Posts Tagged gospel

New Song: “In Jesus Name”

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
  • Deeper

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.
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Review: Doxa “Centered”

Gospel music is good stuff. I’m a fan. I have been deeply affect by gospel over the years. Especially the music of Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, Hezekiah Walker, the Hawkins, the Clarks, Andrae Crouch, Israel Houghton, Kurt Carr, Tye Tribbett, the list goes on. Lately, I’ve been uninspired. There seems to be a very strong commercial drive to get the next hit. I realize that this is nothing new in the global marketplace of pop music and the “Christian” sub-genres have been absorbed into that same stream. In fact, after spending weeks listening to new releases, I heard a 1984 recording of Edwin Hawkins, Taste and See and it was like a breath of fresh air to hear a song so thoughtfully composed.

With that being said, it’s very refreshing to hear this recording from DOXA, CenteredDOXA is the name of the worship music ministry of Dr. Eric Mason‘s church Epiphany Fellowship. My dad recommend this to me and the first thing I heard when I previewed it was the glorious horn parts and lush changes. Yes, Lord! Looking into it more deeply through the handy lyrics link on their website, I found that several of the songs were actually written or co-written by “holy hip hop” artist, Shai Linne. How cool is that? Can we start seeing more lyricists lending their gifts to creating congregational music? There seems to be a strong sense of collaboration between the lyricist, the musical director (Aaron Johnson, I think), and the pastor who also sings on the recording. Less stars, more community. They have included a few good examples of using creativity combined with congregational considerations. Hymns and popular tunes covered and rearranged without losing their familiarity. There’s a freshness to this recording that brings to mind the music of next gen black artists like Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding,  or even the band-for-music-geeks, Snarky Puppy.

I’m not sure that I’ve picked on that I can use at New City Fellowship. I’m going to listen for a few weeks and see what sticks with me.

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You Are My God and King

This weekend at New City Fellowship, I’m introducing a new tune called “You Are My God and King” which I learned last year at the LDR Conference thanks to Michelle Higgins. The song is performed by Donnie McClurkin and it features verses in Spanish and French. How could we pass up on that?

 

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The God Who is Able (Take 2 the Stevie Remix)

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Everything is Broken

I’m going to do a psalmist thing and complain for a minute.

Everything is broken. I’m surrounded by malfunctions, glitches, short circuits, cracks, wear, tear, and all-consuming entropy.  Can I just give you a brief list? My dishwasher leaks, my clothes-washer is making a loud grinding noise, there’s a gutter falling off the side of my house, the front storm door is warped and can only stay closed by being locked, the power locks in my van’s door don’t work, the CD player in my car is broken, the speedometer/odometer in my car is broken, my acoustic guitar neck is warped and it’s “fretting out”, our laptop runs too slow, our home stereo speaker has a short and cuts in and out, even my dog has a malfunctioning pancreas and he has to have enzymes in his food or he would get “the runs” so bad that he would starve to death…you get the picture. I bet you have a similar list in your head that you can review of everything that’s broken in your life.

Of course, people are broken as well. We have fears, anxiety, pet peeves, grudges, prejudices, blind-spots, disorders, dysfunctions, and disagreements. Our hearts seem to constantly go back to the same sins and the same idols. We can’t ever seem to get over these persistent dysfunctions and move on with our lives.

Our culture also has systemic brokenness that we live with everyday and take for granted. The problem of racism, the system of prejudice and inequality based on race, comes to mind as a brokenness that many of us passively endorse without doing anything to fix it. We let the brokenness remain and throw up our hands in defeat as if to say, “I didn’t break this, so why should I have to fix it?”

This morning, my complaint about the little things that are broken in my life (the locks, appliances, etc.) made me think about why we allow brokenness like racism to persist, year after year, without doing anything to fix it.

  • It’s too expensive to fix. My family has a lot of broken stuff but the most frequent response to the problem is that it would cost way too much to fix. The solution is there but we don’t have the resources to put the solution into action.
  • It’s permanently broken. Usually, this is a cheap toy that happens to become one of our kid’s favorite things to play with. Then inevitably, it breaks so bad that no super-glue or tape or whatever could fix it. It has to go in the trash forever because it’s just too far gone. Just get over it!
  • It doesn’t bother me, so why should I fix it. We have a light switch in our bathroom that is wired wrong. It turns on when it’s down and off when it’s up. Of course, this is not really a problem to me at all.  Why risk electrocuting myself when it’s not really an issue?
  • If I’m honest, I prefer the brokenness. My CD player is broken in my car and that really was a bother at first. I couldn’t stand rolling around town in silence listening to the weird engine noises (probably more brokenness). Then I started listening to podcasts with an iPod and little portable speaker. I found that I much preferred this to listening to the radio or my CD collection. Let the CD player stay broken because now I have “This American Life” whenever I desire.

These excuses for brokenness are also at the root of why I allow sin to persist in my heart or we allow oppression to persist in our culture.

Now, it’s time to stop complaining. I can stop complaining because in Christ, all things are being made new. The brokenness will not become LORD over all because there is already a LORD over all who is in the business of restoration and redemption. The promises in scripture are the antidote to all our excuses to allow brokenness to persist.

  • There is nothing that is too expensive. I can’t change this because I don’t have the resources. I can’t even stop my own sin, so how can I ever expect to bring cultural change. However, we have in the riches of Christ all that we need for life and godliness. He has paid the full price, and in him, we have access to resurrection power. We have an overflowing bank account of grace and peace that we can access at anytime. We might have to give up our life in the process but even in that, to die is gain because of the riches of Christ.
  • There is nothing that is permanently broken. I want to give up on the brokenness. Many times, I would rather throw away a broken relationship rather than do what is necessary to fix it. But, Christ will never give up on any brokenness. We have a promise that there will one day be a new heavens and a new earth. There is nothing in this world that Christ cannot redeem by the power of the gospel. The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. Jesus is the ultimate in “green” living. There’s nothing broken that he won’t recycle into a new creation. There’s no trash in the kingdom.
  • There is nothing that I can ignore because it doesn’t bother me. I might be able to close myself off from oppression or down-play my sin through denial. But, the Lord promises to discipline those that he loves. He has promised that though injustice seems to go unchecked, there is a righteous judge in heaven who will bring vindication to the meek and reckoning to the wicked. The Lord is committed enough to righteousness and loves me enough as his child that he will not allow me to remain comfortable with my sin or comfortable with oppression. Any branches that do not produce fruit will be pruned and thrown into the fire.
  • There is no brokenness that will actually benefit me. I can’t always say that I despise my sin. There are times when it feels so easy and right to give my heart over to sin. Also, I can’t always say that I despise oppression. In fact, as a white person in the US, I receive many benefits that I didn’t even work for as a result of racism. This brokenness appears to benefit, protect, and advance my personal well-being. However, I can trust that the Lord Jesus has promised that his Spirit will transform and renew my mind to be able to discern his perfect and pleasing will. He has promised that he will lead me into paths of righteous for his names sake. In the light of His word, I will know all truth and wisdom and the scales will fall from eyes to behold the wretched vanity of sin and glorious beauty of grace and peace.

Everything is broken, but in Christ all things are made new.

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Gospel Music for Guitar: the 16 bar Gospel Form

I’m a guitar player in a piano player’s world. In the context of Black gospel music, the guitar is not considered a lead instrument. Most choirs rely on keys, organ, or synths to lead the band and the guitar plays a support role by playing rhythm parts or maybe lead fills. To make matters worse, I’m a white dude and most white dudes show up to a cross-cultural worship setting with their beautiful Taylor or Martin acoustic and when the set-list strays from Houghton-esque “rockspel” then then they find that their guitar becomes less relevant. Then things get really ugly when the set-list includes a more traditional black gospel song. The guitar becomes downright offensive as the acoustic strum-er starts to make the urban, Chicago-style  Black gospel sound more and more like rural Nashville-style SOUTHERN gospel. There’s a BIG difference.

It’s not the guitar player’s fault. They have not been taught in the traditional of gospel guitar players like the great Sister Rosetta Tharp or the slightly more modern sounds of Pops Staples 

A good place to start is the 16 bar gospel form. My church sings a number of songs that use variations of this form: “Glory Glory Hallelujah”, “Jesus is on the Mainline”,  “I Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell”, “Now Let Us Sing”, and even more moderate tempo “God is A Good God”.

Our children’s choir is working on an old southern gospel tune called “Glory Glory Glory Somebody Touched Me” which is all over youtube being performed by everyone from bluegrass legends to tiny little southern baptist churches. I had to make a demo for the kids to sing along with and I made my best effort to give it a little more “blues” and a little less “bluegrass”.  This represents how I would play a 16 bar gospel song especially in a setting where I was the only instrument. There’s a driving quarters bass sound that implies what a bass player would do and I’m hitting the muted strings on 2 & 4 to simulate a snare drum. The chromatic lead-in to the dominant at the end of each chorus is a cliche that helps define the style. The results also make a play-along demo for bass or drums to practice their gospel chops or for lead instruments to practice improvising.

I’ll admit that it would still fit into a song by Vince Gill or into the honky-tonk groove of a lot of country tunes. It’s certainly “down-home”. For an even more advanced bluesy take on the 16 bar gospel form check out this video of Pops Staples:

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Resources for cross-cultural worship

New City Fellowship Music

  • New City Music [ncfmusic.com] – free pdf lyrics, lead sheets, and streaming demos
  • James Ward [jameswardmusic.com] – purchase recordings and choral anthems
  • Kirk Ward [worshipinthecity.wordpress.com] – my blog and store

Modern Worship

  • Songselect [songselect.com] – one stop shopping from CCLI’s music subscription service
  • Praise Charts [praisecharts.com] – purchase individual songs with detailed transcriptions of the recording
  • Worship Together [worshiptogether.com] – good place to get ideas or find resource links (popular tunes often include Spanish lyrics!)
  • Sovereign Grace Music [sovereigngracemusic.org] – less mainstream, but extremely gospel-focused songs

Hymnals and “The Hymn Movement”

Gospel Worship

International Resources

Recommended Reading:

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New Song: “Awesome” Charles Jenkins and Fellowship Chicago

“My God is awesome.”

That’s the hook for this new song that our church is going to learn this weekend. Of course, “Awesome” is a word that gets over-used in our American lexicon.

“That movie was awesome!”
“This pizza is awesome!”

As if the misuse of “awesome” wasn’t bad enough, sometimes we add an adverb to modify it further:

“Your hair looks totally awesome!”

Obviously, we are not awe-struck by the pizza, and the hair-do does not strike awe to all who behold it. A quick search of the use of “awesome” in the bible brings up 33 references in the ESV. Most of them are describing God’s awesome deeds done on behalf of his people. He is awesome because He has demonstrated His power in wondrous acts of  deliverance and justice. So, the “awe” inspiring traits of God are not like the wonder of something like the Grand Canyon. It’s more like the way we use the word to describe a relentless military campaign of  “shock and awe”.

More totally awesome songs:

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Choir this weekend: Riverside

Question: Does a 3 month old baby really need shoes?

Never mind.

 

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New Song: We Have a Promise

We have a promise, a promise from Jesus our King
We have a promise, a promise from Jesus our King
He’s prepared us a place
Where we’ll meet him face to face
And by the power of his grace
We can finish this race
We have a promise

We have a promise, a promise from Jesus our King
We have a promise, a promise from Jesus our King
He’s chosen us by name
And now Death has no claim
His promise will remain
Now and forever, the same
We have a promise

We believe, we believe
In the promise that your servants have received

We have a promise, a promise from Jesus our King
We have a promise, a promise from Jesus our King
Though inwardly we groan
And at times feel all alone
He’s sealed us as his own
And he’s reigning on the throne
We have a promise

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