Archive for category Music you should listen to
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Yesterday, we hid the afternoon doldrums and so I went to turn on some music. I turned on this video, and all of my kids froze and watched this mariachi group in rapt attention. This is music performance in it’s truest and most vibrant form. It completely captivated us.
Assuming that I know everything about music, my wife asked me what the names of these instruments are. I confess I had to look it up. I suppose that I need to add a “vihuela” to my wish list.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
“Advent” is the time of the church calendar when we look for the coming of the Lord Jesus. It has elements of past, present, and future longing for the coming of the Messiah. We read the Messianic passages from the prophets that long for a suffering servant to come, a child who will bring light from darkness. Then we celebrate that Jesus did come as a baby in the time of Caesar Augustus.
In the present, we look for the Messiah to come now in the present into the hearts and lives of broken people, structures, and communities. We cry to the Lord for his Spirit to fill us and to be present in all our thoughts and give us purpose and vision. Then we celebrate that his promise is fulfilled over and over to be the living and ever-present Emmanuel, God with us.
For the future, we look to the coming of the Lord in the full consummation of the story of redemption. All the saints from the past, present, and future, along with the whole universe of creation groans with anticipation that the Lord Jesus will be forever present as the King of Kings in the glorious New City of God. We celebration in Advent that he has always been faithful to his promises and he will not fail to come again.
I wrote this song for Advent that doesn’t have any stable, shepherds, angels, star, or even mention sweet little baby Jesus. However, it does get to the heart of the longing for the Lord Jesus to come again and be our King in the past, present and future.
Come Again Lord Jesus
Come again Lord Jesus
All creation join and sing
Come again Lord Jesus
Come again and be our King
Come again and be our King
To the poor and the forsaken
brokenhearted and alone
Come again and bring us hope
The one true Son of David
Worthy Lamb upon the throne
Come again and bring us peace
As you came before, Jesus come again
Oh, we need you Lord, please come again
To the victim and the prisoner
with no power and no name
Come again and bring us joy
Be the one true Righteous Shepherd
Calling lost sheep to reclaim
Come again and bring us love
Here’s a new song that we are going to learn this weekend at New City Fellowship.
This song was co-written by Israel Houghton and Darlene Zschech. It’s the single from Israel’s latest recording, “Alive in Asia” but Zschech seems to have released it earlier with a more HIllsong-y rock vibe.
What I love about this song:
- Infectious groove and ear-wormish melody
- Bold proclamation of God’s commitment to his people and his kingdom (Romans 8)
Stuff that I’m not going to worry about:
- maintaining Houghton’s EDM pop vibe on the recording (because we’re just not that kind of band)
- maintaining the recording’s unison only vocals (my people harmonize even when I tell them not to)
- performing all 6 1/2 minutes from the recording
I went through a period of doing a TON of Houghton’s music. It’s always fun and for the most part, theologically solid despite his connection to Joel Osteen. For me, his songs have been the bridge between CCM style worship and contemporary gospel which is exactly what a multicultural evangelical church needs. If you haven’t incorporated these yet, you should check out his other songs like:
- You are Good
- Friend of God
- Again I Say Rejoice
- There’s a Lifting of the Hands
- Jesus At The Center
- Saved By Grace
- Who Is Like The Lord
- Highly Exalted
- Moving Forward
Stuff to remember when attempting Houghton’s songs with a congregation:
- His voice is at it’s best in the alto range and so his recordings are going to pitch the songs accordingly, so either give the melody to the altos or bring the key down at least a whole step – or push it up a 3rd and drop it an octave. Just be careful about losing all the intensity
- His songs often work well in a white worship setting or a black worship setting (Friend of God is a good example) so if your group is made up of mostly white, rock musicians, you are going to have to work hard not to lose the gospel vibe.
- His songs are simple and so to make them more interesting, the recordings throw a lot of stuff into the form to constantly change things up. You have freedom to simplify these song forms to make it more “congregational” if you need to, so don’t let all those hip details from the recording make you over-think things.
We had a very satisfying worship service yesterday. By that I mean, as we sang, listened and prayed together, we drank deep of God’s grace in the gospel, the kingdom, and the power of the Spirit. Amen!
We sang a new song yesterday called “Father of Lights” by Josh Davis, the head of Proskuneo Ministries. Here’s their mission statement: “Proskuneo Ministries exists to glorify God promote unity in the body of Christ through multilingual multicultural worship gatherings, worship resources, and training of believers…”
“Father of Lights” was recorded by Nikki Lerner’s church, Bridgeway Community in Maryland. We based our performance on that recording. The song is based on James 1:17 and has a theme of Thanksgiving. It also features phrases in Swahili, Spanish, Arabic, and Korean. This was my first time singing in Korean, and a Korean friend after church told me that we actually sang the phrase correctly! I give all the credit to copying Nikki singing it correctly on the recording because I just copied her.
Here’s the place to buy the recording. If you would like the music, you should contact Josh Davis via
We also sang a medley of “I Give Myself Away” and “I Surrender All” which came off very well. My friend, Rich Rankin had the idea and requested that we sing it that way. Rich has a son who was born with severe defects to his throat and they are talking him to see a specialist this week. These songs have been a bit of a theme in Rich’s life these days.
Here’s a PDF of “I Surrender All” in Bb with the chords from “I Give Myself Away”