Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Hymns in the Key of Grace" now available online!

"Hymns in the Key of Grace" is now available for purchase online!

Since we're still in Boxing Day Sale madness, we're offering 30% off all multiple online purchases.

To purchase, please visit here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Week

A very Merry Christmas to you!

Yes, it's still Christmas. In our family tradition, we celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, which means we don't take down our decorations or stop celebrating until January 6, Old Christmas Day, Epiphany. Of course, Mom's birthday is January 8 (Elvis's birthday!), so we really don't stop celebrating til after then.

We had an incredible Christmas! After our final caroling gig on Christmas Eve, we had a wonderful church service at St. John's! Gerald was still unable to play guitar (find out what happened here), so he took lead on a lot of the vocals, and I had the chance to sing harmony. We spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day relaxing with family, and returned to St. John's Sunday morning to play for our morning service. We were blessed to have Chris McKhool join us again. With his fiddle, Monique's piano, and our particular talents, we're a great team. Hoping this combo doesn't have to end just cause Christmas is over! (yes, that's a less-than-subtle hint!)

Since then, there's been lots more relaxing and eating, eating, eating. Today, I wrote my January article for, and wrote a few of my professional thank yous, and then more eating.

Seriously though, this is my week for reflecting on 2009, and planning for 2010. I love this time of year - the world is fresh, exciting, and full of potential. Hope you're feeling inspired too!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Day After Christmas Carol Service Day!

We were all up far too late to do any decent writing last night. As I write now, I'm listening to lovely Christmas music, and gearing up for a very Christmasy day of tree decorating, gift shopping, and making chocolate!

So, yesterday was all Plan B! Gerald stayed home in the morning, resting and recovering from Friday's 'incident'. We were scheduled to sing at St. John's Weston, and it was the first time in years I sang somewhere without him. Their awesome organist, Marianne, stepped in and accompanied me on most of my songs, and I played guitar for "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly." Sometimes, having to change things at the last minute can wreck havoc, but sometimes, it gives you a new energy and a we're-all-in-this-together feeling. Happily, the latter happened yesterday morning. I sang well, people loved it, and there were lots of smiles and long conversations at the coffee hour after the service.

Gerald really wanted to rest up so he could be part of the Christmas Carol Service at St. John's York Mills last night. With the organ, choir, handbells, and praise team, it's one of the most musical and wonderful services of the year. We revamped our songs so Monique did all the accompaniment on piano, and we could have 3 voices on all the songs. Overall, things went really well! The carols were great, and our songs (non-traditional as they may be) were really well received. Mom and Dad came to the service, so it was reunion night as well.

Now, to get to that chocolate...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gerald's Accident and Plan B...

Yesterday morning, we were getting ready to head out for the day, when I heard a horrible yell coming from outside. Gerald had somehow got his right hand caught in the car door. It was crushed and bleeding and awful.

Long story short, we spent the day in emergency. Nothing is broken (praise God!), but his hand is severely cut and swollen. Today, he's still in pain, and exhausted. We've been told it'll be a week before he feels better, but til then, there is no way he can play guitar!

This has drastically changed our plans for tomorrow! In the morning, we were supposed to be guest artists at St. John's Weston for their Christmas Carol Service. I contacted their wonderful organist, Marianne, and she's going to accompany me on 3 songs, and I'll play guitar on one.

In the evening, we're scheduled to appear with the praise team at St. John's York Mills Christmas Carol Service. (Seriously - this would happen just before the biggest services of the year!) I'll be singing as planned, and Monique will lead all our songs on piano. If Gerald is feeling up to it, he may come along and sing, but we're going to play that by ear.

I'm dividing all my time today between taking care of Gerald and the puppies, and re-planning tomorrow. If you're the praying kind, please throw one up for us tonight for quick healing, and for our gigs tomorrow. I am so ready for an eggnog latte!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

St. Luke's, Centennial Park, and a Gospel choir!

This is my quick weekend wrap-up. 'Quick' because I need to get up at 6:00 am tomorrow, and as you know, that's not my favourite time of day!

This weekend was awesome! On Friday, we caroled for Toronto City Church's Christmas dinner. We were a surprise for the guests, and they loved it! We took requests, sang all our favourites, and were treated to dinner and Yule log cakes.

Saturday, we caroled at a seniors home in Etobicoke, and then made our way out to Oakville for a concert at St. Luke's Palermo. This was a fundraising concert for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and we had an awesome time. Gerald and I did a full night of Gospel, Christmas, and original songs, wrapping the whole thing up with a lively carol sing-along. There was a great reception after where we stuffed ourselves and made new friends.

This morning at St. John's York Mills, we were treated to a visit from the St. Stephen's youth choir. This 16 voice Gospel choir features children ages 10-16, and they were fantastic! They brought a keyboard player and a drummer, and their music gave a new energy to the service. There is already talk of having them back next year.

This evening, Monika joined us for the Christmas celebration at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. Similar to Allan Gardens last week, this beautiful (free!) Christmas event features apple cider, sleigh rides, a bonfire, a brass quintet, and fabulous Christmas carolers (yes, us!). As it gets dark, they light candles throughout the conservatory, and the effect is so lovely and Christmasy!

Tomorrow will be a 3 gig day, starting at 7:30 am. Yes, A.M. Time for tea and sleep...

Monday, December 07, 2009

New CD - Hymns in the Key of Grace!

I'm thrilled to announce the release of my new CD, "Hymns in the Key of Grace"!

This collection of 'intimate' hymns celebrates our quiet moments with God. Featuring songs like "Just as I am," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," this album is perfect for reflection, prayer, or just singing along!

This special project features some wonderful talent! Producer Brian Speer created the perfect balance for our intimate ensemble. Jazz pianist, Teri Reid, created beautiful accompaniments and solos. My talented husband, Gerald Flemming, brought his own brand of creativity to the guitar arrangements. My dear friend, Tara Jackson, added her voice to the background vocals. And Gaither Homecoming artist, Allison Durham Speer, joined me for a duet of "In the Garden."

"Hymns in the Key of Grace" is the perfect stocking stuffer, hostess gift, or present for yourself!

We're not set up for online orders yet, so to purchase, please drop me an email at

"Hymns in the Key of Grace" and "Real Big Fan," can be purchased at all live performances this December! For a full list of concerts and other events, please click here.

Hope you enjoy the artwork! The photos were taken Shannon Fontaine, and the graphics were designed by Lyndsay Brewer, both from Nashville.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Allan Gardens - Christmas has begun!

This morning's service at St. John's was great! We did 2 wonderful songs that were new for Gerald and me - "Emmanuel (Holy Manger Ground)" by Chris Tomlin, and "My Deliverer" by Rich Mullins. Both were great, and I think Gerald and I are going to add "My Deliverer" to our program some time.

This afternoon, Monika joined us for Christmas caroling at Allan Gardens in Toronto. Today was the official start of their Christmas Flower Show. I think this is the sixth or seventh year we've done this event, and for me, it signifies the start of my Christmas celebrations. Allan Gardens is one of my favourite places in the city at any time, but it's especially beautiful this time of year. The Victorian greenhouses are full of special arrangements, Christmas cactus, rosemary trees, and poinsettias in every shade of pink, white and red. Yesterday, they had cider, cookies, sleigh rides, and Christmas carolers - us! We've been going so many years that we've gotten to know many of the regulars. One mother told me that we're in all their Christmas photo albums, and that her son has been coming to see us each year since he was a baby.

Next week we'll do a similar event at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. The season has begun!

Friday, December 04, 2009

St. Barnabas, Peterborough

(Very, very late and very, very tired. Will probably post this after the fact...)

Tonight's concert was awesome! We were invited to sing at St. Barnabas Anglican in Peterborough - a new church and a new area for us. The music was a mix of old and new, Gospel and Christmas, with a little Country thrown in for good measure.

We came up with a new program tonight, and I think it really worked. In addition to mixing Gospel and Christmas, we also did a mix of acoustic songs and songs with tracks. We ended it all with an "authentic" Victorian caroling experience. And let me tell you - these people could sing! I found out after that several of the choir members were in the audience, which explained the gorgeous harmonies.

Tonight was also the first night I was able to sell "Hymns in the Key of Grace." It felt so good to see it on the table!

We've already been invited back to St. Barnabas for next December. Yay!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Wrapping Up & Starting Up

"Hymns in the Key of Grace" is now at the manufacturer! Tomorrow, I'll see a proof the graphics, and Thursday I'll pick up CDs!

Can't believe we've finally reached this place!

Tonight was also our first Christmas gig of the season. Overall, it was good and fun and well received. At this point, we have 22 gigs, including church services, for the month. We'll probably pick up a few more as we get closer to Christmas.

Time for lots of water, rest, and vitamin C.
A little eggnog every now and then won't hurt either!

Listening to the mastered hymns...

I'm currently bringing navel-gazing to a new level. At this moment, I'm listening to myself, looking at a photo of myself, while writing about myself.

Never has the word "diva" seemed more appropriate.

It's actually far less self-indulgent and far more practical than it sounds. Tomorrow is the absolute deadline to get my hymns CD to the manufacturer. God willing (and I pray He is), I'll be able to pick up CDs Thursday afternoon, just in time for our concert in Peterborough on Friday.

I picked up the fully mastered music this afternoon, and that's what I'm listening to right now. It sounds so beautiful. Yes, I'm biased, but I'm also highly critical of myself. Teri and Gerald did such a beautiful job on the accompaniment, and Allison and Tara's voices sound fantastic.

When I think back to my original concept for the album, it's like looking at a line drawing. What I'm listening to now is a painting with colours and layers and dimension.

The graphics still need a few tweaks, and I'm praying that will be done by tomorrow afternoon too.

I can't believe it's almost done. I'd get really excited right now, but I'm way too tired.

I'll dance about it in the morning.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My hymns-stress is lifting!

We had a great praise team at church this morning! Monique choose great songs, and with 5 of us on vocals, the sound was great. Gerald's song "For God so Loved the World" was beautiful, especially with Chris's fiddle sounds.

This afternoon was dedicated to getting stuff done! I've contacted 3 people about being headliners for Tin Pan North 2010. So far, 2 have responded positively. They aren't booked yet (which is why I'm not naming names), but they're interested and are working out details.

I've also been putting together the final details for "Hymns in the Key of Grace." I can't believe it's almost done! I'll pick up the reference disc tomorrow morning. This will be the music as we'll hear it on the final CD. Once I approve this disc, we get the PMCD and we're ready for manufacturing.

I got the graphics tonight as well - they're beautiful! There are a few small tweaks, but overall I'm just so happy! Once I approve this, the graphics get sent to the manufacturer and we're ready to go.

So, we're 2 quick approvals away from manufacturing! We don't have time any more for a full run of 1000 CDs, so I'll need to get a "short run". You can get a short run in just a few days, but you pay a lot more per unit. Not ideal, but few things about this production have been ideal! I can't believe all the obstacles we've had to face over the last few months. I've been so stressed this past week as we've pulled together the final details. I didn't want to have to sacrifice quality in order to get CDs done in time for Christmas concert season, but I was also really working in a time crunch. (After months of waiting and delays, I end up in a time crunch. Always the way...)

Once I saw the graphics tonight, however, my stress started to dissipate. The end is in sight, and it looks and sounds great! I'm so happy with the mixes, I have faith in the mastering, and the graphics are going to be gorgeous! Maybe I'll get a good night's sleep tonight?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

From mixing to mastering!

Just found out that the hymn mixes have now been successfully delivered to Ray, who will master the songs. Once that's done, and the graphics are finalized, it's a quick trip to manufacturing!

I can't believe it's almost done!

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me-ee...

Everybody sing along!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rehearsal, mixes, and turkey.

"Got kind of tired of packing and unpacking, town to town, up and down the dial..."

That song has been in my head all night! We're having birthday company over the next few days, so I wanted to get the boxes in some kind of "order" and have the house look more like a home and less like a storehouse. Exhausted now!

We had a great rehearsal at St. John's tonight. Sunday morning, the team will be me, Gerald, Monique, Michelle Pillar on vocals, and Chris McKhool on fiddle and guitar. Tonight was our first time working as a group, and it was great!

During communion, we're going to do Gerald's new chorus "For God so Loved the World". The fiddle solo really lifts the whole thing!

In other news, I am days away from finishing my hymns CD! Finally, finally, finally! For a while, the frustration was all I felt, but now, I am truly excited again. The mixes sound wonderful, I have someone lined up for mastering and graphics, and I'll have CDs in hand by the end of next week. Can not wait!!!

After celebrating American Thanksgiving over the past 3 years, I found myself craving sweet potato casserole and deep-fried turkey this week. I am so thankful that I have friends on both sides of the border. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tin Pan North 2010

Tonight I finally made it to a Tin Pan North planning meeting, and it was worth the drive to the west end!

Tin Pan North is Toronto's version of Nashville's annual songwriting festival, Tin Pan South. We're actually the only regional workshop to do a Tin Pan festival, so that's pretty cool. Gerald and I have played it before, and it's been growing every year.

The festival runs several days at several venues in 3 or 4 different cities. Each show is a Nashville-style round featuring one hit writer and 3 NSAI members. It's always fun and very entertaining.

Since we're going to be regional leaders ourselves in 2010, I thought it would be a good idea to get involved in planning the festival. Tonight was a great overview. I'll be working with volunteers and probably some publicity, but here's the very cool news:

There's going to be an all-Christian night at one of the venues!! I am so crazy excited about this! I suggested a Christian writer as one of our headliners, and then other people in the group suggested having an all-Christian night. In my heart, I really wanted to suggest this, but I didn't want anyone to think I was pushing my own agenda. When other people suggested it, and then got excited about it, I knew it had to be God working.

I'll be organizing the shows, so my first job is to find a downtown church who is willing to offer us a free venue, and then find 2 amazing headliners.

The shows will be Friday, May 28, 2010, at 7:00 and 9:00pm. Mark your calenders!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Faith Gospel Tabernacle & St. John's York Mills

Today was a 2 church day.

We already had Faith Gospel Tabernacle in Brampton booked when we were contacted about working at St. John's, so we did Faith Gospel this morning and St. John's tonight. What a day!

Faith Gospel is a growing church - literally! When I was there a few years ago, they were just talking about their new building, but when we drove into the parking lot yesterday, we could see the huge frame of the new sanctuary. They have a full praise team, but each week they invite guest artists to sing 2 songs for each of their morning services. We opened with "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland" and closed with "Give Me Jesus". This is a friendly and encouraging congregation, and we met lots of wonderful people. We've been invited back for one of their monthly Gospel concerts, so hopefully, we can work that out.

The morning started early (up at 6:30!!) and ran long, so after a short afternoon nap, we got ready for the evening service. Monique is away this week, so Gerald and I were on our own for leading the music. We invited Monika to join us on harmonies, so that was all good. We did some great praise songs - "Blessed Be Your Name," "In Christ Alone," and "Amazing Love" - and we also introduced a new chorus Gerald wrote based on John 3:16. And here's where God had to be stepping in - even though we didn't plan this, part of Drew's message was based on John 3:16! I love it when that happens!

We're feeling more and more comfortable at St. John's. We have a lot of support, and we're excited about Advent - it's just around the corner!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

First St. John's Sunday morning!

Okay, we've had our first St. John's rehearsal, our first St. John's evening, and finally, our first morning service at St. John's.

It's all still a little surreal to me. Sitting in church today, it was all so familiar, with so many friends in the congregation. At the same, we're there for different reasons than before, and we've both experienced so much since we were last there.

A lot of people were away today for the Alpha weekend, but there was still a good crowd. We opened with "Be Thou My Vision," "Here I am to Worship," and "Holy is the Lord." I really tried to choose a good mix of classic hymns and newer songs. We sang "Spirit of the Living God" in reference to the Alpha weekend and "On Eagle's Wings" in response to the sermon. During communion, we did "Living Manna, Living Bread," and "Give Me Jesus," and closed out the whole service with a rousing rendition of "How Great Thou Art." I couldn't always hear people singing, but I could see lots of mouths moving, and a few smiles, so that was good.

After the service, we were greeted by hugs and "So glad you're here" and "How're your parents?", and of course, "Aren't you Hollis's daughter?" We were grateful for the welcome, and even more grateful for the positive feedback.

There are a few technical things we still need to tweak - where to stand? where to put the SoloAmp? - but overall, I think this was a great start to our new adventure.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

All Saints & St. John's York Mills

It's been a long, but good, day!

This morning, we sang at All Saints Church. I've talked a lot about how much we love visiting All Saints, and today was no exception. The crowd was about 40 people, which is great for this small downtown church. The readings today included a story from Ruth, and the tale of the widow's mite (2 of my favourites) and Jeannie used them to preach a great sermon on compassion. After the sermon, Gerald sang "A Prayer Will Find You" which was calming and beautiful. During communion, we did "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" - a little uptempo for communion, but these are people who appreciate an extra jolt of joy.

After the service, we stayed for lunch. They provide a full lunch each Sunday for anyone who wants to stay, and it was a good chance to get to know the All Saints crowd. One thing about that congregation, you never know who you'll end up talking to, and you never know what may come out of their mouths! It's always vibrant, and sometimes a little outside reality, but the people there have good hearts and kind souls. We always come away humbled and blessed.

Tonight was our first official service at St. John's York Mills. I have to admit, I was a little nervous this afternoon. After all, they pursued us, and they want us to be part of a transformation, so we want to bring our best to the table.

It was a good 'soft' entrance into the new St. John's. Just because it used to be my former home church doesn't mean I'm assuming I know how it's all going to work. There is new leadership and new congregants and new ways of doing things. And Gerald and I aren't the same people or musicians we were three years ago.

As I put the poppy on my coat today, I realized that 3 years ago this weekend, we drove to Nashville to find our apartment and start our move south. How amazing that 3 years later, on the same weekend, we'd be starting this new chapter, back at St. John's?

The service tonight was wonderful! They call it a dialogue service because the sermon usually takes the form of a loose Bible study/discussion. Drew recently returned from a conference at Princeton, so that formed the topic of tonight's discussion. We opened the service with prayer, a psalm, and music. Monique was on piano, Gerald on guitar, and all of us on vocals. Our first set included "Praise to the Lord," "Indescribable," and a new one for us, "King of Love." On this one, Gerald took the vocal lead, and I sang harmony. What a gorgeous song! We ended the service with "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love," with Gerald pumping a cool guitar groove and me on tambourine.

Next week, Monique is away, so we'll be leading the 9:30 service on our own. We'll meet with Drew tomorrow to plan. We just have such a good feeling about all of this, and tonight helped us to get even more excited. It's going to be an interesting year...

Friday, November 06, 2009

First St. John's Rehearsal

I've dropped by Mom and Dad's to pick up a few more boxes, so I finally have a few minutes of internet. I don't mind not having a phone or TV, but I'm definitely in wifi-withdrawl!

Last night, Gerald and I had our first rehearsal with Monique at St. John's. We'll be playing the evening service this Sunday, just the three of us. For a first rehearsal, I think it was a good success. There was a good exchange of ideas and creativity, and the songs came together quickly.

There are a few exciting plans for Advent, and we don't know yet what Christmas will entail. Overall, a good start to everything!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In Our New Home!

Today was a great moving day! Everyone was in good spirits and things went really smoothly.

This house is so beautiful - I feel like we've snuck into this gorgeous house and the owners are on vacation and we love it so much we've just moved our stuff in.

This is going to be a good home for us - lots of space to play and write and make music and be a family.

Dropping tired - teaching and rehearsing tomorrow - hope I can find all the things I'll need!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Moving tomorrow!

The contract has been approved, the boxes packed, and we've picked up the keys.

We're moving to Toronto tomorrow!

Okay, we didn't need to pack a lot of boxes. Most of them are still packed and in storage from our last move, a mere 3 months ago. A few weeks ago, we thought we'd be here in Burlington til some time in the New Year. This time tomorrow night, we'll be in our new home in Toronto. And we can't wait!

Sunday evening, 7:00pm, will be our first Sunday in our new position at St. John's York Mills. (We won't be doing evening services on a regular basis, but we were already booked for All Saints in the morning.) If you're around Yonge and York Mills Sunday night, drop by the service and say Hi!

I'll be away from internet all day Wednesday, and we won't have internet at home til Monday (ugh!), but I'll try and blog soon to give a update!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Gerald at the Moonshine

Tonight kicked off the first of a series of NSAI Songwriter Nights at the Moonshine Cafe in Oakville. Gerald and I played the Moonshine a few years ago, and we've been looking forward to a return engagement.

Tonight's show was a Nashville-style round featuring Gerald, Laura Ranieri, and Joe Hash. There was supposed to be a fourth writer, but his last minute cancellation meant the three on deck got to play extra songs.

The whole night was fun and relaxed. John Marlott, owner of the Moonshine, threw some burgers on the grill, so the audience had full and happy tummies. Laura has an energetic performance style, and Joe has a great sense of storytelling with his songs. Gerald was, of course, excellent. He did some of my favourites, including "When Saturday Morning was All Day Long," "Up on the Watertower," and "Whiskey and Dragonflies."

I was supposed to join him on harmonies, but I've been knocked out of commission this week by a terrible sinus infection. So glad I was well enough to attend tonight, though. So proud of my talented husband!

Busy week coming up: Brian has sent me the mixes for my hymns CD! We'll be reviewing them this week, and also working on the graphics. Hoping to have product in hand within the next few weeks!

Also, tomorrow we sign the contract with St. John's, and on Wednesday, we move! Very exciting times, indeed!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Imagine, Music & Word - Day 3

What an incredible weekend! I’ve attended a lot of music conferences, but I don’t think I’ve ever attended one that was so organic and creative.

This morning, after a little sleep and a great breakfast, I attended a workshop on blending traditional and contemporary music within a worship service. Then I gathered with my songwriting buddies from yesterday. While I was out last night, they wrote the verses and finished the song. It sounded so good! Our group consisted of keyboard, guitar, bass, me on lead vocals, and everyone else on harmony. We had a short but effective rehearsal so I could learn the verses and we could add the harmonies.

I was able to grab a little quiet time to enjoy the beauty of the day, then another quick rehearsal, and then the closing worship. Last night, people gathered in workshops to write the service. Some wrote prayers and liturgy, some planned the music and wrote a new song, and others designed the space.

This afternoon, we gathered in the main hall and sat in chairs arranged in a circle. The service opened with prayer and music, and what followed was spiritual and creative and beautiful. Every prayer and reading was detailed and special. Andrew Donaldson’s ‘musical homily’ addressed the question “What was Jesus up to?” The music was carefully planned, yet felt spontaneous and free. Our song went really well, and by the second chorus, everyone was singing along. The whole thing was so moving and beautiful - why can’t church be like this all the time? Therein lies the challenge...

It will take a while for me to recognize all the things I’ve gained from this weekend. I have new friends and new musical connections. I have a full list of resources. I’m part of a new song. I sang lots of harmony and gained a new confidence on the djembe. I had a deeply moving spiritual experience. I laughed and told stories and ate pie and laughed some more.

Good weekend, indeed.

Imagine, Music & Word - The Day After Day 2

Saturday’s blog is being written Sunday morning - you’ll find out why.

Oh, and as I write I’m also eating the ‘late night pie’ - awesome!

Saturday was a great day for the Imagine workshop. We started with a hearty breakfast in Lion’s Hall, complete with a fire roaring in the stone fireplace. The day began with a presentation by Steve Hopkins, rector of St. Christopher’s in Burlington (where Gerald and I have sung several times). He spoke and facilitated small group discussions around the topic of instigating change within a parish - how do we do it effectively, and what have we learned from our mistakes and successes? Since Gerald and I are about to be part of a change at St. John’s York Mills, I found this to be really helpful and encouraging.

For my first workshop, I chose songwriting. We talked about writing and shared songs. I did “Living Manna, Living Bread," and everyone joined in on harmonies. Up til now, I’ve only sung it as a solo, so the harmonies were a real treat. We all decided we wanted to write a song for tomorrow’s worship, so after lunch, we met again. The theme for the weekend is “Colouring Outside the Lines”, so that was the inspiration for the song. We completed the chorus, and then I had to go. Gerald and I were booked to sing at a wedding in downtown Toronto as part of a small ensemble, so I had to change out of my camping mode, put on my fancy wedding clothes, drive to Toronto, sing for 3 hours, drop off Gerald, change back to my camping mode, and drive back to Ancaster.

Apparently, I missed a great night of songs and worship planning, but when I arrived at the conference just before midnight, I was met with a great welcome. The jam session was in full swing, so I grabbed a mic and joined the party. We sang and sang and sang and sang. I did harmony and rhythm on the pop and rock stuff. When we moved into the more mellow stuff, I still did harmony, but also took the lead on “People Get Ready” and a Norah Jones song. (Yes, we’ve been jamming to every possible genre!). Around 3 am, we decided it was time to shut down the band. We closed up and headed back to the cabin, which turned into laughing and story-telling time. Around 4 am, I decided it was too late to blog, thus my mid-morning entry today.

About that time, the ladies were deciding that yes, 7:30 am would be the perfect time for their early morning walk.

Again, I respectfully declined.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Imagine, Music & Word - Day 1

I’m writing at 1:35 in the morning. I’m pretty much in the middle of nowhere, or at least it seems that way. I drove here in the dark and rain. There were deer waiting on the side of the road to jump in front of my car.

So, what does all this mean?

After supper tonight, I drove out to Ancaster to spend the weekend at the Imagine, Music and Word conference. We’re located at lovely Canterbury Hills Conference Centre, which is a camp-style conference centre. We’re all staying in cabins, and I’ve ended up in the party cabin. We have six ladies sharing one bathroom, and at 1:38am, none of us have made it to bed yet.

The evening started with an introduction to the theme “Colouring Outside the Lines” - how do we find new and innovative forms of worship. Over the weekend, creativity will be paramount.

Our evening worship started with prayer, and then a leader started playing a djembe. As the drumming continued, lots and lots of drums were brought out, and before long, everyone had a drum in their hands. We hit a rhythm as the drumming circle grew. Every minute or so, someone would walk up to the mic to read a prayer or scripture. The drumming would get softer, but the rhythm never ceased. The whole experience was organic and awesome.

After a little socializing, the jam session began. I really don’t know anyone here (just a few people I’ve met in passing), but I knew if I didn’t jump in tonight, I’d regret it. Our band topped out at 9 or 10 people, singing and playing worship songs. Then most people drifted off to bed, so we just kept going. After a while, we switched to classic pop songs. And then I realized - I still hadn’t found my cabin, much less unpacked yet.

So here I am, 1:45 in the morning, not quite in the middle of nowhere - in a warm cabin, with my bunk bed ready for me, surrounded by a wonderful group of musicians, and soon-to-be friends.

I think we’re about to have late night pie...

(After note: Late night pie didn’t happen because the ladies decided they wanted to get up at 7:00 am to take an early morning hike. I respectfully declined.)

Friday, October 23, 2009


A few weeks ago, I got a call from the rector at St. John's York Mills Church in Toronto. (St. John's was our home church for many years, and Dad's church before he retired.)

The church is going through many changes as they try to build a new kind of contemporary worship service. They invited Gerald and me, as a team, to join the music staff and be part of the music team for Sunday mornings!!

We are so crazy excited about this!

When we got back from Nashville, everyone kept saying, "Such-and-such a church is looking for a worship leader." But we have this ministry that takes us different places, so that wasn't what I was looking for. But when I got the call from St. John's, my heart was very open to the idea.

After some wonderful phone calls and meetings, Gerald and I said, "YES" this week!

We are so excited to be returning to our former home church in this new capacity! We'll be working with pianist and worship leader, Monique Ingalls, who ironically enough, just moved here after three years in Nashville!

We will sing and play at the 9:30am service on Sunday mornings, and special services like Christmas Eve. By having Sunday mornings booked, I can focus my booking efforts on concerts, women's ministries, festivals, etc.

I'll write more about this over the next few weeks. Right now, I'm finishing my packing for the weekend. I'm heading off to Ancaster for the Imagine, Music & Word conference. I don't know if I'll have internet, but I'll still blog each night and post something by Sunday.

Soooo excited!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No voice - No gig - Blah

I was really hoping tonight to send you a glowing report on our performance at the Week Without Violence service from Buckhorn. Unfortunately, no can do.

A few days after arriving home from the DIVA weekend, I got that awful, telltale tickle in my throat. That yucky, something's coming, kind of feeling. By yesterday morning, I was full out terrible - sore throat, achy, no voice, blah.

Gerald made the phone call letting the organizer know we'd be unable to sing today. I made tea with honey, stayed in my pajamas all day, and grabbed a note pad and pen so I wouldn't have to talk.

These are the tough weekends of being a singer. Nothing is more frustrating that losing (even temporarily) my main source of communication and creativity.

So my weekend: Finished a great book ("The Book of Negroes" - amazing!!). Drank lots of tea. Complained about my plight on facebook. Drank more tea. Did some Bible study. Cuddled the puppies. More tea. Started a new book ("The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"). You guessed it - tea.

Doesn't sound so bad when I put it that way.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

DIVA Weekend - Church & Concert Day

We have to be up in 5 hours to get me to the airport on time, so this is going to be short and, potentially, full of typos.

The morning started bright and early (6ish) so we could all make our way to our different churches. Tara and I sang 2 services at Highland Hope, where we sang last night. Today was Pastor Appreciation Sunday, so being PKs ourselves, Tara and I were able to share quite a bit. Tara sang "Wonder Working Power" and "Except for Grace", and I sang "Neighbour" and "At the Cross". At the second service, we had a bit more time to work with, so I added "Real Big Fan." I spoke a little about being a PK, and some of the unique things about pastors, and then Tara came out and wrapped it up with "Preach the Word." The people were awesome and very supportive. We just felt so welcomed and blessed!

In the afternoon, we did interviews with DeAnne for the Christian DIVA radio show, and then drove out to Belleville for tonight's service. This huge church does two services on Sunday nights, and we sang for the one they nickname "The Old Time Gospel Hour." DeAnne had to go home early, so Leah, Tara, and I did a 40 minute music program within the service. We did all the group numbers from last night, plus two songs each. I started with "Neighbour" and then did "Shepherd of the Hills." I guess the past few days of travel, sleeping in a strange bed, and extra rehearsals have taken their toll on my neck, because as I started singing "Shepherd", the back of my neck got really tight and stiff. It was incredibly distracting and difficult to sing, and I was half-tempted to stop the song, but I kept going. Tara and Leah said it sounded good, but it was a real struggle. It'll be good to get back to my bed and my medical treatments.

Long travel day tomorrow. Long story short - so glad I came this weekend!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

DIVA Weekend - "Redesign Your Mind"

We're back at the hotel, and we're exhausted! We all need to be up by 6:30 tomorrow morning so we can get to our morning services, so it's short blogging tonight.

Tonight, we held our first ever "Redesign Your Mind" event, and it was a great success! We had a lot of competition with other events in the area, but we still had a good crowd. Our group songs went really well, each DIVA did a great individual set, and the drama got lots of laughs.

After the show, the women all had great things to say about the night. They loved the music, and many women commented on how encouraging they found the whole thing. The church has already asked about having us back next year!

It was a lot of work, but well worth it. I'm so glad the doors opened for me to be here this weekend. Outside all the work, we're having a great time laughing and telling stories. But for tonight, it's sleep, sleep, sleep.

(Okay, we're still talking, but soon, it's sleep, sleep, sleep!)

Friday, October 09, 2009

DIVA Weekend - Rehearsal Day

Long, long day of rehearsal!

We arrived at the church around noon and spent an hour or so just organizing the space and figuring out our tech. The church is quite large with friendly staff who are excited to have us. The ladies hosting the event will also be serving dessert, so the front part of the sanctuary has been cleared and outfitted with tables and chairs.

After lunch, which was graciously provided by the church staff, we started the music rehearsal. We'll be doing 3 songs together - "Lean on Me," "Your Grace is Enough," and "Dear God," which was written by Leah and Beth. Tara took control of the musical rehearsal, assigning parts and solos. For a group of women who've never sung together (and Tara and I just met DeAnne yesterday), we actually sound really good together. It started to get really fun, so that's always a good sign.

Next, we rehearsed the drama portion of the event. It's in a talk show format where the host, Darlene Carmichael (played by moi!) interviews several Bible ladies. (I have the most wonderful pair of pink cat's eye glasses trimmed in rhinestones that I wear. Stunning!) It's a lot of script to handle with just a few hours rehearsal, and I was assigned the role of director. The goal became making everyone as comfortable as possible with the cues, blocking, and lines. I also reminded the ladies that it's better to have clear dramatic intentions than perfectly memorized lines. No one has ever been saved by a precisely memorized speech - it's better to communicate the heart of the character and her message.

Around 6pm, we were all ready to stop, so we went to Farmer's restaurant for home-cooking. Due to a waiter's mistake, I managed to go home with a free piece of pecan pie, so it was a good night all around.

Since then, we've all just been chatting and sharing stories and enjoying each other's company. Tomorrow will be long and tiring, so some sleep is in order.

It's raining tonight. I wonder if the buffalo sleep out in the rain? Just wondering...

DIVA Weekend - We're here!

Writing this from the hotel in Greenville, Illinois. I'm here with Tara Jackson, Leah Martensen, and DeAnne Arnold, and we're ready to start our DIVA weekend! Tomorrow, we'll have our first ever "Redesign Your Mind" women's event. Sunday morning, we'll all be at different churches in the area - Tara and I will do a church together - and Sunday night, Tara, Leah, and I are doing a concert together (the concert was just booked yesterday!).

This morning, we're gathering ourselves together. Our hotel is next to a buffalo farm, and when we were having breakfast, we could see the buffalo, including the babies, in the field outside the window. In a few minutes, we'll head off to the church for rehearsal. I'll write more tonight...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Heading off to Illinois!

Within the hour, Dad and I will leave here to drive to the Buffalo airport. By tonight, I'll be in Highland, Illinois, with Tara, Leah, and DeAnne for the first ever Christian DIVAs "Redesign Your Mind" event!

When we decided to move home early, I pulled out of the event, but God had a different plan. So now my bags are stuffed with CDs, tracks, performance clothes, and neck pillows. I'm nervous about how the travel will affect my neck, which is still a daily frustration. But I'm also excited about the weekend. "Redesign Your Mind" is Saturday night, and then Sunday morning, we'll all sing in different area churches. I think Tara and I might sing at the same church, so that would be cool.

Weird, ironic thing: For the past few years, I've been in the States for Thanksgiving. Now I'm living back in Canada, and I'll still be in the States for Thanksgiving! Funny, wha?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Puppies, All Saints, and the Moonshine Cafe

It's been a long few days. On Wednesday, Dante and Tyler got into Mom's post-surgery medication. The two spent 48 hours in puppy intensive care, and are now receiving 8 doses of medication over the course of each day. When it rains, it pours.

This morning, we returned to one of our favourite churches - All Saints Church in downtown Toronto. Jeannie gave a fantastic sermon about Job, after which we sang "Give Me Jesus." During communion we did "Living Manna, Living Bread," and post communion, we sang "A Church Song Broke Me Down." We ended with the congregational hymn, "Majesty." We're back there again next month - can't wait!

Tonight, we went to the Moonshine Cafe - Ontario's answer to the Bluebird Cafe. We played the Moonshine a few years ago, and Gerald is booked there for November 1 (mark your calender!). Tonight's round featured Nashville songwriter, Bruce Michael Miller, and Toronto writers Joe Hash, Linda M, and Annie Marleau. The whole show was fun, and it was cool to meet up with a few NSAI friends.

Now that we're home to stay, we're trying to find lots of local places where we can play our songs. Churches are the obvious place for me, but we want to find cafes and songwriter venues where Gerald can play his country stuff as well. Now that we're so close to the Moonshine, I think we'll be visiting there more often.

Three and a half days til I leave for Illinois and the DIVA event. So much to do!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to Make the Most of an Empty Week

When we had to cancel our trip to Nashville, we had 2 choices. We could spend the now-empty time watching television and constantly updating our facebook status with quotes from Oprah and Larry King. Or, we could make it an incredibly productive and creative time.

Obviously, we chose option #2. (If I'd chosen option 1, this would be a horrible blog post!)

So, here's how my non-Nashville days have been looking:

- Each morning, I start my day with 2-3 hours of creative time. This is my time to sing, write, and study. Currently, I'm working through John C. Maxwell's "Talent is Never Enough." I read each chapter taking notes, writing down my favourite quotes, and working on the application questions. Amazing book!

- I've just started a BSF Bible study of John. Intro class last week; first real class tomorrow. Very excited!

- I'm becoming a booking machine! When we moved home 3 and a half months early, that meant we had 3 and a half empty months on the calender. In the past week, I've confirmed a number of bookings. We're now booked for almost every Sunday morning from now til Christmas, and we're starting to book into 2010! We're also starting to book lots of concerts and Christmas parties. Of course, we still have space for more...

- I'm continuing to have pain from my neck, so I'm also continuing to have chiropractic care - 3 adjustments a week plus massage. Not really complaining about the massage part....

- The Christian DIVA event is coming up next week. Next week!! Must start memorizing my part of the 'drama'.

- I wrote my October SoGospelNews article about being a Christian DIVA. Should go online soon.

So with all that work, and the extra family duties around Mom's surgery, things have been pretty busy, but not too busy to celebrate the good stuff:

- Mom is recovering amazingly well from her knee replacement! Today, she graduated from a walker to a cane! Whoo-hoo!

- On Sunday, Dad celebrated 45 years of ordained ministry, and we're all the better for it.

- Yesterday, Mom and Dad celebrated 41 years of wedded bliss. Amazing and inspiring!

If it sounds like I'm just bragging on my family, that's all good. After our accident, Gerald and I wanted nothing more than to get home to be around our families, and this is what it's all about - being here to care for Mom through her surgery, lifting some of the burden off Dad as he takes care of the household stuff, celebrating the great moments with Greek food and cake from IKEA, and spending the quiet moments watching Autumn drift into Ontario. We are blessed, indeed!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tough Decisions...

I can't believe I've gone this long without blogging. I just had a friend write to see if I'm okay.

I am okay, but it's been a trying week. There's been lots of good stuff - last Sunday, we sang at St. John's West Toronto, and we're now back on their regular roster. I have a new date booked for November (I'm awaiting confirmation before it goes on my calender.) I've been reading a few great books that are filling me with new ideas and inspiration - "Talent is Never Enough" by John C. Maxwell and "11" by Leonard Sweet.

On Monday, Mom had a very successful full knee replacement surgery. She was in the hospital four days, and will be in recovery for several months. At times like this, we're really glad we moved home early.

But here's the tough decision of the week: After much tedious discussion and weighing of facts, Gerald and I have decided to cancel our trip to Nashville this week. It's no secret that our recent car accident has given us many challenges, the worst of which are financial and physical. When we looked at things from a practical point of view, there was just no way we could take this kind of trip right now.

We're sad about having to make this choice... I'm going to miss studying with Allison at the Elijah Conference. We're going to miss our NSAI training day. We're going to miss Songposium, seeing friends, and attending church at Redeemer on Sunday.

...but we also feel some peace as we know this is the smart decision. Normally, Gerald and I would make the take-the-big-risk-and-it'll-all-work-out decision. It's hard making the 'mature' decision, but we have big plans for the next year, and we don't want to add to our challenges by driving ourselves deeper into debt or prolonging our physical recovery.

And now that we've made this very mature decision, we're going to wear our pajamas all day, dance in the rain, eat cupcakes, and enjoy every second we have with our friends and family. Carpe diem. Accept the good. Count your blessings. And live large, my friends. Live large.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Week in Review

Writing on a lazy Saturday afternoon from a sunny backyard in Southern Ontario. The puppy is wandering the garden looking for bugs, my plate of homemade cookies is now empty, and I don't have to be any where at any time. Life is good.

Last Sunday, Gerald and I returned to St. George's in Guelph for Dad's last Sunday as their interim minister. It was awesome to hear such amazing tributes to my Dad - not surprising, but still awesome. Gerald and I sang "On Eagle's Wings" during the sermon, and we debuted my new song, "Living Manna, Living Bread," just after communion. Both went really well, and they got a great response. After the service, a lot of the feedback was about the new song, so that just tickled me! We're going to do it again next week in Toronto, and Jenna has already asked if they can do it at Redeemer in Nashville.

I've started the process of signing up for CCLI. It's one of those things I've been meaning to do for a while, but never got around to it. Now that we have some flexibility in our time, I'm trying to lock down some of that stuff.

I've also started chiropractic treatment for my neck. I've had near-constant pain since the accident, and I really can't handle a lifetime of this. Must say - the adjustment was not nearly as "comfortable" as the doctor described - the cracking freaked me out and the Biofreeze made me smell like a cough drop - but I've seen the treatment help a lot of friends and family members, so I'm trusting in that.

Yesterday, I did an online cowrite. Perry and I did a first draft of "Streets of Gold" for a Song U challenge, but we knew it could be better. We met yesterday in a Song U online writing room. We could talk to each other through our mics, and we could also type ideas for us both to see. There was a whiteboard where you could type, post photos, and a bunch of other stuff I couldn't figure out. In the end, we completely rewrote the lyric. We have a bit of a break before we can meet again, so in the meantime, we'll see if the original melody will still work with the new lyric.

As I recently wrote in my article, "Lessons from a Symphony", Gerald and I have been in a time of deliberate rest. We're making the most of each day by enjoying good food, long walks, and the company of family and friends. On Tuesday, we'll get back to a more regular schedule of writing, singing, booking... but til then, it's company tonight, Ribfest tomorrow, and a Happy Labour Day to all!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

More good news!

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet!

So, a few months ago, Gerald and I met with NSAI's workshop director and membership coordinator to discuss ways we might be able to partner with them in Ontario. Toronto actually has a very active and well respected chapter, and we were members of that group before we even moved to Nashville. But we wanted to bring a few more ideas to the table...

In the States, there are a few Christian songwriting chapters, so we pitched the idea of starting a new Christian chapter in Toronto. Christian songwriters have specific needs that aren't always met in a regular songwriting group. We need to be able to discuss matters of theology, and songs like hymns and praise and worship have different structures than traditional pop or country songs.

Last week, we sent in our application packages, and within hours, we received approval! We're about to start a new NSAI Christian songwriting chapter in Toronto!!! Whoo-hoo!

I'm crazy excited about this! There are so many Christian musicians in Toronto - writing songs for choirs, artists, congregations, or their own ministry - but there are few ways to connect these writers. I'm envisioning a group that will encompass all genres and all denominations. Not only will we not be in conflict with the other Toronto chapter, but I definitely see ways that we might be able to work together. And here's the other thing: we could easily start a songwriting group in our living room, but by partnering with NSAI, we can provide our members with all the benefits of NSAI, including webcasts, online critiques, and a direct line to the Nashville industry.

Yes, I'm also a little nervous. This is a volunteer position for us, and it's going to take a lot of work, but I'm so excited about the chance to build a community of songwriters writing great songs for the church!

We have a coordinator training day in September. As only God's timing would have it, that day is during the trip we'd already planned to Nashville. I'll be sharing lots more details about the group over the next few months! And if you know any Christian songwriters in Southern Ontario, send them my way...

Friday, August 28, 2009

New songs & midnight worship

Last night, we were so lucky to have our first Nashville visitor in Ontario! Jenna dropped by for a night on her way through town. We enjoyed several hours on the back deck, filling ourselves with good food and great conversation.

Earlier this week, I finished a new communion song, "Living Manna, Living Bread." I hadn't played it for anyone yet, but I really wanted Jenna to hear it. (I was planning on sending her an mp3, but this worked out even better.) So after everyone went to bed, we sat at the piano with a lyric sheet, and played my song. Jenna loved it and added her beautiful piano accompaniment and harmonies, and we sang it over and over and over. It was a blessed and wonderful way to end the evening.

She asked me to please send her the mp3 and lyrics so they can do it at Redeemer some Sunday. Joy!

This morning, her friend Susan Hookong-Taylor dropped by. Susan is also a Christian singer-songwriter, and has a great song that was part of World Youth Day in 2002. After we all indulged in oatmeal and fresh Ontario berries, we had a lovely exchange of songs, passing the guitar around in true Nashville style.

It was an awesome time, but it also reminded me that I am now far from friends who've been so close to me for the last few years. Tonight, I'm feeling very grateful for facebook, email, and free long distance...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gerald's Big News

Yes, this is a belated post, but I am in relaxation mode!

Soooo, as you know, the week before we moved from Nashville, Gerald and I had our career meetings with NSAI. At Gerald's meeting, not only did they freak out about Gerald's songs, but they arranged for him to meet with a publisher on Music Row. I blogged a little at Edgehill while sipping a latte and nervously waiting for him to call.

Well, he got in the car and said, "It couldn't have gone better". They loved his songs, and offered him a publishing deal!!! Yes, literally 3 days before we moved out of the country, Gerald gets offered a publishing deal!

The details are still to be worked out. They want to hear all the songs he's written since moving to Nashville (all 150), and then they'll demo the songs they want to publish. We don't know if that will mean a bunch of single song contracts or a staff writer position, but either way it's fantastic, and we're super, super excited about it all.

And here's where it gets even better: Since we made our decision to move, I was afraid something big would happen where we'd be told "We won't work with you unless you stay" or "We won't work with you over the border." Well, this company was founded by a Canadian, many of their artists are Canadian, and a third of their writers live in Canada. Not only will Gerald's songs be pitched in the States and in Canada (good for Canadian Content regulations), but they have no problem with him working long distance. He can send songs via the internet and mail, and he'll make regular trips to Nashville, which we'd planned already. We couldn't have planned this any better!

So, what next? We need to record worktapes of Gerald's songs. A worktape is basically a rough guitar/vocal version of the song. It needs to show the lyric, melody and chords clearly so the people doing the demo can hear the song and write the charts. We spent Sunday and Monday at Monika and Brent's studio in Stouffville, recording songs and catching up. Within the next day or 2, we'll get the songs back from them, we'll send them to Nashville, and the process will begin! Whoo-hoo!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Well, it's been almost a week, so I suppose it's time to write something. I've been on my computer this week, but I've been deliberately avoiding anything that could be considered a To Do item.

Last Monday, Gerald and his Dad left our house at 5:40am with the moving truck. They had a smooth drive, a quick visit at the border, and were able to arrive at Mom and Dad's house and relax the rest of the evening. Mom and Dad and I got up at various times, but we were all up by 6-ish. We spent the next 3 hours packing the car, returning keys, and doing a final cleaning on the house (stipulated by our lease). We left just after 9am, and the long, long drive began. We hit a lot of traffic and construction, and we had one 30 minute stop while we waited out a severe thunderstorm just north of Cincinnati. But the dogs were well behaved and we listened to good music, so even though it was a crazy long day, we survived it in good spirits.

So since then, we've been mostly on deliberate rest. My friend Cindy described it best - it's like the rest in between the movements of a symphony. You need that quiet space to reflect on the last movement and prepare for the next.

Still kind of feels like a vacation and not a move, though. I'm sure it'll sink in soon.

Today, however, is not a day of rest! More blogging tonight...

(or tomorrow, if things run late!)

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Twas the night before moving...

and all through the house,
the furniture was gone,
and everyone was really, really tired!

Long day! Gerald and I were on the praise team this morning, so we were all up at 6:00 am. Mom and Dad came to the second service, which was awesome. For the psalm this morning, we did Jenna's and my new setting of Psalm 116. Everyone sang out on the chorus, and it seemed to have been really well received. During the service, Thomas and the congregation prayed for us, and after, the praise team held a lunch for us. Awesome and emotional morning.

Then the packing began. Because we're going over the border, each item going into the truck had to be itemized. As the organizing person in our marriage, I was assigned the task of creating the list, which freed me from the hours and hours of heavy lifting endured by our friends and family.

To celebrate the end of the day, and the end of this chapter, we all went to our favourite, Jim and Nick's, for BBQ and fun. Now, I'm sitting in my almost empty living room. The beds are packed, so we're sleeping on air beds - oddly reminiscent of our first month here, before we had moved down our furniture.

Tomorrow, we'll be up bright and early. (Well, early - don't know if I'll be very bright.) Gerald and his Dad are driving the moving truck. Mom, Dad, the puppies, and I will be in the car. If you're the praying kind, please pray for safe travels, a fast border crossing, and a happy road trip for all.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Storm Before the Calm

So we've been here almost 3 years, and all of a sudden, everything is happening!

NSAI allows you to have 2 one-on-one career meetings each year. Since we're moving, Gerald and I each had both meetings this week. Yes, that's 4 meetings in the middle of Crazy Packing Week. Each meeting was incredible! Lot of encouragement and excitement about our music! We both walked away with a To Do list, including several phone calls and meetings that need to be attended to before the end of the week. Crazy!!

As I'm writing, I'm sitting in Edgehill Cafe (the same place where I did my single release party a few years ago), and the head of Big Machine Records just walked in. Gerald is up the street meeting and pitching songs to a label head. Tomorrow, he has a cowrite with an Emmy nominated songwriter and a mentoring session with a lyric specialist. I'm trying to set up meetings and workshops for our short trip back in September.

Oh, and on Sunday, Jenna and I are leading the congregation in the Psalm we wrote last week.

We're crazy excited about the move and our new plans for Toronto, but we both agree, there are things about Nashville that just can't happen anywhere else. This week is full of them!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cowrite with Jenna

Ages and ages ago, Jenna and I threw around the idea of cowriting together. We both agreed it sounded like a great idea, but life being crazy, it never actually happened.

Then a few weeks ago, I was reading some psalms in my music room. When I got to Psalm 116, a chorus melody jumped off the page at me. I grabbed my laptop and wrote and recorded everything I heard. (Funny bit: In the middle of transcribing, Gerald came in the room to talk to me. I gave him a big "Shhhh!!! Writing!!!" and he happily left me alone. That's why it's good to marry a musician!)

The chorus came out easily, and I had a sense of the verses, but I knew it needed something else - someone else really. I sent what I had to Jenna, and asked her if she'd be interested in cowriting the song.

This morning, we met at Redeemer to write. Even though Jenna and I are great friends, writing can be a whole other experience. Before entering the church, I prayed that whatever we wrote would honour God, and that I would be open and creative in the writing process.

Well, simply put, things couldn't have gone better! Jenna showed me her ideas for the verses. We tweaked melodies and lyrics, and within 30 minutes, we had a song! The result is a pretty, responsorial psalm that can be sung in a church service. It's written to be sung with a soloist on the verses, and choir/congregation on the chorus. We did a rough demo on garageband, and spent the rest of the time chatting and catching up.

So happy with this experience! I know it's not always this easy, but when it is, it's gooood!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Last day working for Ben Speer!

Today closed a chapter for me. It was my last day working for Ben Speer Music and Ben Speer's Stamps-Baxter School of Music.

Although I did some volunteer work at the school in 2007, I didn't officially start in my position until that fall. I was originally hired to simply answer the phones and reply to emails, but through my work with the School Administrator, Kay Honour, I was able to work on several larger projects that helped bring the school to a new level of organization and effectiveness.

I've met a lot of amazing people at the school, including staff, faculty, students, and guest artists. I've had the chance to teach Audition Technique, Performance Training, and Songwriting for Young Students. I've performed at faculty nights and scholarship concerts.

Gerald and I have big plans for Breaking Light Music in Ontario, and through the school, I've learned a lot of administrative skills that will only benefit our future plans.

My grandfather and father have always said, "You should leave a place better than the way you found it."

With that in mind, I can turn the page on this chapter, proud of the job I've done, and loving facebook for hooking me up with all my Stamps-Baxter friends.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hymn vocals done!

Done! Finally done!

This morning, I met Teri Reid and Allison Speer to do BGVs for "Just a Closer Walk." The track is really fun, so I wanted something lively and joyful on the vocals. Allison and Teri did some rhythmic harmonies first, which were kind of a homage to the Speer Family version of the song. Then, Allison did some call-and-response harmonies, which also sound cool. I think we'll end up using all of them at different points, so each chorus has a unique sound.

This means all the vocals are now done! Allison and Brian are about to go on vacation, so mixing and mastering will continue in August, and manufacturing in September.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More hymn vocals!

Much, much better day in the studio! When I woke up this morning, I only had the normal amount of stiffness in my neck. After a little stretching, I felt pretty good, so I was able to do a great vocal warm-up, and then off to the studio.

As I wrote yesterday, I was very concerned about getting everything done today, but professionals that we are, everything went very smoothly!

First, Allison recorded her part for our duet on "In the Garden." She's doing the second verse, and some beautiful harmonies on the choruses. I'm so excited about how this one is shaping up. Again, everything is very simple in the instrumentation, but that's actually allowing us to be detailed with the vocal parts. Everything is going to be very beautiful and musical.

Next, I did my vocals for "Just as I am." Yesterday, this song shut me down, but not today. I had the vocal pretty much done in half an hour. Everything felt emotionally connected, and with a pain-free neck, my tone and breath support all fell into place. Yay!

Tara showed up just after one, and she did background vocals on three songs: "I Surrender All," "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and "Take My Life." So pretty! Her voice blended beautifully with mine, and her harmonies will allow those choruses to really lift.

All in all, a great day in the studio! Just one more BGV to record tomorrow, and then all the vocals are done!

Tonight, I got into full-fledged moving mode. Between the school and the CD, I really haven't had the chance to focus on the actually packing. I now have 22 boxes filled and one bag of useless stuff thrown out. I've arranged for our furniture to be donated to FAM (our sister church in East Nashville), and our friends are taking our bookshelves. A week and a half to go - the countdown begins!!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hymn Vocals - In the Garden

Sometime during the night, nine-and-a-half pound Dante pushed me to the edge of the bed and my head slipped off my pillow. The result: pain. Lots and lots of pain in my recently injured neck. I stretched and breathed and even took painkillers, but the pain affected the whole day.

My goal for the day was to record my vocals for the remaining songs on my hymns project. We started with "In the Garden", one of my favourites. (Isn't it everyone's favourite?) I'm actually super excited about this one - not only is it a great song, but we're turning it into a duet with me and Allison Speer! Today, I recorded my verses, and tomorrow, she'll do her part. I think it will highlight our strengths, and it's a song written about a woman's experience meeting Jesus, so it seems like a natural choice for a girl duet.

The vocals went well, but by the time we got to "Just as I am", I was feeling awful. The pain had returned. The right side of my neck was tight and aching. I did two takes and Gerald asked if I was okay. I really didn't want to admit anything was wrong, but he could hear it in my voice. I rested a bit and took another painkiller, but there was no point. My voice just wasn't at its best. I was probably aware of the pain too, which affected my focus and energy.

In the end, we decided to finish my vocals tomorrow. That puts a lot on the plate for tomorrow: my vocals, Allison's vocals, and Tara Jackson is coming in the afternoon to do BGVs (background vocals) for 5 songs. I'm already frustrated that this project is so behind schedule. For the most part, I'm dealing with the frustration, but today really got to me. Tonight, I'm taking deep breaths, resting my voice, drinking tea, and preparing for a good night's sleep.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - The Day After Day 10

The last day of Stamps-Baxter 2009 was my last day of Stamps-Baxter for a while. To be perfectly honest, I don't know if I'll make it back next year, or even the year after that. It's too far a drive just to drop by for a few days. We'll be visiting Nashville twice a year, but those trips will probably be in March and September to line up with other industry events. I've also heard there's a quartet convention in Alberta each July. Don't know if that would be good for me or not? I guess we'll just take it one summer at a time.

That said, Friday was a bit emotional for me. Yes, there were lots of practical things to do, like collect room keys and send final thank you notes, but my main focus was just connecting with the people I care about. I chatted and visited and had my photo taken a hundred times. I hugged and shared stories, and, in truly valued moments, I had friends tell me how much they'll miss having me as part of the school.

There was an office triumph too: the new school website is up and running! It's been several months in the making, but Friday morning, the site was launched, and our first student registered online for 2010. The site looks great, but more importantly, it's going to reduce office work by half! Why didn't we come up with this a year ago?

Closing Program began at 6:30, and it was stunning. Truly, truly stunning. I've been bragging about the group singing all week, and it surpassed its reputation. They changed the format a bit this year. The show opened with about 30 minutes of the choir, then all the auditioned acts performed, and then 30 more minutes with the choir to close it out. We were able to get the entire group onstage on risers, and they looked terrific. I'm pretty finicky about choirs, but this really sounded good. From a technical point of view, the cut-offs were clean, the dynamics were clear, and the blend was great.

But from a spiritual point of view - wow! There were songs where the entire room was smiling, and songs where singers and audience alike were wiping away the tears. At one point, Ben, Mary Tom, Rosa Nell, and Faye Speer all sang together. I don't think I've seen that in my 5 years of singing school. Just before the penultimate song, we heard an old recording coming through the sound system. It was Dad Speer, giving his testimony at NQC after 50 years in Gospel music. As his passionate voice faded out, and Tracey began to play "I am His and He is Mine." There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Backstage, there were more hugs, more photos, more "find me on Facebook!" After we cleaned up, the staff went out for food and laughs and stories. This is the stuff I'll miss...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 9

No Day 9 for me. I woke up feeling tired and awful. I went to massage therapy which helped in some ways, but as the accident trauma was 'released', it made me feel dizzy and weak and sick to my stomach. All totally normal, but still hard to deal with.

At that point, a 60-minute commute and 8-hour work day just seemed like a bad idea. I spent the rest of the day reading, sleeping, and letting my husband take care of me.

Can't believe tomorrow is the last day for Stamps-Baxter 2009. I don't know if I'll be back next year. It'll really depend on how our summer shapes up. I'm going in early tomorrow. I don't want to miss a minute of it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 8

Short post on a long day:

- Breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Love their apple butter!

- Spent the morning working on the car accident lawsuit. Should be finished with the property settlement soon.

- Good time in Allison's class. Only a few days left, so she's forcing everyone to step up their game.

- Auditions have been handled differently this year. They're going really well, and I'm not part of it. Both things make me very happy.

- Tara Jackson visited campus tonight. Good fun!

- Gerald worked with Sue Smith again tonight. Good session!

- Went to Steak and Shake with Tara and Brandon for late night snacks. Good times!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 7

I'm sure I'm saying this every night, but today was a long, long day. I had several errands and one appointment this morning, long before I ever made it on campus. Gerald is working with Sue Smith this week, so he came out with me as well.

Tonight was the first ever Stamps-Baxter Comedy Night. Students were invited to tell a joke or impersonate a Gospel music legend. We were worried that the students might not want to get involved, so this afternoon, I did a promo bit to tell people about the show. I took a blond wig and sprayed it black. I wore black pants and a flashy shirt. And while Allison Durham Speer was teaching vocal technique, I walked out on stage singing her signature vocal exercise into the mic.

Yes, I was Allison Durham Speer.

The crowd went nuts, and Allison just laughed and laughed. I did a few "Allison" moves, and then did a little chat up about the show. It was all very fun, and I'm pretty sure it's going to end up on YouTube soon.

The rest of the day was spent planning Comedy Night. Brandon Andrews was my co-host, and truly, he did most of the organizing (bless his heart!) We had a good number of students sign up, and when the show started, the hall was packed. To open, Brandon and I each did a song. I sang "Neighbor" and I think it went well. We then brought out the students who wanted to tell a joke. Well, partway through, Ben shows up backstage. I said, "Are you here to kick us off the stage?" and he said, "No, I'm here to tell a joke." Love it! So Ben joined in the fun, and his one line joke got one of the biggest laughs of the night.

After the musical impressions, Gerald and I did a few songs. We started with "Just a Closer Walk", and invited the crowd to sing along. Then we did "A Church Song Broke Me Down", which was great fun. Next came the big surprise of the evening. I held an envelope in my hand and said that it was time to announce the big Stamps-Baxter award, and this year's winner was ... (drumroll) ... Kay Honour! Kay is our amazing school administrator who volunteers year round for the school. Not only is she passionate about the school, and generous with her incredible business skills, she does all this work from Quesnel, BC! We crowned her with a tiara, pink feather boa, a bouquet of flowers, and a 'gold and ruby' scepter made by Allison Durham Speer. Kay is not a spotlight type of person, but we really wanted to say thank you for all the work she does. Very satisfying moment indeed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 6

I know it's only Monday, but I'm exhausted. Last night was a late one, and I have to admit - the commute to and from Murfreesboro is stressing me out. Gerald has been working on setting up the move, which is now only 3 weeks away! Yes, that's 3 weeks today. My word! There's so much to do, and as much as I love the school, it's stressful to be away from the house 10 or more hours a day.

Today was CD recording day at Stamps-Baxter. I wasn't in the hall during the recording, but they seemed to be very deliberate about the process. Group singing has been amazing this year, so I think it's going to be a terrific CD.

Tomorrow night, Brandon Andrews and I are hosting the Comedy Night, so we spent some time working on that today. Students are invited to tell a joke, impersonate a Gospel legend, or do a celebrity lip-sync. We'll mix in a bit of music, and it should be a pretty good night. This will be the first time we've done this kind of event, so I hope it goes well.

Tonight's concert was Stephen Hill, who is always awesome. So soulful and fun. He sounded fantastic, and the students just loved him.

Must sleep. Tomorrow's a long day!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gerald rocks the Bluebird!

(Posting a day later - very, very, very late night!)

What an amazing night! This is Gerald's 4th Bluebird appearance, and they keep getting better and better. There was such a huge crowd tonight that lots of people never even made it in the front door!

Gerald was 8th on the program, so the crowd was warmed up by the time he got on stage. We opened with "All Her Flowers are Wild", and I say 'we' because I joined him on harmonies. It went well, and the crowd really liked it. I left the stage to return to my sweet potato fries (love 'em!) and Gerald did "Modern Day Outlaw" and "The Last Payphone in the World." He sounded fantastic and the crowd really loved him.

On Sunday nights, they feature 10 new writers and finish the night with a short set by a hit writer. Tonight, in an awesome turn of events, the hit writer was Gerald's mentor and co-writer, Steve Leslie. When the host introduced Gerald, he was able to say that he writes with tonight's hit writer, which totally raised Gerald's street cred. Steve was fantastic, and totally upstaged when he brought out his 8-year-old son to play harmonica and sing a duet with him.

After the show, things got even better. Gerald got lots of great feedback, and several people wanted to write with him. We got to hang out with Steve and some other friends, and we stayed so late we closed the place.

Such an awesome night. So Nashville - so good!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 5

(Posting this the next day. Way too tired to write last night, and when I got home, Gerald had a movie ready for us. I got me a good husband!)

It's been a great week at Stamps-Baxter. I can see good friendships building between new and returning students. People are taking risks and landing on their feet. The concerts are a success, and students seem to be in all the right places at all the right times. And, of course, everyone is complaining that it's all going by too fast.

This afternoon, I was sitting in our 'office' trying to get ready for the arrival of our second week students. Rebekah pulled out her guitar and started serenading us all with bluegrass songs. Very distracting, but the best kind of distracting. These are the little things I'll miss when I go home.

At 3:30, I took on my challenge for the day - I taught Allison Durham Speer's Performance Training class. Yes, of course I was nervous! Allison sets the bar very high. I really wanted to be encouraging, but I also wanted to be honest and provide some practical, constructive criticism.

I opened the class with an open forum discussion on nervousness (seemed like a good way to deal with my own nerves.) With all that talent and experience in the room, I knew the students would have some tremendous advice to offer each other. I think it was very successful and helpful. There were some good questions raised, and lots and lots of good advice was put on the table.

Oh, and funny thing, once it all started, my nerves disappeared. I felt very calm and confident. Yay!

Then, we got people singing. I knew I wanted to do some lyrical analysis with at least one student, and my first soloist, Susan, brought up the perfect song with which to try it. She sang it nicely, but the song had a deeper message that we, the audience, just weren't getting. We worked through the first verse of the song, line by line, investigating what each line meant to her. The song was intensely personal to her, and as she looked at each line individually, she was able to add her story to the meaning of the lyric.

I then got her to sing the first verse and chorus again. Wow! What a difference! All the technical issues of pitch and posture fell into place, which was great, but the message was entirely different! Every word, every intention became so clear, and you couldn't help but be swept up in the meaning of the song. I was so proud of her! When I spoke to her after class, she told me she now wants to go through all her songs and apply that same kind of detailed work to them. Yay!

Throughout the class, I got to work with several soloists and one family group. We had some wonderful successes. There is so much talent in this school, and with just a little coaching, the singers were really able to open up and share their hearts with the audience. It was beautiful and inspiring.

I spent the rest of the day getting ready for our second week students, but I managed to get in to see a little of tonight's concert - Priority Quartet (formerly Mike LeFevre Quartet.) I had to also leave before the end (it's a 60-minute commute for me), but the show was fantastic. They have a great sound, and their arrangements are terrific. They did a quartet version of "Days of Elijah" which took the roof off the place!

Looking forward to a bit of down time this weekend. Including last week's studio days, I haven't had a day off in 12 days. Going to rest, enjoy family time, and get ready for Gerald's Sunday night Bluebird gig!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 4

Another great day on campus. The only real complaint I'm getting from staff and volunteers is "everything's done - we're bored" - *bliss*

Allison will be out of town tomorrow for a gig, so I've been asked to teach her class! Very excited! I sat in on her class with Mike today, which was great. I'm a little nervous, because Allison sets a very high standard, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Tonight was the faculty concert. No, I didn't sing. I had been told the concert was next week, so I had arranged for Gerald to come out then to accompany me. MTSU is almost an hour from our house, so I couldn't just go and pick him up. So, I'm going to try and find a time to sing next week.

The concert was good, but the highlight was the finale: Ben, Rosa Nell, and Mary Tom singing classic Speer songs with Jack Clark on piano, Rebekah Long on double bass, and Rock Slaughter on sax. Awesome!

Must sleep - I want to be well prepared for tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 3

Today was long, but soooo good!

This morning, Gerald and I had a fantastic meeting at NSAI. We met with 2 of the main coordinators to discuss some of our Toronto plans, and possible ways we could partner with NSAI. I can't reveal any details yet, but let's just say, there was a lot of excitement on both sides.

After lunch at the Pie Wagon, we left Music Row and I headed off to Stamps-Baxter. I'm so happy to see how things are shaping up at school this year. It's been a ton of work to move the school to a new location, but for the most part, the transition has been a smooth one.

This afternoon, I joined Allison Durham Speer in her Performance Training class. One of the things Gerald and I want to do when we get back to Toronto is teach workshops. Gerald will focus primarily on songwriting, and I want to do workshops on leading worship and on 'performing' the Gospel. So for the rest of school, I'll be joining Allison in her class in a kind of assistant teacher role. Mike Allen also assists, so it'll be a fun team.

I was a little nervous going in today. Allison's class was always my favourite part of Stamps-Baxter. I know how much this means to the students; I know how much they want and need this kind of information. After each student would sing, Allison would give her feedback, but she would also invite me to give my thoughts. I tried to be encouraging, honest, and practical.

After the class, a few students made a point of thanking me for my feedback, and that was very encouraging. Allison also had some great encouragement for me, which was awesome. I really think I have the right skills to do this kind of teaching, but I also want to make sure I am well prepared before taking someone's talent in my hands. What we do as ministers of the Gospel is so valuable, and as artists, we are all so sensitive. I pray that I'm a positive force for each student I meet.

This evening, we were treated to an awesome concert by Mike and Kelly Bowling. I just love this group! Awesome songs and big-sing vocals! After they sang "The Lighthouse", they got the audience to sing the chorus acapella. Remember, this is a group that's been singing 4-part harmony all day long. Stunning. I couldn't sing along - I just had to listen and marvel. Mike and Kelly ended with Dad Speer's "I Never Shall Forget the Day", and Ben gave them a standing ovation. What a concert!

I'm really loving the group singing this year. I haven't been able to join in, but during that part of the day, I try to work where I can hear the music. It's just stunning. The CD is going to be amazing!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 2

This morning, I started my massage therapy for my neck. My massage therapist is married to a singer, so she understands the specific needs I have for my treatment. She also knows a lot about post-accident trauma, which is going to be very helpful. The treatment was good, and my treatment room was pink, so I'm totally going back.

Stamps-Baxter seems to be settling into its routine, which is good for us on staff. Many of the staff got to sit in on different events today, so that's a good sign. I want to give other staff members the chance to join in group singing, so I'm choosing to work the InfoCenter during those times. Of course, I'm also keeping the doors open so I can listen. It is so crazy beautiful.

This evening, we all gathered outside to take the group photo. After the shot had been taken, Tom Powell turned to us all and said, "You know the key," and started conducting "I am His, and He is Mine," a great old Dad Speer song. I learned my part a few years ago, so I was able to sing along. Wow. That's all I can say. Five years of singing school, and that four part harmony still gives me chills. I may need to sneak into group singing one day...

Today's concert was The Perrys! I so love them! Great songs, great vocals, and unlimited passion and conviction. When they sing, it's just amazing. It's like the tap into something deeper and bigger than the every day. And off stage, they were wonderful and gracious and happy to be supporting the school. Love them more and more!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stamps-Baxter - Day 1

For the past 11 months, I've been working on putting this year's school together. Now, it's so well organized, that I hardly even know what's going on. I feel like I should know everything, but we have this great team of staff and volunteers, and I kind of feel like I know nothing. You know when you dream about your house, but it doesn't look like your house? It kind of feels like that.

We're still adjusting to the new venue, but other than that, we really can't complain. I spent a good deal of the day meeting new students and catching up with old friends.

I sat in on part of Allison Durham Speer's Performance Training class, and that was really good. I also moved my evening work out to the hallway so I could listen to group singing - truly glorious!

Tomorrow, I'm starting massage therapy. I'm still having problems with my neck from the accident, so I'm hoping this will help. I know too many people who have long term neck pain from a car accident, and I really want to avoid that.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stamps-Baxter begins!

It's that time of year again - Stamps-Baxter has begun!

Today, we welcomed over 200 students and faculty from across the country and around the world for two weeks of Southern Gospel, shape notes, and just good times!

Today was Registration Day, which I call Reunion Day. When I first attended this school, I didn't realize the amazing community that exists beyond the two weeks of the school. All day long, I was sharing stories and getting hugs and being shocked at how much a preteen can grow in a year.

Even with the new venue, we're super organized this year. As a result, I don't need to pull the 12 and 14 hour days of yesteryear. At first I didn't know what to think of this, but with all Gerald and I need to do right now - lawsuit, moving, accident recovery - it'll actually be nice to have some personal time over the next few weeks.

Oh, and cool unrelated song moment: Last night, I was listening to Brandon Heath's CD in the car. When the song "London" started, I thought, "Wow, that sounds really familiar." When I checked the credits, I recognized the name of the cowriter, Chad Cates. I heard Chad sing this song at Write About Jesus in 2005! Crazy, huh? For a brief moment, I felt in the loop!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Vocals - Day 2

More vocals, more good stuff. Today we did:

- I Surrender All
- Softly and Tenderly
- Come Thou Fount
- Give Me Jesus

There are 2 more songs I need to do, but they'll need to wait 'til after Stamps-Baxter. I'm still frustrated that the CD is so far behind the original schedule, but I'm finding peace with it. I have to keep reminding myself that we're on God's schedule now, and I'm still just so grateful that Gerald and I are here and healthy enough to even think about recording songs.

I got the online galleries from last week's photo shoot. I'm pretty sure I know which cover shot I want, but it'll be a bit tougher to choose a great group shot. Lots to choose from, so that's good!

Back to Stamps-Baxter craziness tomorrow. Registration is this Sunday, so I'll be working long, long days from now til then.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Vocals - Day 1

Recorded vocals today for the hymns CD. We did:

- Just a Closer Walk
- My Jesus, I Love Thee
- Sweet Hour of Prayer
- Take My Life

Overall, it went really well. Six songs to go tomorrow, so I'm not talking tonight. Just sipping tea and resting and cuddling the puppies.

Godspell is on GMC - fond memories...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Whole Bunches of Stuff

So long without blogging, and way too much to put in one post. I'm getting so behind on 'ordinary stuff' - emails, blogs, newsletters - anything requiring sitting and writing and focusing for a while. Apparently, that's all part and parcel of the accident recovery process, but it doesn't stop it from being incredibly frustrating.

So, here's all the cool stuff that's happened over the past week:

- Last week, I joined GMA Canada. I don't know a whole lot about what they do, but I figure it'll be a good way to get connected to the industry when we move back home.

- Gerald and I are now the official owners of Breaking Light Music - our new music company! I'll be writing a lot about Breaking Light over the next few months. For now, let me just say that we are super excited about bringing our new Nashville skills to Ontario, and Breaking Light Music will be the vehicle for this awesome plan!

- On Friday, Gerald and I had a photo shoot for the hymns CD. Teri Reid's husband, Shannon Fontaine, did the shoot. Haven't see the photos yet, but we had a lot of fun!

- Sang at Redeemer this morning and had an amazing time. I'm really, truly, going to miss my church.

- On Tuesday and Wednesday, we're recording the hymn vocals! Feeling nervous, but excited.

- We're about to head into Stamps-Baxter overdrive! This is our final planning week. On Sunday, we'll have Registration, and then it's shape-note madness for two glorious weeks.

- My July article for SoGospelNews is all about a unique experience in gratitude. You can check it out here.

- Only 5 weeks left in Nashville before moving day. Time is about to flyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!

I'm going to try and do more frequent blogging. There's a lot going on right now, and I don't want to miss a thing!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Making Music in Memphis

Yesterday morning, Jenna and I packed up her jeep and headed to Memphis for a musical road trip!

She had been asked to lead a mini-worship session for her friend's birthday/anniversary party. As it was explained to me, we were going to partner with her church's worship leader, Josh, and have a short period of music and worship before the party. Jenna and I have been working together for almost 2 years now at Redeemer (wow, time has flown!) and we have our 'thing' down, but neither of us knew Josh. So often in making music, the key is just to be open to the energy in the room, sensitive to the music being made, and generous with your talents. The three of us met for an afternoon rehearsal, and you could tell things were going to go well.

As the guests arrived, they were welcomed with fresh fruit and cupcakes, and then lead into the living room. We handed out songsheets, and the music began. Wow! For a small group, the singing was powerful! Everyone sang out, some people clapped, others sang harmony. It was beautiful. We moved between moments of song and prayer, but it really was a true time of worship and not just a sing-along.

And once things got started, it was hard to make it stop! The party never moved away from the singing and the praising. Once our "formal" part was done, people starting saying things like, "We used to sing 'Be Glorified' in church camp. Do you know that?", and we'd all sing 'Be Glorified.' Then they found out that Josh, Jenna, and I were all songwriters, so we each did one of our own songs, which was fun and cool. More requests, more stories, more sharing ... what a night!

After the crowd left, Jenna and I stayed up with our hosts, eating Muddy's cupcakes and learning more about each other. At midnight, our hostess said, "Let's go for a swim!". So we grabbed our swimsuits for a midnight swim! The air was warm and there was lightening in the far distance. So wonderful! The guest room was as beautiful as a bed and breakfast, so even though I had grand intentions of blogging last night, sleep overtook me very quickly!

As we drove home this afternoon, we drove past the site of the accident for the first time. I wasn't going to tell Jenna what we were doing, but I could feel myself getting more nervous, so I had to tell her. We prayed a little just before we got there, and I gripped my hands. As we drove through the stretch of highway, I had trouble distinguishing the exact spot but I was still awestruck by the location. A mile earlier, we might have be thrown into oncoming traffic and maybe hit another car. If we'd be thrown to the right instead of the left, we would have smashed into a solid wall of rock. I can't even imagine how those circumstances would have worked out. I know the "what if" game is a dangerous one, but when faced with the actual location of the accident, it's hard not to realize those alternative endings. I continue to marvel at God's grace on that day.

After a bit of rest this afternoon, Gerald and I got into a creative planning mode. We brainstormed some titles for my hymns album, and talked about the photo shoot on Monday. Gerald is recording some demos soon, so we went through his song list and debated the pros and cons of each choice. Our time here in Nashville is about to fly by, and I don't want to leave here with any unfinished business!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homeward Bound

Well, we're talking about it every day now and we actually can't stop thinking about it so it's probably time to put it in black and white and actually start writing about it:

Gerald and I are moving back to Canada.

In light of our recent accident, this probably won't be a surprise to most people, but the truth is we made this decision a few months ago.

In January, we were utterly convinced that we would renew our visa this year and stay another 3 years. I even put it on my list of 2009 Goals and Resolutions. But when we were in Alabama in March, we got to talking, and we realized our hearts were starting to turn back home. What followed was a month of intense prayer and discussion. We started to look for signs of God's plan for us, and bit by bit, it was revealed, and we couldn't be more excited.

Gerald and I are going to move to back to Toronto, taking all our new Nashville skills with us. We're going to start a new music company that, in the beginning, will encompass the things we do now - concerts, writing, church services, women's ministry, etc - but will eventually branch out into several new areas of live and recorded performance. We've had several brainstorming sessions and we've come up with a good 15-20 ideas we'd like to work on over the next few years.

Now, the accident has had some affect on this decision. How could it not? Our original plan was to move back in November, a little before our visa expires. After our recent visit home, we decided we really want to be home sooner rather than later. So our new moving date is August 10. We want to get back with our families, and moving in August will also allow us to get a running start for September.

Since the accident, the unimportant things have become really unimportant, and the important things have become super important.

The next 2 months (eep! - less than 2 months!) are going to be a whirlwind! I still have to finish my hymns CD, Gerald is recording demos, and Stamps-Baxter starts July 12. We also want to spend lots of time with friends, and try to hit all the places we still haven't visited, like the Frist and Graceland.

I'm excited about this next chapter in our lives together. I'm sad about leaving Nashville - we have some awesome friends here - but we'll visit twice a year, and we're hoping we have a constant stream of Southern visitors bringing us fried chicken, chess pie and red velvet cake!