Church music: a little research

September 14, 2008

Well, after finishing my long-term interim church position, I decided to do a little “research” over the past few weeks and visit some worship services that have piqued my interest. Realize, I’m not trying to determine what is “good” or “right” – that varies from person to person. Mostly, I just wanted to make sure that my images of contemporary, blended, and traditional church music were still accurate.

One church my wife and I attended was most definitedly contemporary. Whatever you think about this style, I happen to enjoy it as part of my personal worship expression. However, this church was particularly excellent. I’ve been to contemporary services that were “too loud”; this experience was definitely loud enough, but the sound was so clear that the loudness was not prohibiting my participation in worship. Big plus!

The service was well-led, and had a visual excellence that matched their audio presentation. Was it too “over-produced”? Not really; after a couple of minutes, the “TV studio-quality” perception took a back seat to truly honest worship. The great part of this is that the worship team was not showing off, or acting like “holy rock stars”. Even in traditional and blended settings, that kind of attitude is too prevalent, and it totally destroys honest worship.

And if you met the members of this team ‘in the wild’, I doubt you would ever recognize them as ‘contemporary’ musicians: a late-40/early 50-something worship leader (sorry, shaving your head can’t totally hide your receeding hair line – but it did look good), a drummer and a probably-40’s bass player who’d be at home in any ‘regular’ job, 2 pleasant 30’s-ish ladies as backup singers – either could be your neighbor across the street. Just plain folks, but really into sharing their hearts through music.

People my age and up (50+) sometimes have a tendency to ‘dislike’ contemporary music. Too bad they haven’t gone to that church!

Everything else that my wife and I attended fell into the ‘blended’ worship category – sort of…

Actually, one ‘blended’ church was a definitely contemporary setting, except that they have an orchestra, keep a choir involved and still use a grand piano onstage. In reality, they are contemporary – just not “typical” contemporary. The great thing is that it works, and they have lots of people involved in worship.

Another church used much the same approach, but missed the mark a bit. Similar resources were in place, but the music selections and energy level were less enthusiastic. The choir was really good and very energetic though.

The last church in this review group advertised their service as “blended”, but it was actually a traditional service – with orchestra, organ, and a huge choir. However, it was quite informal in dress and mannerism. The energy was good, and the congregation was just as friendly as you might hope to expect.

So I hear you thinking – “which one was best”? Sorry, wrong question! There’s no such thing as “best”; we simply have a Lord who deserves our best, whatever it may be.

I did have a great time visiting in these places, and I’m thrilled that all of them are available to express our worship to a deserving and almighty Lord.


A little night music… on the street

June 19, 2008

Just returned from New Orleans for a few days of business. Being the “birthplace of jazz”, I had high expectations of the street music scene. Bourbon Street seemed mostly to be a lot of “good time” music, mostly rock & roll and country blarining from whichever bar you were passing by.

There were some welcome and notable exceptions, though. A couple of places had real jazz going on inside, and it was fun to stop and listen. Old time jazz was evident, especially in some of the restaurants. Fun!

Street musicians were not as well represented as I expected – until the night before last. Just as we were walking up Canal Street toward the hotel, we heard a roaring, raucous, high-energy group of guys “giving it all they got”. It was great street music – not just one guy wailiing on a harmonica or a guitar (though we heard both and enjoyed that as well). Two trumpets, three trombones, bari sax, tuba, bass/cymbals player and a ‘percussionist’ (cowbell!). We listened for about 30 minutes – and they played non-stop. People were dancing in the street and having a blast.

Now that’s New Orleans.

Some bass-ic fun

June 16, 2008

I had the opportunity to go to a get-together with some of my technical friends last night. Nothing unusual there, except that this time they had a little ‘stage’ set up with a piano, drums, some mics, and a couple of guitars. I had a little advance notice, so I brought one of my basses along. (Not the basses in the chorus, an electric bass guitar…)

It was the usual ‘what do you want to do?’ kind of get together – we ended up doing some 12-bar blues, ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘Get Here’, and a Beatles tune or two. Next time, I’m going to bring some fake books – there were a lot of “I know this, but can’t remember the words” experiences.

That’s why I took the bass – just tell me what key we’re in, and off we go.

I still can’t immediately visualize where I am on a 5-string as well as a 4-string; I need more practice.

It was fun, musical, and I had the chance to make some new friends. That’s a good evening!

Back in the saddle again…

May 26, 2008

ouch! It’s been a long time since my last post… life does just get in the way like that.

Concert season for GA Festival Chorus is over, and we had a great season. I enjoyed the opportunity to direct the large group; it was truly a joy.

The church choir is still going strong as well, but summer is creeping in on attendance and attention span. That’s pretty normal, though.

I’m looking forward to 2 new summer projects. I’ve started in on a tune written by a friend at work- I hope to bring some studio impact in on that. Next up will be a bit of circuit-bending, just to see what fun noises I can coax out of some “sound toys” rescued from yard sales and the thrift store.

And maybe I can get back to some blogging!


December 24, 2007

I found a good article on mentoring and role models over at The Simple Dollar. Part of my job is to ‘advise’ others on the technology we use in our products, which sometimes places me in the ‘mentor-candidate’ role. I’d never really differentiated heroes, role models, and mentors, so I found the article to be rather interesting. I guess being 50+ makes you consider the effect you might have on others…

Photo: It’s me…

December 12, 2007


Originally uploaded by cannotbesilent

Well, if you’re wondering what I look like, this should do the trick. Actually, I’ve started a Flickr account, and am using it to post to the blog.

BTW, my wife took this photo using my Nikon D70s. Afternoon sunlight coming over the shoulder, auto-exposed on the portrait setting. Converted to black-and-white in Photoshop Elements.

What do I like to shoot? Travel, portraits, artsy stuff, abstracts, concepts, etc. I hope to share some of the enjoyable ones.

Topics, topics everywhere

December 6, 2007

As with any new undertaking, it takes a bit of experience to move things along smoothly. So tonight, I’m trying to focus on what I’ll focus on; in other words, what should I write about?

So far, I can envision these topics (in no particular order):

  • Oracle database technology
  • My home recording studio
  • Photography (digital nowadays, maybe a few flashbacks…)
  • Vocal music, voice teaching
  • Performance anxieties in public speaking and singing
  • Choral music
  • Music technology
  • Tech toys and gadgets
  • Church music
  • Creativity

Along the way, I’m definitely hoping to produce some podcasts related to improving choral and vocal singing skills. I’ve written some articles and papers, so I’ll probably make those available as well.

I’m currently enamoured of the ‘auto-blogging’ capabilities now available with Google Reader shared links, delicious, Flickr, etc. Just clicking on content to publish and/or refer to it sounds great to me; it provides an almost stream-of-conciousness method for communicating. Nice.

If you have some suggested topics you’d like me to address, or questions to answer, just place them in the comments. I’m moderating the comments anyway, so it’s not going to get too wild.