Archive for December 2006

Our Duty in Worship

December 18, 2006

“Our duty and our joy is to put new melodies and inspiring heavenly music onto the lips and into the hearts of God’s children”…Dave Clifton from Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship Files”

And what a great gig we have as worship leaders. Not to insinuate for a split nanosecond the weighty gravity and sobriety that such a duty demands. All I need to remind myself of the seriousness and integrity this privilege carries with it is to consider the procedure that the high priests obeyed of tying a rope around their waists so that their peers could drag their dead bodies out of the Holy of Holies in the event that any overlooked sin in His Presence might cause their instant death. Just to ponder the Grace we are afforded should inspire us to reach such lofty goals that Mr. Clifton speaks of.

However, as a drummer, while we’re not the benefactors of melody or lyrics, a few years ago I had a small revelation of just what one of my roles as a drummer should be. Twenty-something years ago When I was paying my dues out on the road as a lean, mean, Rock n’ Roller Rhythm Machine I figured out it was my job via tempo and feel to make it easy for people to want to dance. To do that I learned to lay down solid grooves that raised the comfort and confidence level in my bandmates. To achieve that I became quite intimate with the typical bass lines my bass player was providing. Once I knew what he was comfortable with I set my mind to making him sound good. When we were secure in our groove, the keyboards and guitar (we all sang vocals) did as the Darling Family used to tell Andy Griffith to do…”Jest jump in, and haaang on!”

I learned even before I became involved with worship teams that that attitude of being humble enough to understand that the way to make myself sound good is to make others sound good. It’s also the best way to get a good gig with good musicians. That is WAAY more critical on a worship team, especially when you’re pushing a 27-piece orchestra, and a 40-member choir; but OOH! is it fun and even more rewarding.

So, weaving Mr. Clifton’s remark into my revelation, it suddenly dawned on me that while our Assembly of God congregation is just a few steps shy of letting the snakes out of the closet, dancing with each other wasn’t the prime objective. Where, then, do I channel that energy? What is my duty as a drummer, specifically? The answer was simple: Make it easy for them to worship. How do we do that?

While a lot of musicians may appreciate drummers with great technique to a degree, most of them are quite leery of a lot of flash because they lose the security and consistency of where the beat is. This applies even more so to typical congregations. I can understand this, which is why I’ve tried to marry the discipline of a session drummer (Steve Gadd) with the creative flexibility of a songwriter’s drummer (Ringo Starr).

My method of achieving world-class worship is to first of all start praising on Saturday night with intense energy, right through my sleep, and drive to church. Once we start rehearsal I try to make it ALL about Jesus! Don’t get me wrong. We all have our dawg days, and the past few years have been one spiritual banana peel after another. On the other hand, when I keep my eyes on the Prize He has never failed me, and the worship has ALWAYS reached pinnacles I only dreamed of.

When I consider the privilege of doing my part I start with an intense energy by taking a certain ownership of each composition, and pushing the band with extreme dynamics, and using technique to release the built-up intensity at certain strategic, but almost predictable musical points. This gives my fellow musicians a comfort and security that they can play their parts with ease, but yet never get bored and uninspired. All the while I keep in mind that my music pastor has an even higher vision than I, which is why I’m there to help him achieve that vision. It is with that spirit that we take the congregation to that highest level of worship.

WHAT A GIG!

SeeYa@daCoda,
Your Favorite Unkle

What is REAL Church Music

December 18, 2006

Ah! Finally, in this heathen world of “contemporary” music services we finally have an article about the cultured musician forged of refinement from the finest of classical conservatories where the academia look three miles down their bi-focaled noses at the rest of us commoners who haven’t a clue about what REAL church music is all about. NOT!

Dude, this is about what Flip Wilson used to call his church “The Tabernacle of Wha’s Happenin’ NOW!” OK. Maybe we ought to take this somewhere in between, or just be cognizant enough to hear where God wants to take it. After all, He may have someone He wants to speak to that’s hearing you for the first time that is coming from an entirely different musical/church culture than you. Are they going to be turned off by your music and/or it’s presentation? Are they going to be brought to their knees by you ushering in His Grace into their hearts? Then again, He may want to convict someone that thought they knew it all about what church was supposed to be. Opening relationships with Him and His people. THAT’S God’s sole purpose for having you in that all-important worship team to make that introduction that much easier.

From my perspective of playing drums for forty years, and having a good amount of formal music education as well as practical road experience I’m going to pound the Delete button when it comes to the church organ music that pen-head taught me in Early Western Music History. Not because it’s impossible for a church organ to minister to someone (not me) effectively, but because his snooty background led him to make such a ridiculous statement as the following: “There is no legitimate organ music outside of traditional church organ music…Well, maybe a CALLIOPE!” I almost stood up and yelled “Dude! Let my people go!” I mean, what about “Chest Fever” by Three-Dog Night, or Steve Winwood’s “Gimme Some Lovin’”, Booker T! MAN! To say nothing about the scores of black churches who inspired the devil’s musicians previously mentioned. You remember, “The Blues had a baby, and they named it Rock n’ Roll.” Forget most black churches couldn’t afford a $50,000 pipe organ. They didn’t need it! If Jesus hadn’t been resurrected when He was, they would’ve gotten the job done after the first service!

In all seriousness, it is an extremely sad note on the effectiveness of the church’s relevance in secular Europe, namely England that Islamic fundamentalists are buying up as many old cathedrals and abbeys as they can because the parishes are unable to afford to keep them up due to their quickly dwindling congregations. I’m sure the organ music didn’t help. And they call George Bush arrogant, and unwilling to change course.

So, where does that take us? Well, when I went to music school my ambition was to be a studio musician like the next Steve Gadd. Stop the snickering…NOW! At the time (1980) my heroes were the katz that played with such legends like Steely Dan, and other heavy-weights because I wanted to train myself to be able to play ANY kind of music at ANY time, and most importantly (especially in ministry) play it with credibility and authenticity; even if I hated the music. In other words, if a bride’s Mom hired me to play Sam & Dave, and James Brown don’t ask me to play it like Lawrence Welk. You certainly wouldn’t ask the same of that church organist. Or, in a wider cultural disparity don’t go to Moscow if you want to learn to speak Japanese.

Ask any missionary that has paid their dues in some remote backwater and they will tell you (depending where you go) if you don’t have your homework done on the cultural sensitivities you can get yourself killed! Furthermore, my experience has been that other than using food, the fastest way to be able to relate to a stranger’s culture is to be able to play their music the way THEY play it…not playing AT it; like the condescension that John Kerry has for Christians.

I’m not merely speaking of foreign countries either. Look at how many radically different musical art forms we have just here in America. So, start listening to EVERYTHING! You never know when God is going to put you in a position where you can minister. Look at how King David used his gift.

As for the old hymns? I can honestly say that I’ve been brought to tears with plenty of them; especially when a passionate musician has taken the time to craft a great arrangement around them.

SeeYa@daCoda,
Your Favorite Unkle