Sunday, February 28, 2010

Competing with the Gold Medal Game

This morning's service was awesome! It started with the craziness of a broken piano string that buzzed throughout the service like a snare drum, but not even that string could stop the beautiful energy of the Holy Spirit. Seriously - something was moving in that church, and it was powerful!

In the afternoon, I beat myself up for booking a concert on the closing night of the Olympics. What was I thinking??? I mean, I know we're good, but we can't compete with the gold medal hockey game!

We left home after the second period to drive to Faith Gospel Tabernacle in Brampton. We arrived just in time to hear the pastor cry out, "They tied??" As people arrived during our sound check, we got them to give us updates. All I can say is, "Yay, Canada!!!!"

Luckily, people left their homes after the game to come to church! Faith Gospel is a growing church that hosts monthly Gospel concerts. The evening opened with their passionate praise team leading the audience in a mix of Gospel hymns and praise songs. The other artist on the bill was Elvis Gospel impressionist, Vili V. We love Elvis's Gospel music, so all the songs were very familiar to us.

Gerald and I did a guitar set that mixed our originals with praise songs and hymns. We're trying to eliminate solos, so we did harmony on every song but one. As we started to sing the praise songs, we could feel the audience singing along with us. On "Blessed Be Your Name," we invited them to sing on the chorus, and they sang with gusto! We used the second verse of "Blessed Be Your Name" to transition into a testimony about our car accident. When we ended our set with "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," people didn't even wait for the invitation - they just burst into song, joining us on all three verses and choruses. Sometimes you just tap into something greater than yourself, and we felt that tonight. There was a lot of love in the room, and we really felt like we'd been welcomed into this awesome church's family.

"Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be your name!"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rehearsal and rehearsal and rehearsal...

I love a good day of singing, but tonight, I'm just tired! Good tired, but tired.

I've been teaching some baby-music classes as part of an outreach program in Scarborough, so I started my day singing for babies and toddlers and Moms. Always a bright way to start your day.

In the afternoon, I moved to organizing charts for tonight's praise team rehearsal, upcoming gigs, and past gigs. Later in the afternoon, I decided I need a music secretary to prevent me from drowning in charts.

After a quick review of Sunday's music, Gerald and I joined Monique for an awesome Praise Team rehearsal. We love all the songs for this week, and the vibe was good. We're even throwing in a hint of bluegrass...

After a short break, I joined the Chorale for their rehearsal. Their alto lead was unable to make it tonight, so I subbed in. I can't remember the last time I did so much sight-reading! The first hour was hymns, anthems, and a motet. Challenging, but good. But in the second hour, we switched to Mozart's "Requiem," the focus of the Chorale's upcoming Palm Sunday concert. Sight-reading the alto line of Mozart, in Latin. Okay, the last time I did this much alto sight-reading was a million years ago when I sang in Ontario Youth Choir.

Definitely on the edge of my current skill set, but I feel I held my own. And if I didn't, everyone was too polite to tell me otherwise.

Church people are good that way.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lute on a Saturday Night

It was so glorious to see the sun today! On a long walk with the puppies, Gerald remarked on how springlike it all felt, and he was right. Maybe that's why all my work today felt so easy.

My big project for the day was a full product inventory. I pulled out all my CDs, bags, angels, and other items that make their way across our product table. I counted what we have in stock, how many we've sold, and the approximate income we've generated through our sales. I won't get into the numbers, but it was very informative. It also feels good just to know where we are with things.

Tonight, we had dinner with Andrew and Wendy, whom I met at last fall's Imagine conference. After a wonderful meal, we pulled out the guitars and shared songs and stories. For the grand finale, Andrew brought out his lute and played a few instrumental tunes for us. Nothing better than sharing time with wonderful, creative people!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Taize at the Convent

Today was one of those crazy days with lots of driving and lots of appointments. I was 10 minutes late for my first appointment, which made me 10 minutes late for everything. That said, it was also an awesome day filled with great productivity, and I'm always happy for that.

In the afternoon, Gerald and I met with Dad about ways we can combine our creativity into some future ministry ventures. Things are still in the early planning stages, but I'm excited about the possibility of the three of us working together.

In April, my friend Deanna and I will be leading worship at the Peterborough AWARE conference. One of the things the committee has asked for is a Taize service. I've done some Taize choruses before, but never a full service. As a bit of a research trip, Deanna and I decided to attend the Taize service at St. John's Convent in North York.

The convent's chapel is lovely - clean and modern with a beautiful acoustic. The chairs are arranged in semicircles on either side of the sanctuary, so we were able to face each other in the service. The congregation consisted of the sisters and many visitors. The music was lead by piano and violin.

Taize choruses are very simple - usually just 2 lines long - and are sung with many repetitions. After the first 2 or 3 times, you're able to memorize the song, and after that, it takes on a meditative quality. You focus on the words and on the thought behind the song. You listen to the other voices, and in doing so, we became a real singing community. We would sing each chorus 6-8 times. Sometimes the piano would bring us to a close, and sometimes, the group would naturally find an ending.

The service contained about 7 choruses (sung throughout the service), a scripture reading, a time of silence, a time of annointing, a chanted prayer, and a sung Lord's prayer. Even in the music, there was a sense of stillness. I was reminded of the verse, "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

After the service, Deanna and I went out to discuss the service and how we can use these tools in the women's conference. The conference will be a busy weekend, and I think a moment of stillness will be needed, just as I needed it today...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Good Church

I generally find church to be a good experience, but some days, for whatever reasons, it's better than others. Today was one of those days.

Before the service, we learned that a beloved member of our congregation passed away earlier this morning. He was one of those "salt of the earth" people. The loss is deep. Drew (our rector) decided we needed to adjust the plan for the service to include some moments of comfort. Gerald suggested our version of "Give Me Jesus" for the offertory. Monique had never heard our arrangement, but she caught on right away.

The whole service felt strong and moving. When we got to the offertory, we sang and play like a true trio. It felt like the right song at the right moment. During communion, we ended with Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace." For the final chorus of "My chains are gone," Gerald and Monique dropped out on instruments and we did a 3-part acapella vocal. Powerful!

Our team started in the craziness of Advent, but in the last two months, we've had a real chance to learn each other's strength's and gel as a team. It feels awesome, and I hope it ultimately means that we can provide amazing music that will help lead the people of St. John's in a vibrant time of worship on Sunday mornings.

In the afternoon, we grabbed Monique and Jason for lunch at Swatow in China Town, forgetting that today is the first day of Chinese New Year! There were celebrations up and down Spadina, and while we were eating, a dancing dragon came in our restaurant and danced around the tables. Just another reason why I love living in a multicultural city!

I saw Boni this afternoon and she gave me bags and bags of sheet music, song books, CDs, and Worship Leader magazines! I can't wait to spend an evening going through them. It's like I've been given free reign on a treasure chest!

Good church - good day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


This afternoon, Gerald and I performed in the NSAI showcase at Winterfolk, and we had a great time! Our showcase featured 2 rounds, 3 performers each. The place was packed, and even though we found out about this at the last minute, we still had a good number of friends in the crowd.

Gerald lead the round with his country songs, and he sounded excellent. The middle seat was held by Bowmanville writer, Terry Maxwell. I was on the end, and I was swamped with sound issues! My guitar wouldn't work through the sound system at all, and after many embarassing attempts to plug in, change the battery, and countless other tricks, we abandoned the plug in and decided to mic the guitar. But, of course, there was only one mic, so Terry and I had to share a guitar mic, swinging the boom between us.

Despite it all, I think I did well. It was a secular restaurant/bar crowd, so I decided to sing songs that were fun and a little esoteric. I opened with "Wedding at Cana" which got some smiles, and followed with "Sing Me a Song," acapella with Gerald tapping the body of his guitar like a drum. Then, I decided to be fearless (or crazy, depending on your POV) and sing the brand new song I wrote yesterday. "Brighter Happy Day" is probably the closest thing I've written to a Gospel bluegrass song. It's lots of fun, with a good theological center, and it got lots of laughs and smiles.

The energy in the room was awesome! We spent the next few hours chatting with friends, listening to the acts that followed us, and eating Mexican food. I wish we could go see some of the other acts tomorrow, but our friend Chris McKhool is performing Monday, so I think we'll try and see him.

Book Review: "Fearless" by Max Lucado

I love free stuff of any kind, but free books send me to a new level of giddiness! I recently found out that Thomas Nelson will give free books to bloggers in exchange for reviews, so here's my first review!

"Fearless" by Max Lucado

I have a funny relationship with fear. There are times when I can walk into a den of lions and walk calmly through the madness to gain my prize on the other side. And then there are times when I'm shaking before I even walk through the door. When I saw that one of my favourite authors had a new book coming out on becoming fearless, I knew it would be a 'must read' for me.

The basic concept of "Fearless" is this: The voice of fear is loud and invasive. Let's find ways that we can shut out that voice, and start letting the voice of God guide our thoughts and actions.

I heard Max Lucado speak a few years ago at GMA Week, and I fell in love with his easy demeanor, effortless storytelling, and brilliant ability to simplify a complicated concept. All of these wonderful traits are woven into the pages of "Fearless." Max bases each chapter on different moments when Jesus commanded us to "fear not," and these Biblical illustrations serve as a platform for how we can approach our fears in the hear and now. Even though the book gives you solid theology and deals with heavy issues, it never feels preachy or intimidating. You feel like you're chatting with your brilliant, caring uncle over a nice cup of Earl Grey.

At the back of the book, there's a great discussion guide with chapter questions, further scripture reading, and practical exercises. There were certain chapters that really hit home with me, so I'll probably go back and do the study guide on those chapters. I think fearlessness, at least for most of us, is a journey and a process, and it's nice to have a few more tools in my arsenal for those tough days.

Happy Reading! Be Fearless!!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Proud to be a Canadian...and a songwriter!

I have music to write about, but while it's happening, I just have to say - I am so proud to be a Canadian tonight! I've just cried, smiled, and cheered my way through the opening ceremonies for the Olympics. How often do we get to see performance art on such a grand scale? With the glaring exception of one awkward duet, I thought the music tonight was incredible! And the dancers and visuals! So beautiful!

On our musical front: I really wanted to get Gerald into the Winterfolk festival this year, but things were so crazy when we moved back that I couldn't get his stuff together in time. 2 nights ago, I found out that one of the performers in the Winterfolk NSAI showcase had to back out. I jumped in with Gerald's name, and he was offered the spot! Yay! Then last night, we found out that another songwriter in the round had to drop out due to illness, so I was offered the spot.

Today, I was so inspired by our last minute bookings that I wrote a new song!

So, I wanted to get Gerald in, I wasn't able to do it this year, yet God opened the door for us! It never fails to amaze me...

If you're around the Danforth tomorrow, we'll be singing at the Willow restaurant at 2:00-2:45pm. Free admission!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Grace for the Grieving Heart

My latest article for SoGospelNews is now online. I really feel this is my most personal article to date (which is always a little scary!), so I'm open to any and all feedback.

You can read it here: Grace for the Grieving Heart

Monday, February 01, 2010

Back to Blogging!

For the past week, I've wanted everyone who visited this page to see nothing but our Music for Haiti fundraising campaign, so I haven't blogged for a while, and lots has been happening!

- I'm happy to say we sold enough CDs to raise several hundred dollars for the Haiti relief efforts. What amazes me most is that we didn't have any major events during the campaign, so the money was raised by individual sales, downloads, and the occasional $5 bill someone would slip into my pocket.

- Last Monday, we sang for a Robbie Burns event. Kilts, flings, sings, and haggis - all good fun!

- In church on Sunday, we sang my communion song, "Living Manna, Living Bread." It was so nice adding Monique's piano and vocal harmony to the mix!

- I'm chatting with a great singer-songwriter friend of mine about doing some gigs together in June. Hopefully, I'll have more news about this soon!

- I'm thrilled to say I've booked Ali Matthews to headline our Tin Pan North Christian songwriter night! Mark your calenders for Friday, May 28, 7:00pm! I'm still working on a venue. If you attend a church in the Annex area of Toronto and you think your church would welcome our show, please drop me an email.

- And the big church news: in the next few months, St. John's York Mills will combine our 2 main morning services (contemporary & traditional) into one blended service. This will be a HUGE change for our congregation, and it's going to require a lot of adjustment, creativity, and generosity from our music team. Please keep us in prayer as we decide how best to combine organ, choir, and praise team in a way that is both exciting and satisfying for our congregation!

- Bible study in the morning - must go prepare!