Oops, I forgot to post about last month’s new #TwentyFourteenProject song before I flew out.. good thing I’d uploaded the recordings.
I struggled with July’s song. I didn’t get any solid ideas until late in the month, so I didn’t have so long to develop it. If I was to use this song in the future, I’d probably go back and rework the verse in particular. All part of the process…
Here are a couple of quotes for your Sunday reading:
Those of us in ministry, whether it’s full-time, part-time, flex-time, or volunteer, are just stewards of God’s ministry. He uses us for a time, and then he moves us on and uses someone else. We don’t build dynasties – God builds His Church.
Before I jumped on the flight to Australia, I helped lead a special migrant & refugee focused service at the Karlsruhe FeG last Sunday.
My friend Vimal spoke on what the bible has to say about about God’s heart for the vulnerable and how he expects his people to treat them; about how he is able to understand what migrants go through, as Jesus was himself a refugee; and how all of us who are followers of Jesus are migrants in this world. (Vimal has recently published a booklet to give away: Jesus: I was a refugee)
We heard a Testimony from a Tamil brother seeking asylum, who became a Christian in Germany.
We sang together some songs which helped us remember Jesus as our hope and security:
For the Worship Leader the goal of corporate worship should be to remind the people of God of the story of God’s redemption through Christ, thus leading this redeemed people into the worship of this active, living God. This corporate memory must be rekindled by connecting the local congregation to the acts of God in history, by singing songs and reading Scripture that recall these acts.
You may have read this week about the death of Broadway legend Elaine Stritch (though you might know her better as Jack’s mother on 30 Rock). My Facebook feed has certainly seen a number of tributes, but one quote in particular caught my attention:
“The terrifying thing in my life is that I am just an actress. And I have to keep pushing it and getting approval, approval, approval or I don’t think I’m worth two cents. And I am starting to get over it, thank God. And I’m just sad because I don’t have many years left and I wish I had a longer space of time to think that Elaine Stritch is okay.”
It’s so easy for us to put our identity in what we do, especially in the arts, where what we do is constantly on display, and either applauded or critiqued (or both). Here is someone who was at the top of their game, respected and rewarded, and yet the admission that so much of it is striving for approval, for validation of self-worth. This is not a judgement – I feel it, and if I think that achieving that level of artistic success would change anything, I’m kidding myself. I need to keep reminding myself:
The gospel re-shapes perspective. It puts things back in their proper place because it puts God in His proper place. He sees all we do; He is our most important audience. The opinion of whoever else is listening is just not as important as His. And what is His opinion? The gospel tells us – he approves of us already. – Tim Keller
This isn’t to be confused with a disregard for legitimate critique of our work, or of seeking to do work which impacts an audience, or even of enjoying applause for good work, rather, it is to simply remember that my self-worth, my identity is not tied inextricably to this work. It is to remember that whatever happens, whatever failures I might experience, or whatever judgement I might incur from an audience or critics, it doesn’t change who I fundamentally am, because I’m loved by grace. Before I could do anything to merit applause, He who bore the scorn of crucifixion has given me his worthiness. I’m more than OK; I am in Him, and He is perfect.
The 2013/14 season finishes officially at the end of this week, but I had my last performance on Tuesday, so I’m effectively on summer break now.
I need it. It’s been a really big season (but a great one!). I was in five new productions (and rehearsed a sixth, which I’ll do first in the coming season):
Cristiano in Un ballo in maschera (Verdi) – it’s a bit of a cough and spit part, so I didn’t manage to find a photo, but I did get a mention in one review:
In the small cameo of Cristiano, Andrew Finden took charge of the stage and made every phrase count, with his pleasing baritone and animated presence producing a solid impression.
The next premiere was J. Strauss’s operette Die Fledermaus, in which I played a freudian Dr Falke, a role I had done previously in Nuernberg:
In February came the annual Handel Festival, and I had the pleasure of taking part in a candle-lit, baroque-gesture production of Riccardo Primo (featuring the insanely talented Franco Fagioli). As you can see, my character Berardo, was the trusty sidekick (#friendzoned) to Costanza (Emily Hindrichs):
The costumes and set were exquisite, so check out the rest of the photos here and here.
Then came the longest opera ever… Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, where I played one of the Meisters, Konrad Nachtigall. One of my props was a live teacup poodle named Popcorn, who managed to upstage us all.
This season’s foray into frech repertoire was a double bill of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges and Stravinsky’s La Rossignol, in which I played a handful of parts: the Father, Clock and the Cat in the Ravel, and a courtier and Japanese Ambassador in the the Stravinsky. At least my ‘Stummauftritt’ makes an appearance in the video:
I was also involved in the final Premiere of the season, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunow, although I’ve done a dress rehearsal already, my first performance is the revival at the beginning of next season.
In addition to new productions, I did performances of five revivals, most of which I’d already done in previous seasons. The only new role to me was Ned Keene in Britten’s masterpiece Peter Grimes in the powerful production by Christopher Alden. I was also glad to have been able to share the stage for a performance with John Treleaven, who is arguably one of the great interpreters of the title role.
There were two Mozart roles which I love: the count in Le nozze di Figaro
and the everyman Papageno in Die Zauberflöte
Marullo in Verdi’s Rigoletto is another little cough and spit number, but it’s probably one of the things I’ve performed the most, and in fact, the first new production I did in Karlsruhe.
Numbers only mean what God wants them to mean. For someone, their one Alzheimer patient they care for is worth the 1000 that someone else is called to care for. And so it goes. When we cross the line, love and faithfulness is the only measure we’ll see in God’s eyes if we can stare long enough. No Google Analytics will come with us.
What do we really want? We really want to have that elusive weight of spiritual authority in what we do.
Authority is not just having a message, with a burning desire to speak it (or sing it). Authority is having the weight of character, experience, insight, input, and humility to bear that message to others. If we don’t have authority rising from character within, it’s like (as my friend Rich Nathan puts it) shooting a cannon out of a canoe.
We’ll sink ourselves with the next platform God knows we weren’t ready for. But we pushed for it, and couldn’t learn from the long season of hiddenness. So a lesson is waiting to happen – unless some faithful leaders and friends see it coming and check us before we hit that wall.
That is why Christian leaders – especially worship and creative leaders – must master, must practice, the spiritual art of hiddenness. Obscurity is your friend. It is time to build, to hone, and to practice true greatness when no one sees you or seems to care. But the next time you show up to the little thing, there will be a bit more heat on your life, that’s for sure. That’s how it works.
Hot on the heels of their Hills District neighbour’s new album (yep, that’s the ‘Hill’ in Hillsong) is the debut album from City Alight, St Paul’s Castle Hill. And it’s really, really good.
Musically, it sits squarely in the current contemporary worship “sound”, with some nice ambient post-rock pop and a helping of upbeat nu-grass; there’s clear influence from groups Hillsong, Rend Collective, the Gettys and even a few nods to old-school revivalesque hymnody (check out the folky-acoustic track Praise the Saviour). The songs are all melodically driven – these are songs to be sung by congregations, and I love that the congregation can be heard in the recording. The arrangements support the vocal lines, with some often simple, but effective guitar and piano parts. There are mandolins and banjos, and lots of drums, and it all hangs together to create an enjoyable group of songs. A particular moment of musical fun was the nu-grass-meets-80′s-synths arrangement of Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
While the album is musically strong, lyrically it hits it for six. The lyrics are biblical, fresh and well crafted. The songs are focused on the work of Christ, and many of the songs have a helpful eschatological trajectory (i.e. they look towards to the new heavens and new earth). The album as whole is also helpfully structured so that the listener \ singer-along is taken into the story of redemption; the climax is the atonement, and the result is a secure future.
Once for all: Very singable, great lyrics, melody and harmonic structure.
“Now we live forever free
Because of Christ, the offering
No fear in life, no sting in death
For our God has come for us and our God has paid the debt”
Jerusalem: A wonderful Easter hymn which contrasts Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with his triumph in the New Jerusalem.
“See Him in Jerusalem
Walking where the crowds are
Once these streets had sung to Him
Now they cry for murder
Such a frail and lonely Man
Holding up the heavy cross
See Him walking in Jerusalem
On the road to save us”
The love of the Father:
I like this catchy, up-beat nu-grass (Trinitarian!) call to worship. It’s harmonically simple, but just try an not sing along.
In summary: an album of rich, biblical, singable, memorable, melodic songs. This is already in the running to be my favourite congregational worship album from this year, and I think these songs will greatly bless many congregations. Go get it.
This project was a pretty crazy idea, but I’m glad I’ve pushed through, as I’ve learnt a lot, and feel that the results have been good. It’s half-way through, and so here’s a little look back with a playlist of the 6 songs I wrote this year (as part of the project.. I actually have done two others outside of it.. but more on those another time!)
And for those who’d prefer not to see the changing seasons of my ginger beard / attempts at cinematography, here’s the same thing via soundcloud:
I readily confess that I often judge albums by their cover, or at least, a good cover will often make me want to listen, and the cover of the new Hillsong album is pretty intriguing: Time Square lit up with the title of the new album (and it’s not photoshopped!)
I was keen to hear the new album, and have really been enjoying it, particularly the lyrical direction. (Zac Hicks goes into much more intelligent detail about this, so go read his post)
Who would have thought, back when we lived around the corner from one of the Hillsong campuses, that they would be putting out an album so gospel-centric, with retuned hymns and settings of creeds and prayers? It’s perhaps indicative that millenial Christians are indeed interested in re-connecting with the historical practices of faith (in a reaction to the rather individualistic Gen-X trend). I love that they took John Dickson’s challenge on board to write a really catchy, singable setting of the creed:
Musically, the album doesn’t break new ground, but is solidly chock full of Hillsong’s classic layered, synthy, guitarsy, melody-driven arrangements. It’s a good sound, and doesn’t get in the way, but really helps support the lyrics to be sung. They’re the kind of songs which could be easily stripped down and sung with simple (average church) arrangements.
Lyrically, it’s really strong, with a focus on the person and work of Christ. I’d happily use pretty much all of the songs in my own context(again, who would have thought..), but my favourites (so far) are:
I’m a week late it posting my new #TwentyFourteenProject song from June… Last month was hard. It’s half-way through the project, and I really had to push through the fatigue and feeling of being out of ideas. This is what I ended up with:
True beauty dwells on high: ours is a flame But borrow'd thence to light us thither. – George Herbert.