City Alight

I’m currently listening to a new album from the people at City Alight Music. Check out this YouTube playlist with lyrics. I hope you will find some inspiration here. I’m particularly enjoying ‘Saved My Soul‘ and ‘Only a Holy God‘. (You can also visit them on Facebook where you will find this vision statement: Our vision is to create music that declares the name of JESUS, promotes theological truth & encourages God’s Church. Part of St Paul’s Castle Hill, Australia.)

More Than A Birthday Party For Jesus? 

away-in-a-manger-king-size-bed-jesus

What can worship leaders, pastors and creative leaders do to help Christians experience the ‘true meaning’ of Christmas? http://worshipsessions.com.au/site/teaching

Christmas can be a stressful time of year, and Christians are not immune to the pressures and demands of this season. Many Christians find it difficult to significantly engage with Christmas on a spiritual level. Have you ever heard a Christian say “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas?”

The Christian experience of Christmas should be much richer, more distinct and more meaningful than the Christmas experience promoted across our culture. But for this to happen, Christmas must become more than just a birthday party for Jesus and a time for family reunions.

For Christians to gain a deeper and richer appreciation for the Christmas season as a Christian event (rather than just a cultural one) we must take a step back and look at Christmas in the broader context of the historical Christian calendar.

For centuries believers have followed the Christian Year as part of their spiritual formation and discipleship. According to this ancient tradition, Christmas was celebrated as a twelve-day feast, not just a one-day event. This celebration was the culmination of four weeks of spiritual preparation and anticipation known as Advent.

The well-known Internet Monk blogger Michael Spencer illustrates the difference between Advent and Christmas. He says, “Christmas is joyous, but the joy comes after weeks of waiting, watching, lamenting and calling upon God. Advent is that season of waiting; of looking for the signs and promises of the Saviour in the Scriptures and in the world.”1

I believe that rediscovering the spiritual rhythm and preparation of Advent will help Christians experience the true meaning of Christmas.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas – when our culture is shouting at us to “spend!” “buy!” and “consume!” – the season of Advent teaches us to slow down and reflect on God’s story and our place in it, it teaches us patience, and cultivates within us a child-like sense of anticipation and longing. Advent does this by helping us to remember the historical silence of the Scriptures between the Old and New Testaments and the expectation of a soon-coming Messiah. Advent also helps us to anticipate Jesus’ future return and the eventual completion of His work in redeeming and renewing all of Creation.

Advent spirituality is about recognising that we are living in the “now, but not yet…” between the inauguration and fulfilment, between promise and completion. During Advent, the words of John the Baptist ring in our ears “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him,”2 as we eagerly await the Messiah’s return. For Christians, Advent is a time for spiritual preparation, reflection and repentance, which directly opposes our culture’s penchant for busy-ness, over-spending and over-indulgence in the lead up to Christmas.

Christmas is more than just a celebration of Christ’s arrival. In the light of Advent, Christmas becomes the fulfilment of the expectation that builds throughout the Advent season. At Christmas, we remember that God broke through into our earthly dimension. Through His birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ worked to restore the earth and all creation from within, according to God’s good plan and purpose. Our response as His followers is to join with Him, today and every day, in His ongoing work of restoring the world unto Himself, until the day that He returns.3

In this way, Christmas calls us to a tangible response as followers of Jesus: to live out ‘incarnational spirituality’4 – an expression of Christian faith that embodies the life of Christ into the world in which we live. The prayer of the Christmas season is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”5 It is a reminder that “the work of restoring creation has begun,”6 and that we are called to join in that work, empowered and enabled by the Holy Spirit.

By understanding and integrating these historically important Christian ideas into worship gatherings leading up to Christmas, worship leaders and pastors can help those they lead to discover a deeper and more significant Christmas spirituality. That is, where faith overflows into tangible and intentional expressions of incarnational Christianity – a faith that is in the world but not of it.

Worship leaders and songwriters can help their communities experience Advent by choosing and writing songs, prayers and using language that focuses on the expectation of Christ’s coming; and saving the celebration of his arrival until Christmas Day.

Worship leaders can research, read and learn more about the seasons of Advent and Christmas in order to help their congregations wrap their Christmas experience around God’s story, not the story of commerce, culture and consumption.7

As worship leaders and creative influencers, we have the opportunity to shape the ways in which our worshipping communities experience Christmas, and ultimately influence the kind of Christianity the live out between Sundays. As we learn and immerse ourselves in the rich meaning of the “Christian Year” and prayerfully contextualise the themes and ideas of these seasons into our worship gatherings, I believe that Christmas can once again become a primarily Christian event in our churches – one that encourages us in our faith and empowers us in our witness as we remember, experience and live out the Truth of Christmas.

Ryan Day is the Worship Pastor at Gymea Baptist Church
www.gymeabaptist.org.au   www.ryanday.com.au

References:
1.      Spencer, Michael; http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-michael-spencer-helps-us-prepare-for-advent (Accessed on 1 December 2011)
2.      Matthew 3:3b (See also John 1:23 and Isaiah 40:3) (NIV)
3.      For a balanced and insightful look at the role of Christians as restorers, see “The Next Christians” (DoubleDay Publishing, 2010) by Gabe Lyons.
4.      Webber, Robert “Ancient-Future Time”, Baker Books (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004, page 61-71.
5.      Matthew 6:10 (NIV)
6.      Webber, page 61
7.      Robert Webber’s book “Ancient-Future Time” would be a great introduction to understanding Advent, Christmas and the entire Christian calendar.

THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM http://worshipsessions.com.au/site/teaching

My top five – most viewed in 2016

thanksWordPress.com users published more than 595 million posts in 2016.  That’s slightly more than I managed to publish, but I do love the way much of my older content continues to be useful and encouraging to people all over the globe. Here are my top 5 most viewed posts this year. If you have only just followed me, you might like to check out why they are still popular. 

5. How to Encourage your music team even when you’re not the leader
How great would it be if every single player and singer and sound technician took up the opportunity to positively influence the way their team functions. Consider the following list, 10 ways team players can be more encouraging members of their music team. . .

4. All of Creation Sing with me now, the veil is torn
Without being zapped or burnt to a crisp we sinful humans can now see the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Mercy Me’s song All of Creation gets quite a mention as well.

3. The Conundrum of Keys, Capos and Congregational Singing
This post contains four rules of thumb that I find work well when selecting singable and playable keys for church singing.

2. The Cross Has Made You Flawless
This post generated quite a lot of discussion – around the song Flawless. See what you think. In Christ we stand before our heavenly Father as perfect, flawless people. We are wrapped up in Christ’s righteousness.

1. Never Alone
This most viewed post shares a congregational song, Never Alone. It has a simple melody (great for church singing) and the lyrics bring such comfort. Christ is with us! We are not alone . . . no matter how alone we may feel.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(NLT Matthew 28:20)

Thanks for reading in 2016! Merry Christmas!

Ros

 

Setlists for Christmas

christmas-tree-sheet-musicWorship Together recently posted a series of Advent and Christmas songs as set lists to mix and match. They include traditional carols as well as recent praise and worship songs. You can watch a New Song Cafe video and play along with the charts! I hope you find something useful for your service planning. Blessings!

Set List #1

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Glory In The Highest) // Rend Collective

Looking For A Savior // United Pursuit

O Come, O Come Emmanuel // Crowder

We Have A Savior // Hillsong Worship

 Set List #2

Emmanuel (God With Us Forever) // Bryan and Katie Torwalt

Angels (Singing Gloria) // Matt Redman

Adore // Chris Tomlin

When Hope Came Down // Kari Jobe

Set List #3

Even So Come // Passion

Give Me Jesus // Jeremy Camp

He Shall Reign Forevermore // Chris Tomlin

O Come Let Us Adore Him // Hillsong Worship

Set List #4

Hearts Waiting (Joy To The World) // Matt Redman

A King Like This // Chris Tomlin

O Holy Night (O Night Divine) // Rend Collective

We Have Come // United Pursuit

 

http://www.worshiptogether.com/blog/advent-2016/

Image from https://au.pinterest.com/explore/sheet-music-crafts/

Christmas sheet music and more

wp-1451220015671.jpegIf you are looking for a particular Christmas carol or song, then you should try this page at Music Notes. Enjoy planning the soundtrack for your Christmas celebrations!

http://www.musicnotes.com/christmas-sheet-music/

Watch “Paul Baloche Vocal Workshop”

This looks like a really great workshop from a humble guy who became a worship/song leader. It would be great to watch together with your music team. I haven’t watched it all yet, but what I have seen so far is really helpful.

7 tips for those who play melody instruments in a church band.

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Players of melody instruments (flute, saxophone, violin etc.) are often left to their own devices to work out what to play in the church band. Listening to what other good players do can help, but sometimes it still remains a mystery. Today I’m sharing the seven principles I work with (in my head) when I’m playing in that role (though I’m most often on keys or vocals). I hope you will find them helpful.

Melody instruments need to see their place in the band rather like the cherries on the top of a cheesecake. The cheesecake still holds together without them (the bass, rhythm and harmonies provide the main body of the music), yet melody instruments can add a great deal of sweetness and beauty, in small doses – especially if they refrain from playing the melody. Here are my top 7 pointers for being an effective single-line instrument in a church band:

1. Know why you are in the band. You are there to serve, as part of an ensemble, to add to the sound in an effective way. It is not the time for you to seek the limelight and show off your solo skills (even though that’s what you have probably been trained to do). Any note or riff you play should enhance the song and the impact of the lyrics. Don’t play just for the sake of it.

2. Less is more. Melody instruments don’t need to play all the time (please don’t!). It is better to add something small and worthwhile, a fill (when singers aren’t singing), or a harmony line for a line or two, than to play too much. Some melody can be useful in the introduction to remind people how a song goes, or when teaching a new song, but other than that your task is to add some light and shade, to help with dynamic build up to chorus, and help set the tone of certain sections of the song. If you find yourself playing start to finish, you are playing too much. If you find that you are standing about doing nothing for much of the time you have probably found a good balance.

3. Play by ear. Most of the effective things you could add to a piece will not be written on the sheet music. You will need to pencil them in during practice, or else learn to improvise. If you know the key (sharps and flats) and know the shape of the melody there is much you can do! Listen to professional recordings of worship music and learn from what the instruments are doing. Copy the types of things you hear that work to add colour and meaning to a song.

4. Fills. Trading phrases is a good thing to learn how to do during the rests of the vocal melody. If the melody goes up you can take a few steps down. If the melody goes down, fill with notes going up. Opposite movement can be quite effective. Think of your fills as a musical response or comment to the words that have been sung. Play along to recorded music to practice this skill.

5. Harmonies. On recorded music you will hear good and limited use of harmonies played by melody instruments. Again, copy good ideas you hear. Write them out if needed. If there is lots of movement in the melody line it is best to harmonise with sustained notes. Choose a note from the chord that is being played at that point. Harmonies work well a 3rd below the melody and up the octave (but it’s a rule that can be broken). Build your confidence by playing along with recorded music. And even if you can play beautiful harmonies for the whole song, don’t. It is best to drop out for whole verse at a time, so that when you do contribute it is effective. Less is more.

6. Improvising. Many people find it helpful to use the Pentatonic (5 note) scale to help with improvising fills. In the key of C major the notes in this scale would be C D E G and A (notes 1,2,3,5,6, of the scale). Play along with recorded songs (of ones you use at church) and try it out.

7. Know the song really well. With all these things I’ve described above you will be better able to effectively add to the arrangement of a song if you know the melody and structure well. It takes time and practice and making mistakes to figure out how to play as a melody instrument in a church band, yet it is a skill worth learning….for the glory of God as His people praise Him together.

Why We Worship on Repeat | Desiring God

I enjoyed this discussion from Desiring God about praise/worship as meditating together on the truths of the Gospel. It makes me much more enthusiastic about the idea of another chorus repeat.

“Many a modern church-goer has been miffed by repetition in corporate worship.

The Information Age is conditioning us for new content, fresh ideas, new data. Why re-read what we’ve already read, why rehearse what we’ve already heard, when new information is available like never before?

But do we know what our unprecedented access to novelty is doing to us? All indications are that it’s threatening to make us shallower, not wiser and more mature. Running our eyes across the page and mouthing words to a song are not the same thing as experiencing the reality in our hearts. Our hearts simply don’t move as quickly as our eyes and our mouths.

Which makes corporate worship such an important elixir for what is increasingly ailing us today.

Learn to Feel the Truth

Take Psalm 136 as a flashing red light from the divine that our newfound intolerance for repetition is out of step with what it means to be human. The psalm is 26 verses, and each verse ends with “for his steadfast love endures forever.” It rehearses God’s goodness and supremacy, his wonder-working and world-creating, his delivery of his people from slavery and provision for them in a rich land.

Twenty-six times the psalm repeats this refrain — and not one of them is wasted. With each new verse, another attribute or rescue of God is celebrated, and then our souls are ushered deeper into his steadfast, ever-enduring love with each glorious repetition.

“Our hearts simply don’t move as quickly as our eyes and our mouths.”

The goal of the song is not to make his steadfast love old hat, but to help us feel it afresh and at new depth. The dance of each new verse, with each return to the refrain, is designed to bore the central truth about God’s resilient love deeper and deeper into our inner person. The psalm is not atreatise on the unwavering, persistent love of God, but what we call a meditation — less linear and more circular — crafted to help auger the reality of his love from information on our mental surface down to an experience in our hearts.

If you come away bored (unaffected), you’ve missed the point. But if you come away with God bored deeply into your soul (tasting afresh the strength and sweetness of his love), you’ve been carried by the Holy Spirit.

More Than Data

God made humans to meditate. And it is increasingly the lost art in our age. We were made to think deeply on his truth, not just be informed; to ponder reality down to the depths, not just move on to the next piece of data.

Non-Christian forms of meditation seek to empty the mind and transcend concrete specifics into the ethereal, and experience some form of meaningless enlightenment. But Christian meditation fills the mind with biblical truth, and chews on it, seeking to savor every bite.

“Meditation receives the truth into our souls and changes us in our deepest part.”

Unlike mere reading, even slow reading, where our minds and eyes keep moving at some pace, meditation slows us down, way down. We pause and ponder. Reading keeps us marching in linear fashion, while meditation moves us into a more spiral pattern by limiting the information set and seeking to press and apply the truth to our hearts, to actually experience the truth and not just let it run on through our minds on our way to the next thing.

Meditating Together

One remarkable aspect of corporate worship is that it gives us the opportunity to meditate together. The pinnacle of a good sermon is typically a form of corporate meditation, led by the preacher, as he circles around his main point and verbally kneads its goodness into our hearts.

And the summits of our best praises together in song are essentially meditative. It’s not the discovery and delivery of an obscure stanza that binds our hearts and draws us highest together toward heaven, but returning to the chorus, which has been enriched with each additional verse. The verses provide fresh information, but the refrain we know so well bores the truth even deeper into our souls. The verses and chorus together help us to know the reality even better, as we collectively digest the truth from our heads into our hearts. They help us actually experience and be affected by the truth in our inner person, not just rehearse the data on the surface.

“God made humans to meditate. And it is increasingly the lost art in our age.”

And only once we’ve taken the truth into the heart, into the core of our soul, do we organically grow external actions and lived-out transformation. Rather than circumventing the heart, by moving from the mind to the actions, meditation receives the truth into our souls and changes us in our deepest part so that our actions aren’t whitewashed, but authentic expressions of the movement of our souls.

Purposeful repetition in corporate worship empowers us to be changed not only as individuals, but as a people. It is not only the truths we read, but the truths we sing — and sing often, and take into our hearts — that mold and shape us for lives of worship.

So, perhaps this weekend, you’ll have a chance to experience corporate repetition afresh, and instead of begrudging the worship leader for it, you may find it to be a new pathway for enjoying the grandeur and love of God.”

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-we-worship-on-repeat

Are we eager for the King of Heaven?

Here is a song from Paul Baloche which I have been considering for a while to include in our church repertoire: King of Heaven from ‘The Same Love’ album. It challenges us to collectively anticipate and call on the Lord Jesus for His return. It has a lively and uplifting feel. You will find the words in the first clip, and at the end. Blessings!

“King Of Heaven”
Jesus, let Your kingdom come here
Let Your will be done here in us
Jesus, there is no one greater
You alone are Savior, show the world Your love

King of Heaven come down
King of Heaven come now
Let Your glory reign, shining like the day, King of Heaven come

King of Heaven rise up
Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save in Your mighty name
King of Heaven come

We are children of Your mercy
Rescued for Your glory
We cry, Jesus set our hearts towards You
Every eye would see You lifted high

King of Heaven come down
King of Heaven come now
Let Your glory reign shining like the day
King of Heaven come

King of Heaven rise up
Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save in Your mighty name
King Of Heaven come

Ooh, ooh, ooh, King of Heaven come

King of Heaven come down
King of Heaven come now
Let Your glory reign, shining like the day
King of Heaven come

King of Heaven rise up
Who can stand against us
You are strong to save in Your mighty name
King of Heaven come

The conundrum of keys, capos and congregational singing

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Most of the songs we now use to gather Christ’s body together in praise and worship are not written for that specific purpose – for singing together. Rather, they are written to be performed and recorded (for God’s glory), while satisfying the vocal range of an experienced soloist, who most often has a fairly high male (tenor) voice. The melodies are therefore shaped and situated in a vocal range that few of us can manage. Sure, we can sing along with the best of them on our iPods, but unconsciously we do a lot of octave jumping, or harmonising, so that we can sing along. This doesn’t work too well when the congregation is singing together.

Choosing the right key is quite tricky. The default or original key on SongSelect rarely works well. It can end up with a really high melody section in the chorus that no one can sing (bar the tenors) or else the whole thing is too low when you jump down an octave. This low singing equates to really quiet singing, and when we can’t hear each other we are discouraged from singing at all.

You also have to consider the musicians: is this great key the guitarists are happy to play in one which will induce a mild psychosis in the keyboard player, as they scamper around playing on only the black notes?

Here are just four rules of thumb that I find work well when selecting singable and playable keys for church singing (on SongSelect (CCLI) or a similar website).

1. Keep the vocal range between A (below middle C) and D (8 notes above middle C). Remember that D signals Distress for many people, so ensure the transposed melody only has a few passing notes of the high D (and the low A as well, for that matter). If the song ends up with a low G as the anacrusis note in the melody of the verse then teach it as a B instead (it should fit the chord, and won’t really be noticed).

2. Try to maintain the original shape and development of the song, starting with low verse notes and moving to higher chorus notes. If you sabotage the ‘chorus lift’ by a poorly chosen key, or by forcing people to jump down an octave, it can all fall seriously flat.

3. Don’t choose keys that have too many sharps or flats. Stick to maximum of four sharps (E major) and max 3 flats (Eb major). There are a few major keys that work well for both guitar and keys: C, D, E, G and A major. Keyboard players generally don’t mind keys with flats (one flat F major, two flats Bb major), but these will probably make your guitarists unhappy. This leads to my next point.

4. Understand Capos and get your guitarists to understand and use them. The keyboard and the guitarists can play in different keys quite effectively. A guitar capo effectively shortens the guitar strings and produces a higher sound. This enables the guitarists to play in comfortable keys (mostly ones with sharps) while the pianist can play in a key with flats that may mean a better vocal range for the congregation.

For example, if I want to use Matt Redman’s Ten Thousand Reasons in a flat key (Eb major, with three flats), then the guitarists can play in D (with their music in key of D) and capo on the first fret. (Each fret raises the guitar’s pitch by a semitone. So, the guitarists playing in D major want it to sound Eb major. Placing the capo on fret one moves the sound up by a semitone. Success! It sounds in Eb major but they don’t have to play in a key with flats.)

Another example would be Trevor Hodge’s No Other Name (Listen below!) in Bb, which has two flats. The guitarists can play in G major, but sound Bb by placing the capo on fret 3. There are 3 semitone steps to get from G to Bb (go check a keyboard) which is why the guitar must use capo three.

Remember that the guitarist needs to be playing in a key slightly lower than the keyboard player, so that the capo will bring their sound up to pitch, and they will only need to use capo 1, 2 or 3.

Next time: let’s look at a case study and decide what to do with Tomlin’s ‘Jesus, Son of God’ which has a huge vocal range! I’m still working on this one myself.