doing a series called "Losing Jesus - Confessions of a Scared Christian". Today's message was about growing through those times when you are struggling with your faith. The next few weeks sound like they're going to be pretty great too, so I may check out their podcasts.

I'm hoping I can attend another morning and maybe sing a song. I'm doing a homecoming concert next Sunday (yay!), and the following Sunday, I'm going to sing at the church where Tara sang last night. Saturday, Gerald and I are singing at a Christian cafe in Lebanon, and June 9 is my Single Release Party. (more details tba... but mark your calendar for that night!)

Right now, I'm just trying to get places where I can sing my songs. I'm like the Sower and the Seed. I'm just going to sow that message wherever I get the chance...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Under the Bridge

I finally got back to the Bridge tonight. It's been ages since I've been able to participate. Tuesdays seem to be a crazy day for me!

It was nice to be there with good weather, and there were tonnes of people there! Lots of participants, and an huge number of volunteers. One of the cool things about the Bridge is the special guests who drop by from various ministries. Tonight's preacher was from a group called Oasis, who also brought their children's dance team, P.E.A.K. - Putting Everything Ahead of the King. It was a dozen children, ages nine to early teens, and they were awesome. They had been taught fairly long and complicated routines, and it was great to see them stepping up to the challenge.

The other guest was Joyce Martin. I've heard her with her family (The Martins), but she's also a fantastic soloist. I was glad to meet her and tell her I'd recorded "Shepherd of the Hills". She sang the original demo, so I spent many hours with 'Joyce' learning that beautiful melody. She told me she'd actually recorded the demo about three years ago. This made me smile - It was like the song was waiting for me!

I also thought this was an inspiring songwriting story - Sometimes it takes a long time for a song to get cut, even a great song!

At the end of tonight's service, the preacher did an altar call. About 20 people stepped forward to give their lives to Jesus. After that he did a general call for those needing prayer, and another 20 or so people came forward. What an incredible thing to witness!

Needs are being met, lives are being changed, and the Gospel is being lived out ... under the bridge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The DIVA comp is here!

The DIVA comps arrived today!

A few months ago, one of the DIVAs suggested we all put together a few songs and make a compilation CD. Nine of us got in on the project and submitted 2 songs each. Leah had everything remastered and put together the packaging, and they finally arrived today.

I'm sooo excited about this! I've never been part of a compilation before and it's so cool to see my name on the same CD as these talented ladies. The packaging is simple but beautiful - It's a glossy white cardboard sleeve with the DIVAs logo on the front and a song list on the back. Inside, there's a larger logo with all our photos, and a break down of our "DIVA" name, complete with scripture references.

I'll be adding the CD to my product table, probably with it's own price, and then a special 2-for deal with "Real Big Fan".

I know this CD will do great things for the DIVAs, but more importantly, it will help spread the Gospel in a way that is meaningful and entertaining. Sooo excited!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dottie Rambo

I hardly even know what to say. I didn't see the news til this evening, long after most people had experienced the first shock. I'm still at a loss for words.

I didn't grow up with Gospel music, but Dottie Rambo's songs have become an important part of my singing, my writing, and my life.

I lead the congregation in "I Go to the Rock" in a Gospel Vespers service at St. John's York Mills. Our choir sang "Behold the Lamb" countless times, usually during communion. When Joel Lindsey pitched "Shepherd of the Hills" to me, he said, "This was my attempt to write a Dottie Rambo song". I knew I'd love it before I heard a note. I have heard students of all levels sing "He Looked Beyond My Fault" at singing school, and I'm always amazed at the power of a new lyric to transform a classic melody.

But the song that has changed my life the most is "Sheltered in the Arms of God". I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. Monika and I sang it in church services and concerts. It was the first song that made me go, "Written by Dottie Rambo - I need to learn more about her." And when we lost Steve, there was no other song that made sense. The choir sang it at his service. I cried through every note, feeling the overwhelming pain of my loss, but knowing that Steve was at peace, and that he was truly sheltered in God's loving embrace.

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to meet Dottie Rambo and hear her speak at NSAI. She spoke about songwriting, and I got to request a song. Lead by Miss Dottie, we all sang "Sheltered" in ragged four part harmony. I've had a lot of special experiences here in Nashville, but that will forever be one of the best.

We'll miss you, Miss Dottie.

So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise,
They won't worry me for I'm sheltered safe within the arms of God;
He walks with me and naught of Earth can harm me,
Sheltered safe within the arms of God.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

NSAI Pitch to Publisher

Tonight's NSAI meeting was the infamous Pitch to Publisher - a night when nervous songwriters risk it all by exposing their musical babies to the discerning ears of an industry mogul. Christian pitch night is always much more tame than country pitch night, when things can get really crazy.

Rick Shelton of Daywind was tonight's publisher. Rick is great at doing these kind of events, and was pretty clear about what he looks for in a song. Most times that he would pass on a song, he would still give some kind of feedback. Since I didn't start this blog in screaming joy, you can probably guess he passed on our songs, but we got some positive feedback and encouragement, so that's always valuable.

It's also a reminder that this is part of the drill. Play your songs every chance you get. Show up whenever you can and put your best song forward. Have great, good, or at least decent demos of all your songs so you can take advantage of situations like this.

More and more I'm reminded of my favourite GMA Week phrase:

Making music is blue collar work.

Get up in the morning, roll up your sleeves, and do what needs doing...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Tara Jackson CD Release Concert

You know you're good friends with someone when you brave tornado warnings to attend their CD release concert.

But we were not the only people who braved the weather tonight to support Tara and her new CD. The concert was held at The Resting Place - a church that meets in the storage warehouse for the Bridge Ministry. And yes, it's actually in a corner of the huge open warehouse. They have chairs and a stage and the whole set up, and if you just turn your head a little, you can look at all the food and supplies just waiting to be distributed to the homeless of Nashville. Fascinating set-up!

Candy Christmas hosted the concert, but all the focus was on Tara and her new songs. I've listened to the album several times now, and I was even there for the recording of "God's Got a Word", so I was excited to hear the songs live. I am such a fan of Tara's voice. She has that large belting Southern Gospel sound that I love so much, but then she can also do soft intimate tones as well. She does this one floaty thing that I love. I can't really describe it, but she does it on songs like "Redeemer" and "In Christ Alone" (my favourite track on the album).

The whole night was fantastic! Brittany Galloway, Scharlene Galloway, and Chris Unthank sang back up on a few songs, which was a great dynamic. Candy and Kyle gave short but effective speeches. And the whole audience stuck around after for cake and CD purchasing.

Yay, Tara! So proud of you!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Allison Durham Speer and My First Review!

It's the first of the month, which means my latest SGM Radio article is now online. A few weeks ago, Allison Durham Speer and I met at a little Italian restaurant and chatted for hours about ministry, communication, and the Elijah Conference. You can read the whole interview here. (Actually, not the whole interview. When I actually transcribed our conversation, it was over seven pages long. Edit, edit, edit!)

And... I got my first review of Real Big Fan! It's on the same site, but you can also find it here.

It's weird to have a review. I've been part of theatre shows that were reviewed, and I was sometimes mentioned, but I've never had my own solo effort reviewed. I'm happy that's it's a positive review, and I'm grateful for the opportunity, but overall, I don't really know what to think. Weeeird!

Life note: Gerald and I took Dante to the vet today for a check up. We also had Sebastian with us, and as the lobby was quiet and the weather was good, we were all in pretty good moods. The only other person there was a large, burly man. This is a man who works hard for a living. He uses his body for a tool - maybe building things, maybe driving large vehicles. He was standing by the counter, holding a tiny dachshund, wrapped up in a towel. Dante, of course, wanted to say Hi, but the dog really looked sick, so we held Dante close to us. A woman came out and took the dog into the other room. This man, this strong rough man, started to cry. Not cry - weep. He leaned over the counter for support. He grabbed his shirt to wipe the tears from his face. After he left, the receptionist confirmed the worst. The dog had Parvo - treatable, but expensive to treat. He was being put down this afternoon.

I don't know why I'm writing about this. It has nothing to do with Southern Gospel or anything 'professional'. All I know is I can't stop thinking about that man. He's been in my prayers all day, and I'm holding my own dogs a little tighter tonight.