Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Nashville Bound!

I'm taking a deep breath as I start this blog, because I can't quite believe we've reached this point. Tonight, Gerald and I performed "Nashville Bound - Our Farewell Concert". We really wanted to do a night of music to celebrate what we've done here in Toronto, and to look forward to the music we're going to do in Nashville. We've been talking about it for months, and tonight was the night!

We did it at our home church, and despite the fact that it's a Tuesday night, we got a good-sized crowd out. Mom covered our front of house, and Dad did our sound. He's never done sound before, but the church's sound dude was unable to come, so Dad learned how to work the board 2 days ago, and tonight he ran all the tracks. Yay, Dad!

We were joined tonight by some awesome friends, including our beautiful Monika. Moni was supposed to do a gig tonight, but at the very last minute (literally an hour before showtime!), a sub came through and she was able to join the party. More yay!

We opened with This Little Light of Mine, with everyone singing, after which Gerald did 2 of his songs - So Far and Comin' Home. Monika and I did a duet with He Touched Me, with my friend Marque on piano. I love singing with Moni. It's as natural as breathing. Esther joined us for a few songs, including When You Believe as a duet with Monika. I did Infinitely More and Jesus Loves Me, and then Gerald and I did I Call Out your Name. I love doing the duets. You get these awesome moments of really living the song together. Gerald and I finished the first half with the duet version of All Her Flowers are Wild. I loooove singing that song!!!!!

Our second half opened with Monika and Gerald doing a very jazzy version of Summertime, including a fake-trumpet solo by Gerald. (I don't know what else to call it - You know, it's when he puts his hand over his mouth and it sounds like a trumpet!) Next, we did It Is Well. Esther and I have both recorded that song, and between us all we've sung it a million times, but tonight, it just rocked (if that's an appropriate term for a hymn?) Marque accompanied us. I opened with a solo verse, and Esther joined with harmonies on the chorus. Then we did verse 2 in harmony, but after that chorus, we shot it up into a higher key. Halfway through the verse, I lifted up the melody a la David Phelps, and Moni came in with a third harmony line underneath Esther. For the final chorus and ending, we just opened up the harmonies and sang out. It feel amazing, and the audience reaction was powerful!

Then we invited up our friend, Michelle, who took the lead on Praise You, and Esther and I sang harmonies. Love that girl trio sound! More solos filled the middle part of the half, and then another girl trio on Mosie Lister's Down On My Knees.

Then Gerald and I did a first: We did a guitar duo! I wanted to do I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, so I asked Gerald if he'd solo a little over my basic rhythm guitar pattern. We both sang on it, trading the verses, and Gerald took one verse for a guitar solo. It felt so cool to actually be playing together! I've never done anything like that before! We shared a mic, and it all felt very Opry...

We ended the show with our very Celtic version of Lord of the Dance, with me on guitar and lead vocals, Gerald on djembe, and everyone else singing along on the chorus. It was just so much fun, and in the end, we were blessed with a standing ovation! Such an honour! The audience reaction was just so wonderful and generous. We have so much support from this group of people.

Tomorrow, we need to go back to clearing out the house and finding someone to tile our kitchen (Yes, another delay!!!) But tonight was so important to remind us why we're clearing the house and getting our kitchen tiled ... We're Nashville bound!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Following the Call.

This morning, I again had the pleasure of leading music at St. John's West. It's hard to believe it has been a year this month since my first visit to this awesome church. I've learned so much this year! Last year, I was such a wreck that first Sunday. I had fears of dropping the guitar, or tripping on a mic chord, or meeting some other glamorous end. But I just kept praying my way through it, and now God has brought me to this place.

I still get nervous before I start a morning service, at St. John's or anywhere else. (I don't get stage fright, but I do value those little nerves. I think they show it's still important to me.) But that nervousness has softened, and I now worry about more important things, like choosing tempos that are easy to sing, and making sure everyone feels involved and free to worship as they please. And I am also much more free to enjoy myself! I love the process of choosing music for a service. I love hearing the congregation lift their voices in song. I love bringing in a new song I wrote and seeing people connect to it. I just feel so privileged to be doing this kind of work. I feel so blessed by the opportunities that are coming into my life.

This afternoon, I attended an ordination service at my home church. Catherine is a former teacher who has chosen to go into ministry. I love ordination services - they're kind of like weddings without the toilet-paper decorations and false shows of affections. As I watched this service of welcoming someone into their call to serve the church, I couldn't help but reflect on the changes in my career since my first trip to Stamps-Baxter last summer.

Over the last year, 80% of the music I have done has been Christian. Another 18% was devoted to children's music, and then I took 2% of my creative energy to shoot a commercial (which funded this year's trip to Music City!). That's a huge change from a career built on cabaret and music theatre. In many ways, it has been difficult and unglamorous. And yet, I feel so completely satisfied in all that I do. I'm not always perfect at it, and more days than not are full of huge mistakes, but I feel a peace and satisfaction that has never before been a part of my work. I feel truly happy and confident in what I'm doing.

It's been a full and a long day - a morning service, a little boy's birthday party, the ordination service, and a belated anniversary dinner with Mom and Dad.
This afternoon, I realized, "Oh, this is why Dad takes Mondays off".

Smart man!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

All Saints, all faith.

This morning, I returned to All Saints Anglican, at Dundas and Sherbourne. The full name of this church is actually All Saints Church and Community Centre. I don't know if I've written fully about this before, but the building for All Saints is gorgeous. It's made of red and yellow brick, which was very popular in Toronto in the 1900's. Inside, it's full of stained glass and regal looking painted trims and motifs.

But there are no pews.

The pews have been removed, because during the week, the entire sanctuary of the church is full of desks and book shelves and everything else needed to run a centre for community outreach. Through countless programs, staff and volunteers strive to meet the needs of those in the downtown core - people suffering from poverty, homelessness, addiction, abuse, and loneliness.

And on Sundays, a space is cleared. An altar is pulled out onto the floor and candles are lit. Two rows of chairs are pulled around the front of the altar. And a small group of people - Christians, just like you and I - assemble to worship their Lord and Savior. The don't have a praise band or a powerpoint screen or a new grand piano. They actually don't have much of anything that the rest of us consider so essential for worship. They just have their hearts, their voices, and their honesty... and they have all of that in abundance.

When I visit All Saints, I sing a little during communion and then do a few solos. When I read the scriptures for the day, I realized "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" would be a perfect fit. I worked up a little arrangement, and as I sang, people started to sing along, which was lovely. Later, I did my arrangement of "Jesus Loves Me", which just always feels so good to sing.

I continue to be impressed by the depth and sincerity of the faith I see in all the churches I visit, but I am never more impressed than when I am at All Saints.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Wow, can't believe I haven't blogged once this month! We've been in pre-moving madness: There have been insane and stupid delays in having work done on the house. Applying for my work visa continues to take up an unimaginable amount of time. Apparently, no one is going to come in and sort out all the stuff I've been storing in the basement for the last three years; I actually have to do that myself. Occasionally I need to leave the house and work and make money. And, of course, there are the bold attempts to learn new music, write new songs, and just basically keep the artistic soul alive.

But the good news is: We're getting closer! The house will be on the market within the next 2 weeks. I have collected almost every piece of info needed for my visa, and last night, I got the news that a friend has agreed to be my sponsor. Whoo-hoo! On the 24th, we're having a "farewell concert", and a few days after that, we'll be heading off to Music City! We'll spend November and half of December there, coming back in time to do a few gigs and spend Christmas with the family. Then, back in the New Year.

This week has a great project in store, too. As a great gesture of support, friends have offered us 2 days in a killer studio for free. I'm going to do demos of a few new songs, but the bulk of the time will be Gerald's. He's got a lot of new songs, and he's hoping to get enough stuff recorded to start a small acoustic album. It's a big goal in a small amount of time, so we're not putting any pressue on it. In the very least, we'll get some great sounding demos we can use for promotion.

This morning was also a great blessing. I was back again at St. John's West. They are having me there twice this month, which is just awesome. I will admit I felt the pressure today. Not just any Sunday, but Thanksgiving! They usually have organ or piano on holidays so that people can hear all their favourite traditional Thanksgiving hymns. But as the schedule worked out, it was just me and my guitar. A lot of those traditional hymns were written for organ, so they can be a little choppy on guitar. We chose some traditional hymns, with a few newer pieces thrown in.

Last night, I really felt nervous about the whole thing. But this morning, I woke up to a truly fall day - crisp air and gleaming sunshine. When I finally left the downtown core, I was able to see leaves drifting off the trees, and new colours shining on the branches. My voice felt strong, and my spirit was ready to praise...

The service was wonderful! Today's Gospel was from Matthew, where Jesus tells us that if God watches the birds and clothes the lilies, then we have no cause for worry. Gary preached a great sermon on the reading, and I followed with "His Eye is on the Sparrow". People were ready to sing, and we had some great moments with "For the Fruit of All Creation" and "Great is thy Faithfulness".

Extra special treat: Mom and Dad came to the service! Dad gets few Sundays off, so it was awesome that his day off and my day on coincided.

After the service, I spoke with a very young 82-year-old woman who told me the music made it really feel like Thanksgiving. Love those moments...

(I've been reading Joel's blog, and he has inspired this next section.)
In honour of Thanksgiving, I am inspired to write a list of a few blessings:

- Gerald, who continues to challenge and surprise and love me.
- Mom and Dad, who have supported my dreams from Day 1.
- Monika, who loves me unconditionally.
- Sebastian (our puppy), who knows the value of a good cuddle.
- Steve, for always inspiring me to reach for my dreams.
- Nana, for teaching me the value of singing in church.
- My aunts and uncles, for their strength and friendship.

- and God, for always being faithful!

Happy Thanksgiving!