Posts Tagged New City Music Conference
I’ve had a few days to rest (play with my kids, talk with my wife, stare at the walls, etc.) and now that I’m back in the office, I’m ready to think a little bit about the conference we just hosted. I want to especially thank Carrie Jones, Michelle Higgins, Adina O’Neal, Lisa St. Pierre, and Sara Ward who did the bulk of the back end logistics to make the whole conference work.
We had some good times playing music together and sharing our worship expressions. This year, there was a much stronger representation of original songs and arrangements. I brought some of my stuff, but there was also the creative work of Michelle Higgins, Michael Kendall, and Matthew Monticchio. New City Music is becoming more and more of a movement of original songs and expressions through the work of the Spirit in our communities. These songs came off to me as much stronger than the “radio” stuff in our times of worship. The open mic time was also full of original songs and ideas. God is moving and working in this generation, y’all.
All three of the plenary sessions were fun, moving, and thought provoking. I was not at all the breakouts (i have to rest some time, right?) but I am looking forward to listening to them online. Ruth Naomi Floyd was my personal highlight. Her voice could move mountains. She has incredible control over her instrument making each “clip” of a spiritual that she presented deeply expressive and poignant. Many of the songs she shared, I’d heard before, but I’d never really listened to what the song was saying until she “unpacked it” for us. Edem Dzunu was both hopeful about the power of the gospel to reconcile people, but also didn’t downplay the hard truth that it ain’t easy. It’s always encouraging to know that the struggle that I’m experiencing is not unique to me because there’s something I’m doing wrong, but the struggle is the only path we can walk in order to see the kingdom advance. My dad, James Ward, was his usual entertaining self and I always enjoy his presentations. He’s my mentor so nothing he brought was new to me, but I was thankful that he was able to share about his rehearsal experiences with this larger audience.
I am so thankful for the friendships that are born out of these events. We also grow closer and share more about each other with each passing year. I was especially appreciative of the St Louis community of musicians who stepped up to help. When we hosted in 2011, I felt like I had to “do it all” without much help, but this time, I had a team of friends who had my back and brought gifts that I didn’t even imagine were possible. I was encouraged to see people connecting with each other departing with new connections.
“The Healing of the Nations” is the theme for New City Music’c #MusiCon15. This phrase comes from Revelation 22 in which John describes the new city of God where a river flows from the throne of the Lamb. Along the banks of the river are the trees of life and John tells us that the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.
If you don’t see a need for healing in our communities, our congregations, our families, or your own heart, then you are probably not paying attention. Worship is a time to listen to God’s voice and to be changed in the process. He is present in our worship and He is holy. Like the woman who only needed to touch the hem of His garment, we come into the presence of Jesus in worship, broken and desperate. The wonderful now/not-yet vision of the New City is that the tree of life grows like a weed. The church is the New City where Jesus glory dwells and where the nations stream up to the throne needing this healing.
Here are a few questions that I have for you to consider in preparation for our conference.
- How have you personally experienced physical or emotional healing through worshiping Jesus?
- How has music, whether in worship or not, brought you some form of healing?
- How have you witnessed healing in whole communities through singing together in worship?
- What does healing look like in music? To say it another way, what active steps do you take to experience healing?
I’d love to read your answers to one of more of these questions in the comments.
New 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 www.ncfmusic.com/conference/
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.
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.
SAVE THE DATE // August 9, 2014 in Saint Louis
Who: Worship musicians, leaders, and volunteers
What: resource exchange, training, praise, and fellowship
When: Saturday August 9 2014, Daytime workshops ($5 for participants) // Evening concert event open to the public
Why: worship teams from various churches don’t normally have the chance to gather in the same place to be participate in worship events rather than direct them. We will learn together, encourage each other, and share our experiences.
organized by New City Fellowship and South City Church
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org // email@example.com
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.
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.
Once again, I’m riding high in the fog of anther encouraging, exciting, emotional and (what’s another ‘e’ word?) conference.
I was struck by several things that come to in no particular order:
The UNbroken chain of mentoring. Karl and Karen Ellis shared in their talk about the “broken chain of mentoring,” which was the rift between the Boomers and the generation before it which has also carried over into the GenX and Millennials. I can see that problem and relate to it, but I was struck at our conference with how many people were there who HAD been mentored and who were following in their mentor’s footsteps. I talked with so many people who I had grown up with or had seen come-of-age at New City Fellowship who were now in active leadership roles in other ministries. It made me thankful for the grace of God working in my life to provide me with mentors who have shaped me, and it made me ask myself who is being mentored by me right now.
New City Fellowship is not the inventor or patent-holder of reconciliation, justice or the kingdom. We can get myopic in our circles about what NCF is doing. We can loose sight of the big picture of how the Spirit of God moves across the face of the earth in the hearts of people all over the world. The conference over and over again reveals to me how small I am in the movement of the kingdom and also how powerful the undercurrent of the kingdom is in the church. I was so glad to meet other Christian musicians who are wrestling with the same questions and desires that I am and who came to those conclusions from entirely different experiences. It reveals that there is some unseen personality behind all this guiding and directing the development of the church.
There’s too much good music out there. So many songs, so little time. (The same can be said for new books).
God likes to spread his gifted people around. I met and played with so many skilled musicians. It makes me feel a little sad that we can’t all be together in one church to really have a “Dream Team” group of musicians. Of course, I know that if we did that, it would greatly reduce our effectiveness as church musicians. The kingdom calls us to “spread our gifts abroad” and not to consolidate them.
There’s a deep thirst in the church for songs that tell the full gospel in a musical language that invites us to sing. I wrote a theme song for the conference and it’s reception by the folks there FAR exceeded my expectations. I think that it tapped in on the need for songs to express aspects of the gospel that are missing from the mainstream.
My wife is awesome. I just want to throw that in there.
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.
- BONUS: Eat Some Tennessee BBQ
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
- 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”
- Cyber Hymnal [cyberhymnal.org] – excellent database
- Trinity Hymnal [gcp.com] – check out the downloadable orchestrations!
- RUF hymnal [igracemusic.com/hymnbook/] – downloadable lead sheets and lyrics
- The Hymns Movement [zachicks.com/the-hymns-movement/] – an excellent list of links many artists who are composing new hymn melodies
- Ntime Music [ntimemusic.com] – gospel music store with lots of resources including hard to find choral transcriptions
- African American Heritage Hymnal [giamusic.com/sacred_music/african_american.cfm] – many songs from the whole historical spectrum of gospel music
- My list of 101 Congregational Worship Songs in the Gospel Style [worshipinthecity.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/101-congregational-worship-songs-in-the-gospel-style/]
- Libro de Liturgia y Cantico [augsburgfortress.org] – a Lutheran Spanish hymnal with songs from all over the Spanish-speaking world
- Urbana Worship [urbana.org/go-and-do/missional-life/urbana-12-worship] – InterVarsity’s Urbana conference always includes a few songs from outside the US that are easy to pick up
- French Worship Resources [worshipinthecity.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/french-worship-resources/] – a few links in a blog post
- Worship in Spirit and Truth – John Frame (P&R Publishing)
- The Dangerous Act of Worship – Mark Labberton (IVP)
- The Art of Worship – Greg Scheer (Baker Books)
- Worship Matters – Bob Kauflin (Crossway)
- Engaging With God – David Peterson (IVP)
- People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music – Robert Darden (Continuum)
- Gather Into One: Praying and Singing Globally – C. Michael Hawn (Eerdmans)
- Worship by the Book – ed. D.A. Carson (Zondervan)
- Diverse Worship – Pedrito U. Maynard-Reid (IVP)