Saturday, July 31, 2010

NYC - The Day After

Friday was a whirlwind.

We packed, checked out, left our luggage at the hotel, and grabbed the subway to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's hard to describe the size and scope of this place in just a few words. "Mammoth" and "ginormous" (which is probably not an actual word) come to mind, but they pass over the intricate details of the place.

We spent hours and hours roaming through ancient Egyptian temples, Medieval sacred art, and Impressionist masterpieces. The Roof Garden was swamped by an ever-evolving network of bamboo that you could walk through and climb over. The special Picasso exhibit showcased room after room of sketches and paintings. Our favourite atrium was filled with gorgeous, glowing Tiffany windows and mosaics.

(this photo doesn't even do this window justice!)

After soaking ourselves in art, we wandered outside to explore Central Park. I fell in love with the ancient trees, the gorgeous stone carvings, and the absolutely charming Alice in Wonderland statue.

Our final few hours were spent visiting yet another Mac store, snapping photos of the Plaza Hotel, and grabbing souvenirs. After taking a speed demon cab out to JFK, we discovered our flight was delayed. Some time around 4:00 am, we arrived home.

There's lots to do over the next week, but today, we're just telling stories and looking at photos and nibbling treasures from the Time Square Hershey store... lovely...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

NYC - Day 3

Between the heat and the walking, I'm pretty sure my feet are swollen to twice their normal size.

Highlights of the day:

We had a chess-filled morning. Gerald played speed chess with a guy named Bear in Washington Square, we looked at elaborate and expensive chess sets, and Gerald played a 20-year-old International Master in a chess store that's open 24-7. You can play, learn, or shop chess any time, day or night.

I have fallen in love with Cafe Reggio - possibly the world's best cappuccino.

Tonight, we went to the Barrymore Theatre to see David Mamet's new play, Race. The play itself isn't perfect, but provocative and well acted. Eddie Izzard is just excellent, and the play keeps you talking.

Can't believe we're heading back home tomorrow. The week has flown by, but we'll be back soon...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NYC - Day 2

Another long and awesome day in NYC!

The 2 musical highlights:

Rudy's Music store in Time Square is a tiny two stories packed with awesome guitars. Gerald played a Froggy Bottom (love them!) and a Lowden - combined list price: just over $20,000.00 USD. No, we did not shop there.

Million Dollar Quartet is a musical based on the one night Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash jammed and recorded at Sun Records. The cast is incredible, and if you love this music and this particular slice of history, it's a must see.

Tomorrow, more theatre, and hopefully, not too many thunderstorms...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NYC - Day 1

The Day in Two Acts:


Arrive in NYC!

Strand Bookstore.

Vintage store.

Street meat.

Max Brenner's Willy Wonka-esque chocolate experience.

Guitar store.

Mac store.


Iphone 4.

Face Time!

Walking ... Gawking ... Walking ... Gawking ...

Check in.


(wandering the stacks of Strand)


Our rest was disturbed by a phone call. Our meeting was moved from tomorrow to tonight!

I don't want to talk about it too much, but let me just say that the meeting went really, really well. We walked in well prepared, and I really think we represented ourselves well. We left our music, and he's asked us to contact him tomorrow.

So, even though the meeting caught us by surprise, it also meant that it was done, so we could fully enjoy tonight.

Ever since our accident last year, I've had a heightened sensitivity to risky driving. Let's just say that the New York cab drivers are pushing my sensitivity to a whole new level.

We arrived at the Birdland just in time to order snacks and settle in for an amazing show with Charlie Haden and his Quartet West - tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, pianist Alan Broadbent and drummer Rodney Green. The music was rich and interesting and dynamic. Haden is 72, and his vibrant stage presence is a testament to living a creative life.

After the show, we walked past the theatres and through Time Square.

People keep saying, "We want Dundas Square (in Toronto) to be like Time Square."

You know what, I don't think we do.

At the risk of sounding overly pious - as much as I loved the energy of Time Square, I also had to recognize that I was standing in a sea of advertising, and maybe a Temple of Consumerism isn't the best we have to offer?

Anyways - off my soapbox! New York is amazing, and so far, I love it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mark your calendar...

Gerald and I are going to host another Music in the Garden concert on Sunday, September 26.

I'll be posting details over the next few weeks, but I wanted you to know the date asap.

Mark your calendars, and let's pray for good weather!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review: "The Voice - New Testament"

I first discovered The Voice project when I heard Chris Seay speak at Unite in Worship a few years ago. His desire to unite the voices of poets, songwriters, artists, and theologians to "rediscover the story of the Bible" sparked my creative interest.

The Voice has taken on several Bible books, and this year, they're coming out with their unique version of the New Testament.

Reading The Voice is different than reading other versions of the Bible. The "translation" is written in regular text. Extra words or phrases that give more information are written in italics. Boxed sections elaborate on certain topics. It sounds choppy, but the different sections flow to create a lively and dramatic reading of the Bible.

I started with Matthew 1, the dreaded "begats," and I've never enjoyed them more. Seriously! I could see the characters and their connections in a new way that was exciting and dynamic.

I wouldn't recommend this for your academic study or if you're trying to read several chapters a day (the extra text makes it a longer read), but if you're looking for something that will spark your personal Bible study, you may want to check out The Voice.

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.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Que & Pew & the Studio Too...

This is very much a day-after post...

Yesterday and last night were amazing and exhausting, and just the kind of day musicians like to have.

There was the planning and organizing and pulling of charts and trying to find my tambourine and all the while humming and trilling and otherwise vocalizing...

Then in the afternoon, I brought Gerald to a studio in the Beaches where he was booked in to record some worktapes for next week's meeting in New York. We want to leave behind a CD that's simple but great. A generous friend lent us his studio, rounded up his bass player and engineer, and Gerald was set to record 4 songs.

Meanwhile, I rushed home to meet with Deanna (my AWARE buddy) to rehearse for tonight's Que & Pew. Because Deanna was a last minute sub for Gerald, I had to choose songs that we had done together, and that our mixed evening congregation would know.

We did a quick run of songs like "Shine, Jesus, Shine" and an uptempo version of "Fairest Lord Jesus." After enjoying the BBQ and fellowship, Deanna and I lead music for an awesome and summery service. Our youth leader and deacon-in-training (DIT?), Stephen Monk, has been leading the services, and they are the perfect cap for the end of the day.

But it wasn't the end of the day!

After a quick check on the puppies ("Yay! You're home... Don't leave again!!!! Arg!!), I headed downtown again to join Gerald. By the time I got there, the guitar tracks were done and the bass player was adding his part. Monika came, and we sat in her car as we worked out 3-part harmonies on "Me and Patsy Cline."

As the clock hit midnight, the guitar, bass, and lead vocals were finished. The bass player left, and Moni and I moved into the tiny studio to record our parts. There was no booth, so Gerald, Moni, the engineer, and I were all in one tiny hot room. Being in one cozy space, with no partitions between us, gave it a communal, we're-here-to-do-something-good-together feeling.

Moni and faced each other, sang what we'd practiced, and changed a few notes to adjust to what Gerald had just recorded. Because we've been singing together so long, our blend and phrasing felt natural and easy.

By 1:00, we were finished. Everyone felt that wonderfully satisfied kind of tired. We were grateful for the 24-hour drive-through and comfortable pajamas.

Today, we took the morning off. We have another crazy afternoon and evening ahead of us, but you know, I wouldn't have it any other way...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Big Opportunity!!!

The last few days have been a whirlwind.

Last week would have been a great week by any standard - great rehearsals, great performances, great teaching - but then Thursday night happened...

Thursday night, we found out that a writer had given Gerald's name to the head of a record label in New York City.

By yesterday afternoon, plans were in place for us to record song demos this week and fly to NYC next week to pitch songs to this label.



This particular label has a wide range of artists covering the genres of Country, Pop, R&B, Rock, and Gospel. For a multi-faceted writer like Gerald, this meeting could open a lot of doors.

Since the label represents Gospel, they've also asked to hear my music.

So, this week, we're in the studio. Gerald will record 6 of his original songs, and I'll sing harmonies. Next week, we'll fly to NYC, meet with this gentleman, play some songs live, and leave the demos and a copy of "Real Big Fan."

If you're the praying kind, please throw one out for us this week...

Please pray for us as we prepare for and travel to this meeting.
Please pray that we represent ourselves well.

Please pray that we get extra work to cover the financial aspect of the trip.

Thank you!!!!

Off to look for discount Broadway tickets...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Que & Pew - Week 1

One of my favourite traditions at St. John's York Mills has always been Que & Pew.

Each Wednesday in July and August, people are invited to gather outside the church at 6:00pm for a BBQ of hamburgers and hot dogs. You're asked to bring either a side dish, dessert, or small cash donation to cover costs.

At 7:00pm, we hold a short, casual worship service (the "Pew", if you will). Each week, the message is delivered by a different member of the congregation. Early on, we focused on telling the stories of different Bible characters and historical church leaders. This summer, we'll be focusing on the parables. Each presenter is invited to use their creativity in giving the message, so you often get a fresh perspective on a well known story.

This week and next, Gerald and I are leading the music. Because you get such a wide range of people at Que & Pew, we wanted to offer a good range of music. We started with contemporary favourites like "Holy is the Lord" and "God of Wonders," and used the classic "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" as our opening song. We closed with our version of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and that got everyone singing!

Great fun evening! If you're in the Yonge & 401/York Mills area, come join us next week!

(You can visit my Calender for more details.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Non-Stamps-Baxter Blog

As I write, hundreds of Southern Gospel students and teachers are gathering in Murfreesboro, TN, for the annual Stamps-Baxter School of Music, and for the first time since 2005 -

I'm not with them.

I first attended the school after hearing Ben Speer talk about it during a Gaither concert. I didn't even know that something like a 'Gospel singing school' could exist (which probably proves that I'm not Southern after all.)

It was because of that first school that I started this blog.

It was during that first school that I received my calling into full-time music ministry.

It was because of that first school that I had a job when I moved to Nashville 2 years later.

And it was at that first school that I became part of a community of friends and musicians who are still friends and colleagues now.

And for the first time since 2005, I'm not with them.


I'd be lying if I said my heart wasn't breaking a little this weekend.

But I'm trying to find strength in God's plan and this particular twist.

There's a reason why I'm here and not there for these 2 weeks.

Maybe that will be revealed to me in this time, maybe not - God's funny that way.

But I do know that I'm glad I'm missing my friends and the school, because it just proves that they are all dear to me, and dear friends are a rare find.

If you wish to wander through my July posts from 2005-2009, you can read about my experiences as both a student and a staff member at the school.

My wonderful friend and theory teacher, Shawn Degenhart, will be blogging about his experience this year. You can read about his adventures here.

Please keep the students and staff of Stamps-Baxter in your prayers over the next few weeks. It's a busy time, but I, for one, can tell you:

It can change your life.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Needles in my Neck

Today, I stepped outside my comfort zone. A big, wide, wobbly step.

On an almost daily basis, I'm still experiencing pain and stiffness in my neck from our car accident. (Yes, the accident from May 3rd, 2009!)

I've been in ongoing treatment since last summer, and today we tried something new:


Now, the word gives the heeby-jeebies to the average soul. What makes me above-average (or below-average, depending on your perspective) is that for all my childhood and a few years of my adult life, I suffered from a phobia of needles, and more specifically, blood tests.

"Oh yes," you're thinking, "I don't like needles either."

No, I said "phobia," from the Greek for "morbid fear." Imagine a 90-pound, shy little girl who needed two male orderlies, an extra nurse, and her Mom to hold her down so they could take a blood test.


Things got so bad that I finally went in for desensitization therapy. In just three sessions, I received a blood test. No orderlies, no extra nurse, no Mom - just me.


So, even though the phobia is gone, I don't particularly rejoice at the thought of a plethora of needles sticking into me at one time.

As we've already noted, no one likes needles.

So today, I had my physiotherapist explain and re-explain and demonstrate the process. It would happen on the back of my neck and shoulders, and I wanted to know what was happening so there would be no surprises.

I got into position, and even though I was doing okay, I started to feel nervous.

I prayed and took deep breaths.

I reminded myself that people experience this all the time and no one has ever exploded like a popped balloon.

I imagined my back as a beach and the needles were palm trees being planted in the sand.

After a few minutes, I found myself lying on the table with ten needles in my back.


The physiotherapist left me for 5 minutes so the needles could do their work. I kept breathing and visualizing.

But one palm tree wouldn't stay still. The muscle was gripping and twitching.

When the physiotherapist returned, she could see the tense needle. She asked if I was okay or if I could handle another 5 minutes.

"Will 5 minutes be more effective?" I asked.

"Yes, but we don't want you to be uncomfortable if you don't need to be," she replied.

Uncomfortable??? I've been uncomfortable since May of 2009!!!

And with that, my Warrior Spirit kicked in.

"I'll be fine for the 5 minutes, " I calmly replied, breathing deeply and imagining sunshine and a gentle breeze on the beach.

Within a few minutes, the needles were gently removed. I felt a little tired (one of the expected side effects), but mostly, I felt powerful!

I had stepped way outside my comfort zone, and taken on a challenge that will only benefit me in the long run.

I was reminded of two simple truths I've learned time and time again:

#1. The more you step outside your comfort zone, the larger your comfort zone becomes.

#2. You're never alone when you step outside your comfort zone -
God is already there, awaiting your arrival.

Next challenge: Giving blood!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Farewell to the Choirgirlz

When I was Artistic Director for the Music on the Hill concert series, I always loved finding new musical groups. If they could combine great music with great personalities, even better!

One such find was The Choirgirlz - a trio of singers who met in the Mendelssohn Choir, were inspired to sing a few bluegrass tunes, and went to on record 3 CDs and sing in numerous festivals and concert series. The 'girlz' made a name for themselves with amazing harmonies, great arrangements, and original songs with a quirky sense of humour.

Tonight, The Choirgirlz ended their musical journey in the gorgeous Plein Air Salon - a backyard venue complete with waterfall, wooden pavilion, and an outdoor art gallery. The ladies charmed the supportive audience with their most requested songs and the stories behind them.

Tonight was a reminder of how precious it is to sing with your friends - the harmonies are tighter, the smiles are broader, the creativity is brighter.

Thanks for the music, girlz! You will be missed...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Photos posted...

I've just posted the rest of the photos from our weekend with Sally Barris.

You can see them in the Gallery of my site.