Posted March 31st, 2011 by admin with Comments Off
Earlier this month SAINT LEWIS was asked to play live on the air for a fundraiser for 89.3 FM WECC The Lighthouse. Though it was HOTHOTHOT, and we were all swimming in sweat, we had a great time and debuted some new songs. Though the background vocals are a bit shakey (you never know how well you’ll be able to hear at such events), and we missed a couple of transitions, this is a new one that I’m really excited about. I pray it blesses you!
Posted March 28th, 2011 by admin with Comments Off
I interviewed Matt Redman. You can read it here.
Posted March 22nd, 2011 by admin with 9 Comments
All of my “heroes” have said it: Bob Kauflin, Paul Baloche, Greg Scheer – all men I admire and respect – I’ve read their books, listened to their teaching, and listened to and sung their songs. All of them would teach that there is an ideal range or “sweet spot” for worship songs. And I used to believe it – I really did. In fact, I still use their suggestions as a guide, to a great degree, but I’m just not always convinced it can be applied universally, and here’s why:
Example 1.) I lead worship for middle-school and high-school students more than anything else. I’ve found that, especially with the middle school youth, if I re-key a Tomlin song down from Tomlin-range, they – even the guys – usually mumble rather than sing. I did an experiment over the past month using a local Christian School that I lead Chapel worship for, simply using the song “Our God” by Chris Tomlin and friends. Now, at church on Sunday we usually sing “Our God” in G, but when I led their current favorite song in the adult key for this group of middle-schoolers: near silence. You would’ve thought I’d asked them to recite a section of the constitution: a low, imprecise rumble and scattered murmers throughout the room. The following week, I sang it in A, and the level of participation was significantly greater. A few weeks after that, I sang it in Tomlin key – B – and the room was a literal ROAR. The “right key/range” simply didn’t work for them.
Example 2.) Conferences. I think I could end right there – you probably know what I mean. Sure, we could say, “When you get that many worship leaders together – they’re mostly singers anyway – they can handle the higher keys!“ That’s not what I’m talking about. Go to ANY conference, retreat, or special event – not just worship conferences. No one cares what keys the songs are in – in fact, the higher, the better (within reason, of course): the higher the key, the harder you need to push to hit the note, and that striving – giving out that emotional energy – effects us on many levels. And, often, that’s a good thing. I rarely hear people complaining about the range of a song when people are genuinely excited about Jesus and overflowing with a passion to worship Him corporately – I just hear a lot of really excited – and hoarse – people talking about how powerful the worship times have been and how good God is!
Example 3.) I have a high vocal range. Most of Tomlin’s original keys are not at all a strain to me – in fact, they’re quite comfortable. As a worship leader, do I not only have a responsibility to – yes, sing the song within a range that the congregation can potentially reach as well – but also to lead a song as strongly as possible – so I can sing the melody confidently and even – yes – with passion and energy? If I’m mumbling notes and slipping consistently off key aren’t I potentially a distraction and not as effective worship leader as I can be? A personal example: it is a serious struggle for me to sing “Everlasting God” by Brenton Brown in the key of A with any passion or conviction – in fact, I’m just trying to hit those “low” (relative to me) verse melody notes. I struggle to lead that song in the “Sweet Spot” – it works for me best in B, but I can still pull it off in Bb.
Example 4.) I’ve been to many “worshiping churches” where the worship leaders have done an excellent job of teaching and training their congregations in the area of singing to God, and the keys they sing songs in their seem to be of little to no consequence: they just LOVE TO SING! I mean, I’ve been in environments where the worship leader (a guy) sang “How He Loves” in D! D! You heard that right: D! Even I lost my voice trying to keep up, but the room was a ROAR with passionate singing. Honestly, that’s when I first took note of this issue.
So, I know this will be controversial: I understand the heart behind wanting to key songs so everyone can sing comfortably, but I’m not convinced of it as a hard and fast rule. In fact, there are instances when I wonder if we are keying ourselves down to the lowest common denominator, trying to make worship “easy”, when that’s not the point – sometimes we NEED to reach – to be called to discomfort in order to offer a “sacrifice of praise.”
But my mind is by no means made up: I consider prayerfully how I key each song, and try to consider all of the factors involved – but in my case, the “sweet spot” is only one of many.
I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts and engage with you. Am I entirely crazy?
Posted March 21st, 2011 by admin with 2 Comments
I heard mumbling down the hall. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and it was fairly late to be hearing voices around our house. I stuck my head out the bathroom door, and paused to listen. The voice came from Kenimer’s room.
From the cracked door of his dark room I heard, “…and help the little boys and girls in Japan find their mommies and daddies…” – my 5 year old was praying for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
He had caught some footage over Cyle and I’s shoulder earlier in the night as I caught my wife up-to-date on world events she had missed that week. The events obviously impacted him; “I am not going to let this go out of my mind“, he proclaimed before bed. He was NOT kidding.
The next day the childrens’ director at church pulled me aside. “You are not going to believe what Kenimer did this morning“, she said. My response was telling – I cringed, “Is he in trouble?“ Kenimer asked permission to tell all of Tiny Town – all of the children up to age 6 and volunteers – about the disaster in Japan, then led them in prayer for the victims. My kid. I am humbled by his boldness and passion.
So, today I awake a more thankful parent – more ready to pray, spurred on by the simple heart of my 5 year old child. It seems it’s so often out the mouth of babes…
Thank You, Jesus…
So be it.
Posted March 15th, 2011 by admin with 3 Comments
This past Friday night my church hosted an IHOP-style youth prayer and worship night. It was our desire to keep it organic, spontaneous, and simple, so – instead of a large band – I scheduled a stripped-down acoustic guitar, keys, djembe, and vocals.
Now, I’ve got to be honest: I have been working with rock bands now for 23+ years (yes, I started YOUNG). I am very comfortable playing with bands. At one time I was playing out live with an 11 piece. I liked it. I like it a LOT.
I enjoy large bands because – with relationship and rehearsal – I find that given a few simple body signals I can trust the other musicians with carrying the song, while I am free to truly focus on God – to hear His voice – to speak without concern that the song might fall apart – to sing spontaneously. I feel comfortable and free.
So, an acoustic trio – though manageable – is a bit less comfortable for me. In those situations I find myself often concerned with the performance rather than being attentive to God.
To ensure that I’d be more comfortable, I scheduled my wife on keys, and rehearsed excessively throughout the day, giving her much of the responsibility of carrying the songs, so I could focus more on the ministry side of things.
Then sound-check happened. The USB port on the midi-controller we originally planned on using was defective. We had to find another, but I had lost my keys – another time thief. Bringing in another midi-controller, somehow it managed to trigger problems in both of our laptops. On top of that, problems with various mic channels. Basically, we had no sound-check.
I hate to admit it, but though Cyle had said from the beginning that she didn’t think keys would be happening (she just knows those sorts of things), I couldn’t imagine that God would have me be distracted while trying to lead others, especially in an environment where spontaneity and authenticity were so key. I needed a keys player! Right?
I sat on the stage and simply sighed, “I’m done.“ I was tired of fighting. Tired of trying so hard to make things happen. Then I began to prayerfully pick a simple progression on my guitar – just two chords – a quiet prayer of desperate dependence. Then one of our vocalists began to sing a prayer. Then another joined in. And another. After a minute or two, my head was raised upwards, smiling, then laughing under my breath.
It was then that I knew: as uncomfortable as it made me, God was in control. He had pushed me so far out of the center – so far out of control. And He kept me there – I even broke a string, which knocked my acoustic guitar out of tune, so I was then dependent on playing electric – yet one more step outside my comfort zone. But by that time it was okay. I was okay. I was actively trusting – walking in faith.
And wouldn’t you know it, God showed His face. I was totally “out of the way” and it was an incredible night. More than one person asked, “Can we do this every Friday?”
Looking back I recognize the foolishness, but in the moment it’s sometimes very hard to remember: God is in control, and He does what He will, and He will get the glory for it. Step aside, and let God be God.
Has God ever stripped you of your security so you’d be more dependent, especially when leading others in worship? I’d love to hear about it! Please do share!