Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winds of Change?

This morning, we sang at St. Christopher's Church here in Burlington. It was nice to be so close to home on an early morning! It's been wet and mild all weekend, and this morning, the wind was whipping through the trees. A lone discarded Christmas tree rolled off the snow and down the street. Sad sight...

When we visit St. Christopher's, we sing during communion. Since we're still in the Christmas season, we sang "I Wonder as I Wander", "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", and "My Heart is the Manger." We were well received, and "Heart" received lots of great feedback. More and more, I'm getting asked "Where's your Christmas album?" Maybe 2009 will be a 2 CD year?

As a change of pace, this is the Sunday where St. Christopher's asks the congregation to choose the carols. At the start of the service, the priest said "Today we'll need 4 carols for the service. What do you want to sing?" People shouted out hymnal numbers, and these were the carols we sang. Very cool idea!

As we were doing our sound check, we couldn't help but notice the odd noises in the building. We thought it might have been something in the sound system, but no - it was the steeple. Yes, the wind was so wild that the church's tall thin steeple was swaying back and forth. The whole church creaked and groaned throughout the entire service. Partway through, I actually had the thought, "If the steeple falls and the roof breaks open, we'll just keep singing."

The show must go on!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Yes, it's still Christmas! I had a lady snap at me yesterday when I said that to her. I reminded her that we're in the 12 Days of Christmas, so we're still in the Christmas season til January 6th. Her coworker piped up, "I've been telling her! I've been telling her!"

So, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We've had an amazing week! I'm happy to say we were able to reschedule both gigs from last week's Snow Day. It made this week a little busier, but it was also wonderful to sing for people this week. On Christmas Eve morning, we sang at a seniors home where we visited all the different floors. On one floor, we found a woman with a huge soprano voice. After we finished our songs, she asked if she could sing us a Polish carol. It was such a gift for us! On another floor, we were asked to sing in a private room that contained a woman in bed, with her husband sitting on a couch. After we left the room, we were told that she's dying, and may only have a few days left. Having had a Christmas death in our family, my heart goes out to this couple. There's just something about Christmas that makes the mix of life and death even more pronounced and poignant.

That night, we returned to St. John's Weston where we sang for both of their Christmas Eve services. We did "Twas in the Moon" with djembe as our 'special', and "My Heart is the Manger" during communion. Rev. Michelle did an awesome sermon describing the Christmas story as part of the love story between God and humanity. (I think Gerald might have a new song coming from that any day now.) We didn't leave the church until one in the morning, so it made for a long night, but we were so thrilled to be there. The services were beautiful and the people were amazing.

Christmas Day, we sang at a seniors centre in a rougher area of Toronto. I spent the first few songs trying to sing through tears. A lot of these people were in rough shape, and most of them were alone in their rooms. Earlier in the day, I was feeling cranky for having to leave my family for a few hours on Christmas Day, but once we got there, I was so thankful that God had brought us there. In a wonderful twist of irony, we were given a parking pass for the day. They didn't have a "musician pass", so we were given a "spiritual pass". If they only knew ...

The rest of the day was wonderfully Christmasy - lots of food, smiling children, piles of snow, puppies chewing wrapping paper, lots of food (it deserves the second mention!). We sang again yesterday, which also felt wonderful, and today, we enjoyed a lovely day off. We won't be here for Mom's birthday next month, so we celebrated tonight with fresh lobsters. Such a treat!

I can't believe we'll be back in Nashville this time next week! Where has this month gone?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Carol Service Day

(I'm dating this for Sunday, but Sunday went waaaay too late, so I'm writing the next day!)

Today was our day for Carol Services. I'm actually a huge fan of Carol Services. I love the mix of readings and music, storytelling and symbolism.

We started the day by driving through near-snow-storm conditions to St. John's Weston in Toronto. Dad had an interim there last year, and we were invited back this year for their Carol and Christmas Eve services. I would call this morning's service more of an Advent Carol Service. The readings ranged from Creation through Christmas, with a strong emphasis on the world's preparation for the coming of Jesus. We sang three songs - "I Wonder as I Wander", "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen", and "Welcome to Bethlehem". I was a little hesitant about doing "Welcome". I didn't know if it would be seen as too fun, or even too irreverent. Wow, was I wrong! People loved it! We got more compliments on that anything else. I actually had a very proud moment when someone asked if Gerald wrote it. High praise, indeed!

St. John's Weston is a stunning little church with a dynamic, multicultural congregation. They're a lot of fun, and very spiritual. Tonight, we sang at Dad's new interim, St. George's Church in Guelph (lots of driving today!) and in terms of church size, it couldn't have been more different. Where St. John's looks packed with 100 people, St. George's seats hundreds and hundreds. It's a gorgeous old church with stained glass, carved wood, marble floors, and restored vintage paintings. The similarity is a wonderful and dynamic congregation.

Tonight's service was a beautiful traditional English-style Christmas Carol Service. They started with the church in darkness, and the servers had a wonderful, extended candle-lighting ceremony that gradually lit the entire sanctuary. The readings also started with Creation, but focused more on the actual Christmas story. There were lots of great hymns, and the choir sang the wonderful Willcocks descants (choir people will know what I mean!). St. George's has a great choir, and they sang some beautiful pieces including one of my favourites, "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day."

We weren't originally booked to sing at tonight's service, but when Dad found out we were free, he asked if we could come and sing during his homily. The message is always short at a Carol Service, so he told a few different Christmas stories - some funny, some poignant - to remind us that our story may be told in different ways, but that the truth is the same throughout. We sang the song "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" to relate how the Christmas story was interpreted during the Great Depression, and how those circumstances are so relevant to us today.

The entire service was so detailed and beautiful. We were very well received, and I think we may be visiting again in May.

The weather was better but not perfect tonight, so we were all very late getting home. No one was tired, so we had eggnog lattes and watched The Vicar of Dibley Christmas special. If you like Brit-coms, you must check it out. It's one of our favourites!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Official Snow Day!

Our second gig has been postponed til Monday!

SNOW DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First gig cancelled!

From Mom and Dad's front window, you can look down a street that stretches out for several blocks before ending in a cul-de-sac. Usually, you can see to the end of the street. Today, you can hardly see past the first house.

Yes, our first gig for today has been canceled due to 'snowmageddon' - the term coined by our weather broadcasters for this storm. Toronto is scheduled to get 20 cm of snow today. Our particular area is going to get a minimum of 30 cm, plus wind squalls, zero visibility, and a wind chill of at least -10 C.

We were up bright and early to get ready for the gig, so we've now named it Christmas Movie Day. We'll give tonight's gig a call later on to see what they're thinking. Hopefully, both events can be rescheduled for next week.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this awesome photo from the St. John's West Christmas pageant. You may recognize the 'carolers' in the lower right hand corner....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

Not quite frightful yet, but the predictions aren't good.

The past few days have been stunning - gorgeous sunny cold days highlighting the picture perfect Christmas card display of snow. The family down the road has made a perfect snowman that's as tall as me, and everyone's Christmas lights look beautiful against the pure white backdrop. Walking the dogs has become a bit of an extreme sport as we slip and slide over the icy sidewalks, but I'm also hoping my 20 pound winter coat is acting as weight resistance for optimum workout value.

The weather people are freaking out tonight. They're predicting a terrible storm for tomorrow and Sunday. Of course, we have 2 gigs each tomorrow and Sunday.

Please keep us in prayer for safety on the roads and, if we lose any of our gigs to weather, please pray that we will be able to make up those financial and ministry opportunities.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights

Gerald and I are enjoying a few days off right now, and it feels great!

I really wanted to do something Christmasy that didn't involve me as part of the show, so tonight, Mom and Dad and I drove out to Niagara Falls for their Christmas light show. In my humble opinion, the Falls are definitely at their best in winter. There's a great build-up of ice and the water has to rush and crack over the huge frosty formations. Also, visiting the area in January and February gives the benefits of no crowds and great hotel deals. But I digress...

Each year, Niagara puts up a light display all along the road that goes by the Falls. On each side of the road are a variety of pictures and images made of LED lighted outlines, many of which are animated. Actually, in searching for photos, I just found a site that lists the display as one of The 7 Best Christmas Light Displays in the World. The stretch along the Falls is great, with snowpeople, Christmas villages, and RCMP on horses, but the best part of the show is around the Dufferin Islands. As you drive through the woods, you pass by a wonderful and intimate area with a narrow stretch of water and an island on your right. Along the shore are displays of natural wonders, such as a polar bear fishing, deer in the woods, life under the ocean, and a wonderful picture of Noah's Ark. As the animals come off the Ark, you realize they are all the quintessential Canadian animals - bear, moose, caribou and beavers. Each image is reflected in the water, which just heightens the romantic effect of it all. (trust me - photos don't do it justice!)

The whole thing is fun and pretty and wonderful. On the weekends, there are concerts and fireworks, but we were happy to go when it was quiet. We stopped briefly by the Falls themselves. The mist has covered the trees right by the Falls with a thick and spiky covering of icicles. Even in the dark, the rainbow still shone through the mist. Stunning!

The snow picked up on our way home. It made for treacherous driving, but Dad and I went for a late night walk when we got home, and it was great then. Should look gorgeous tomorrow...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Confessions of a Victorian Christmas Caroler

Here's the other link I mentioned last week.

Each month, I write artist interviews for, but this month, I decided to write an article about my experiences in caroling.

Here 'tis: Confessions of a Victorian Christmas Caroler

Basketball fans may recognize a familiar red face in the photo!

As of yesterday, we've now completed 13 performances since arriving here in Ontario. We added one more to the schedule today, making it a total of 25 for the month. Loving it!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

St. John's West & Centennial Park

Today was full of great music, great people, and great food!

We got up early to drive in to Toronto to play the morning service at St. John's West. At this church, we always play all the music for the service - hymns, anthem, liturgical music, etc. - but today was their pageant, which meant even more music than usual. Fifteen songs to be exact, not including a prelude and a postlude. The pageant was wonderful - kids and adults in costume, with lots of carols scattered throughout for the congregation to sing. I made the mistake of turning around to watch the Nativity scene while we all sang 'Silent Night.' I suddenly had a lump in my throat and tears welling up in my eyes, neither of which is conducive to leading a song. Yes, I'm a sucker for all things Christmas!

St. John's is always a cool and creative place to be, and everyone got really involved in the service. The congregation was invited to come to church in costume, and several people did. One woman even brought her little Jack Russell terrier in a lamb costume. So cute!

After the service, we had a bit of time in between events, so we drove downtown for lunch. We have a list of favourite restaurants we're working through this month. We found our way to Spring Rolls on Front St. where we stuffed ourselves with Tom Yum soup and Pad Thai. So good! We didn't have time to wander through St. Lawrence Market, but all the vendors were outside with their tables overflowing with Christmas gifts, antiques, and other treasures.

Late afternoon, Monika joined us for the Centennial Park Flower Show. This is like our Allan Gardens gig (and run by the same people), except it has a bit of a different feeling. Centennial is smaller and the whole event is much more intimate. We sing in the greenhouses, which are lit by candlelight and filled with incredible displays of poinsettias, handcrafted cedar garlands, and exotic plants. The people are very relaxed, and many of them remember us from year to year. And again, in between sets, we stuffed ourselves with cider and cookies. I feel some festive exercising coming on...

We knew today was going to be long and a lot of work, but it was just wonderful all around. That said, we're looking forward to a few days off. We've done 7 performances in the past 5 days! And, as is often the case, they were all different kinds of gigs requiring lots of different kinds of preparation and rehearsal. It's much more relaxed for the next little while. Looking forward to spending time with loved ones, seeing more of Toronto, and working through that restaurant list...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Me on SoGospelNews!

I am so all over these days!

Susan Unthank wrote about my cancer wig hair cut. You can read that article here.

And, I'm now a monthly writer for the site! Each month, I'll write a little post about my music and ministry. You can read my first post here.

I have another article online this month, but this computer is giving me 'issues', so I'll have to add that link later.

By the way, 'tis the season for eggnog lattes! Bliss!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

All Saints and Allan Gardens

Long, wonderful day of singing and spirit!

I spent the morning at All Saints Anglican Church. When we lived here, I used to visit them a couple of times a year, but this is my first time back in a while.

All Saints is known as an 'outreach' church. For the most part, they are unable to fund themselves. They are supported by the larger Anglican community in Toronto. Needless to say, they can't afford much of a music program. When their priest, Jeannie, came to speak about their work at our home church, we got to talking, and that's how the relationship began.

Most people who attend All Saints wouldn't be welcomed at most churches. Let's be honest - we Christians like to say 'come just as you are', but we really prefer it if people are neat and clean and fairly well balanced before they sit beside us in the pew. I once met a woman at All Saints who told me she'd attended four churches before finding All Saints. The other churches had, in their own special ways, told her that she wasn't welcome. All Saints hugged her and loved her, and now she's there every Sunday. Why do we Christians mess that up so much?

It was great to be back there this morning, and see some of the positive changes that are happening there. There's a wonderful energy, several new faces in the pews, and lots of involvement from parishioners. As usual, the service was theologically and liturgically rich. I sang 2 songs in the service, and people were very appreciative. And as always happens at All Saints, I bring in my little offering, but I always walk away with so much more.

They always have a lunch after the service, but I had to run half a block west to get myself to Allan Gardens for the afternoon.

This is the fourth year we've sung for the Allan Gardens Christmas Flower Show. The 'show' goes on all month, but today was the opening. It is so stunning! Imagine walking from the cold, snowy streets of Toronto into 5 Victorian greenhouses filled with palm trees, water ponds, and exotic plants from around the world. It's beautiful any day of the year, but at Christmas, they fill it with every poinsettia imaginable, white mini-lights, special arrangements, and candlelight. So lovely!

Gerald, Monika, and I donned our Victorian Caroling gear and spent three hours singing our favourite Christmas carols. By the end, we'd seen old friends, met lots of happy children, had our photos taken by tourists and newspaper reporters, and had eaten more than our fair share of hot apple cider and Christmas cookies.

We've had a few gigs this past week, but somehow, this gig has become the 'official' start of our Christmas season!

Friday, December 05, 2008

St. Luke's Palermo

Last year, I visited a very old, very tiny church in Palermo, Ontario (part of Oakville, ON). I loved the look and spirit of the church, so of course, I asked if Gerald and I could sing there some time. The church changed rectors over the past year, so it was a bit of a journey working out the details, but tonight, it all came together, and we did a concert at St. Luke's Palermo.

The original plan was to do a concert to attract people to the growing parish, but along the way, we got involved with an awesome cause - the Stephen Lewis Foundation. It was decided we'd do a concert to help raise funds and awareness for the plight of those affected by AIDS and HIV in Africa. Gerald and I couldn't be more thrilled to help this awesome cause.

The weather was cold tonight, but a small crowd of us gathered in the tiny sanctuary for a great night of Gospel and Christmas music. We did some of our originals, including "My Heart is the Manger" and Gerald's new song, "The Lovely White Birds" (looove that song!). We did a fair bit of Christmas music, including "Welcome to Bethlehem" and "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" using only voice and djembe. People loved that!! Since there were hymnals in the pews, we had some singalong carols as well. After the show, we wandered over to the parish hall for an incredible reception with cheese, pate, fresh berries, homemade Christmas cookies ... nobody does it up like church people!

The response from the audience was just awesome! They loved the songs and the harmonies and meeting me and Gerald. They practically cleared the product table. And ... we've already been booked to do another concert next December 5! (Mark your calenders!) The women's group has decided to sell tickets for the event next year so we can pack the place and really gain awareness for the cause. So excited! What an awesome night. Long time coming, but worth every moment!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Christian New Year!

Happy Christian New Year! Today marks the Sunday known as Advent 1, which is the start of the Christian year. We have only four Sundays til Christmas, and it's gonna fly by!

This was the one Sunday this trip that I couldn't book us anywhere, and it really worked out okay.

Last night, we sang for the Christmas dinner for Bethany Evangelical Missionary Church in Kitchener. I didn't know all these details til last night, but the pastor, who has a radio show, discovered me on Radioactive Airplay! You never know where people will find you! The dinner was held on the campus of U. of Waterloo, where Gerald attend school in his younger days. The world became smaller when we realized that, years ago, one of the men at the table had attended a theatre production at U. of W., starring Gerald!

The food for the meal was prepared by the Mennonite cooks who run the cafeteria, and it was awesome! After each course, Gerald and I would lead the crowd in a few carols. After dessert (huge pieces of homemade pie and ice-cream!), we did a 45 minute concert. I did some songs from Real Big Fan, and then Gerald joined me for some Christmas songs. We ended with a duet version of Gerald's "My Heart is the Manger." How much do I love singing this song?

It was a great night, we were well received, and we've already been invited back! No complaints here.

We were pretty tired this morning, so I was just as happy to have the chance to visit Dad's new church in Guelph. He just started this interim position a few weeks ago. The church is huge and old and gorgeous! This morning was the Advent Carol Service of hymns and readings, and it was beautiful. At the end of the service, we all gathered in the chancel to sing for the Amazing Grace Project. To hear everyone singing in that tight little gathering just gave me shivers! I've been in touch with one of their wardens about singing there next spring, so it was good to see the place and meet some of the people face to face.

The rest of the day was spent eating sushi and celebrating my birthday with friends. Lovely!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas begins tomorrow!

Okay, not Christmas proper!

Tomorrow is the first Christmas gig of the season for us! We're going to be in Kitchener, Ontario to sing a concert at a Christmas dinner. We haven't been to this particular church before, so we're excited about meeting a whole new group of people.

As you've guessed by now, we arrived safely in Ontario on Tuesday night. Wednesday was Recovery Day, and Thursday was my birthday! Yay!!! It's the first time I've been home for my birthday in a few years, so that was awesome! I had breakfast in bed, a pedicure with Mom, a fantastic dinner with la familia, and then on Sunday, it'll be a nice gathering with a few friends. Awesome!

As I've probably mentioned, we have 20 gigs booked for December (including Nov. 29). It's going to be a lot of work, and probably a little stress, but mostly, I'm really excited about the whole thing.

In the middle of crazy Christmas shopping and politically correct 'holiday' greetings, 20 gigs means 20 times to sing the Gospel in public! Whoo-hoo! Bring it on!

On my site, I've only posted the gigs that are open to the public, but I think next week I'm going to put them all up, including seniors' centers, etc. Please pray for Gerald and me that we will make the most of these opportunities to love God's people and to share the Gospel story.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tuesday prayers, please...

We're heading home to Toronto tomorrow. Fourteen hours in the car is never really 'fun', but we usually have a pretty good time of it.

Tomorrow, however, there are snow warnings for most of our trip. We're leaving early to get as much daylight driving as possible, and we're also hoping we'll keep ahead of the weather.

We'll do it in two days, if we have to, but my preference is to do it in one.

Please keep us in prayer for a safe, uneventful drive...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dad and The Shack

So this September, I lent my parents my copy of The Shack. I was hoping they'd read it so we could chat about it. Dad not only read it, but it served as the inspiration for his December article for the Niagara Anglican paper. It's called "All I Want For Christmas is Forgiveness" and you can read it here. Unfortunately, they didn't print the photo he used, but that just allows you to use your imagination.

Dad writes every month, and you can find links to his articles here.

We are soooo talented in our family :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

The wilds of Nashville!

Lots of cool stuff going on!

My press release about "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbor in Gloryland" was printed in the November issue of Power Source magazine! I'm on page 65, along with the Booth Brothers and Daywind. It's on the top of the page, along with my photo, so it all looks very cool.

Also, I recently did an interview with Scott Evans at, and it's airing this weekend and next. You can find out more details here.

I started a new newsletter this week too. I'm now using Constant Contact, and I'm really happy with them. I sent out my first one yesterday, and I've had over a dozen people contact me with really positive feedback. The program allows you to use really colourful templates, and you can add photos and links and stuff. Looks great, easy to use, love it!

We're in the getting-ready-to-go-home mode right now. This week, I booked our 20th gig for December! It's going to be crazy, but gooood! I'm also going to be home for my birthday (next Thursday!!!) which hasn't happened for a few years, so that's all cool.

What else? Oh, getting lots of reaction to my new hair cut. I haven't had it this short in eons. I was washing it today and realized "I don't know how much shampoo to use!"

Also, I spoke with a musician friend yesterday about doing a new CD together in the New Year. Not a full band CD, but something more intimate, probably a hymns album. Soooo excited about this possibility!

Tonight was Redeemer in the Round, which was, obviously, a round at Church of the Redeemer. Jenna hosted it and played one of her songs. The other chairs where filled by Hunter Moore, Julie Lee, and Sally Barris. What a great night! They had the chairs in the church reconfigured so we were sitting in semi-circles facing one of the long walls of the church. They had a screen up behind the players, and after the 'round' portion, we moved into a hymn-sing. Each writer chose and lead two hymns, which was awesome! I love a good hymn! Jenna ended with "In Christ Alone" and asked me to come up and help lead the singing. I have totally fallen in love with that song! Gerald and I are thinking about working up a duet version we can use in our concerts.

Oh, and weirdest part of the day: I'm driving home from Redeemer, and I see this big dog wandering on the road. Not running away, but just wandering. I thought, "That looks odd, and big, and odd..." I think it was a coyote! Not I thought I would have had before moving to Nashville, but apparently, we have 'em, so I think I just saw my first coyote!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beautiful Lengths ... 9 inches gone!

Well, it's done - 9 inches of my hair are on their way to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths.

We met at the salon at noon and got some "before" photos. I'd been wearing my hair in ponytails for the last few months cause it was starting to get on my nerves, so I didn't realize just how long it was. Allison and Tara joined us, and Allison got some video as well. I'll post all of that stuff as soon as I get it.

I had all the hair cutting requirements printed off from the Pantene website. We measured my hair and put it in two ponytails. The elastics have to stay on the hair, so we literally just cut off the ponytails. I don't mind telling you I was a little nervous, and a little teary, when it came time to actually do the snipping. I decided to cut a full 9 inches - one inch more than the minimum, and a little more than I originally planned, but who cares? It's just going to grow back.

We took lots of photos of me holding my snipped ponytails in my hands and laughing. It was all so amazing! We then placed the hair, still in its elastics, in a ziplock bag, and then in a padded envelope. When you cut off the ponytails, your hair gets all uneven, so I treated myself to a nice cut and style. After all, I haven't had my hair cut in over a year! What a treat!

It feels good to have accomplished this. When I was sitting in the chair having my hair dried, I had one sad moment. In my early twenties, I had very long hair with no colour in it. I would often go and have 5 or 6 inches cut off just to even things up. Imagine how many times I could have cut a bit more and donated it! I could have done this half a dozen times over! I'm not one for regrets, but I do wish I'd learned about this program earlier. Maybe someone else will read this and get inspired to do it themselves.

Right now, I'm continuing to pray for my hair as it travels through the mail and into the hands of the wig maker. I prayed again today for the woman who'll receive my hair. It takes 6 donations to make one wig, so my hair will just be part of a wig. What a great example of living and giving in a community!

I just feel so blessed tonight to have had this journey. It ended up meaning so much more than I ever imagined!

I'll post photos soon! Meanwhile, I'm getting used to my much, much shorter hair!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cutting my hair for cancer - Tomorrow!

As you may recall, last winter, I decided to grow out my hair for a cancer wig. Well, it's been growing, and tomorrow is cutting day.

My hair is quite long right now - we're going to cut at least 8 inches off - and frankly, I'm ready for the cut! It's so long that it needs lots of styling to look good, and to be honest, I don't feel right styling it.

You see, a few months ago I realized something: It's not my hair anymore.

I started this whole thing as a way of honouring my aunt. She's in remission from cancer, and I'm so proud of her, and I really wanted to do this in celebration of her brave journey. It also just seemed like a cool way of giving. It really doesn't cost anything, and once cut, the hair's just going to grow right back.

But I didn't realize how emotional the whole thing would be.

I think about the woman who's going to get my hair: Is she my age? Older? Younger? Does she have a husband? Children? Does she sing? Go to church? Has she had cancer before? Is it her first time? Maybe she doesn't even know that she has it yet?

And I've been praying for her too. I don't know a thing about her, but I do know this - she's going to need God's presence. Maybe she has a strong faith already; maybe not. Either way, I pray she'll feel the loving hands of God supporting her in her treatments and healing.

So through it all, I've realized, it's not my hair. I am caring for someone else's hair. And because of that, treating my hair well has become more important to me. I don't curl it. I don't blow dry it. I deep condition it. I'm extra careful with bobby pins and elastics. My hair now has a purpose beyond complimenting my 'look' - it's going to make a woman feel good about herself, maybe even beautiful, in a time when she's going to be surrounded by disease and ugliness.

I'm excited about tomorrow, and a little nervous, and a little emotional. I have all the tools in place - hair stylist, envelope to mail the hair, friend with camera. Gerald and I will head over to the salon for noon, and the 'make-over' will begin.

Please pray for us - for my aunt, for the hair stylist, for the post office, for those making the wigs. But mostly, please pray for 'her'. I know I am...

For more information on how to donate your hair, visit Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

They're playing my song...

I have to share this cool experience - Last year, Gerald and I made friends with our mechanic. He's a great guy who loves Gospel music, so as a Thank You for some extra work he did for us, we gave him a copy of "Real Big Fan".

This weekend, he was doing some work on my car, and he started telling us how much he loved the CD. He loved it so much that he lent it to his pastor, who also fell in love with it.

Their church is a very small church in our area that uses most of it's funds to support the needs of the people in its congregation. They used to have a piano player for Sunday mornings, but he left for a bigger church, and they haven't been able to hire another musician.

They have a CD player and small sound system, and for the past month, they've been using my songs in their services! Not for the singalong portion, but for a special song during the service. Isn't that awesome!! I'm just overwhelmed. You never know where your music is going to go, or who's going to need it.

Needless to say, we're going to chat with the pastor about visiting there some Sunday...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Redeemer Women's Retreat

This is the part where I ask you to excuse any typos - Today started at 6am, and I'm feeling it right about now.

Today, Gerald and I lead music for the Redeemer Women's Retreat. About a month ago, Jenna called and offered us the opportunity, and we immediately said "yes". I've been wanting to do some work with women's ministries, and I was just thrilled for this door to open.

The event took place at the Scarritt-Bennett Center which is part of Vanderbilt campus. It looks a lot like the beautiful old parts of U. of T, but much, much smaller. It was one of the those moments where I thought, "Wow, I'd like to go back to school and get my masters". Then Gerald said, "I used to hate exams," and the fantasy was over.

We had a great crowd of about 40 women - all ages, all backgrounds. The day started with some craziness, the biggest one being that we were without a speaker! A few days ago, our guest speaker was at a conference when she experienced medical difficulties. She's been in the hospital ever since. So last night, three women from the church gathered together, studied the notes our speaker sent them, and planned today's retreat. I know they were probably very nervous this morning, but everyone was very understanding and supportive, and entered it with a we're-all-in-this-together attitude.

Gerald and I did three sets of worship music. In the morning set, we really tried to set the tone for the day with songs like "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Here I am to Worship". After lunch, we started the afternoon with "Wedding at Cana" with dueling guitars. We knew we had to do a uptempo set to prevent a post-lunch nap, so we did a few great songs, leading into "How Great is Our God". On the final chorus, I lead the group acapella and Gerald took off his guitar. He picked up the djembe and accompanied us on "Awesome God". It was great to move from guitar to acapella to djembe, and it had a strong reaction from the group. They were a great singing group (harmony too!), but they really responded to the drum. Lots of smiles and grooving and praising. The afternoon was running a little late, so we cut one song from the final set and just ended with "In Christ Alone", which was fantastic (how do you go wrong with a song like that?).

All in all, this was a great day. The women loved Gerald, and admired his bravery for being our 'token male'. The weather and campus were beautiful, with glimpses of a fall day shining through the leaded pane windows. I made new friends and shared some wonderful moments with people. Gerald and I performed well and, more importantly, people responded well. I even had one woman tell me how much she loved my interpretation of the story of the wedding at Cana. I loved being a part of this ministry today and, if God sees fit, I'd love for more doors like this to open for me.

I'm going to bed now to continue reading "If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat" by John Ortberg. Awesome! My friend, Deanna, recommended this book, and I'm just loving it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Mini-Blog #2 - Lawyer Update

Just realized I didn't write about our meeting with the immigration lawyer last week.

Our visa ends in one year, three months, so we know it's time to start thinking about our next step. We've decided to work with a local lawyer, partly to save money on courier fees, and also because it just seems easier than working with someone halfway across the country. Thus, we are lawyer shopping.

Our main goal with last week's meeting was to check out our options. Should we renew the visa, or should we try for our green cards? I was leaning towards green cards as it would really open up our employment options. Having this O1 visa is great, but it's a struggle trying to get by on one income, especially a singer's income.

Long story short, we are no where close to getting green cards at this time. Basically, the O1 visa requires you to be outstanding in your field. The same category green card requires you to be at the top of your field. You must be charting regularly in the top 10, performing on large platforms, universally regarded as a leader in your field, and, bluntly put, you must make lots and lots and lots of money doing it. I mean, I know we've done well in our two years here, but no one could climb that high that quickly.

So, we're going to apply for another three year visa. We can't apply until next summer, so that gives me another few months to collect letters and other pieces of "evidence".

It's going to be so much work. I'm not looking forward to it, but at least I now know what path we're on.

Mini-Blog #1 - Mark Bishop Interview

I think today will be the day of mini-blogs. I have a lot of little things I haven't posted for the past week, so I'm probably going to add them as I think of them today.

Last month, I had the privilege of interviewing Mark Bishop for SGM In the past year or so, I've become a huge Mark Bishop fan. He's a fantastic songwriter, and has the right voice for delivering his wonderful story songs.

His new project, "The Fields of Love", is a Southern Gospel musical, so you know that caught my eye.

You can read the whole interview here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

For dog lovers only...

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with Southern Gospel.

Also a disclaimer: If you are a sucker for cuteness, look out!

My Mom called last Friday with only these words - "His name is Tyler!"

This summer, our family was heartbroken when we had to put down our family dog, Desi. It was hardest on my Mom as Desi was 'her' dog.

But she's a dog lover, so we knew it was only a matter of time...

Last week, she called every day saying, "There's this one puppy at the store, and when I get a dog, I want it to be like him."

And then I got the call.

We're now thrilled to welcome 3-pound, 9-and-a-half-week-old Tyler to the family. From what I hear, he's beautiful and adorable, and has brought tonnes of joy into my family's home.

Can't wait to get back to Toronto to meet him in person...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

BCC Autumn Tea

A few months ago, a friend called asking to book me for the Bellevue Community Church Autumn Tea. BCC was one of the first churches we visited in Nashville. It's ginormous with a great music program, so of all the choices at their fingertips, I was honoured they'd ask me to sing.

The event was held this afternoon at Traveller's Rest Plantation and Museum. Sooo beautiful! The weather was stunning and the grounds and gardens are peaceful and gorgeous. We weren't in the historic house, but I think I read online that it's the oldest house open to the public in Tennessee. We were in an intimate building with high dormer ceilings and lots of windows.

And I have to start with this - the food was amazing! High tea complete with scones, jam and whipped cream (not clotted cream, but what're ya gonna do?), and the piece de resistance - a chocolate fountain! My word! I will take a chocolate fountain gig anytime!

Ladies in the church had each volunteered to decorate a table on a theme of their choosing, and the results were eclectic and beautiful. Everyone was very friendly, and our emcee, Anna, set a great tone for the event. (Anna was one of the first people we met in Nashville, so it was great to spend time with her today.)

I sang before the speaker, and I have to tell you, after all my Elijah training, the pressure was on today. I only had a 20 minute set, so I really wanted each minute to have an impact. I opened with "Neighbour", and that got a lot of smiles. Next, I did a short spoken segue into "Wedding at Cana". I rehearsed my segues and tried to be very purposeful with them. I drifted a bit from my script in small moments, but overall, I think my talking was much more focused than in my pre-Elijah days.

After "Wedding", I did my longest segue into "Abide With Me". I still kept the talking to only a minute, but I could tell it connected with people. I needed to come out of the deeply spiritual place of "Abide" to my fun ending of "Real Big Fan", so I tried a musical segue. As the "Abide" applause was dying down, I started with an acapella chorus of "How Great is Our God". BCC is a contemporary church, so I figured most people there would know it. People just listened the first time, so I sang it again, asking them to join me, and they did. It worked wonderfully! Singing as a group, even in a worshipful kind of way lifted the energy in the room, and prepared us all for a little fun. It also gave me a new kind of segue for "Real Big Fan". Instead of talking about Hollywood or my experiences with the film industry, I spoke about the greatness of God, and how important it is to focus our worship in the right place.

This was followed by guest speaker and BCC pastor's wife, Liz Perez. Liz spoke about making yourself new in Christ every day, and it was great. I think I even got a few new song ideas from it...

Overall, I couldn't be happier with the day. I sang really well, and the segues were good, and I got a great reaction from people. One of the BCC musicians not only complimented the music, but she also complimented my spoken parts as well! Yay! Several people visited the product table, and a few people asked about booking me at other events.

Can't complain about any of that!

ps - So far, I've booked 15 gigs for me and Gerald over the month of December. Whoo-hoo!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joy FM Sharathon: Post-Blog + A Great Day

The interview was great! It was about 10 minutes long and they asked about working for Ben, Stamps-Baxter, and shape-notes. Then they asked me about "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbor in Gloryland", since that's my latest single, and I also got to plug Real Big Fan and my site. All very cool - all very good!

The rest of the day ended up being very productive as well. I'm continuing to book dates for Christmas - so far I'm up to 10, but I know we'll get more through our agent in Toronto. I also wrote my interview with Mark Bishop for SGM He sent me some great answers to my questions, so I think the article turned out well.

Oh, and this is very cool - I've booked a gig in Kitchener for late November, which means I'll be home for my birthday! It'll be the first time for a few years, so I'm very excited about it!

One more thing: Real Big Fan got another review! This one is very positive, and they even included a clip of "Neighbor". You can read it here.

And here's the heavy thing: We have just over a year left on our O1 Visa, which means it's time to look at renewing it. We don't know if it's best for us to renew the visa or just go ahead and get green cards, so we're meeting a lawyer next week. Getting our first visa was so much work and so very expensive, and I'm dreading doing it all over again. My stomach hurts just thinking about it. It's going to be a huge undertaking, both in finances and labour. Please pray for us, if you can.

Joy FM Sharathon: Pre-Blog

I've been invited to do an interview as part of the Joy FM Sharathon this morning at 9:05 am. We'll be doing the interview over the phone, and I've sent them some CDs for giveaways.

I don't know if they're going to stream it over the internet, but you can try listening here.

Very excited! Pray for me...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Elijah Conference - Day 4

The last few days have been amazing, both in how quickly they've flown and in how much we've learned.

We didn't have an evening session tonight, which meant we only had the day to finish all the work we'd started. The focus landed squarely on performance coaching. Every time I would start taking notes on some one's performance, the topic would always swing back around to segues - finding them, tweaking them, rehearsing them. It has definitely been the focus of the performance training part of the conference. Because we're all in active ministry, it's like we all took prerequisite courses before class - everyone here knows music, how to breathe properly, and the basics of putting on a show. The lessons here have been advanced and specific, and I think we've all felt stretched by it.

The conference has provided lunch each day, and it's been lovely to sit outside in the fall-ish weather and learn more about each other's lives and ministries. Today, I sat with a quartet singer who has a brilliant mind for marketing and for bringing Gospel music into nontraditional venues. I'm always excited about singing Gospel music in unexpected places, so I just drank in as much info as I could get. Definitely got some new ideas popping around in my brain...

Our one guest lecturer today was the always wonderful, Jack Clark. Jack was my theory teacher my first year at Stamps-Baxter, and he's just brilliant. He spoke to us about the Nashville Number System. I needed this. Lately, there are many times when we step into a church and the music director hands us a chart in 'numbers'. Saying, "We don't get that - we're Canadian." will only last for so long. The class was good, but the real test will be looking at some charts and seeing if my eyes cross.

We finished with more performance training, an impromptu quartet performance of "Hide Thou Me", and lots of prayer. The goodbyes were long and lingering. A group of us had dinner and chatted some more. Business cards and CDs were exchanged. Conversations starting with "we should do ____ together some time" flew between friends.

I'm tired and inspired...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Elijah Conference - Day 3

My in-laws arrived this afternoon, and the party's still going on out in the living room, so I'm seeking a quiet space to write tonight.

We're all realizing that the Elijah Conference is only the beginning. This is just a starting point, and the real work will begin on Monday when we need to look at ourselves, our art, our ministries and decide: How am I going to make all of this better and more effective for spreading the Gospel?

A few people had to leave early last night, so Allison decided to repeat her work with me to show them what we did. I started by singing the first half of "Real Big Fan" in the 'old' way. I was, of course, much less nervous this time, but much more self-conscious because I've now learned a better way to do the song. She stopped me after the first chorus and explained what we worked on, and then I did the second verse to the end in the 'new' style. Reworking physicality is so trying! You get used to singing with certain movements and gestures. Singing the song without them, or having to do something totally different, really throws you off your center. I am now totally confused about my right elbow. I'm not kidding. My right elbow and I have a lot of work to do.

The focus today was definitely on performance training. We've been doing work on segues all week, and this has been a lot of the work in performance training as well. People have great stories, and Allison has a real gift for distilling the essence of a story, matching it with an eternal and Biblical truth, and putting all that together in a way that leads right into a song.

One of our guest speakers was unable to come today, so Brian Speer gave an impromptu lesson on sound systems - what you need and how to use it. So much of it was over my head. I know how to hold a mic and I know when I hear what I like, but other than that, I just know nothing. I think I'll need to grab Brian sometime and say, "Please start from the beginning..."

Our second guest speaker was Rebecca Irwin who spoke about "Starting a Non-profit Ministry". The whole non-profit thing does interest me. Stamps-Baxter is non-profit, so I get to see some of the benefits firsthand there. But with the legal status of our visa, we're not allowed to form a business, so we wouldn't be able to start this until we got green cards (I think?). But Rebecca was very passionate and entertaining, and at least I have someone to talk to when and if we decide to go that way.

We had a surprise guest in Pastor Sam from Missouri (I'm sorry Pastor Sam - I can't remember your last name). He spoke about his ministry, and his thoughts on being a minister of the Gospel. Then he and Johnny Minick spoke about being "annointed" - what that means, how to best use it, how to keep yourself filled and ready to serve. Very inspiring...

There are incredible voices and talents here at the Conference. There are awesome hearts and generous spirits. There are great friends, and great friends-to-be. We ended the day with a talk on humour and planning a show, and ended up on stage for a group picture. There was so much laughing and good-natured joking that it should have been easy to get a beautiful happy picture.

One more good night's sleep ... one more long intense day ...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Elijah Conference - Day 2

It's late as I'm writing, and I need to find a way to calm my brain if I'm ever going to get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow starts early, and today's activities have left my imagination on fire.

Today was Minick Day at the Elijah Conference. Our first guest speaker was Johnny Minick, who spoke on "The Pastor's Perspective". His talk was so rich and dense that he easily could have go on all afternoon. I thought he would speak about the practicalities of working with pastors, but what he really focused on was the pastor's perspective on how to approach a music ministry. He has so much wisdom, and his words really expressed the need to take on the mantle of ministry with the proper intention, attitude, and authority.

This afternoon, Aaron Minick spoke about "Producing an Independent CD". Since Aaron did my project, I knew everything he said, but he still gave an awesome, detailed talk. It lead into a great discussion as well, which was cool. There are just so many different ways to make a record, and it was great to hear other people's approaches and ideas.

We continued with some of Allison's newer-style teaching today, but we also did a lot of performance training. We only have four days together, and I know Allison would really like to have everyone sing twice. Everyone in this group has a professional ministry which is either full or part-time. Most people have CDs, and most are touring. Because of all this, the level of performance training is much higher and much more focused than it can ever be at Stamps-Baxter. Allison is being tough on us, and it's awesome.

When 9pm hit tonight, most people wanted to keep going, so Allison, Brian, and all the staff stuck around for another hour ... and I volunteered to sing. I'd spent the day wishing I'd get picked and dreading getting picked, but at that point I was just too tired to be too nervous anymore. Besides, if I didn't go tonight, I feared I'd get picked first thing in the morning.

(Side note: Dante has curled up tight next to me and has fallen asleep with his little head tucked under my arm. Very cute, but very awkward for typing!)

I decided to go big and sing "Real Big Fan" for my critique. I was talking to Wess Adams today, and we both agreed that even though we perform a lot and we've both worked with Allison a lot, there's still a special kind of nervousness that happens in her class. Maybe it's because of all the talent in the room. Or maybe it's because you know you're about to placed in 'student' role, and that your precious, personal work is about to be critiqued. Either way, I had the nerves throughout my song. But I didn't fall off the stage, so that's always a good night.

When I finished singing, Allison walked up on stage and I said, "You can be tough with me". And I meant it. I'm not in this course to be babied and praised. I have people in my life who will tell me I'm beautiful and talented and ready to change the world, and I love them. But I'm at the Elijah Conference to stretch and grow, and that always involves a little pain.

She spent almost the next hour working on my voice and my physicality in very specific ways. It was very challenging, but amazing too. By the end, I actually felt a little out of sorts. We all have physical gestures we do at specific parts of a song, and certain vocal moments which become a part of our performance. In the critique, we adjusted several of these all at once. I shouldn't say 'several'. It was really just two or three changes all together, but they were significant and specific enough that they made a distinct difference in how I presented the song. It was great work to do, but it'll take a great deal of focused rehearsal before some of these things really start feeling natural. Allison was very positive about my music and my artistry, so that was very encouraging. I got great feedback from some of my peers, so that was also very affirming.

Today has just been awesome. The classes and training are so amazing, and in the gaps, we get to spend time laughing and joking and snacking and laughing again. Today, Johnny encouraged us to spend time with like-minded Gospel artists who will 'stir up' our excitement about ministry. I'm in the right place...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Elijah Conference - Day 1

My day started at 6:30 am, having to hit Smyrna by 8:00 am. What is it with Christians always starting things so early?

Today was the first day of the very intense Elijah Conference. I knew it would be a challenge, and I haven't been disappointed. We have a good group of artists, with a decent mix of soloists and groups. The core of the conference is Allison's teaching, but we also get a couple of guest lectures each day. Today, we had a great talk from Les Butler on radio and media, and another from Kathi Mathis on booking. Took lots of notes. Much to learn.

I've studied with Allison for a few years now. I've been on stage, singing for her and getting critiqued, and I've spent hours listening to her thoughts and theories on great performance skills, but this is something all together different. She's really raising the bar, and taking a whole new twist on how we present the Gospel. Implementing these concepts will require an entire reworking of life performances, booking, product, marketing ... everything. But I think if I can do some of these things, it's really going to be an awesome experience - for me and for my audiences.

Today was a bit of a shorter day - just 8am to 6pm. We broke for supper, and a group of us spent the hour laughing and eating and catching up (there are some Stamps-Baxter people here). Then, we wandered back to River of Life for a Wednesday night service, lead by Johnny Minick. (a much more enjoyable experience than my first visit to River of Life!)

I'm still doing a lot of booking for December, so I'm going to touch on that tonight, but I really need to spend some time processing the day. Brian asked me if I was enjoying it, and I really didn't know how to answer it. I'm enjoying seeing everyone and hearing people sing, but the work is hard and intense. I'm loving it, but I don't know if "enjoying" is the best word to use.

"Enjoying" is a cup of tea with a scone. This is a double espresso with an extra crunchy biscotti. You know what I mean?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Elijah starts tomorrow!

Sleep must be my priority right now, but I also need to write a quick bit to keep track of all that's happening right now.

Big priority: The Elijah Conference starts tomorrow! I've been practicing and prepping and doing my homework. Yes, my homework. We'll be working a lot on segues this week, so we've all been asked to prepare stories, jokes, and Bible references on different themes. I've packed my bag with a Bible, a concordance, CD tracks, extra pens, business cards, and energy drinks.

I finished my "Thinking as a Songwriter" course today. Definitely the most work-heavy course thus far, but very, very good.

I've been doing Christmas booking in the past week. So far, I have six church gigs booked, and I just found out we already have several bookings for seniors homes (these are done through an agent). It's going to be a busy season.

I've arranged an interview with singer-songwriter Mark Bishop for next month's SGM Radio article. Big fan!

In the 'quiet' moments, I've been trying to pay bills, update our SOCAN info, keep up on Shoutlife, book dates for January, work for Ben, have some quiet family time, and prep for a visit from the in-laws this Friday.

It's going to be an intense week. If you're praying kind, please raise one up for us.

And now, on to that sleep...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Elijah, Redeemer, and back to the Cafe Classroom...

I got a call last night from Brian Speer asking if I'd come in today to help them prepare for next week's Elijah Conference. I was up bright and early to head over to their house, and was greeted by a great pile of swag. Between the three of us (I made some phone calls last week), we've collected piles of free goodies for next week's artists. My job today was helping Allison type out her notes for her teaching. So basically, I spent four hours sitting across from Allison, hearing her theories on live performance and communicating the Gospel. Her teaching for the Elijah Conference will be based on her Stamps-Baxter teaching, but it's going to go so much further and so much deeper. She's really developed some theories and techniques that go far beyond anything I've studied in other performance coaching seminars. I'm kind of glad I got the preview, cause it's going to take a while to wrap my head around all this. It's real mind-shifting stuff. Next week is going to be great, but interesting...

Gerald and I have been booked to lead worship for the Redeemer Women's Retreat in November, so we met today with Jenna to go over some song ideas and get some charts. Jenna is not just a great worship leader, but she also has a great feel for what this congregation needs. Most of these songs are new for Gerald, so it was a great chance to him to hear them played well. We hammered out three great sets, played them through to make sure everything is cohesive, and got a bit of information about the sound set-up. I think it's going to be a great event, and I think we'll be in good shape for it.

Right after that meeting, Gerald had his mentoring session with Steve Leslie. Steve is an uber-accomplished writer, with cuts by Reba McEntire and George Straight. He and Gerald are meeting once a week to work towards Gerald getting a publishing deal. This is definitely an example of the right student finding the right teacher.

While that was going on, I headed over to the Green Hills Starbucks for a little more Cafe Classroom time. One of my Song U courses (Thinking Like a Songwriter) has a rather lengthy assignment that involves going to a cafe, observing a couple, making up a backstory for them, making up an issue for them to have to resolve, sketching out a song about it, and finally, writing the lyric. For some people, this might be fairly easy, but I never write songs about couples in crisis. It's a country style lyric, and I usually write happy-Southern-Gospel-heaven-praising-hymn-like kinds of songs.

I found my couple quickly, and with my background in theatre, writing characters and a backstory were easy, but I choked when it came time to write the lyric. I suddenly felt I had this huge moat to leap. I found my hook, and eventually came up with a fairly solid lyric, but it was definitely a challenge. I felt just outside my comfort zone. This has been the most work-heavy class I've taken, and probably because of this exercise, the most challenging one too.

When we got home tonight, Gerald took a look at my lyric and gave me some feedback and suggestions. He was gentle because he knew it was my first attempt at a storytelling, non-churchy kind of song, but he also gave me some good, solid feedback, which I appreciated. It's nice to have your own in-house song critique service...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Cafe Classroom

Gerald had a cowrite this afternoon with Rebekah Long. Rebekah's main claim to fame is that she works with me in Ben's office, but in addition, she and her twin, Lizzy, are killer bluegrass musicians. (They did that awesome show with Earl Scruggs and Little Roy Lewis at Stamps-Baxter this summer.) Gerald and Rebekah are working on a signature song for the act, so after dropping him off for the session, I settled into the warm funky atmosphere of an East Nashville cafe.

I spent several happy hours sipping on fluffy caffeinated beverages, tapping away on my pink laptop. I've really been enjoying all the time I've had lately for creative pursuits, including my Song U classes. They've been great for inspiring and encouraging my writing. In light of that, I'd decided to work towards their certification program. There's no extra cost, which is kind of nice. Basically, you can receive certificates in Lyrics or in Commercial Songs. Each has a list of required courses and accomplishments. When you complete these, the moderators will confirm everything and award you the certificate. In a small way, the certificate will be cool. But really, I know I work better when I have a clear goal in mind, so the promise of a certificate will help motivate me to be vigilant in my studies.

At the cafe, I completed two lessons. One was for my "Thinking as a Songwriter" class. I've been away from writing for a couple of months now, so I figured this would be a good choice for inspiring me. I knew it was the right class today when one of the exercises started with, "Visit a cafe and observe ... " My other current class is "Lyrical Contrast". It's starting simple, but I think it'll pick up.

After a few hours of latte bliss, Gerald and Rebekah called me to come over and hear the song. It's sounding really good, and I can't wait to hear it with the whole band.

I also got an email today that our SGM Radio articles are up. You can read my interview with Mitchel Jon here. I've been a fan of Mitchel's since Three Bridges, so it was really cool to learn more about him, his writing, and his influences.

Tomorrow, we're recording a worktape for another songwriter, and I also have to catch-up on my email. I'm horribly behind - I have at least 30 I need to answer. It's been great having some relaxing time lately though, and I refuse to punish myself for enjoying it!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Song U Feedback Class

I did it - I did my first Song U feedback class!

On Tuesday, Gerald and I recorded a worktape for "Point of the Song". We've performed this song several times, but we both feel it's not quite 'there' yet. We did a clean vocal/guitar recording in our 'upstairs studio.' Next, I posted the song on Song U. To keep with Song U's campus theme, each student has a 'locker' where you can keep mp3s and lyrics. To share your songs with teachers or other students, you load them into your 'backpack'. The backpack is private and can only be shared when you send someone the appropriate link. We all have a webpage too, and you can put songs from your locker on your page as well.

You can visit my page here. It has songs, current news, and an 'interview' about my songwriting loves and goals. (Wow, I seem uber quote-happy tonight!)

I was nervous about doing the online class, not because of the song, but because of the whole online thingy. I'm not very tech-savvy, and I had images of disconnecting myself just when my turn came up. I went online this afternoon just to view the 'classroom', and it looked so cool!

At ten to seven, I went back to the classroom for class. There's a space where you can type your comments, and another space where you read everyone's comments in a running dialogue. The main part of the screen shows everyone's backpacks. When you click on a backpack and then click on a song title, you can listen to the song while also reading the lyric and the backstory.

No one can see each other in the classroom (go to school in your pjs!), but there is a microphone. Sue would talk on the mic to give everyone feedback, and we would all post our comments as needed. Before the class, I shared the mic with another student so we could introduce ourselves. (Basically, you use the mic on your computer and take turns pressing a button that gives you the cyber conch.) He's a children's pastor in Knoxville and visits Nashville often, so we may all hook up some time.

We heard six songs all together. They were all very different, which made for an entertaining hour. Sue had very positive feedback on our song, and gave the constructive criticism we were hoping to hear.

It was all kind of exciting and cool. I will definitely do this class again, and when I get really brave, I'll move on to the Advanced Writers Class.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Recording on the Row

Today was a fantastic day for music. On Thursday, I'm doing an online course with Song U, but unlike the other courses I've taken with them, this course is live and interactive. It's limited to 10, preregistered students. Over the next day or so, we all need to load one song and lyric into our Song U 'backpack' (just a space online, but working with the campus metaphor...). Our instructor, Sue Smith, will listen to our songs, and then on Thursday, at the appointed time, everyone will gather online to listen to Sue give us feedback on our songs. We'll be able to listen to each other's songs, and respond through written comments. I haven't done this kind of class before, so I'm really excited about it.

My song for the class is a me and Gerald co-write called "The Point of the Song". We've performed it a fair bit and it gets really good response, but I know it's a step from being finished. Gerald and I spent the afternoon recording a worktape of the song (a worktape is like a simple demo, with just guitar and vocals). We did several takes, and managed to get a good one with no car alarms or dog barks in the background.

But tonight held the exciting stuff - I did my first vocal session on Music Row!

My friend, Jenna, music director at Redeemer, wanted to do some final touches on her album, and she asked me to join her in the studios to record some vocals. I was so excited and honoured to be asked. Jenna's music is primarily Praise and Worship, and the song we worked on was one of her originals.

I was a little nervous going in, only because I've never done any kind of session stuff before. I listened to Praise and Worship music in the car on the way there to get me in the mood. The studio is in the basement of Belmont Church on Music Row. The whole thing was very laid back, which was cool. In the end, the singing I needed to do was very simple. For me, it also helped that I'm very familiar with Jenna's voice. I've sung with her a lot in church, so I felt confident matching her style and phrasing.

This song was the final musical piece of Jenna's CD, so after the session, we went out for dinner to celebrate. We sat on a lovely patio enjoying the beautiful food and the change in the air. Ah, finally - Nashville is entering patio season!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Whitsitt Chapel & the SB Community

This morning, I drove out to the east side of Nashville to hear my friend, Brandon Andrews, sing at Whitsitt Chapel. I think it was still Nashville? It's out by Percy Priest Lake - so beautiful out there!

Brandon is a Stamps-Baxter alumnus, and I always like to see what our students are doing. This service was actually the church's Homecoming Sunday, so the place was packed. Brandon did one special song during the service, and then after the invitation, he did a mini-concert. I was afraid people might wander out to start enjoying the food and the sunshine, but everyone stayed for the great music.

Brandon is a young singer with a voice beyond his years. He sings a lot of great old songs, but once he starts recording newer stuff, I'd love to get a few of our songs in his hands.

Near the end of his concert, Brandon started his thank yous, and he introduced me! He pointed me out not just because of my school connection, but also as an artist with two radio singles! I felt so famous - and I'm pretty sure I blushed bright red! It was actually very cool, and I was just honoured that he would consider me worthy of mention.

After the service, we caught up, and also chatted with Brandon's friend Sondra, another SB alumnus. Sondra was the one to get the booking for Brandon, and it really got me thinking about our SB community. At the end of school this year, several students were teary-eyed. I reminded them that they weren't leaving school alone. They are now part of a community that lasts all year and crosses all state and national boundaries. Today, it was like seeing that community in action.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

40 years ago today, my parents stood in St. James Church - before family, friends, and God - and committed their lives to each other.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad, on 40 wonderful years of family, laughter, adventure, and love.

May we all be so blessed!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

DIVAs in Nashville - again!

What a great night! I think this was the second largest DIVA gathering in Christian DIVA history. Beth, Leah, Tara, Rachanee and I were all in Nashville on the same day, so we gathered for Chinese food and ice cream. It would have been nice to do a show together, but there just wasn't time to make that happen.

There were lots of laughs, stories, and general silliness. Beth and Leah just finished a two-week tour, so we got lots of stories from that. Beth even gave us a tailgate concert, singing a song they wrote about their tour.

Lunch was also a nice musical time. We had a gathering of the Redeemer praise team to catch up on summer vacations and adventures. Jenna is taking a mission trip to Sri Lanka this fall, so I'm hoping to get a Sunday in while she's still here.

It was nice to have a fun day out. Things really haven't slowed down much since NQC. Mom and Dad were here til Wednesday, and I've worked a few days too. I'm still trying to play catch-up on all emails, phone calls, NQC thank yous, etc. We realized this week that we've basically been going non-stop since June, so it's actually nice to have a bit of a quiet schedule for the next few weeks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

NQC - Final Day

For the first time this week, my feet genuinely hurt. I'm taking it as a sign that it's time to go home. I had grand intentions of getting up early today to pack so I'd save time tomorrow morning, but we all know what happens to good intentions...

Instead, I left the hotel in the early afternoon to attend the Crabb Family showcase. I missed the opening songs, but arrived just as Aaron and Amanda Crabb were finishing a song. From there, the other three Crabb incarnations each took the stage for 2-song sets. Mike and Kelly Bowling sounded great with strong vocals. Next, Crabb Revival came on stage. I had sent them my demo when they were looking for a third singer. Seeing them today, I realized two things: One, I was not the singer for this group. Two, I am an instant fan of Crabb Revival! They were awesome! It was driving and rootsy and had lots of groove. Killer vocals and awesome instrumental parts made everything soulful and cool. Love them!

Jason Crabb was backed up by a five piece band, and he was just incredible. (No real surprise there.) There is nothing like Jason's voice, his phrasing, his choice of riffing notes. Always wonderful, always musical, always spiritual. After Jason's songs, the rest of the family joined him for the 'reunion' part of the showcase, but I had to leave early to hear my friend Wess Adams in the Regional Artist Showcase. Wess is a Stamps-Baxter friend, and I've heard him sing many times, but today was definitely his best performance that I've seen. The Dove Brothers were one of the guest artists on the showcase, and the audience nearly lost control when they sang "Get Away Jordan".

The exhibit hall was sheer madness for the first two hours tonight. NQC moved the Singing News Fan Awards to tonight, and I'm sure there must be a difference in attendance. Singing News had a songwriting contest this year, and part of the prize was a performance of the song on mainstage. Well, the quartet to sing the song was Allison Durham Speer, Johnny Minick, Aaron Minick (my fabulous producer!), and Mike Allen. They are still performing as an unnamed quartet, so tonight they announced their new contest called Actually, that was supposed to be announced, but the audio was out on Bill Gaither's taped piece that made the announcement. I watched their performance with Brian Speer, so I got the inside scoop.

After their performance, I got to spend some time with Allison and Brian and show them my banner and booth. Since they were part of the Banner Photo Selection Committee, it was great to be able to show them the gorgeous finished product. We also did some Elijah Conference chatting. I can't believe that's only a few weeks away!

Freedom Hall was packed again tonight, so Tara and I watched most of the awards from a live feed in the exhibit hall. Tara was getting a drive back to Nashville tonight, so she left just after the awards, taking her table and stools with her. Naturally, that pretty much dismantled the booth, but I was determined to keep my half of the booth going, so I left my banner up, and put the CD rack on the chair with a few artfully displayed business cards. Later, Wess gave me the flowers from his booth, so I placed them strategically and decoratively by the chair. Probably didn't bring me any business, but it all made me smile. I spent the next few hours visiting booths, saying hi to people, booking another SGM Radio interview (Mark Bishop!), and shopping for CDs. I also got to meet two more radio people, so that was cool.

My friends, the Stutzman Family, had comfy couches and a live feed in their booth, so near the end of the night, I just hung out with them, watching the final mainstage performances and eating their homemade cookies. Last year, Mark Lowrey and Lordsong were one of my favourite acts all week, and tonight's set kept the standard high. I guess, like a lot of people, I mostly know Mark through his Gaither appearances. Maybe I don't know enough about him, but I feel like he's found a new level of performing in the last few years. His voice is great and his patter is smooth and easy. He has you laughing hard, and then boom, he nails you with this serious, heartfelt thought. Lordsong sounded incredible, and the whole presentation was very professional and entertaining. I'm not quite ready for Mark's senior tour, but I'd be interested in seeing him in a solo performance.

Finally, it was time to break down the booth (or my half-booth, as I started calling it). As I was bringing stuff to the car, I started to think about the week. I know I'll spend more time with this as the week goes on, but for tonight, I think I'm really pleased with it. I think we came here with realistic goals, and overall, I think we met them. I learned a lot, I met lots of great people, I made some great connections, and I feel I performed well. Now, it's just about getting a good night's sleep and having a safe drive home tomorrow. Can't wait to see the puppies!

Friday, September 12, 2008

NQC - Day Five

Long day! After last night's midnight excursion, I was brave and bold enough to be up bright and early to attend this morning's Paradigm showcase. This is an industry, invite-only showcase, but I have a lot of friends on their label, so I got a ticket and took the opportunity to see a lot of friends at once. I got to hear my friend Darlene Chapman, who was wonderful. I also got to hear a number of female soloists I've heard of but never seen perform, like Cricket Lee, Tammy Kirkland, and Grace Bailey. It's always nice to see what other soloists are doing - a great chance to learn what audiences are seeing, and how other artists are approaching the solo stage. Jennifer Strickland just released an entirely self-written album, and her song was great, and the Shireys also did an original song written by their young female lead singer. Kim Hopper hosted the event, and just nailed a couple of solo numbers. Paradigm isn't a women-only label, but you'd hardly know it this morning.

Gerald and I had this afternoon reserved on our calendar for the songwriter's showcase. Last year, this showcase was the highlight of my week. It was one hour, and many songs were performed acoustically or by the writer. This year, it was a much bigger production. Phil Cross put together a 3 hour show to record for a DVD. (I missed the intro, so I think this is right.) Many songs were sung to tracks, and just a few were done acoustically. There were some definite highlights, though. There was a choir and an orchestra, and we all know how I feel about a good choir! Ronnie Hinson told the story behind his classic, "The Lighthouse", and Mosie Lister spoke about his song, "Where No One Stands Alone." The show ended with Kyla Rowland talking about "Holy Shore." I love this song, and the Perrys finished the whole show in great style.

It wasn't hard to tell the Gaithers were in the house today: You had to hunt for parking, and for the first few hours, while GVB and Signature Sound were having autograph sessions, you could hardly walk through the exhibit hall. It was great to have a lot of people there, because it also meant I got to see lots of Stamps-Baxter people.

Tara and I had a good day for radio. We gave out several CDs and press kits, and I did two interviews. One was with a DJ from Sarnia, Ontario, and the other was with Chuck Peters of Southern Gospel Reporter. (You can visit there to see my ad!) I thought I'd be nervous about doing the interviews, but I've felt very relaxed, so it's really just been fun. Thinking about it, I don't really know why I'd be nervous. I usually talk about music, Stamps-Baxter, Canada, Gerald, and the Gospel - why would I not love that?

After the second interview, Tara and I had supper with Tammy Norris. Tammy is in the process of putting together her first ever women's conference. She's hosting it at her home church, and has organized the whole thing herself. Tara and I have tossed about ideas about hosting or somehow getting involved in women's conferences, so it was fascinating to hear about Tammy's plans and experiences.

But after that conversation, we had to make our way to Freedom Hall for my second only mainstage performance this week: Signature Sound and Gaither Vocal Band. The hall was packed! Tara and I finally found empty seats way up on the second level, in a back corner somewhere. Luckily, two Stamps-Baxter students saw us and pointed out some empty seats. The ground level was packed, and people were standing and blocking up every entrance. Signature Sound was on fire! I know some people aren't into their style of music and performance, but what can I say? I'm a music theatre girl - I love singing and dancing and any kind of dynamic stagecraft. They sounded great, and they fed off the energy of the packed house. Gaither Vocal Band sounded fantastic! They did a mix of classics and new songs. Their blend was beautiful and the solo verses sounded great. It was a fantastic double set - well worth hunting for seats!

That sort of wrapped up the day. There are a number of things we want to do tomorrow, and I've already started wrapping my mind around packing up the booth and all our stuff at the hotel. I can't believe how quickly this week has passed by. I already have plans for next year...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NQC - Day Four

Awesome day! It is currently 2:00am Louisville time as I start to write this entry. A lot happened today, so I'll try to get down as much as I can:

I woke up feeling very relaxed, until I realized that this was Showcase and Single Release Day. Ugh - nervous knot in my stomach! Gerald made the espresso while I started the day with vocal warm-ups. (Yes, we brought our espresso maker to Louisville!) I went over to sign up for the showcase and have showcase orientation. My showcase today was the Regional Artist Showcase, which is basically the first level of showcases. They go up from here in prestige, the number of songs you can sing, etc. I think anyone with a booth gets to sing in this one, but frankly, I was just excited for the opportunity. It's organized by the Artist Initiative Committee, who were all present to welcome us this morning. Part of our showcase overlapped with the Gaither/Signature Sound showcase over in Freedom Hall, so the committee was also there to assure us that whether our crowd was five or five thousand, they were happy we were there and please have a great time. Phil Cross, songwriter extraordinaire and committee member, reminded us that "God will not bless you to be somebody else". Love that! After a quick chat from the sound guy, I headed back to the hotel for more rehearsal.

I really wanted to see the Gaither showcase, but I figured I had to give my own rehearsal priority. Gerald took me through a vocal warm-up (so nice to have a husband who sings), and we did some final rehearsing of the song. We then loaded up the car with all the Single Release stuff, and headed over.

I got to the showcase in time to hear about an hour's worth of other performers. The Hoppers did a song, and Kim and Dean also did a duet. I would love to tell you the names of some of the other regional artists, but to be honest, I was too nervous to keep track of the names. I'm fine if I have a whole show to do, but sometimes, it's just harder to sing one song. In a concert, you can warm up into it (not a good practice, but it happens sometimes), but with a single song, you have to be 'on' from that first note and make an impact in just a few minutes. I was the last on the program, which actually made me kind of happy. The Gaithers were over by that time, so we had a pretty good crowd of several hundred people. The moment I hit the stage, all my nerves disappeared and I just had a great time. I sang "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland", and the crowd really seemed to like it. There was lots of clapping and smiles, and that just felt great.

Mark Bishop closed the showcase with two of his songs, and I'm always a fan of his. After the showcase, I got lots of great feedback, which felt wonderful, but the most powerful moment was from the man who told me he was blessed by the song. It's all worth it just for that...

Tara finally arrived in Louisville today, so after the showcase, we gathered at the booth to prepare for the Single Release Party. While getting ready, several people from Ontario stopped by to visit, so that was very cool. At 5:30, we got the party started. We played "Neighbour" and Tara's new single, "God's Got a Word", from my laptop. We passed out mini-chocolate bars, and stapled on each one was a slip of paper asking people to request our songs from their local radio stations. Because we were building on the "neighbour" theme, we also took prayer requests for neighbours. People could write down their requests on an index card and place it in a box, and we're going to pray for them tomorrow. And as a special "neighbour" gift for DJs, I had these neat little slate signs with "Welcome" or "Home" carved in them. All in all, I think the party was a great success! Again, we were up against the Gaither autograph session, but we had a good number of people come through and talk to us, make prayers requests, and eat our chocolate. Tara and I also got a joint interview out of it. A DJ from Ohio came by, and after chatting with us, asked if he could interview us together. We talked about our songs and about the Christian DIVAs, so it was all very cool!

After that, Tara and I decided we would try touring the aisles and visiting the different booths. Unfortunately/fortunately, we kept running into friends, so we never got very far. We did get over to America's Home Spun Gospel to record some liners, so that was cool.

At 8:32, however, I made sure I was in Freedom Hall for the one performer I've seen all week - Ben! He had a ten minute spot where he lead the whole audience in singing Gaither favourites. In true singing school style, he got everyone on their feet to sing Because He Lives, Something Beautiful, and He Touched Me. What a great sound! When he was finished, we left to go back to the booth, when the next group, The Dove Brothers, started to sing the Speer classic "Rain". Well of course, they pulled up Ben for the lead. It was awesome! He just nailed it, and the Doves sounded great, the crowd went nuts, and three encores later, Ben finally left the stage.

At 9:30, we all wandered over to the booth for a 'surprise' birthday party for Rob Patz. I say 'surprise' because he clearly knew about everything, but with a bit of singing and some great chocolate cake, it was a nice little party.

The rest of the night was socializing, networking, sharing CDs with radio people, and just trying to spend time with as many friends as possible. At midnight, we all wandered over to the Executive Suites for the midnight breakfast buffet. (I was actually a little overloaded on heavy foods, so I chose a midnight salad instead.) Tara, Gerald, and I shared a table with Judy Nelon and Sue Dodge, who were great ladies, and since Sue sang with the Speers, it was nice to hear some of her history as well.

And that, of course, is why I'm writing at this crazy night-time hour. My friends are singing in a showcase tomorrow morning, and I really want to see them, so I must go sleep for a few hours, and then start all over again. Now that I've sung my showcase, I don't care if I don't sleep til Sunday night!

Shot of the Day: Me and Tara in our first joint interview!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NQC - Day Three

So, we actually did leave early tonight! Tomorrow is going to be a long day that includes both my showcase and my Single Release Party, so a good night's sleep is pretty crucial.

Today was a great day. We spent the morning doing final preparations for tomorrow's party, and after a few phone calls to ask Tara to bring more supplies, I think we're in good shape.

I spent the afternoon at the SoGospelNews Showcase, which was off-site at one of the hotel ballrooms. I heard a trio called Calvary's Voice who were really good, but mostly I went to see friends. My friends Chad and Phillip sang and played in a quartet called Victorious, and they were great. And my buddy Brandon Andrews blew the roof off the place with his three songs. Such a great voice!

Our first guest at the booth today was a DJ from Ontario! I was happy to offer him some 'Canadian content', and he was one of the few people there who appreciated the MAPL symbol on the back of "Real Big Fan".

I did a lot of booth visiting today also. I visited my friend Darlene Chapman at the Paradigm booth, and got to meet a lot of people there. They gave me tickets to their invite-only showcase on Friday, so I'm excited about that. I gave my CD to the XM people, so that would be a cool place to hear my songs. Gerald and I also had great conversations with several people, including people with the Billy Graham Library. I would just love to visit there some day.

I also had a great chat with Ron from the Klondyke Gospel Music Center in Ozark, Alabama. I did a concert there this spring, and today he booked me again for a concert next March. Yay! If I can get a few more bookings this week, I'll be a very happy camper.

It's interesting talking to the different artists here and just trying to learn as much as we can about how this industry works. For all our time in the music industry in Canada, we're still newcomers to the world of Southern Gospel. We're taking lots of notes on things we like (and things we don't like). I'm happy with the way this week is progressing, and I know we'll be in even better shape for next year.

Gerald and I just did a quick rehearsal for tomorrow, and I know we'll take another crack at things in the morning. Time for that good night's sleep...

NQC - Day Two

Like most bloggers this week, I'm adjusting the time on my posts so it keeps it on the appropriate date. Suffice to say: it is currently much later than the time on this post suggests.

You see, I had this wonderful idea tonight. "Let's leave a little early so we can get back to the hotel and do all the final prep work for Thursday's Single Release Party." Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it was good, til we got back to the room and I realized I'd left my laptop back in the exhibit hall. PANIC!! I was that guy from the commercials. "I checked my notebook!" Gerald was already in his pajamas when I realized it, so he changed back into regular clothes (bless his heart!) and we raced back to the Expo Center. Gerald found a security guard who let him back in - it was well after midnight at this point, so the only people around were security and cleaners. We got back to the hotel close to one a.m. So much for my "early night"...

Despite the ending, we had wonderful day! We got there early enough to catch the Regional Artist Showcase. There were some great groups, and the featured group was the Dixie Echoes. They are just one of my favourite groups to see live. I've never seen a full show, but their's were some of my favourite performances of last year's NQC. Their mic choreography is dynamic without being slick, and I just love watching them.

Today was a big socializing day for me. I had a great visit with my friend, Susan Adams, who's husband Wess is a solo artist. They're also Stamps-Baxter friends, which are always some of my favourite people. Susan and Wess are with Song Garden, so I got to meet a number of their artists as well.

I ran into lots of familiar faces today, like Young Harmony, songwriter Sue Smith, and more Stamps-Baxter people. I introduced myself to Jim and Melissa Brady and got to thank him for the interview, and I also met some more artists that I'd like to interview.

We're across the aisle from a wonderful trio from Florida called Great Day. At one point today, they were talking to Gerald about his songwriting, and they quipped, "Why don't you write a song for us?" Well, they didn't realize who they were talking to. Within the hour, Gerald had a verse and chorus, lyric and melody, for them. (It's really beautiful too.) They jokingly shouted over to us, "Got our song yet?", and I loved the looks on their faces when he said "Yes". I see him write so quickly so often, and it always amazes me, but it was really cool to see their faces when the song started to come together before their eyes. Can't wait for him to finish it!

We also had a really cool visit today. A man walked up and said, "Hi, I'm a 'real big fan'." He's a DJ from Indiana, and his favourite song on my album is "Real Big Fan"! (which, of course, Gerald wrote!) He'd written and told me that recently, so it was really cool to meet him in person today. He actually told us that he plays the song every week! Whoo-hoo! Time to tour in Indiana...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

NQC Morning Update

Here's the "Rob TV" I did yesterday. To read the Jim Brady article that he talks about, just visit here.

NQC - Day One

Sooooooo excited. Tired, but excited!

I got my good night's sleep last night, which was a real blessing. After an easy morning, we went over to the Kentucky Expo Center to load in our stuff. When we had everything moved into our booth space, I left Gerald there so I could take the car back to the parking area. Well, I got caught in the long twisty-turny one-way road that drives round and round the expo grounds. It reminded me of that scene in European Vacation where the Griswolds get caught in a British driving circle and Clark keeps saying "Big Ben ... Parliament".

Back to the booth: It took a bit to figure out how to balance the two banners plus the table plus all our other stuff, but in the end, I think it looks great! We had a bit of time before the hall opened, so after a snack (ribbon fries!), we wandered out to hear a bit of the afternoon showcase. We didn't get to hear many of the regional singers, but we did catch the performance of the King's Herald's which was great.

The exhibit hall is open from 4-11:30pm each night, which went quickly today. There are lots of Stamps-Baxter people here, so there were mini-reunions all day. My friends, John and Mary, are working for a radio station, so I did a radio interview with them. We had several DJs drop by, so we were able to pass on our music to them. I also did a "Rob TV" - a four-minute video interview with Rob Patz of SGM I'll post a link when it's posted online.

The rest of the day was just spent visiting and chatting with people. I didn't get to see any of the mainstage performances tonight, so I'm going to try and see a few groups tomorrow night. I'm so happy to be here this week. I'm proud of the music and message we're promoting, and let's face it - I just love being around anything Southern Gospel!

Shot of the Day - Fabulous Booth 448!

Monday, September 08, 2008

NQC ... about to begin!

I'm writing tonight from Louisville, Kentucky! We're all checked into our hotel, a plan is in place for the week, and all that's left for tonight is to get a good night's sleep...

We got back to Nashville late last Tuesday night after a long but uneventful drive from Toronto ("uneventful" being the best kind of drive home). Wednesday should have been a rest day, but there was far too much to do before coming to Louisville today. Wednesday was spent cleaning, unpacking, laundry ... all that glamourous musician stuff.

I worked for Ben on Thursday and Friday, so that added lots of busyness into the week. It was great to reconnect with my Stamps-Baxter buddies, and to work on school stuff.

Full work days meant just the nights for NQC prep. I have new business cards to match my banner (I'm all about branding these days), and they became a full drama themselves, almost worthy of matching the banner drama. There were lots of go-arounds on design, and then the plan was to get them printed and sent overnight. Well, numerous complications arose, and we finally ended up having a short run made locally.

The banner arrived Friday, and when I got home, Gerald had it set up at the end of the hallway so it was the first thing I saw when I got home. It's sooooo pretty! Really truly beautiful! I can't wait to have it on display. It's soooooo pretty! Yay, Brian for awesome photos and Lyndsay for an incredible design!!!!!!

Saturday was supposed to be my day to get all the last minute things done - printing press kits, buying groceries for the hotel, putting together business supplies, packing - but my body decided it was time to get sick. I couldn't do a thing! I felt awful, but my greatest challenge was not freaking out about all the things I couldn't get done. Lots of deep breathing, sipping tea, and spending time reading "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" (awesome!!!!!!).

That left lots of things to do today, but it was most important for me to go to church this morning. This kind of week can be so draining emotionally and spiritually. There's a real danger of letting self-promotion and stage-time distract from the real reason why we make all this music. It was my first time back at Redeemer for a month. It was so grounding to see friends, sing great songs, be still and know that God is God.

The afternoon was the madhouse we knew it would be, and now we're here. When I think back at last year's NQC, it's amazing to think how much has changed for me this year. It's going to be a crazy/busy/wonderful week. Can't wait to get started...