Friday, April 30, 2010

AWARE Conference - Day 1

I’m writing this from Elim Lodge in Peterborough. On our drive up here, Deanna and I went from skyscrapers to country fields. We’re staying in a great little cabin that’s just a few feet from the water. We have plans for tea by the lake tomorrow afternoon.

We’re here in the middle of the woods with over a hundred Anglican women who are ready to sing, socialize, and get spiritual. Deanna and I opened tonight’s session with a vibrant time of worship. We did songs like “Days of Elijah,” “Shine, Jesus, Shine,” and “Majesty.” They loved all the songs, and sang and danced with gusto!

The theme of the weekend is Transformation, based on Romans 12:1-2. The speaker, Melanie Hart, is also a singer-songwriter, and she ended tonight’s session with testimony and a powerful song about forgiveness and restoration.

We ended the night with snacks and fellowship. The response to the music was fantastic, and we’re getting to know some great women. Looking forward to tomorrow...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Getting ready for AWARE

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll head out to Peterborough with my friend, Deanna, for the AWARE women's conference. Over the course of the weekend, we'll lead 4 worship sessions, a Taize service, a Communion service, a musical parade into the Communion service, and 3 pre-worship sessions featuring our own songs.

We've been planning and practicing for a few months now. Even though Deanna and I have been friends for a few years, it's always a new experience when you start working together. I think we've developed a good dynamic, and I'm excited to bring the music to an audience.

I'll be blogging over the weekend, but I don't know if I'll have access to internet, so check back next week for AWARE updates.

Oh, and yesterday while I was caught in traffic, I wrote a new song! I didn't write at all over the winter, and now, it's like spring thaw - ideas and melodies are just flowing. Of course, being in traffic, I had no way to write it down, so I sang the song 30-something times so I wouldn't forget it. Must have worked cause I woke up singing it this morning!

Friday, April 23, 2010

I just want to bang on the drum all day...

One week today, Deanna and I will be heading off to Peterborough for the AWARE conference - us and a hundred Anglican women, singing and having a great time. Preparation has been a bit 'hurry-up-and-wait', but I feel we're in a good place now.

Today, we ran almost all the songs for the weekend - 4 worship sessions, 1 Communion service, and 1 Taize service. Deanna will be leading on guitar, we're both singing, and I'm the Percussion Queen, playing shakers, tambourine, and djembe.

One of the things the ladies have asked for is a 'parade' into the Communion service. Basically, we're going to gather outside 30 minutes before the service, and sing the African song "We are Marching" as the ladies process to the chapel. I'll be playing my djembe to lead us, and I'm hoping lots of spontaneous clapping, harmony, and dancing erupts.

Must bring comfortable shoes!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gaithers in Hamilton

I wanted to write last night, but we got home so late, there was only time for tea and pajamas!

Last night, Dad and I worked Gordon Mote's product table at the Gaither show in Hamilton. We drove out a few hours before the show, just in time to have pie (I've never seen a Swiss Chalet line-up literally trailing down the street!) and pay too much for parking.

I met Gordon and his manager, Bob, at Stamps-Baxter a few years ago, and it's always great to see them - good, cool people. Working the table was fun, and there's no one friendlier and happier than Gaither fans at a show.

It's been a few years since I've seen a Gaither show, and I have to say - we had a great time. Our seats were prime - 3rd row, almost center - so we could really see the music happening. There were some amazing acoustic sets with Buddy Greene, Gordon Mote and the Isaacs, sometimes with all of them playing together. Really - amazing!

The show contained some lovely vocal performances by Karen Peck, Charlotte Ritchie, and Gene MacDonald. There was also an wonderful moment with Lynda Randle. I know she has a great voice, but I've never really understood the extreme devotion of her fans. Well, partway through "Sparrow", she noticed someone in the front row to the right of us. I couldn't see the person, but he or she must have doing sign language. Lynda noticed, and every time she turned to that side of the audience she looked directly at that person and signed the lyric of the song. She didn't do it any other time or in any other direction. It was so obvious that she was reaching out to a specific person, that other people in the audience started looking around to see who she was looking at. It was a beautiful moment of an artist in a venue of thousands reaching out and connecting with one person. Extreme devotion explained.

Tonight was also my first time seeing the new GVB. Michael English is still out, so Reggie Smith filled in! I know Reggie through Stamps-Baxter, and he sang on 'Real Big Fan', so it was so cool to see him! The group sounded great, but loud. The only complaints of the night were the volume and the cold (I think the ice is still down in the stadium).

Oh, one more lovely moment - during the 'homecoming' part of the show, Bill pulled a chair to the front of the stage, sat down, and sang a song by himself. His voice cracked and warbled and did everything else a 'good' voice shouldn't do, and yet it was one of the most moving parts of the show. Why? Because he communicated the message of the song. Beautiful!

So overall - good music, good show, good pie!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Double Rehearsal Night

Tonight, I did a 2 hour rehearsal with the Praise Team, and 30 minutes later, another 2 hour rehearsal with the Chorale (I'm subbing in for the alto again.)

Both rehearsals were great, but I just have to brag on our Praise Team rehearsal. We have Brian joining us on drums for the next few weeks, and it just lifts everything! We were rocking and grooving and doing all the things that make rehearsals awesome - creating, arranging, and really making music.

I love what I do!!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

SARK and the Dream Boogie

Yes, an odd sounding blog title, but not if you know SARK.

Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy is a vibrant, inspirational creativity teacher. She's an artist and writer, and all her books are published written in her own handwriting and accented by her bright watercolours. Most men, and probably some women, would probably find her flaky, but I love her free spirit and carpe diem approach to life.

Tonight, I attended a free tele-class with SARK! "Dream Boogie" is an 8-week course designed to put your dreams into action. I used the time to focus on our plans for a music company, and came away very excited and encouraged!

The technology was the coolest thing - at 9pm, we all called a phone number and were able to hear SARK & her assistant, Trisha, lead the first part of the class. This new technology was incredible because it actually allowed us to interact as if in a live lecture. Throughout the class, SARK would lead polls. We would punch a number on the phone for our response, and within seconds, all the results would be tallied.

Then, we broke up into small groups. Yes, on the phone. At the sound of the tone, I was suddenly on the line with 3 other ladies. We had 15 minutes to share our dreams and encourage one another. At the end of the small group time, Trisha switched the line again so we were back in the lecture setting. At the end, Trisha removed the mute button on our mics so we could all (several hundred of us?) could sing Happy Birthday to SARK. It's a little hard to describe, but very, very cool!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Life is too short...

Last week, a young man from our church passed away. He was young, kind, and healthy, and shockingly killed by hidden heart disease. A few days later, a Stamps-Baxter friend passed away. He was older, and had dedicated his life to singing Gospel music and loving his family.

I've been avoiding my blog.

Somehow, telling you about a great rehearsal, or the fact that I'm subbing in for the Chorale lead, or my new site seemed unimportant, trivial.

Saturday morning, I attended the young man's funeral. As I sat in the pew, I grieved for both men. I grieved yet again for my own Steve. I cried and ached for the people around me and in the States who are hurting so much.

I felt helpless - what can I offer my friends who are in so much pain?

And a few answers came to mind:

I can sing.

I can pray.

I can offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, the few lessons I've learned from my own experiences of grief.

And I can learn.

I can learn from the best of these men - to be generous and loving to my family - to live each day to the fullest - to make music with my friends - to live my life with honour, respect, holiness.

Such basic lessons, but in the day-to-day dealings of traffic and bills and taxes and issues, we forget.

Life is fragile and short.

So, live joyfully - love abundantly - sing boldly - and never miss a chance to walk in the rain, smile at a baby, dance to your favourite song, or indulge in fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Hair we go again...

A year and a half ago, I had a very dramatic hair cut. I grew my hair an extra 9 inches and donated the cut ponytail to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths - a program that creates free wigs for cancer patients who lose their hair in chemotherapy.

After much debate, and a hair consultation from my cousin, Laurel (whose salon runs an annual hair donation day) I've decided to grow and donate my hair again.

It's long now, but over the next few months, I'll wash it, condition it, and care for it as it grows another 5 inches.

By mid-summer, it'll be driving me nuts, but it's all worth it.

It takes 6 donations to create one wig, so my donation isn't enough. If you have long hair, or you know someone who may be interested in donating their hair, you can find more information at Beautiful Lengths. The program runs in both the USA and in Canada.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter at St. John's York Mills

Alleluia - He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed - Alleluia!

If you went to church this morning, there's a good chance you heard and said this ancient Easter greeting. I love Easter, because Easter is when it all comes together. Without Easter, Jesus is simply a great man or a great prophet. But with Easter, Jesus is Lord, Saviour, Messiah, Prophecy Fulfilled!

Our morning started with an early rise. This was the Sunday we added 2 vocalists, a percussionist, and all new sound equipment. Gerald and I went over to the church last night to set up the equipment, and it made a huge difference for this morning! We all met at 8am so we could have a full hour's rehearsal before we had to head into the church for sound check.

The church was full (as most churches are on Easter) and it felt amazing to hear all those voices, see all those happy faces, and see the crowd of children gathering up front for the children's focus. Our music was a good mix of hymns and praise songs. Having the extra voices and percussion helped lift everything to a new level.

After the service, Gerald and I went home to our backyard, felt the sunshine on our faces, and breathed a sigh of relief. Holy Week is awesome, but it was a lot of work. 4 services, 3 rehearsals, 2 churches, and 1 new sound system - and I decided to launch my new site this week. Crazy busy, but wonderful, uplifting, and profoundly moving.

Tomorrow, we'll rest, relax, and gear up for the next phase!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Allison's April Articles

This month, I'm blessed to have 2 of my own articles online, and a mention in someone else's article.

My SoGospel News article talks about the new site, the free song download, and an interesting piece of family trivia. You can read that article here.

My SGM Radio article discusses a ministry lesson I received while shopping for magazines. You can read this article here.

Awesome songwriter-musician, Andrew Donaldson, mentions "Hymns in the Key of Grace" in a recent article about contemporary hymn writers. You can read his article here.

Always nice to have something to read on a Saturday afternoon...

Friday, April 02, 2010

The new site is up!!!!

I'm soooo excited right now!!!!

The all new is live!!!

I'll write more about it tomorrow, but please head over for a visit when you can.

For April, we're offering a FREE song download! To get your free download of "At the Cross," please visit the Store.

And just in case you couldn't tell - I am sooooo excited!!!!

Good Friday at All Saints

We gathered this morning in the quiet of the All Saints sanctuary to prepare for our Good Friday worship. The normally chatty community allowed the silence of the space to calm them. These are people who carry heavy burdens - coming to the cross and laying those burdens down is vital.

The service opened with prayer and scripture readings, punctuated with moments of silence. The clergy and community read the Passion from the Gospel of John, and I followed it with an acapella rendition of "Were You There." More silence, and a long section of prayer. A wooden cross was brought up through the congregation, and we read prayers in a meditation on the cross. After a hymn and a final prayer, Gerald and I sang "The Good Tree." More silence.

Solemn, holy, and moving - a beautiful way to celebrate and honour Good Friday.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Holy Week is always crazy for church people, and today was the busiest of them all. For Easter Sunday, we're having 3 new people join the team - 2 vocalists and 1 percussionist. On top of that, we have all new sound equipment to accommodate the new members, and today, we had our one and only rehearsal to try and pull it all together.

After 2 hours of learning new tech, new songs, and new parts, we had a short break before this evening's Maundy Thursday service. Today is the day we celebrate the Last Supper and the institution of Holy Communion. A little internet research earlier this week revealed that "Maundy" comes from "Mandatum novum" or "new commandment," referencing John 13:34, when Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

If you've never been to a Maundy Thursday service before, it can be very powerful. Our service tonight included music, communion, prayer, and foot washing. The foot washing is always amazing and personal. The music was moving - including Gerald's song, "The Good Tree" - and the prayers were meaningful. At the end of the service, the altar area is stripped to prepare for Good Friday. We exited the church in darkness and in silence.

Holy Week is busy, but I guess the challenge is to be deliberate in taking and cherishing these moments of silence and stillness.