Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday update

Today, I:

- Shared the rough mixes from last week's recording session with Tara and got great feedback!

- Brainstormed with Gerald about future creative plans.

- Made a worktape of my long-distance, Song U cowrite.

- Signed up to take a Song U class with Sue Smith on "Writing for the Christian Market."

- Made steps towards a possible booking next month.

- Planned our music set for Sunday morning.

- Relaxed and enjoyed the blessings of the day!

Good day...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Home from the retreat!

Last week, I warned people not to call me today. Judging by my sore throat and the very long nap I took today, it was probably a wise decision.

This morning was another early one. The toile bed was glorious, and the only thing that made crawling out of it worthwhile was the stunning view from the balcony. The lake was calm, one person was fishing, and the birds were just starting their song. I love city living, but I would be really happy with this kind of view every morning.

The only thing on the retreat schedule for today was a Holy Communion service. Kendra was the worship leader, and I joined her on vocals. Because the weather was so stunning, we pulled all the chairs out on the large deck and held the service outside. So stunning! The sun was shining with just a gentle breeze. Instead of a sermon, we were given a time to reflect on the weekend. We sat in a circle, and gave communion to each other.

The music was gentle and spiritual. We did great songs like "As the Deer" and "Knowing You." On "Eat this Bread," I sang alto, and thought of the hundreds of times I sang it with Monika singing that same line.

Lake Barkley is so beautiful, and if I didn't have to work tomorrow, I would pack up Gerald and the puppies and drive us all out there again tonight!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Redeemer Women's Retreat

(Posted after the fact - no internet connection in the woods!)

I’m dragging my fingers across the keyboard. It’s been a long but very satisfying day.

Last night and this morning (early this morning!) I was a judge for the TN Fine Arts Competition. It’s basically like a Christian talent competition, where junior high and high school students get the chance to present different kinds of creative ministries. I judged some of the drama categories, and it was really fun. It’s always neat to see what happens when you give kids a chance to tell stories for themselves.

After this morning’s session, I packed up the car, picked up Sally Barris, and drove out to Cadiz, KY, for the Redeemer Women’s Retreat. I’m currently sitting in what only can be called a hotel room in Lake Barkley State Park. People keep saying we’re camping, and let me tell you, if this was camping, I’d be camping all the time! Our room looks like an HGTV version of “rustic chic” - dark stained walls, toile comforters that match the imitation-silk gingham curtains, and a granite and slate lined 3-piece bath. The true piece de resistance: each room has a private balcony and a completely clear view of the lake. Truly stunning!

Sally and I arrived just in time to rehearse with Jenna and Kendra for tonight’s sessions. Crazy rushed, but we worked with the time we had. I had a glorious 25 minutes to sit by the lake. The water was calm, and three fish jumped right in front of me. My kingdom for a pole!

At supper we ate BBQ and banana pudding, and chatted with the Redeemer ladies. It was easy to tell they’d been having a good time - everyone looked beautiful and relaxed. Laughter dominated the conversation.

Right after the meal, we gathered for our evening worship set, which I was leading. Jenna and Kendra filled out the all-girl praise team. Jenna had really blessed me by entrusting me with the leadership position, and it was somewhat intimating to lead with her on the team, but it all worked out so well. She and I have learned each other’s signals, so once I allowed myself to get out of the way, things flowed beautifully. We did a four praise songs, included a little acapella group singing, and Kendra ended the set with prayer. It was powerful and awesome!

After our Bible study session (Ruth - one of my favourites!), Sally and Jenna did a mini-concert. In the rehearsal today, they asked if I knew “Down to the River to Pray,” so tonight, we did it acapella in 3-part harmony. Our voices blended so well! We’ve decided we need to find another song or 2 and do it again some time. Sally did some of her originals, which were fantastic, and then they lead us in a hymn sing. We’d put all the chairs in a circle, campfire-style, and it was lovely to look around the circle and see all the beautiful faces. For the last song, “In Christ Alone,” Jenna called up Kendra and me to sing along. By the end of it, all the ladies were on their feet and the energy was too strong to stop, so we broke out in a round of Michael W. Smith’s “Angus Dei”. So awesome!

As we packed up the sound system (our SoloAmp!) and mics, some ladies prayed, others laughed, and other just hugged and talked about the beauty of the weekend. After the room cleared, Kendra and I did a quick rehearsal for tomorrow morning. I’ve now been on the go almost 18 hours. I’m tired. My voice is tired. My feet are tired, but I feel so good and satisfied and relaxed. Looking forward to climbing into my fluffy bed and dreaming of fishing...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Studio Day!

Okay, now I'm home, I'm still tired, but I have to blog about yesterday before all my memories slip away.

Yesterday, we gathered at the Soundshop on Music Row to record tracks for my new hymns CD. After our Monday rehearsal, I was very confident about the music, but I still had some nerves in the morning. How could I not? Tracking days are always expensive, and you hope and pray that you'll get everything you need in the time you have.

The Soundshop is an amazing studio with a long pedigree. Last summer, Aaron and Johnny Minick bought it and snazzed it up. We were in the smaller Studio B, which is cozy and intimate - the perfect place to record this music. Aaron was there to help us get set up, and my friend, Rebekah, has just started her internship there, so she spent time with us too.

Brian Speer played dual role of engineer/producer, and it was good to have a fresh set of ears hearing the songs. When Aaron heard a bit of "Just a Closer Walk", he pulled out this gorgeous old Gibson for Gerald to play. Ends up the guitar was once played by Chet Atkins. The piano Teri played was, over the course of its history, played by such people as Buddy Killen, Paul McCartney, and Ray Charles. Where else but Nashville?

Then, we started making the music, and it was awesome! We did the guitar songs first. It took a while to get all the sounds balanced (as it so often does) but once we got comfortable with things, it was great. The guitar songs had a lot of flair, and then we moved on to the really intimate piano songs. For most songs, we only did one or 2 takes. We'll do my vocals on a later date, so the most important thing was getting a gorgeous, moving instrumental take.

Once or twice, Teri would replay just a few bars and Brian would "punch it in". (Basically, it's like pasting that little section into the larger song.) But for the most part, every instrumental part you'll hear on the CD was done in one take. Amazing!

When we broke for lunch, we went across the street to the Pie Wagon for blackened chicken and chess pie. As we're walking in, 'Whispering' Bill Anderson was walking out. Ben Speer came to join us for lunch. A few minutes later, the Isaacs walked in. They were recording in Studio A, right across the hall from us. As I was sitting there, I had the most surreal moment. I thought, "I'm recording on Music Row," and it had all the excitement and aura and cool details that you think that moment is going to have. It was awesome and good.

At the end of the day, we had all the tracks, and they sounded excellent. I was tired - physically and vocally - but very, very satisfied. I'll get copies of the tracks on Friday, start rehearsing, and record the vocals in a few weeks. In case I haven't said this in a while: I love my job!

Quick studio update...

Yesterday was awesome! I was way too tired to write last night and I'm working for Ben today, but I'll write an update tonight. Awesome day!!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Studio tomorrow!

Teri, Gerald, and I met this morning for our final hymns rehearsal. We made sure the arrangements are solid and the endings tight.

Tomorrow morning we're recording the tracks. We're actually recording on Music Row, which is pretty cool.

It'll be an early morning, so off to bed! Soooo excited!!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter recovery...

Yes, I've been in Easter recovery all week! Don't get me wrong - last weekend was amazing!

On Saturday, I attended a wonderful Seder meal at Redeemer. Sunday morning, Gerald and I led worship at Harpeth Springs. We planned some great songs for Easter, and we were joined by a great bass player. (We're hoping he'll join us again this Sunday!) I'd given up fast food for Lent so, after church, we broke the Fast Food Fast at Fat Mo's. Anyone who's eaten there knows you need a nap after, but we had to clean the house and glaze the ham! Sunday night, we hosted Easter dinner for 9 people. And before you give Gerald all the credit - I did the cooking!

It was an awesome day, and an incredible week, but I was just thoroughly exhausted after all of it. I had to work Monday morning, and I've just been tired all week. Tuesday I really wanted to nap all day, but Tara and I got all glammed up and headed out to Smyrna for the SGN Awards. It was really a fantastic show, and I got to see lots of friends. To be honest, it was actually a bit of a profound night for me. I don't know that I'm ready to write about it yet, but I may in a little while.

Today was the first day I was really feeling ready to get back to work (creative work, not day-job work), so it ended up being a wonderfully creative day! Gerald and I had a creative meeting this afternoon to discuss my CD and his demos. We try to have these meetings every week or 2. In them, we talk about our creative dreams, and then try to put together the steps to make them come true.

Gerald is developing an 8-song demo package that will be a mix of Christian and country songs. To keep things affordable, not all the songs will use a full band, so we'll probably use several studios to make the different demos. We're hoping to get at least 3 done before our next trip to Canada, and we'll post them online when we get them.

We're in the studio Tuesday to record the tracks for my hymns CD! So excited!! We're recording them right on Music Row, just steps from the hotel where we spent our honeymoon. On the day, we'll record the guitar and the piano, and I'll do a 'scratch' vocal. This basically means I'll sing along to guide Teri and Gerald, but we may not keep it. We'll focus on the musicians as opposed to spending our time getting the perfect vocal. (We'll do vocals at Brian's studio in a few weeks.)

Tonight, I worked on my part of a long distance cowrite. My partner sent me several lyrics, and I chose the one that sounded most Southern. I've written a melody that I think is pretty solid. I recorded a rough acapella verse/chorus (reminder: learn how to use Garage Band) and sent it to him. Hoping he likes it!

There's a lot to do over the next 10 days. In addition to recording next week, I'm also working for Ben, attending Bible study, judging at the TN Fine Arts competition, and leading worship at the Redeemer's women's retreat in Kentucky. Please don't call me next Sunday afternoon - my phone will be switched off!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday

I decided last night to give myself today off. It's one of those things that I couldn't really afford to do, but I also couldn't afford not to. Now that I've hit the end of the day, it was definitely the right choice. I relaxed, spent time in a cafe with Tara, and had a long dinner out with Gerald.

Tonight I went to the Maundy Thursday service at Redeemer. It was awesome. We did Holy Communion, foot washing, and stripping the altar. The music was great, and the whole service was powerful and moving.

When I got home, Gerald and I rehearsed for Sunday morning. These are the songs we're doing:
  • Holy is the Lord (Chris Tomlin)
  • Above All (Paul Baloche)
  • In Christ Alone (Stuart Townsend)
  • Angus Dei (Michael W. Smith)
  • Worthy is the Lamb (Darlene Zschech)
The rehearsal went well, so I'm feeling good about it all!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

SoGo Central Nashville

Tonight I sang at the SoGo Central Nashville Dinner Theatre. It's a neat little community theatre where they do lots of plays and musicals, and for the last few months, it's been the home of monthly Southern Gospel concerts.

My Stamps-Baxter friend, Brandon Andrews, has been the host, so I was thrilled for the invite to come and sing a few songs. I was also excited because I'm big fans of the headliners for the night - Mike and Kelly Bowling. For the uninitiated, Mike and Kelly are a husband-wife team who have built one of the hottest trios in SG today. They have a great sound and they choose great songs - last year's "Your Cries Have Awoken the Master" was Singing News #1 song for 2008.

I opened the show with "Neighbour" and "Real Big Fan", and both went well. Brandon did a great set with his huge, powerful vocals and awesome songs. Then Gerald and I did our new arrangement of "Just a Closer Walk" and we had the crowd singing along. Mike and Kelly gave a great show with stunning vocals, and an easy, friendly stage presence. They're awesome to listen to, and just so comfortable to watch.

After the show, we got to chat with the audience, staff, and other artists. "Just a Closer" got terrific feedback, so I'm even more excited about putting it on the new CD. Overall, there was a really positive feeling from everyone. Hope we can do it again soon!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Happy Palm Sunday!

I love Palm Sunday! Actually, I love all of Holy Week. I have Bible study on Wednesday, but I'm planning to attend church on Thursday and Friday evenings. I'm also doing a cool reading this week. Max Lucado's "And the Angels Were Silent" covers the final days of Christ as recorded in Matthew. The chapters are all broken down for the days of the week, so this week, I'll read it according to the days of Holy Week.

This morning was a first for us - we each sang at different churches! Gerald was back at Harpeth Springs, where he lead worship by himself for the first time! He was a bit nervous (aren't we all the first time?) but by all accounts, it went well. For the final song, he did his new song, "The Good Tree," which talks about the tree that would become the cross. Awesome song!

I was on the praise team at Redeemer. We had a fairly large group with 7 of us on the team, and 2 more coming up to sing in a quintet for the offertory. I sang "Go to Dark Gethsemane" from the red Anglican hymnal during communion, and it went really well. The whole service was pretty awesome, and we got a tremendous amount of feedback after the service.

Busy week ahead! Must rest up so I'm good for the whole week!