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Diverse Worship Matters

I deeply appreciate these videos created by InterVarsity’s video production crew, twentyonehundred . They have re-framed the conversation about worship styles to emphasis something that I’ve always believed – that worship should be diverse in style out of love and mutual submission  that looks a lot like sharing a meal together.

These clips could function as a good conversation starter for a team of musicians, pastors, youth leaders, etc who are exploring the idea of diverse worship. It’s also a breath of fresh air in a time when the church is having hard and painful conversations about race and ethnicity. Brothers and sisters in Christ do need to have hard conversations, but they need to happen in the context of relationships that are fueled by gospel-based hospitality.

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Real Book Play-Alongs

Back in my day, we had to bootleg Jaime Aebersold tracks from the school library.

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2015 New Songs at New City Fellowship

January

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize – Mavis Staples

Following the tragic and paradigm-shifting events in St Louis, it felt necessary to look back to the Civil Rights movement and the expressions of worship that shaped the theology of righteous protest. “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” or “Keep Your Hand on the Plow” as it’s sometimes called fit the theme. I chose to blend the lyrics of Mahalia Jackson’s recording with the more recent verses from Mavis Staples recording. Jackson’s recording focused on the more transcendent context while Staples’ recording focused on the immanent call for justice.


February  

You Reign – William Murphy

I chose this song because I liked the easy to sing call and response format that invites participation. It was also a popular recording on the Gospel charts which connects with fans who are looking for signs at NCF that we care about current cultural expressions in the community. I did choose (emboldened by my friend Michelle Higgins) to add some more verses. Murphy only composed two verses and then  created variation through key modulations. I added a few more verses to further meditation on the theme of Jesus’ sovereignty. Here they are if you want to use them:

With justice and righteousness, Your kingdom is forever blessed, You reign!

Through the blood of the worthy Lamb, we worship the Son of Man, You reign!


March

Help Me Walk With You – James Ward

My dad wrote this song based on Micah 6:8. There’s an old Maranatha setting of that verse which has been played out since the 90’s. We also sang another setting from the “Compassion Art” project in the ‘00’s called “You Have Shown Us”. However, this new setting was inspired by the music of jazz vocalist, Gregory Porter has some very tasty changes. It’s a keeper.

http://ncfmusic.com/resource/help-me-walk-you/


April

Taste and See – Edwin Hawkins

Michelle Higgins dug up this classic from the Hawkins song book for the 2014 LDR conference. The song touches on so many themes without losing focus so it’s a good opener, communion song, sermon prep, offertory, and more. I opted to leave out the bridge, but every time we sing it, I have doubts about whether that was the right call.


May

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

Maybe you’ve heard of this song. Sometimes you have to just play the hit. Especially when it’s got good meaty lyrics. I couldn’t just play it straight though, so we’ve turned it into a Reggae feel, kind of like “Three Little Birds” and we moved the key to E flat.


June

Nkembo Alleluia

My friend, Dieu Teku shared this song with us. “Nkembo” means glory and each verse is about one of the persons of the Trinity. It’s fairly simple to pick up by Americans.


July

Where All the Nations Shall Be Healed – Kirk Ward

This song was composed for the 2015 New City Music Conference. It was well received by our congregation despite the more laid back groove. I had a lot of fun writing this song, and it’s pretty fun to perform if you can hold the pocket together.

http://ncfmusic.com/resource/where-all-nations-shall-be-healed/


August

Tambira Jehovah – Mkhululi ft Joyous Celebration choir

African music, as I’ve come to understand it, is deeply connected to dance. This song simply says, “Come and dance to the Lord.” It’s a challenge to ask Americans (especially those from European cultures) to give into the groove and shake it. However, embracing reconciliation is sometimes more than words and ideas. If dancing is such a powerful expression in African cultures, then loving Africans requires an open attitude toward body movement. (We didn’t perform all of the song on the video. I didn’t roll around on the stage either.)

 Libéré – Maggie Blanchard

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are free. We are redeemed. We are heirs. We are justified. This is the message of this song composed in French by Maggie Blanchard, a Haitian singer living in French Canada. How could you not love a song with these words?

Father of Lights – Josh Davis (performed by Nikki Lerner and Bridgeway)

Josh Davis is the founder of Proskaneu Ministry. I love how this song uses multiple languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, Korean, and Swahili) to express thanksgiving. It is based on James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” This song has connected well with our congregation. I have to honestly say that our band sounds great performing it.


October

He Will Supply – Kirk Franklin

We performed this song a while back at one of the LDR conferences and I’ve been looking for a good time to perform it. In October, we were having a “Choir Sunday” and I was torn between a few different songs that we could have added. I sent an email to several Gospel music fans on my team with 4 options and asked them to pick two. They all picked this one. The message is one that we preach often here at NCF, that Jesus calls us to love the world and he has promised to supply everything that we will need to accomplish that calling. Our pastor, Tony Myles really got fired up by this song and exhorted the congregation to continue singing this song. It was a blast!

Dios Manda Lluvia – Ericson Alexander Molano with Marcos Witt

We had a “Spanish Sunday” in October when we were able to teach this song. A new singer, Marcella Lee, shared this song with us. It’s a prayer of invocation asking the Spirit to rain on us with power and to restore us again. Amen!


November

In Jesus Name – Israel Houghton

We’ve only been able to perform this once. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, so go read about it here.


December

Come Again Lord Jesus – Kirk Ward

I wrote this song for Advent and we performed it on our last Choir Sunday of the year. It was a blast and the choir had fun learning it. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to composed music for NCF and to be able see that music become the emotional framework for the people of NCF.

http://ncfmusic.com/resource/come-again-lord-jesus/

Please share any new songs your church learned this year in the comments or if you are from NCF, what was your favorite new song from 2015?

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NCFMusic.com Updates

I just got back from Chattanooga and while I was relaxing with my family, I also had time to take care of some long over due meetings. I met with some of the team that curates ncfmusic.com and we are hoping to fix some of the glitches on the website as well as tweak the content to make it more useful. In addition, we were able to talk some about a music conference for 2015! If you are a church musician  (volunteer or pro), you should make a general plan to travel next summer to our conference to be inspired, encouraged, empowered, etc. in the struggle to produce cross-cultural music for worship.

By the way – if you are a musician in St Louis and you haven’t done it yet, please register for the Worship Music Workshop on August 8 & 9.WorshipMinistryPromo

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Throwback Thursday: some of my older songs added to ncfmusic.com

I just posted a bunch of my songs to ncfmusic.com. Here’s what I added today:

I wrote Your Presence is Here early in the morning on Easter Sunday in 2008. I remember that because my son was born a few days later, and I had a million contingency plans in place if my wife went into labor at any point during Passion week. The song is about the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus in our regular worship practices. He is risen, and he is present in every worship service. It was kind of a response to the gospel hit that was popular at the time, “The Presence of the Lord is Here.” The song as well as almost all the others on this list are included on my recording, “Guardian Grace”.

Restore Us  was written when I was in college and listening to Coldplay’s first CD a lot. It’s based on Psalm 80. This was one of the first songs that I wrote that really seemed to click with people in worship. We’ve only sung it once at my church even though we have a ministry called “Restore St Louis.”

Rejoice In The Lord  comes from my jazz performance days in college. I was interested in what it would be like to use “Rhythm Changes” to create a song for worship. The verses were inspired by the Steely Dan tune, “Peg” The text is from Philippians 4. It’s a real harmonic work out for all you music nerds out there. I had so much fun arranging the horn parts for the pros I hired on the recording.

New Creation was written after I was living in St Louis for a while. Our church had a large group of Liberian immigrants who were struggling with some pretty serious sin issues in their community that called into question their understanding of what it means to be changed by the gospel. So, I had the idea of writing a song in an African style using the text from 2 Corinthians 5:17. The bridge is composed in the typical African worship fashion where the group repeats a short idea over and over and the leader embellishes/preaches over top.

Walk the Talk was the theme of the 2002 Urban Camp at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga. It was composed for that purpose and a team of African American  high schoolers  (including NCF-Chatt musician Nikki Ellis) helped sell it to the kids. Among the other things that were created at that camp were the “Afro Man” videos and friendship with a certain counselor that would turn into an engagement a year later. Good times.

Greater Is He Who Is In Us was also composed as a song for kids in our ministries at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga. There was another song we were singing by the same title that I was really tired of, so I composed a new one.

To check out all the songs that I have on ncfmusic.com you can hover over the “My Songs” tab at the top of the page.

songs

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GAEL on iTunes

GAEL

Adorons L’eternel (aka GAEL) & Alain Moloto are now on iTunes. Their music is the primary source of Congolese worship that I use.  Available for download are several songs that we use: Yahwe Tobelemi, Eh Yahwe, Mwana Na Mpate, Medley (Je Veux N’être Qu’à Toi – Emmanuel), and Schilo. The only one that’s missing is “Jesus Le Prince Glourieux”.

Lingala worship is not just a Congolese thing. This music has spread over the whole continent and the sound of GAEL’s worship has influenced many other artists. I recommend this to any musician as a direct source to learn bass lines, guitar patterns, drum beats and keyboard styles. For American vocalists (especially those at NCF-U city), buy these tracks, make a mix for your car and get these songs in your brain and your spirit to sing without having to focus so much on the language barrier.

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The God Who Is Able

I wrote this today. Its based on Jude 24-25. It’s kind of got a 90’s worship vibe – like Alvin Slaughter or Ron Kenoly.

The God Who is Able

The God who is able to keep you from falling
The God who is able to keep you from falling
The God who is able to keep you from falling
Is worthy of all our praise

Chorus
Now to the only God, our Savior
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
Now to the only God, our Savior
Through Jesus Christ our Lord
Be glory, majesty, dominion, authority
Be glory, majesty, dominion, authority
Both now and forever, Amen!

The God who is able to present you as faultless
The God who is able to present you as faultless
The God who is able to present you as faultless
Is worthy of all our praise          To Chorus

The God who is able to give you joy in his presence
The God who is able to give you joy in his presence
The God who is able to give you joy in his presence
Is worthy of all our praise

©2013 Kirk Ward Music. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Rock of Ages

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Notes from my plenary talk: The Year of Jubilee

I was terrified about this talk! A lot of help came from friends and mentors who encouraged me as I processed this passage and what it means to practice justice and mercy in the church music ministry. Most of all, I was struck by my own “un-worthiness” and the corresponding  glory of the Worthy Lamb who has called me his son.

Here’s a PDF of my notes with the slides: The Year of Jubilee. As the folks in Chattanooga weed through all the audio from the conference, they will hopefully have a recording of my talk available.

My real goal in this talk was to get away from the usual conversations about music that involve what the music aught to sound like or what the words aught to say and get down to the ethics of being a church musician in [grace-filled, Spirit-led] covenant faithfulness.

 

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“Hear My Cry” now available on ncfmusic.com

You can find the resources (lead sheet, lyrics, demo mp3) here.

I’ve been progressively “doodling” through the psalms. That means that every Tuesday morning, I read one Psalm and then doodle it in my notebook. Here’s an example.  This process has help me to tap into the right side of my brain when I read the psalm. I’m not just reading the content, but I’m observing the details, the emotions, the metaphors that are there. I think it helped me to write a proper Psalmist lament with “Hear My Cry”. The refrain is based on Psalm 116 (“I love the Lord, he heard my cry”) and the verses each convey a different “cry” that I’ve experienced. Verse one is the cry of the victim who is experiencing first hand pain, suffering and oppression. Verse two is the cry of the sinner who is sick and tired of his own brokenness. Verse three is the cry of the “prophet” who longs to see the church transformed into being the body of Christ. Verse four is the cry of a longing for reconciliation in broken relationships between ethnic groups, classes, families, and individuals.

I chose to “rip-off” the groove from Miles Davis’ tune “All Blues” because it taps into the long tradition of the blues and gospel in the US. WE can learn a lot from blues music about lament. It should convey the emotions that come with pain and longing but with the hope that comes from looking to the strong hand of the Father in the midst of trial. The psalms do this but modern expressions of sorrow usually fail to portray any hope without coming off trite.

Rob Hatch went ahead an uploaded the resources that I gave him before the conference, but I need to edit the chart to include some of the changes that I made. In particular, the verses and chorus should repeat the phrase “Hear my cry” each time in measure 13 and 23. That was a change that my team members pushed for the first time we used it at NCF. The 2nd ending bracket should also be the 3rd and 4th ending as well.

Hopefully before the end of the week, we can get “Anyataka” uploaded as well.

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