we’re thrilled to have a new baby in the house as of 2 months ago, but that’s put a bit of a damper on extra-curriculars like music stuff. but there are a few things to report/remember from the last couple months.
at our Christmas Eve service in church, I was able to do my “Shepherd’s Song” with a bunch of the guys. it was a lot of fun to do and it felt really good to be a part of the service. Joe and Mark and the guys always make my stuff sound much, much better. I had a lot of really good feedback, including some surprisingly emotional responses and lots of encouragement. so I’m very thankful.
for Christmas presents I gave family members a copy of my new home made album (which you can currently find here). no body has said much about it that I can remember.
but I’m glad I got the album done, and I’m thinking of passing it around town to see if I can get some gigs…perhaps put a toe in the waters. so I might play at the new coffee shop here in the neighborhood, which should be fun.
before the baby was born I did some recordings of me doing octave mandolin stuff, because Michelle asked for it. I just improvised some mellow stuff and I think it turned out ok. some raw material to work on perhaps. I have a long-term goal of arranging my stuff with more instruments, but I think I’ll need a lot more time than I currently have.
just this month I was scheduled to play for church, and I usually get the usual suspects together to work on something. but this time I decided to do a octave mandolin solo of one of my “simple songs”. the last time I tried something like that it was pretty bad, but even tho I was quite nervous, it went ok. it’s a good thing I know that particular song well, or my nerves may have ruined it. but again people were very encouraging and thankful for it.
I havent written a complete song in a little while, but I do actively collect ideas to work on. I havent sat down to put ideas together, but I think that’ll come when it should.
now I’m getting excited about the potential to play at the local coffee shop. I dont know when it might be, or even what it’ll look like (will anyone be there? will I be just in the background?) but it’ll be good to have a milestone to look toward to.
this weekend Michelle and I (and the kids) had the privilege of visiting her parent’s church in Champaign-Urbana, IL. it’s a new church plant that they started recently, and it’s the first time we were able to go. they asked us to do a song or two during the service, so we worked on “Jesus, All For Jesus” by Robin Mark and the Indelible Grace version of “Jesus, Lover of my Soul”. we had a few sparks fly while we were practicing, but I think it worked out well in the end. I always love it when we can harmonize together.
but it’s funny that we always seem to fight a little when we’re doing music, especially because we almost never fight (except when we’re both cranky and tired). my current theory is that it’s hard work for us to get it to where we like it when we’re singing, because our ranges are pretty different. most of our interactions are familiar to us by now, but this is still something new, so we get some frustration and friction. but thankfully in the end it usually works out.
anyway, I can only imagine that it was a moving experience for Mom and Dad T to have their daughter participate in the worship service they were leading. God is blessing the little church plant, and we pray that He will prosper the preaching and living of the Word in their town.
this one is inspired by the recent(?) phenomenon of churches moving into old grocery stores and such:
Is this a church, is this a store?
Can’t tell the difference anymore.
Used to come for milk and bread
Now they serve grape juice instead
Come on in, it’s on the self
Get you want, come help yourself
Come sit back, it’s what you know:
Big screen, dim lights, enjoy the show
What do you want? Why are you here?
To give yourself a little cheer?
If you came here for some help
You better look beyond yourself
Jesus cleared the house of prayer
Threw the salesmen out
We’re selling in the market’s place
Convinced that we’re devout
I’m inspired by the songs of Derek Webb who has a whole album of songs about and to the church, most of which is pretty hard-hitting.
this one is obviously a little more heavy-handed than other stuff I’ve done. I dont like the consumerism that’s creeping in the church, and in some cases it seems to dominate. I know it’s deeply ingrained in our culture and in myself. I dearly love the church and long to see it more and more lovely.
anyway, considering such things, I kinda get a kick out of the irony of moving a church into an old supermarket, even while I lament our consumer attitude.
Yesterday in church Cal preached on Palm Sunday, and he referenced Revelation 21. So as we read some of that, verse 5 caught my eye, as it read like a little song lyric. So I started there and found that I couldnt stop, so “Everything’s New” is the result so far:
1. (G) Write this down, it’s (C) tried and it’s (G) true
(G) Jesus is making (D) everything new
2. New (G) heaven and earth, and (C) no more (G) sea
(G) God sends down His (D) holy (G) city
3. (C) He’s coming again, this (G) time to (D) stay
(C) Death is dead, (A7) tears wiped (D) away
4. (G) Everything’s done, the (C) last and (G) first
(G) Come to the well, (D) quench your (G) thirst
5. (G) No temple, just the (C) Lord and (G) Lamb, no
(G) sun nor moon, his (D) glory’s the lamp
6. (G) Gates are open, (C) never a (G) night
(G) Bring your praises, (D) dance in the (G) light
7. (C) No room for sins, or (G) those who (D) deceive
(C) Just the Lamb’s, are (A7) His (D) eternally
8. (G) Are you the Lamb’s, His (C) beautiful (G) wife?
(G) Is your name in the (D) book of (G) life?
Repeat 1, 3, 8
a couple thoughts on this one: I had a bit of a blues riff in my head while working on this one, but we’ll see what tune comes out of this when I get the chance. I tried to stick with the text pretty closely, but some of it is rearranged. it’s mostly Rev 21:1-6;22-27. I was trying to find a chorus for it, but perhaps it’ll work without one? we’ll see as I keep working on it.
update: here’s a rough version of the tune. I’ve been messing with this guitar bit for a while and I like the progress I’m making, but this recording is definitely a rough draft.
here’s a very short lyric based on Romans 8:26.
I am weary
I am weak
Dont know what to pray
Or how to speak
Come Holy Spirit
Groan for me
a couple random thoughts on this:
perhaps it could be in the genre of that I call the “campfire songs” (like “As the Deer” and such), or perhaps something like John Michael Talbot would do (I really like a bunch of his scripture songs and aspire to that kind of Bible-based songwriting). perhaps I can expand it by including 8:27 as well.
I feel like a lot of the times I write stuff it’s too wordy. clearly this one isnt. I like that it’s pretty close to the actual Bible verse. hopefully I can write a little tune for it that is appropriate and yet “catchy” enough to stick in my head, because I often need to pray this. Michelle has recently learned about contemplative prayer and this seems to fit with a lot of what that’s about.
besides my new song, we’ve been playing a lot of Christmas music this year. Michelle and I played for church today with our friend Mark. we did a simple medly of “Hark the Herald” and “O Come All Ye”. you can hear a rough recording of our practice here. we also played a bunch of songs as people were coming in. we dont play together too often, but I’m hoping this inspires more and more. I really love making music together.
also, the other night I went down and played at the walking bridge. it was a relatively warm evening and it was great to get out. I brought my octave mandolin and sat and played some Christmas favorites, including “Angels We Have Heard” which you can check out here.
Jim and I played my little song in church, but with a wonderful twist: Jim figured out that he could weave the melody for “All Creatures of Our God and King” through my picking. it took us a little while to figure it out, and it could actually use a little more polishing, but I think the result was very nice. some folks in church had nice things to say about it too, which is always good to hear. I give full credit to Jim for coming up with the melding and turning this rather simple progression into something much more. playing it during the services I was pretty nervous, so I messed it up a little, but probably not enough that anyone besides Michelle and Jim would notice. so I’m glad and thankful that it went pretty well. I’m still not very confident in my songwriting and solo playing abilities, especially in the context of church, but I think experience is helping. as my good friend Lynn reminds us, when you’re serving God with what He’s given you, you cant give into fear.
so here’s a rough version from our practice session. it’s not quite right here, but then again I dont think we ever got it quite right…
this Sunday will be a first: we’re going to play one of my songs in church. it’s the instrumental song I’ve been working on lately that I’ve been calling “Solitude“. I’ve actually never really liked this title, so I’ve renamed it to “Be Still” — partly because it’s silly to call a song “Solitude” if there’s more than one person playing, partly in reference to the “Be still and know that I am God” passage, and partly in reference to Katie’s awesome painting of the same title.
so Jim is going to back me up on bass (or perhaps mandolin) and I’ll be on my octave with my little tune. I’m more nervous than usual, since the last time I tried something similar almost exactly a year ago it didnt go too well (see the last paragraph). but the difference is this is my song, so it’s pretty well ingrained in me.
since it’s essentially a one chord song, we’re keeping it short. I’m looking forward to what Jim will come up with, and hoping and praying that it will be a help to our worship service.
the song we’re doing for church this week is Chris Tomlin‘s How Great is our God, with a little bit of “How Great Thou Art” thrown in. we’ve got a new addition to the group in Chris C, who introduced me to the song. she and Megan harmonize very well together. so here’s our version. Jim will also be joining us on bass for the service, but he’s not on this recording.
we don’t often do “praise song” type songs, but this one works well I think. we reduced some of the repetition to shorten the length of the song, as we tend to favor shorter stuff for our intro-to-worship slot. we may try to teach the congregation this one soon, and I imagine it’s somewhat familiar already since it apparently gets a lot of radio play.
a while ago I issued a plea for non-annoying kids music, and got a lot of good suggestions from folks. yes, “Here come the ABCs” is pretty cool.
I havent actively searched in a little while, but I havent yet found kids Bible songs that I would consider non-annoying. so I’m thinking I’ll take the matter into my own hands and do it myself. with some help, of course.
I’ve already made some simple recordings of the kids favorites — just me and the guitar, playing “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy” and such pretty straightforwardly. Caleb thought it was pretty cool to hear daddy singing through the car stereo, and there was a time where he insisted on me and only me in the car. cute, but I think mama got tired of me. I dont blame her.
so I’ve been thinking of getting the folks from the church band to lay down a track or 2 each time we get together, so after a while we’d have a pretty good collection. I’m hoping to end up with a somewhat folksy and fun style that kids would like and parents would hopefully be OK with too. we’ll see how it goes. any suggestions for songs or other ideas would be great.