Saturday, March 29, 2008

WAJ Tomorrow

For the uninitiated, WAJ stands for Write About Jesus. WAJ is usually an awesome three day Christian songwriting workshop held in Missouri each October, but tomorrow, they're holding their first ever one day Nashville workshop. Gerald and I are both going - so excited!

I've spent the week studying the schedule and choosing my classes. At each of the seven one-hour sessions, you will be able to choose between taking a lecture or attending an open critique. There are 4-5 lectures per hour, so there's going to be lots of choice. Some of the topics are broad, like melody, lyrics, or structure, and some focus in on specific genres like Southern Gospel or country. There are also a few classes on demos and the business of songwriting.

I'm planning to attend three critiques, but I think Gerald will probably focus on this. We've spent tonight culling his 100 songs down to 20 songs and then again down to 8. We have demos, lyric sheets, and everything else you need for a good critique.

There's going to be a lecture on writing musicals, so I'll be front row for that one. Sooo looking forward to tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Garage Band

Mom and Dad are here! They've come for a week, and I couldn't be more excited!

On a practical musical note, I've finally learned how to use Garage Band! I needed a demo for a co-write I did this winter. My co-writer sent me a piano track, and a friend was supposed to help me do the vocal, but things fell through at the last minute. So last night, after everyone was in bed, I stayed up til 3 in the morning learning how to use Garage Band. Every other writer in the country is able to use it, so I figured it mustn't be that hard to work it out myself. I did a test last night, and then recorded the vocal today. I'm not very techno-savvy, so I'm very proud of myself!

Write About Jesus is this Saturday, so Gerald and I want to have lots of demos ready for the critiquing sessions. Other than that, this whole week is all about family!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday...

Today was my first encounter with the traditional Anglican three hour service.

Growing up in Newfoundland, our church always had a three hour service. But, as children, Mom figured we'd never last through the whole thing. We'd attend the morning service designed for families, and in the afternoon, we'd dye Easter eggs and eat homemade macaroni and cheese. That's my memory of the three hour service, and it's a good one!

I arrived at Redeemer this morning at 11am for a rehearsal with the praise team. There were only three of us (oddly symbolic of the three hours). By noon, there were very few people in the sanctuary, and no mad rush of cars in the parking lot. On Palm Sunday, Thomas told people they were not obligated to stay for the full three hours; they could come late, leave early, or just drop by for an hour. Some people did that, but a few minutes after the service started, a decent crowd gathered and stayed for the whole time. We were all in it together.

We worshiped for three hours, from noon to 3pm, to symbolize the time Jesus hung on the cross. The theme of the service was the seven last words of Jesus. Thomas opened and closed the service, but the bulk of things were lead by various staff members. For each word, a staff member would read the Bible passage containing that word, then give their own ten minute meditation/homily/interpretation of that word. We would pray, sing a musical reflection, and then there was a long period of silence before the next word.

And let me tell you, there was a lot of silence! At first, it was a little uncomfortable. What do you do? What to think about? But after a while, you settle into contemplative worship, and the whole thing becomes quite wonderful. I thought back to the quiet day I spent at the monastery a few years ago. We live in such loud and busy times. It's good sometimes to just be still and know that He is God...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Palm Sunday!

I've been a bit of a lazy blogger lately. Not because things aren't happening, but I guess because it's all little stuff, day by day. Also, I'm writing the Gospel Thoughts blog with Dad, and that's probably eating up some of my blogging energy.

First off, Happy Palm Sunday! I am so excited about this week. Holy Week is totally my favourite time in the church, possibly even more than Christmas. I love all the different services, and the theatrical part of me loves the way we tell one amazing story, day-by-day, over the course of a whole week.

I sang both services this morning at Redeemer. I brought "Go To Dark Gethsemane" to our music director, and she loved it so much she asked me to do it today and Good Friday. We just used keyboard, and the effect was simple and lovely. It went really well at both services, and the feedback was tremendous. I love that song, so the whole thing was just a joy.

And here's some updates from the last week:

- I now have 1100 CDs in my living room! The final manufacturing round was done, and we are now overflowing with boxes. Luckily, I bought a huge armoire on Friday, so things should look fairly civilized soon.

- I'm in the Gaither Homecoming Magazine! A few month's ago, Ben was interviewed for the magazine, and Rebekah and I, as school staff, sat in on the interview. I was asked about my experience at the school, and she included my story in a paragraph! Very excited! I need to find out where I can get a copy. Oh, and they spelled my name wrong. I was highly insulted, til I noticed they spelled Allison Durham Speer's name wrong too. At that point, I just figured I was in good company!

- My next SGM article is due this week, so last week, I interviewed Ben about his experience singing with Elvis. Yes, the Elvis! What a fascinating story! I'll post a link when it's up.

- Tried setting up a SNOCAP store for digital downloads, but they take way too much per song. Going to cancel it and try something else.

- I finished reading the Bible! Yes, I know I was on a Bible-in-a-year program, but got a little behind, and I kept putting off those final few chapters. But the goal was never about timing, just to read the whole thing, cover to cover. I'm so pleased to have done it! It was incredibly inspiring, both artistically and spiritually. I'd read and studied many of the books and major stories, but this gave me a more holistic view of the whole book. I highly recommend this exercise!

- And finally, now that the manufacturing is complete, I'm finishing all my paperwork for my mechanical licenses. (Basically, that's what allows me to record someone else's songs, and how those songwriters get paid by me.) I've heard lots of people say they only want to record public domain songs because it's "so hard" to get licenses. It's not hard - it's just work. Glad to have it all wrapped up.

That's it for now. Very busy week ahead. Church every night, and lots more promo stuff to work on...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Christian DIVAs Weekend! - Gateway of Hope

We were up early today to drive out to Lebanon (pronounced LEH-beh-nin) to finally perform with the Christian DIVAs.

I was able to book us for a morning service at Gateway of Hope Christian Center. Gerald and I sang in their Christmas concert, and I felt the DIVAs would be a great fit for their community.

We were actually doing the entire service, which was a fairly new experience for me. I've lead music for a whole service before, but that's always been guided by a pastor, and it's usually been liturgical.

The pastor and praise team did open things up with a few songs and prayer, and then handed the service over to us. We opened with a praise song, where we sang our fabulous 3-part harmony and got everyone on their feet and clapping.

Leah and Beth have called their tour the "Road to Recovery Tour". The core of our service today involved 2 songs from each of us, with a 5-10 minute testimony on the theme of 'recovery'. I chose to speak about losing Steve, and my anger with God, and how letting God back into my life started my recovery from grief. It's been a while since I've spoken about it publicly. In Toronto, almost everyone who knows me knows my story. Here, it's something I tell people as I get to know them. You never want to introduce yourself to someone with the line, "Hi, let me tell you how I was crushed by suicide", and yet, I really think people don't know me until they know about that part of me.

I opened with "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland", and people smiled and laughed and clapped along. It felt awesome! Next came my testimony. I was really nervous, but Gerald had reminded me just to tell the story and be honest, and that's what I did. After the service, I was blessed when several people told me how much my testimony meant to them, so for that, it was all worth it.

After my testimony, I sang "Abide With Me" as a song of comfort, and I think that really worked. As a trio, we ended our portion of the service with a praise and worship set. Again, we were able to sing in harmony, which was a wonderful blessing. I felt like I was in a girl band!

The pastor ended the service with a time of prayer (he used some of my "Neighbour" lyrics as the transition! whoo-hoo), and an incredibly joyful dismissal. That church has such a great sense of community, and it was an honour to join them today.

And happy day, we were there on Cookout Sunday! After the service, we were treated to hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, salads, brownies, cookies... all good stuff!

All in all, I'm so happy I was a part of this DIVAs weekend. Musically, spiritually, and in relationships, I am just feeling so full and satisfied. Praise God!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Christian DIVAs Weekend! - Gig Canceled!

Well, the snow came! It actually didn't come until later in the evening, but the owner of tonight's venue figured we wouldn't get an audience with the 'storm warning', so he canceled the show. Here's how the day played out...

After posting my blog this morning, I headed out to Gallatin to pick up my CDs and tracks. As soon as I got them, I popped the tracks in the CD player. They sound amazing! It's incredible to hear these songs, especially the ones I wrote, all set up like this. It was really lovely to listen the background vocals on their own, and to really listen to the track and imagine what it will be like to sing with them this weekend! So excited!

While listening, I drove over to the hotel to finally meet the DIVAs! I joined the group last summer, and I've spoken to Leah on the phone a few times, but basically, I've only ever communicated with Leah and Beth via email. How awesome to meet them in person! There were little moments when it was almost surreal - to know some one's personality and their voice for months, and then you finally see them in front of you - it's all kind of wild.

Leah and Beth have been touring together for a few weeks, so I knew they'd already have an established routine and chemistry. I also knew that this would present a challenge for me to enter into their dynamic, not destroying the balance, but offering my gifts as would be best for the shows.

Luckily, we were all open to the process, and things fit together so beautifully! We learned about the cancellation this afternoon, so we focused on rehearsing for Sunday. We'll each do 2 solo songs plus our testimony. We'll have a group opening song, and we'll end with a worship set, with Beth on guitar. Leah has been singing a lower harmony, which leaves the upper harmony open for me. 3-part girl harmony - Love it!!

Since our night was free, we grabbed Gerald and Leah's husband, Jan, and all went to dinner at Maggiano's. We'd never been there before, but it reminded me of Papa Leoni's in Toronto (how much do I miss that place!). We ate tonnes of pasta and gorgeous desserts, and we laughed like old friends.

It's actually 1:19am as I write this, and the snow is still coming down. It's far from a 'storm', but it's definitely a legitimate snowfall. Oh, and on the way home, we had thunder and lightening - in the snow! Crazy!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Christian DIVAs Weekend! - Morning of...

I wanted to write a quick entry last night, but I was completely shut down by a terrific headache. It was horrible! I couldn't do a thing all night, and I went to bed at 10 o'clock! (Very unusual!)

So, here's what's on the go:

- This weekend is our Christian DIVAs weekend in Nashville! Whoo-hoo! Leah and Beth are here already, staying in a hotel. We're going to meet and rehearse this afternoon, and our first gig is tonight. (Assuming it doesn't get canceled on account of the "terrible" snow storm coming our way!)

- Running out to AHA Productions today to pick up 100 CDs and my mastered tracks. So excited! Can't believe I moved 150 CDs already, and I haven't even performed any songs from it yet. The big run of 1000 won't be ready til next week, which is why I needed the short run for this weekend.

- My latest SGM Article is now up! I did an interview with Charlotte Ritchie, and so far, the feedback has been very positive. And ... they put it as this month's "SGM Feature"! You can check it out here.

- Gerald and I have signed up for the Write About Jesus workshop in Nashville this month. Should be very awesome!

- I took a Song U course this week on "Releasing Your Record". Very informative, and gave me lots of great ideas for marketing Real Big Fan.

That's it! I'll post something again tonight after our gig. Now, off to stretch, warm up, and enjoy the wonders of the day!