Posts Tagged New City Music
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?
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
The good people at New City Fellowship in Chattanooga TN are hosting the New City Music Conference this summer, July 25-28. If you are a musician who is involved in cross-cultural or mercy ministries, you need to be there! We need you to share your songs, your experiences, and your friendship. This year, I have the privilege to be included as a plenary speaker. Please pray for me as I work on my talk (editing, editing, editing!)
Registration is currently open for anyone who wants to sign up. If you live in St Louis, please let me know if you are interested in going. We will be coordinating transportation for our musicians, and you might be able to hitch a ride with us.
I had web master Rob Hatch in Chattanooga add a few more of my original tunes to the New City Music website. We offer songs on ncfmusic.com for the benefit of the church to share what we’ve learned or created in the pursuit of cross-cultural worship. Go check it out and make yourself at home.
It’s a Charles Wesley hymn that I gave a new melody and added a chorus; you might know it as “Blow Ye the Trumpet Blow”. I was thinking that the song would work well in a more 1960’s style, civil rights era gospel-rock. I was thinking Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or Aloe Blacc but the over-driven guitar sounds and my white boy vocals push it more toward something like Neil Young. Maybe one day, I’ll record it with horns and and soul-power guitar riffs to get the sound I heard in my head. Regardless of the groove, my main goal was to get everyone shouting “FREEDOM!” at the top of their range.
There’s not many songs out there about reconciliation and the ones that are out there can be so cheesy that they are barely palatable. I was aiming for a song about reconciliation that appeals to the gospel and the grand scheme of redemption instead of a touchy-feely, “can’t we all just get along” sentiment. We are an adopted family in Christ, and therefore, we are reconciled even if we are not living it out quite fully. The demo is an attempt at using garage band; it’s not my forte.