Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cafe Forte

One of the fabulous performers at the CWE showcase on Friday was Elayna Boynton. After staring at her, I realized that we had actually met 2 years ago at 'Write About Jesus' in Missouri! Anyhoo, we got to talking and she told me about her gig tonight, so I went to check it out.

Cafe Forte is a weekly event held in a cafe in the Music Row area. Each Monday, they feature 2 music acts. The music is a variety of styles, but always Christian, or Christian-based. Between the acts, they have a time of fellowship where strangers are encouraged to become friends, and bonds are built within the music community.

Elayna has great songs and a fantastic voice (even when she's fighting laryngitis!), and the second act, Chris Eddy and his band, just rocked, so the music was great.

But it was also wonderful to meet other Christians in a low-pressure, supportive environment. I met the organizers of the event and passed on my demo (prayers lifted!), and even met a woman that may end up being a co-writer! Oh, and I saw people I know! 2 of them! I'm starting to realize that living in Nashville is going to be a lot like living in St. John's - Every time you go out, you must be prepared to run into someone you know. (No more running around town in pjs with no make-up!)

I have another way this place is like Newfoundland: Guess what they say about the weather?

"If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."

Omiword! We grew up saying that!

Final thought: For the last few years, I've been hearing Christian writers talk about doing gigs in 'coffee houses'. In Toronto, no one sings in a cafe, and on the rare moments they do, it's certainly not Christian music. But down here, the cafe is a valued venue for Christian artists. It allows a space that is smoke and alcohol free, where a Christian organizer can set up a regular or special event. It allows Christian music to move outside the walls of the church and into the "real" world. And it allows the musicians to sing songs that may be Christian or Christian-inspired, but that wouldn't necessarily be sung in a worship service.

Also, a lot of churches here actually have, for lack of a better word, cafe ministries. Some have a fully working cafe in their lobby that is open before and after Sunday morning services for fellowship time. Others actually meet in a room in a church, school, etc, where they set up a cafe and they hold worship in that environment - sitting at tables, singing praise songs, listening to the message, discussing ideas.

It's a little strange to see people walking into the church with their lattes in their hands, but if it's making people more comfortable walking through the doors of the church, I can't really argue with that. After all, God calls us to "come just as you are"...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Calvary Baptist Church

This morning was my first chance to minister to a church here in Nashville!

A few weeks ago, at an NSAI meeting, I met the music minister of Calvary Baptist Church. We got to talking, and he invited me to come and sing at the church some Sunday. So this morning, Gerald and I packed up the guitars and went to church...

We were asked to open the service, so we did "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" with dueling guitars (me on rhythm, Gerald on lead). For our solo pieces, we wanted to do songs of comfort, so Gerald did "Do You Trust the Wings God Gave You?" and I did "Abide With Me". All the songs were really well received.

It was a wonderful service. Everyone was very friendly, even before they knew that we were there for the music, and a lot of people came up to us after the service with very kind comments. The message was great too: The pastor preached on the story from Luke when the paralyzed man couldn't get in to see Jesus, so his friends lowered him down through the roof. But his message wasn't about the sick man or the miracle of healing. Instead, he took the theme of "caregivers", and focused on the friends who cared enough to do whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus. It was a great perspective to take on the story, and he branched out to talk about the importance of caregivers, and how Jesus is the ultimate caregiver.

This morning felt like the start of something very good. Actually, with the CWE performance on Friday, this whole weekend has felt like the start of something good. I've been trying to find my specific place in this city for a few weeks now. I know I have a long way to go, but tonight, I feel like I have my feet on the right path.

Oh, and we've been asked back to Calvary Baptist for another service! Can't get much better than that!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Christian Women of Entertainment.

Tonight was my first official Nashville gig! Whoo-hoo!

(It didn't pay, but that's pretty typical for a first Nashville gig!)

Christian Women of Entertainment (CWE) is a newly formed group in Nashville. The goal is to provide opportunities for performance and fellowship to, well, Christian women who entertain!

Tonight's showcase was held at the Curb Cafe on the campus of Belmont University. (If I ever decide to go back to school, Belmont would be my first choice. Awesome music program!) There were 6 performers, each doing 3 of her own songs.

The talent was really impressive! Some great songs and really interesting voices. It was great to see the range of songs presented too.

I opened with "Infinitely More", which was a little plagued by nerves. But I settled in and felt happy with my performances of "The Wedding at Cana" and "Abide With Me".

During my patter, I talked about our move here and how I'm on an artist visa. After my set, one gentleman called out, "Thank God for visas!" Made me smile...

Actually, a lot made me smile after the show. I met some really great people, and I'm going to hook up with some of them again. I got some wonderful feedback, and I've been invited to sing in a church. I realized I'd met one of the girls at Write About Jesus, and I'm going to see her perform again on Monday. And, I think I'm going to be able to perform in another CWE showcase in the spring!

Since arriving in Nashville, I've realized that every songwriter event has 2 women and 10 men. Tonight, it was nice to hear other women who are not only creating music, but who are giving it up to God.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bluebird Magic...

Tonight we headed over to the Bluebird for a show. Our friend, Marc-Alan Barnette, was performing a show with his band, Volcano of Soul. As it was the Bluebird, it was all original songs. They reminded me of The Commitments, and the ladies had some awesome harmonies.

You always hear stories of going to the Bluebird for a show, and a songwriting legend shows up. Well, tonight was one of those nights...

Halfway through the show, Marc-Alan pulled up this gentleman named Billy Edd Wheeler. Don't worry if you don't know his name - I didn't either. But as soon as he started to sing, I knew his songs.

First, he sang "Coward of the County", which, funnily enough, is one of the songs we chose for our singalong during our 13 hour drive down here.

Then, he sang his song, "Jackson". Yes, the Carter-Cash classic! He sang it with one of the girls in the band, doing his own impression of the Man in Black.

It was such an awesome moment! Pure gold!

And what an inspiration! Imagine writing a song, and the moment you sing it, everyone in the room starts to sing along...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Catching up...

I can't believe I haven't blogged for so long! For a while, I guess it felt like very little was happening. Our days just felt like hours and hours of dull moving stuff - unpacking boxes, taking trips to the recycling depot, trying to get the last of the paperwork done. But now a lot has happened, and a lot more is happening in the next few days, so it's time to start writing some of it down.

First, I have my social security card. Yay! Yes, very dull for the rest of America, but very big for me because it means I can finally work here. It also means we can do things like set up a bank account. Our lives as aliens can officially begin! And that's great because...

I got my first paying gig! It came about because of a conversation at the NSAI Christian songwriters meeting. This Sunday, I'll be singing at Calvary Baptist Church. It's not huge pay or even a huge gig, but it means a lot to me. This is exactly what I came here to do: Sing God's word, in different churches, and making a living doing it. Nervous, but excited!

I've also been able to book a few gigs in Toronto for this spring. It will be like a mini tour! (Last week was very exciting with bookings coming in every day!)

I've recently spent time setting up a page on Shoutlife. This is like myspace, but it's all Christians. So far, it's been really great for me. I've met gospel singers in Nashville who've given me info about places to sing and how the large festivals work. I'm also getting some opportunities for airplay, and maybe even some gigs in the future. Feel free to visit: http://shoutlife.com/allisonlynn

This past Sunday, I decided to continue my quest for a home church. I attended Crosspoint Community Church. I'd heard it mentioned by someone, so I thought I'd check it out. The music was really good - praise and worship, but not overly loud and in your face. The preaching was awesome! The people were happy, but not friendly; no one made an effort to talk to me. I filled out a visitor's card, but it's late on Wednesday night, and so far, no one has contacted me. Not a good sign...

Gerald spent the last 3 days at an NSAI songcamp - all day workshops, song critiques, and networking. He just loved it! On Monday, I joined him to watch the faculty concert. It was at the Douglas Corner Cafe, which is a highly renowned songwriting venue. There's not a bad seat in the place. The show was phenomenal! Every song was well-crafted and interesting,and some were very emotional. Such a great night of music!

Last week, the NSAI meeting was a pro-teacher night. Gerald and I weren't able to attend, so we watched it on webcast. It recommended that each and every day, you do one thing to further your songwriting career. It doesn't need to be a huge thing, but just doing one small thing will keep your momentum up, and will encourage you to move further along your career path. And, of course, work begets work, so one thing usually turns into 2 or 3 things. Gerald and I have now started a Sunday night meeting of our own. (We meet on the couch and Sebastian chairs the meeting.) We set out what our one thing will be for each day of that week. We try to find things we can do together, or things we can help each other with. Some things are obvious, like writing or practicing or booking gigs. Other things are less obvious but equally important: building bookcases to house my music books, putting new strings on the guitar, reading a book on songwriting. Many years ago, I got in the habit of doing one thing each day for my artistic career. Now I don't even think about it. But adding one thing specifically for songwriting is new, and I'm already finding it inspiring.

Tonight I decided to go to an Ash Wednesday service at Church of the Redeemer. I really enjoyed their service a few weeks ago, and I'm interested in their Wednesday night Lenten program. The service tonight was wonderful. Very calm and soothing, yet still infused with joy. I also had a very special moment - I saw someone I know! For weeks, I've been visiting churches where I don't know a soul. After having a home church for 17 years, it's very strange to go to church and not know anyone. Seeing a friendly face was such a blessing! This just gives me one more reason to go back...

Finally, I have to say this lovely thing. After church, I came home to the nicest surprise: Gerald set up my writing room for me! I painted it last week and put up the bookcases, but it was still full of boxes and quite unusable. So tonight, while I was at church, Gerald unpacked my essentials and cleared out the unnecessary boxes. It's all ready for me to use in the morning. I'm so excited to get in there and get started! Husband of the Year!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I Am Waiting Here For You...

It's gotten very late, but I really want to write about tonight. After all, I've been waiting for months to attend my first...

NSAI Christian Workshop!

NSAI does a weekly meeting on Thursdays, but the first Tuesday of each month is the Christian writers workshop. I wanted to attend this summer when I was here for Stamps-Baxter, but it was cancelled. Then, I thought I'd get to attend in December when we were here, but again, cancelled! So, tonight was the night.

I really didn't know what to bring. My new favourite song is "Abide With Me", but it didn't seem right to get critiqued on a lyric that's mostly not mine. So, I chose an older song, "I am Waiting Here for You". I've had it critiqued before, but I really wanted another opinion. I think the song is really close to being ready, but I just didn't know how to tweak it into that final state.

The whole meeting was awesome! There weren't a lot of people (compared to the regular nights) and they only listened to half the song, so there was lots of time for feedback. The critiquers also gave lots of great thoughts on writing worship songs, becoming "armchair theologians", and how writing Christian music is a different responsibility than writing other kinds of music. All the feedback was honest, but very encouraging.

The feedback on my song was very positive. They especially liked the concept and the music. They had a few suggestions for tweaking the lyric, so I'll probably revisit a few lines. Overall, I was really happy with the experience.

After the meeting, another songwriter came over to tell me how much he liked my song. We got to talking. He leads music at his church, and today, he visited 4 of his parishioners who are terminally ill. He said he wished he'd had my song to play for those people. So I gave him a copy of it. I just hope it brings them some peace at this time. I have such a special place in my heart for those dealing with death and grief. It honoured me that he'd want to bring my music into that environment.

I'm so inspired to write after tonight! There were so many good songs... I want to have new songs to share each month!

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Redeemer and The Crabbs

Interesting title, I know, but it sums up my day nicely.

This morning, I continued my hunt for a new home church. I visited The Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican parish not too far from our place. Before Christmas, I did a Google search of "Anglican Nashville". I got a number of hits, but this is the one that caught my eye. Most of the others were very proud of their "traditional" Anglican roots, offering services using a hundred-year-old prayer book. I know that suites lots of people - it's just not what I'm looking for.

Church of the Redeemer is actually only a few years old. They describe themselves as "evangelical" Anglicans, so I was expecting something non-traditional. The service was similar to something you'd experience at St. John's West Toronto, or the 9:15 St. John's York Mills service.

It was Holy Communion, and it used contemporary language similar to the BAS. The music was lead by a praise band, and the songs were a mix of hymns, praise choruses, and taize - realllllly good! The preaching was vibrant, and the whole service was very relaxed and joyful.

They have an interesting policy: "After the service, the first person we speak to is someone we don't know." And they really do it! I met about half a dozen people and had a few nice chats about the church and what they do. I really had a good time there. I felt very comfortable, very at home. I'll probably go back soon for another visit...

This afternoon held an awesome treat: I saw the Crabb Family in concert! I've been a fan of this group for a while, but, like so many Southern Gospel groups, they never make their way to Toronto. Actually, you'd probably call this group "Progressive" Southern Gospel, meaning they mix contemporary sounds, and songs from other Christian genres, into their music.

They had a wicked band of 4 members, and then 4 of the family members were on hand to sing and play instruments. They did a lot of songs off their "Blur the Lines" album, which I just love. Jason opened with his very soulful rendition of "Shout to the Lord". Actually, I don't think Jason can sing anything that's not soulful!

Terah, Adam, and Aaron all got turns to shine on lead, and their harmonies were just wonderful! They did some building, with one person singing harmony, then adding another person, and so on, and then they did a lot of just power-wall 4-part stuff. Everything was very tight and very smooth - the work of a lifetime of singing together!

They ended with "Redeemer" - another favourite of mine! After the show, they were all out in the lobby, so I got to meet everyone and say Hi. I would have bought CDs, but I think I have everything by now.

Like any great show, I walked away a little exhausted, but also completely inspired.

Inspired to make music... inspired to write songs... inspired to use it all for the glory of God!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Home at last!

We're here! We're finally back in our Nashville home!

It's too easy to say, "It's been a busy week". The real truth comes when we say, "It's been a busy year!". In the last 12 months, we've handled our wedding, Dad's retirement, selling our house, Mom and Dad buying their house, applying for my work visa, moving us to Nashville, moving Mom and Dad to their house... and somewhere in between, we had to make a living, and spend quality time together as newlyweds!

But there's no place we'd rather be than right here, right now.

We left Toronto early Monday morning. Gerald and Sebastian and I were in my car, and 2 friends drove a rented truck carrying all our earthly belongings. The truck took a bit of time at the border (3 hours!), so we didn't start the bulk of the drive until almost 5pm. Gerald and I decided to plow right thru without breaks. And thanks to great music, lively conversation, and chocolate-covered espresso beans, we pulled into the driveway safely and cheerfully just after 2:30am. The truck had to drive slower, so the guys got here around 3:30am.

The guys stayed for a few vacation days, then headed back on Thursday. Gerald and I are now in a house stacked high with unpacked boxes, and we couldn't be happier. We've decided to take a few days just to rest and relax and spend time in each other's company. Next week, we'll attack unpacking, getting new Tennessee plates for my car, blah, blah, blah.... We just need a little break from paperwork!

But before I sign off, I just have to tell this story from today:

It's been bright and mild all week, but this morning, we awoke to a gorgeous virgin snow on the ground. Pure white. Just a few inches. Exactly what you'd love to find Christmas morning. Sun shining. No ice on the roads. Kids sliding and having snowball fights.

What? Kids on a Friday morning?

Yes, they closed the schools! It was so mild that you didn't need to clean your car cause the snow was melting right off it. Not one flake fell from the sky all day. But those tough Nashvillians were at the Walgreens stocking up on 'supplies', businesses were closed 'due to weather', and the children were home from school.

Where's Robert Ripley when you need him?