Monday, June 19, 2006

Sing of Eve

Today I did my first solo recital in years! I was able to be a part of the fabulous Music Mondays concert series at the Church of the Holy Trinity (a fabulous church in its own right!). Music Mondays has been offering free summer concerts to the downtown area for 15 years. I did a show there a few years ago, and it was great to be invited back.

My show was called SING OF EVE - SONGS OF WOMEN OF THE BIBLE. I got the idea for it years ago when I discovered that Shubert's Ave Maria was not actually written as a prayer to Mary, but as a setting for a secular poem. It wasn't until later in the tune's life that it became a setting for this holy prayer. So it got me thinking, "If this song wasn't written for Mary, then what songs were? And in that case, what songs have been written for the other women of the Bible?".

I started searching through all my music books - classical, hymns, music theatre, opera, cabaret, etc. - and I found women of the Bible every where! I've collected about 30 songs to date, and today I sang 13 of them in a 45 minute program.

I was accompanied on piano by the ever-talented William Shookhoff, and I also did 2 songs on guitar, and 2 acapella. Bill and I did a version of this show a few years ago, so it was a real pleasure to investigate this music together again.

I tried to include a wide variety of genres, and I only sang songs that either directly told a woman's story or quoted her words. Lots of songs have a passing reference to Mary or Eve, but I wanted to find songs that really teach us about these women and their role in the Bible.

I sang about: Mary the Mother of Jesus, Eve, Susanna, Ruth, Miriam, The Woman at the Well, and Mary Magdalene. For most of them, I just had one song, but I had a little group of songs for each Mary. I arranged these particular songs in an order that would follow the life of Jesus. Before each song of the program, I would give a little background on each woman and her story. I really hoped I might excite people about delving into their Bibles and finding out more about these women.

I would love to do this program again and again. There are just so many great songs to chose from. I did include "I Call Out Your Name", as that was written as a compliment for the book of Susanna. But wouldn't it be wonderful to write some new songs about different Biblical women? Or maybe even to commission people to write some songs? One of the things I've loved about this journey is seeing the different perspectives each writer takes on each particular story. So fascinating!

And I have to say, it was so awesome to be singing in Holy Trinity. What an acoustic! I could sing there all day!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day at St. John's West

Happy Father's Day!

As always, it was such a blessing to be at St. John's West this morning. Today, my role was to lead the congregation in music, and to provide a solo song for reflection after the sermon. And, like last time, I also had the awesome role of choosing the music. We usually work with themes from the readings, but this time, Gary really wanted to focus on Father's Day, and especially reminding us of the great father we have in God.

I pulled out every father and family song I could think of - Abba Father, The Family of God, and Daddy Sang Bass. Gary passed on a great new lyric for Faith of our Fathers, so that's how we opened the service. We had a huge closer with Days of Elijah. We put drums and shakers in the pews for the congregation, so everyone just rocked out!

My solo piece was new song I've written called Walking With My Father. I was, of course, terrified just before I started it. (What if they walk out? What if I drop my guitar? You know, all those rational fears!) But I think it went really well.

We also did a new (well, 'new' for me) version of the Eucharistic prayer. The Sanctus, responses, and Great Amen were sung, but under the spoken parts, there were solo guitar chords. It was pretty huge to get the hang of it, but it's really quite wonderful. I'm always so conscious of creating good flow in the service. I always want the music to just come out of things naturally, and I never want the priest or congregation standing awkwardly, waiting for me to start. I actually had someone comment on how well I followed the service and how the music was always ready at the right time, so that was a pretty awesome moment for me. Little did they know, it's from years of watching brilliant church musicians who always know how to time things out so that the hymn ends just as the communion elements are ready, etc. It also helps to watch the priest and look for the one-verse-more-panic in the eyes.

I actually had several wonderful comments after the service, and that was really pretty awesome. If only they knew how much I am blessed to be there!

I'll be back again in August, and I'm really looking forward to it. Maybe I'll have a new Stamps-Baxter song to bring with me!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Fundraising and funerals.

Today was a huge singing day. I was supposed to sing at a child's birthday party this morning, but it was delayed due to illness. I'm not happy about that, but at least it eased up on things a little.

The first part of the day was a fundraiser for the Salvation Army and their series of group homes for developmentally delayed adults. A friend of mine works at one of the homes, so he gave me a call, and asked if I could help out. It was Strawberry Festival, which basically translated into a community festival - lots of booths, artisans, etc. They had a small stage with live music all day, and that's where I fit in. My job was to fill a 40 minute set. This ended up being a challenge for several reasons. The first is - I had no accompanist! I've been playing by myself more and more over the last year, but I've never had to do an entire set by myself. I picked out all my favourite songs, with not-too-difficult chords, prayed for steady hands and strong calluses (guitar players, you know what I mean!), and off I went. The next challenge came in the form of weather. Today was bright and sunny, but unseasonably chilly. So I had bright sunshine tearing up my eyes, while great gusts of wind took control of my music binder, my stand, my mic... Every once in a while I'd need to shoot my foot out to stop my stand from falling over. Guitar, singing, and gymnastics - I am soooo talented!

When I was booked, I asked what kind of music they wanted. They said they'd like Christian, but it didn't need to be. I was like, "Are you kidding? Bring it on!". I'm happy with the songs I did. They got a great response, and lots of people were singing along. I even did a few of my own: "I Call Out Your Name", and "All Because Of You". Today was a real challenge for me, but I'm glad I did it. I think I really held my own. The only weird part was when somebody called my music "country". Arg! Save that compliment for Gerald. I'll take "soulful" and "spirited" and "completely brilliant", thank you! ...... Oh, who am I kidding? I'll take any compliment!

After the fundraiser, I rushed back to church for a funeral, where I was the soloist. I'm not going to discuss any of the family's details, except to say it was a beautiful service, filled with great words and wonderful songs. I guess I just want to say how much events like this mean to my ministry. I feel a strong urge to provide comfort to the grieving, and I feel I can offer genuine support through my music. Clearly, all of this is influenced by my own experience with grief over the last few years. (It will actually be five years this December since we lost Steve. I can't believe it's been that long!) I feel I have a real understanding of the grieving process and I think I can provide a useful tool through music. I am so thankful for opportunities like today. It's certainly not enjoyable, but I take strength in knowing that I'm doing something good for people in this difficult time. I pray that my songs were a benefit to all those in attendance today.

I'm just craving more and more opportunities to minister to people through music. I just continue to pray, "Yes, Lord." Whatever you ask of me, I say, "Yes Lord."