Posts Tagged James Ward

Come to #MusiCon15

simple_graphicNew City Music Conference 2015 is shaping up. We are getting registrations slowly but I fully expect 2/3 of the conference to register at the last minute. I’m so thrilled to have our line up of speakers and breakout leaders. It seems to get better and better every time we pull one of these together. If you haven’t done it yet, please check out the conference details and register at

Carrie Jones is the conference director this time. Carrie was involved in the 2011 conference we had here in St. Louis as the graphic designer and she created the conference notebook which was so full of information and resources that people wanted to get the notebook even though they couldn’t attend the conference. Carrie is also a long time member of NCF (@NCFStLouis) and as well as a highly qualified musician on our team.

The conference steering committee was made up of myself (@kirkwardmusic), my dad (@jcalvinward), and my long time friend, Michelle Higgins (@fast_foodie). We went out to lunch when my dad was here in March and hammered out the rough outline of who and what will be featured at this year’s conference.

I hope that you consider coming. If you are from the local region, we would love to meet you or connect again with you to be able to encourage each other in the struggle. If you are from out of town, we would to meet and connect as well and to hear what is going on in other communities. So much has happened in our nation this year that has served to break down our facades and to reveal the areas where we are divided and broken. The gospel has the power to heal communities when it is planted in soil that will let it thrive and produce fruit. Let’s live the gospel of reconciliation and justice that is available to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Rock of Ages

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Psalm 30

Mourning and dancing

Weeping and joy

Death and life

Weakness and strength

Fear and confidence

The question hangs in the air unanswered, “What profit is there in my death?” I’ve seen mourning and dancing this year. I’ve seen dreams fulfilled and dreams broken. This weekend, a friend came very close to death, and yet he was spared. This weekend, we’ll be singing a song that always reminds me of a friend who is no long with us. Death and mourning looms over all that we do on this earth and yet our lives can be filled with such joy and dancing.

David’s psalm was written for the dedication of the temple, the same temple that David was told that he would not be allowed to build in his lifetime. He was faced with his mortality and his losses as well as his glory days and successes. The transition from mourning to dancing is not just positive thinking it’s actually a process that only comes through doing the hard work of grieving and crying out to the Father. It’s taking the death that lurks in the shadows of our daily lives and offering it up to God in faith that his anger last a moment but his favor is for a lifetime.

Psalm 30

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

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Time to Register for the New City Music Conference!!!

HEY! It’s time to register for the New City Music Conference. I’m serious. No more delay. Why should you come to the conference?

  • Be Encouraged!

There will be a lot of excellent content at this conference including a line up of speakers that are well worth the trip. Are you feeling dried up, apathetic, bored, or weary? Take time to invest in your gift and your passion at this conference.

  • Meet Like Minded Musicians

You are not alone in the struggle! Whether you have been involved with cross-cultural music for decades or your ministry is just starting to consider a change, I guarantee that you will find people just like you who have been wrestling with the same stuff.

  • Hear a Ton of New Songs

Come on! Who isn’t excited about hearing new songs? One of the best parts of the NCM conferences has been the extended worship sessions. A room full of musicians, singing and celebrating is an experience that every servant-musician needs to experience. Go home after the conference with a stack of new song ideas and infuse your ministry with some fresh grooves.

  • Grow Closer to Your Team

Nothing beats a road trip to grow closer together with your team. You have friends to process the content of the conference with and friends who share your experience of the music who can help you “sell” the new songs to your folk back home.

  • Experience “worshipinthecity” LIVE!

Maybe you might be interested in hearing my plenary talk on Friday morning.  I’m not making any promises about it except that knowing my track record with public speaking, I will probably break down crying at some point so there’s that to look forward to.



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Leading Us In Paths Of Righteousness

On the heals of my 33rd birthday, I’m following the Good Shepherd as he faithfully continues to lead my family and I into paths of righteousness.

  • My kids are completing their 3rd week of school and I have never been more thankful for the work of righteousness being fulfilled  at the Freedom School.
  • Last week, I was able to share music at the wedding of a former drug dealer and gang-banger who is now walking in faith and living in grace.  He requested one song in particular, “What’s Gonna Make Me Long” by my dad.
  • On Sunday, my wife had the first of what we hope will be many dinners with our Music Team volunteers. She hopes to have everyone on the team over for dinner in groups of 3 or 4 until we’ve hosted all of them. We are so thankful for the work of righteousness that God is doing through the NCF music ministry.
  • On Monday, we met with our friend Emily Nienhuis, who works for One Heart Family Ministries.  The Lord seems to be leading us back into the world of foster care. As a family, we have been through a lot of disappointments in the past 2 years. It’s been so hard to trust our Good Shepherd in the “valleys” as well as in the “green pastures”. More and more the Lord is bringing us to a place of complete dependence and trust for daily grace. We are going to get re-licensed to foster hopefully in the next two months. We plan to complete 9 weeks of training in 6 weeks, so there’s that to look forward to.
  • On Tuesday, my wife and I went downtown to buy the empty lot next to our home at a land tax sale. This process has brought a deeper sense of community with our neighbors who purchased the other half of the lot. It’s also given me a new appreciation for my neighborhood and the works of righteousness that God is doing in the great city of STL!
  • Yesterday, I led a group of NCF musicians who shared their gifts at the St. Louis University School of Public Heath Convocation. We had a great time, and it stretched us all to play our music in a different context. I’ve already said it, but I am so thankful for my team!
  • What’s next? Choir rehearsals start next weekend as well as NCF’s 20th Anniversary Celebration.

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Sunday’s Set List – August 19, 2012

I Know I’ve Been Changed – traditional spiritual

Before I Knew –  from my CD Guardian Grace

God Great God – Kurt Carr singers

Anyataka – from Congo.

Restless – Audrey Assad (a new song for our church)

Im So Glad Jesus Lifted Me – traditional gospel tune

Rock of Ages – my dad, James Ward, created a new melody to this old classic. #500 in the “red” Trinity Hymnal.

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Sunday Set List Preview

This week features Joshua Saleem on the bass – pic by Neil Das

There is so much good music out there that it drives me crazy to have to limit each Sunday to 7 songs. Not only are the songs great, but of course, we serve a Great God, a loving Father, a gentle Shepherd, a powerful King, a high priest who can sympathize with our trials, a true and living Word, a faithful Servant, a shelter in the storm…I could go on but maybe I’ll let the songs speak instead.

And We Are Glad – Joe Pace’s traditional 6/8 groove that makes for an excellent opener. Fun, simple, true. This will be our 2nd time singing this tune.

Bless the Lord (Son of Man) – from Tye Tribett. The gospel presented in a full-throat-ed boast. Also 6/8. Lot’s of guitar shredding which is not my forte, but I become all things to all people yadda yadda yadda.

Eh Yawhe – a GAEL tune that Athoms Mbuma wrote and shared with us last month. This song is an excellent cross-over between American and Congolese style worship. It is repetitive enough for the Americans to catch some of the Lingala. At the end, there’s a super easy vamp that everyone can participate in: “Kumama, kumama, eh, Yawhe! Kumama eh, Yawhe!” Which means: Be [glorified, exalted, praised] oh Yawhe!

Blessed Be Your Name – Matt & Beth Redman’s tune is a modern-worship classic. After a few complicated and cross-cultural jams, it’s nice to sing a 4 chord tune that’s familiar to the majority. However, it’s not a light-weight song. These words are a challenge to my faith to sing them. (Check out the link – it’s a video of Redman performing with the London Community Gospel Choir at Abbey Road Studios)

May The Mind of Christ My Savior – words by Kate Wilkinson/ music by James Ward. This is my dad’s new melody which has a very (dare I say it) smooth jazz sound. This is a re-tuned hymn but unlike most of the stuff that I hear these days with that label, it has an intentionally cross-cultural style. No mandolin or banjo on this cut. If you want to use it in your church you can get the leadsheet, lyrics, slides, and mp3 for FREE from

Because of Who You Are – Martha Munizzi (as performed by Vicki Yohe). I haven’t been able to get this into a set for a while but it’s a shame because when we sing it, our people “get happy”.

Jesus My Great High Priest  – by Isaac Watts and yours truly. Someone suggested to me a few weeks ago that we sing this song as a communion tune. An obvious selection, but the idea had never occurred to me. As well as being here on my blog, you can find resources for this song (for FREE) at

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Advent songs from the Black Gospel Tradition

As a cross-cultural church, we are always looking for good resources for music from outside the mainstream. When I go to the usual websites, hymnals or whatever it can be difficult to locate unique gospel music resources for Christmas. Here’s a few that I’ve come across that you might enjoy:


The Classics

Go Tell It On The Mountain (we’ve been using the Norman Hutchins Arrangement)

Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child (Mississippi Choir – more changes than we play, but an excellent groove)

Rise Up Shepherd and Follow (We do this a lot more R&Bish, but I’m loving this churchy sound on the clip)

Mary Had A Baby (this clip is brilliant)

Deeper Cuts

Poor Little Jesus (I prefer the Goldgate Quartet’s version of this tune, but I couldn’t find a youtube clip. This version is pretty sweat as well.)

Behold The Star (here’s a Morehouse/Spelman clip for my friend, Darwin)

Contemporary Choir Tunes

Rejoice – Richard Smallwood (Smallwood is the king of cool changes, polyphony, and scripture-based text)

Emmanuel – Norman Hutchins (This is a song inviting adoration – simple and effective)

O Come – Israel Houghton (this is basically a “Thriller” groove for Advent)

Now Behold The Lamb – Kirk Franklin (Deeply meaningful song)

Great Joy – Broadway Inspirational Voices (We’re singing the arrangement of Hark The Herald that is on this recording, but the whole octavo is nice)

O Holy Night – Richard Smallwood (from the same recording as “Rejoice”)

Originals written by James Ward

These songs come from my dad’s choir at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga, Tennessee. You can purchase music for them at his website

Bring Your Praise To The King

Christ Is Born

Angel Carol

 Joyful News



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“Romans 11 Doxology” Guitar Tutorial

I’m think of doing a some quick guitar tutorials for We’re singing “Romans 11 Doxology” this weekend, so I figured that was an easy choice to start with.


Here’s a PDF with tab and chord brackets for further study: Romans 11 lesson

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Coming Down from the Mountain – New City Music Con

God is good! I know you are thinking that I need to take a break, but I can’t sleep in and my house is quiet so it’s a good time to reflect. It was great to see the pics that Neil Das has already posted froom the conference. Check them out here.

I want to share my personal favorite moments from this weeks conference:

  • The absolute explosion of celebration and activity on Tuesday night as Voice of Africa led us in worship. Emmanuel on the hand drums was a real treat.
  • Tony Myles sharing that he doesn’t know what a “Plenary Address” is so he’s just gonna preach.
  • My kids dancing and playing with Pastor Kevin VandenBrink’s daughter
  • Playing a “stankin” set with the NCF U City crew – God, my God, God is good!
  • My dad’s talk – a reminder that this is hard work, but the fruit is evident in the lives of the young people he has mentored
  • Jim Payne’s songs which revealed a deep passion for the gospel and a love of the craft of songs
  • Aloo Gobi – Zack said he’d make it “American Spicy”
  • Malcom Speed’s revealing personal experiences with some of the legends of gospel
  • It was great to see my Congolese friend, Nestor Biayi, affirmed in the African Style Class as he was called in from the back of the room to demonstrate Saben
  • Dr. Sánchez – conga, guitar, upright bass, vocals, and bringing some cool hard truth with wonderful class. We were so affirmed and challenged by his words. (Yes, that talk was recorded and will be available as soon as possible)
  • NCF- Chattanooga successfully did the work for me of picking tunes for the next year. I’m not sure that my team will let me rest until every one of those tunes is in our set.
  • Doing the electric slide – can we do that in church?
  • Jumping in on “Glorious” with Dr. Sánchez on the congas and clave
  • Redeemer PCA in Jackson standing as a family together as their composers shared their songs.
  • watching half the people in my “Into to Improvisation” class falling asleep – What do you expect when you put exhausted people  in a warm room on couches, after lunch. Next conference we’ll ask everyone to bring a yoga mat so that we can have nap time once a day.
  • Watching Paul Neeley get Joshua Saleem playing hand percussion
  • seeing my friend, Odetta Fields, come into her own as a choir director
  • Jeff Rakes humbly taking us to school with his tune “All Honor and Glory” – man, Jeff set a new standard for my flute player.
  • Seeing this cross cultural body of believers express their “heart song” in the form of “O Lord, How Excellent”
  • Carrie Knapp – that girl can sang.
  • Mike Higgins bringing us back to the promise that the curse is broken and the accuser has no power over me
  • I loved the spontaneous expression in singing “You Are Good” at the end of the night. I wish that we had been able to hear more from Jonathan Gramling from Dorchester.  What a voice!

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