Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - 4 Ways to Worship in the Studio

Today's Worship Wednesdays post comes to you live from the studio!

Over the next few days, we'll be laying down guitar tracks for our new Infinitely More CD! This album will reflect our live performances - finger-style guitar, tight vocal harmonies, lots of our original songs, and a few new arrangements of favourite hymns.

For those of us who are primarily live performers and worship leaders, being in the studio is a wonderful but very different experience. In its best moments, we get to play with our songs in a new way, investigating details of sound and phrasing. But in its worst moments, gear, technology, time constraints, and the financial cost can distract and overwhelm.

All of that stress will only feed into the music. Things can be technically perfect, but if you lose that sense of reverence and praise, your message will never be as clear and moving as you first imagined.

Here are 4 tips for bringing a feeling of worship into the studio: 

Our live performances always start with prayer, so our studio sessions are the same. This morning, we offered gratitude for our talents and for this opportunity. We prayed for the optimum use of our time and skills. And yes, we definitely prayed for all technology and gear to work as it should!

Create Your Sanctuary
Churches of any size are designed to visually inspire worship. Do the same with your recording space. Bring in a few photos, your Bible, or favourite piece of art to help inspire you. Some artists enjoy recording by candlelight. (Just be sure to run any major choices by your engineer.)

Imagine the Audience
Your recorded songs won't live in a vacuum, so think about your listener. Imagine a large crowd of worshipers for your hymns and corporate worship songs. Think about the broken heart or distracted faith of the person listening to your CD in their car. Sing for each of them...

Remember the Message
As you work through your recording, you'll pull apart your songs in detailed ways - re-recording the guitar part of verse 2, adding harmony to the bridge, singing that final "ooh" 6 different ways. Keep the full lyric in front of you. Remember the original inspiration for the song. God has asked you to sing this particular message for such a time as this, so remember the power behind that.

How do you bring worship into the studio?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - The Great Cloud of Witnesses...

Today's Worship Wednesdays post is inspired by our travels over the past 2 and a half weeks. As we've been touring the Maritime provinces, we've seen churches of all shapes and sizes. (See our photos here.)

Some have been small country churches, with each piece built and shaped by the hands of the community. Others have been cathedrals with great artwork and architecture.

St. Margaret's Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick, bridged the ages. The original church had a beautiful spot by the river that was, unfortunately, prone to flooding. After many years, the old church was sold, but many pieces - including pews, stained glass, and the bell - were saved and moved into the new structure. The blend of old and new is a beautiful symbol of the many generations of worshipers.

The plaque outside Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, showing the construction date of 1688.

One of the most striking churches was Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in historic Old Quebec City. This church was one of the first buildings of the city, built in 1688. Over the first 100 years of its existence, local artists added to the beauty of the sanctuary. One build the altar pieces, another added the gold leaf. A woodworker carved the pews, and a painter created art for the ceiling.

The opulent altar of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.

As we walked the aisles and gazed at the art, I was reminded of the reference in Hebrews to the "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us.

So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.
Hebrews 12:1, The Voice

I could visualize the artists planning their act of worship through wood and paint. I could see the priests and elders nodding their heads as they approved the designs. And I imagined the smiles of the congregants as they walked into the sanctuary, the smell of varnish still lingering as new images of faith filled the worship space.

As worship leaders, we can get so wrapped up in the new and the now. What songs are topping CCLI? What is my favourite band writing? What new tech do we have to play with? How do we build our Twitter following? How do we hold the attention of parishioners with a YouTube attention span?

Sometimes, we need to remember the generations of witnesses who have come before us, worshiping in their own 'contemporary' style. They fought through the challenges of their day and time, offering their art and music and prayers, all in an attempt to know Christ and make Him known. And as we imagine them, we are reminded that we are not alone in this faith journey. We are surrounded by the faithful of all generations, and on those days when we feel a little overwhelmed, maybe that can give us a little more strength for the race.

How do the worshippers of the past encourage your worship path?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - The Story Behind "I Wanna Make Some Noise"

I have a song that's affectionately become known as "the traffic song."

If you're familiar with Toronto, you're familiar with our epic traffic. Crowded highways, endless construction, and an ever increasing population make for slow driving at the best of times. One day, I was driving home from visiting my parents in Burlington. The 45-minute jaunt turned into a 2-hour odyssey of drifting down the QEW at 10 KM an hour.

I tried various radio stations, but nothing caught my ear, so I shut off the radio in frustration. As I sat in the silence of my car, a little line started drifting through the air...

"I wanna make some noise for the Lord..."

I started to repeat it until a second line came, and then a third. Before I knew it, I had this groovy, Gospel song building. It sang about evangelism in a fun, cool way. But how to capture it? A song idea can slide out of your hands like a wet fish. I knew I had to record it or risk losing it forever. 

Because I was driving, my options were limited: I couldn't call my voice mail, there was no one to write it down for me, and truthfully, I didn't know how to use the recording device on my new phone. So as legend goes, I sang it over and over and over and over again until I finally reached home. By the time I pulled off the 401, I had a complete song written and memorized.

We recorded I Wanna Make Some Noise with an awesome Nashville band and included it on our Infinitely More debut CD. To hear a sample, visit the Downloads section of our Store.

Lessons of that day?

- Turn off the radio and just listen.

- Always have a way to record your song ideas.

- Sometimes, traffic ain't all that bad!

What are some strange places where you've found songwriting inspiration? 
Please leave your story in the comments section.

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Every Church is a Small Town - Be Part of the Video!

On Wednesday, we kicked off our Maritimes Tour with a warm and happy concert at St. Margaret's Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The friendly folks sang along with us, and it was a truly relaxing evening.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about Gerald's song, Every Church is a Small Town, and the truth in its message. Whether we're in Fredericton, Toronto, or Nashville, each church shares the closeness of a small town - knowing and caring for one another in a way that feels like home.

With that in mind, I struck on an idea for a video. Over the next few months, we'll be visiting churches in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Newfoundland. As we visit each one, I'll be take video clips of the people within the church walls - smiling faces, happy folks, friends who know each other well.

When we get back from our Newfoundland Tour in October, I'll put the clips together to create a music video for Every Church is a Small Town!

As we visit churches on our tours, we hope you'll come out and give our camera a smile!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Worship Wednesdays - Sing a New Song, Bible-Style - Part 2

Last week, we started to take a look at all the invocations in Scripture to sing a “new song.” 

How can these "new song" verses inspire us as songwriters?

Today, we finish our brief study by looking at verses from Psalms, Isaiah, and Revelation:

Psalm 149:1  
Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.

There’s nothing like singing God’s praise in the company of those who love Him. Are we writing songs that reflect the voices and prayers of faithful worshipers? They entrust us with putting their worship into singable form. Are we writing their cries of pain and praise into our songs?

Isaiah 42:10
Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.

Such imagery! As I read this verse, I’m reminded of the variety of church communities around the world - tiny country churches, storefront urban missions, cruise ship chaplains, and outdoor mega-churches. Some songs are common to all, but we also need songs that reflect our own unique worship environments. How can we write songs that reflect our local church, with their specific needs and thanksgivings?

Revelation 5:9
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

When the book with the seven seals is opened, a new song is sung. Are we reacting to God’s new miracles with new songs of praise? It’s easy to only seek our songwriting ideas in the pages of Scripture, but God is still moving. What inspiration can we find from God’s actions today?

Revelation 14:3
And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

A song that only the Redeemed could sing. What would that sound like? What kind of words would the Redeemed want to sing? We need songs for all steps of our faith journey, including our holiest moments. Are you writing melodies and lyrics that shoot straight into the heart of God in pure, unadulterated worship?

It’s been quite awesome to read each of these verses and pray over the message each one might hold for songwriters. Another time, it might be interesting to read them from the point of view of a worship leader, musician, or congregant.

Perhaps you've had your own unique insights while reading these verses. 
Please share them in the comments section!

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

On The Road Again...

There are few things we love more than throwing the guitars in the car and hitting the road. I'm writing from Day 1 of our Maritimes Tour of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia!

Unlike our mega-tours of the past two summers, this tour will be a completely different configuration.

The next 3 weeks will include:

Driving over 3000 KM through 4 provinces.
Half a dozen concerts & worship services.
Writing new songs.
A few much needed vacation days.
Pre-planning our new songwriting CD.
Visiting dear friends.
Booking our fall tour of Newfoundland.
As many French macaroons as I can eat...

We're starting with 2 of those much needed vacation days. Today was a wonderful day for driving - lots of sun, billowing clouds, and one short rain burst, perfect for testing out my new wipers.

Entering Quebec City - check out that sky!

Tomorrow, we'll enjoy Old Quebec City, truly one of the most beautiful and romantic places in Canada. I'll do my best to meet my macaroon minimum...

Stay tuned through the next few weeks on this blog, 
our site, and Facebook page for updates, photos, and new videos.