Wednesday, September 27, 2006

NSAI night...

Tonight was the first NSAI meeting of the season. I've been so busy with getting the house ready for market that I really haven't had much time for writing lately. I did some stuff last week, but really nothing worth presenting. (half songs, nothing finished...) But I was still really excited about going and reminding myself why I am selling the house and doing all this work.

The meeting was packed, which was great. Tonight's lesson was on co-writing. Til now, all my co-writing has been with Gerald. But once we hit Nashville, we'd like to start writing with lots of different people, so tonight's lesson was very well timed for us. Once we heard the topic, we were broken up into partners to do a co-writing exercise. Gerald and I took the chance to work with some other people. We were all given the title "The House on the Hill". We then had to go through the steps of brainstorming, choosing the singer's point of view, and choosing to whom we are singing. After 15 minutes, we all stopped to share our ideas. And, of course, it was amazing how many song ideas could come from the one idea.

After this was critique time. I didn't have anything brand new, but I did have something that really hasn't been heard by anyone. Last year, I worked on a Christmas lyric and tune. I was pretty happy with it, but as I started to pass it around, I started to receive negative feedback on the melody. It was a real lesson on presenting a song too early. I sort of hid it in shame for many months. But this year, at Stamps-Baxter, Daryl asked me to bring him an uptempo Christmas song. I pulled out the lyric and chorded a little tune that had been bouncing around in my head. His feedback was very positive. But since I only had the one opinion, I thought I'd bring it in tonight.

Well, at the risk of bragging, I have to say it was a hit! People clapped along on the last chorus, and then gave it rousing applause. There was some critiquing of one line, which was great because that line didn't sit well with me and now I have some ideas for it. But overall, it was all very very positive. One person wants to me send it to a performer who's recording a Christmas CD, and another wants to bring it to his church. Whoo-hoo! All very exciting!!!

*sigh* Back to house stuff tomorrow. Working for the dream...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Holy Trinity & Gospel Vespers.

A full and complete day! This morning, Gerald and I returned to the Church of the Holy Trinity (the beautiful little church by the Eaton Centre). We were guest musicians brought in to help lead the music. It is always so relaxed and welcoming in that church! So worth the visit!

We had a prelude planned, but tech gliches cut us short. Gerald sang his song, "Do You Trust The Wings God Gave You?", but we didn't have time for my "Jesus Loves Me". I did the opening hymn, "Be Thou My Vision", and Gerald played the other hymns. The responses, psalm, and sanctus were lead on organ, and the communion songs were acapella. Quite the mix of music for one service. And, of course, that gorgeous acoustic!

This afternoon was the start of our season of Gospel Vespers services. After today, I am no longer able to be a part of Gospel Vespers. We're going to leave late October, so we'll be missing the next service. I'm booking the talent for the next few services, but after that, I'm done. I've just loved being a part of this committee and I believe so strongly in this ministry. I'll be praying for its continued success after I'm gone.

But today was also a chance for me, Dad, Gerald, and Monika to work together one last time as a team. Our Gospel theme today was the parable of the lost coin, which Dad re-interpreted as "the lost credit card". Great idea as it made it more relevant for the congregation. I love the way he makes the Bible fresh and viable for people. I set up his sermon with the solo, "Orphans of God". I first heard this song at the faculty concert at Write About Jesus, sung by the writers Twila Labar and the ever-lovely Joel Lindsey. It all worked together perfectly!

My role today was to choose and organize the music. I lead the music on vocals and guitar, Moni joined in on harmonies and tambourine, and Gerald played djembe and a little guitar. We did lots of great uptempo songs like "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", "Sunshine in my Soul", and "Just a Little Talk with Jesus". We also taught "I Call Out Your Name" and our dismissal "Give Peace, My Friend", which is sung to the tune of Shenandoah. I lead the prayer time, and Gerald underscored it with his beautiful guitar work. Lovely!

For the last song, we totally rocked out on a very uptempo, very Celtic "Lord of the Dance". We opened with solo drum, and then added guitar, and then brought in the vocals. When we hit the verse "I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black...", the guitar dropped out and it was just percussion. We had shakers in the pews for the congregation, so everyone was playing along. Well, it was going really well and everyone was singing and playing like crazy, and then the best thing happened: People started leaving the pews and walking and dancing and playing their instruments in the aisles! We had a parade of people going up and down the aisles singing and praising and making music! In an Anglican church!!! It was awesome and joyful and everything you want great worship to be! Praise God!

Tonight, I'm tired but full. It was great to work with Dad to build this service and hear him preach. He's so gifted at tying everything together so the whole service represents a theme and flows as one unit. And it is like breathing to sing with Monika. I love her voice. I love her spirit. And I love making music with her. And, of course, Gerald is my partner in all things good and true. To look to one side and see Monika singing, then glance to the other and see Gerald jamming along on the drum... I couldn't stop thinking of that great Gaither lyric:

Loving God, loving each other. Making music with my friends...

What a blessing!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gaither mania!

Just came home from a Gaither concert. For those who go to the concerts, you know what that means - it's late, I've sung a lot, I've cried a little, I'm very tired, and despite the fact that I have to get up early, I'm just too wired to sleep!

Tonight was actually very special because we didn't just watch the concert - we helped out! When Gordon Mote performed at Stamps-Baxter this summer, we got to talking and I told him I was from Canada. He asked if I'd help out at his product table next time they came through. A few emails later and the whole thing was set up.

Late this afternoon, Gerald and I arrived at the ACC to work the table. Well, it took us 5 or 6 different gates before we found one that would let us in, so that was a little odd. (Do they have a problem with people trying to crash the Gaithers???) But once we were in, it felt great. We, along with Gordon's manager, Bob, sold CDs before the show and during intermission. It was great to see the reaction of the crowd. Some people had heard Gordon in the London concert this spring, and a few had seen the new GVB DVD air on tv last night. But most people had never heard of him. In the first half, he did "If they could see you through my eyes" and "Good old gospel ship". The crowd went wild! Seriously! It was a huge reaction, so intermission was much much busier. After the show, it looked like the table was going to be quiet, til Gordon showed up for a meet and greet. Then the crowds came, all wanting autographs and photos, and just wanting to some how get close to him. It was wonderful to see how blessed people had been through his music and his message.

It, yet again, reminded me why I want to do this. I want to be a part of a music that can bring together Christians of all denominations. I want to encourage, participate in, and help lead the worship of God in a corporate setting. I want to, some how, maybe even help people discover God for the first time, or maybe re-discover Him if they're feeling lost.

Tonight was also a real blessing in getting to know people. Gordon is funny and infinitely charming, and Bob is wonderful and very, very cool. Got to speak to Mr. Ben several times, which is always a joy. Also got to meet Kevin Pauls, who is a Canadian who has been doing some singing on the tours. The whole crowd was generous and warm. During the concert, people would sing along and clap their hands. Thousands of people, gathered in the middle of the raging city, praising God! So awesome! I was chatting with a security guard from the ACC. He looked at me with a very relaxed smile and said, "Easy night tonight.". Clearly, the good energy was just in the air...

And, of course, the music: great hymns - fantastic bluegrass by the Isaacs - always loving Signature Sound - Marshall Hall singing Jesus Loves Me - Gordon's Good old gospel ship - Jesse Dixon singing anything! So wonderful!

Off to bed! We're doing 2 full services tomorrow in 2 different churches! Sleep please...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The People's Church

This morning was an example of why we didn't want an outdoor wedding.

I woke up early today to prepare for my morning performance at the Willowdale Community Fair, sponsored by The People's Church. People's is a huge church in North York. I attended their service a few weeks ago, and saw their advertisements for this fair. I checked my datebook, realized I was free, asked if I could sing, and boom! - booked a time slot.

This is an entirely outdoor event, so what faced me this morning that would prompt my wedding comment above?

Rain! And lots of it. Newfoundland-style cold grey rain. This is the kind of day we usually declare "Cozy Day", basically meaning it's pajamas and movies all day long.

But I had a gig, and that always takes the priority.

We packed up the car and drove up to North York. When we arrived at the church, everyone was so positive that the weather was going to clear, but it was also clear that our set-up would need to change. We had plans for a product table, but there was no covering, so it didn't make sense to have my CDs sitting in water. I also had plans to use Gerald's guitar (mine is still in its post-airline disaster state), but the stage was fully exposed. Gerald has a hand-made guitar valued at thousands of dollars. It has many great features, but water-proofing is not one of them. So we grabbed my teaching guitar from the trunk of the car, tuned it up, and that's what I played.

Once we started, the rain had stopped, but it was still wet and the crowds were low, so I belted out my songs for the tech crew, Gerald, and the people driving by. (If you drove along Shepperd this morning, I was the singing girl who waved at you!)

I started with tracks and did "Shout to the Lord" and "He Saw It All". I then moved on to guitar and did "This Little Light", and my own "Infinitely More", and "I Call Out Your Name". I finished with my "It Is Well" track. Overall, I'm pleased with how I performed. Outdoors is a tough go even when the weather is nice. You never know how the sound will work, and there are a million distractions and potential disasters. But I feel I held my own, and I received a lot of great response, which is always nice.

And I have to say, it felt great to be able to sing some of my own songs in my set. I felt very strong and confident to be able to say that some of my rep was actually MY rep. I was really thrilled that I got comments on "Infinitely More". Someone who had never heard the song before told me she was singing along. I want people to be able to sing my songs, so Big Yay!!!!

After my set, the sun started to warm things up, and I think they probably had a better crowd for the rest of the day. I truly hope it was successful day for them. I just think this kind of outreach is so important. It's all about inviting people onto your grounds and saying "You are welcome in this church! It's a safe place to come! We are here for you!".

I also want to share a great conversation I had today: Gerald and I were telling people about our plans to move to Nashville, and this other singer said, "It's like walking on water". She went on to say that we know Jesus walked on water because he was God. But Peter wasn't! At Jesus's request, Peter - an ordinary dude like the rest of us - stepped out of the boat and walked on water.

Sometimes, in order to follow God's plan, we need to step out our comfortable boats, trust in God, and walk on the water. Such a powerful image, and the more we discussed it, the more it seemed to apply to all we're going through right now.

I'm not leading music anywhere tomorrow, so I'm just planning on attending St. John's York Mills. Dad's retirement is quickly approaching, and between now and January, I want to take every chance I can to hear him preach.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Holy Family Anglican Church

Whoo! Awesome and vibrant church time today!

This morning, I helped lead worship at Holy Family Anglican in Brampton. Their preacher, Rev. Carol Langley, used to be an Associate Priest at St. John's York Mills years ago. She was visiting this summer and we got to talking, and today was the result.

Carol had this great idea of a service called "Give Me That Old Time Religion", and all the music would be good old standard hymns. Completely up my alley! We met for a great planning session and picked hymns like "Great is Thy Faithfulness", "In The Garden", and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms".

Before the service, I did a few soft hymns, including something very special: my own arrangement of "Jesus Loves Me". What makes it special is that it is the first genuine arrangement that I've written all on my own. For many years, I've co-arranged, with me singing a song the way I want to do it, and some other brilliant musician finding the chords and accompaniment to fit my version. But this time, I found my own chords and chose my own picking pattern. The tune is basically the same, but I've just given it a different feel. So proud of myself! Definitely a new step in my own musical journey.

I lead a lot of the hymns on guitar, and I was also joined by their music leader, Sergei, who added keyboard and electric bass to several songs. Gerald joined in on tambourine and djembe, and we had shakers in the pews for the congregation.

Carol gave an awesome sermon called The Irreligious Jesus. She basically posed the question, "Do we really want that Old Time Religion?" After all, women couldn't preach, the poor were relegated to the back seats, and men were required to carry the majority of the work load. She went on to talk about Jesus's role as a rebel against the religious customs of the day - how sometimes we become so obsessed with keeping our religious 'traditions' that we ignore the larger laws of loving God and loving each other. Very inspiring!

Holy Family is a very multicultural congregation, representing over 22 countries, with a huge number of West Indian, African, and Jamaican families. These are countries with very distinct and prominent musical traditions, so I must admit - I really didn't know how people would respond to my music.

What I forgot to account for, however, is that if God is in it, people will always respond!

I'm hope I'm not taken at bragging, but the response was overwhelming! Lots of people wanted to meet with me and hug me and share their stories. I sold a good number of CDs, and just got so many great comments. Gerald even ended up having a little drum demonstration with some of the men of the congregation.

Why do I always forget? If I let God take control, it will always be so much better than anything I could do on my own!