Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Live Music

Last weekend I had the rare opportunity to hear live music Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There really is nothing like live music. It's so real, and raw, and now! You can pop in a CD or spin a record and hear good quality music, but it's not until you see that band or that individual live and in person that you really experience the music straight from the source. You may hear a note, or a line, or even a song that you will never hear from that person ever again. I have a dear friend that can be brought to tears with the thought that the music she is listening to is so real and in the now and that the moment she's in will never happen again. She is so right...Live music that comes out of a guitar or a voice will truly never be heard again. You have one chance to hear what is happening at that one moment. If you don't pay attention you won't get a second chance. Once it's out, your memory of it is all that's left.

I have lived a blessed life when it comes to hearing live music. I grew up in the house of a great musician. In my young life I was exposed to so much of my father's music as well as the music of many others he would play/sing with. I myself was in a band with some of the best high school musicians to ever come out of my small town. When I was barely sixteen I was taken under the wing of what many in the Nazarene church considered to be the consummate sound guy. What he taught me enabled me to be a part of mixing and recording for more praise teams and worship bands than I can count; something I use and enjoy to this day. As I became an adult I had the pleasure of being surrounded by many friends who were musical and shared their art with me. I spent much of my young adult life in coffee houses listening, and sometimes playing with, live musicians. For the past decade I have sat and listened to more jame sessions and band practices than anyone I know. When I met Ell I was introduced to a whole new group of young musicians. Through some of those people I was able to experience the rise and fall of one of the greatest bands to never get signed. In the last couple years, a friendship grew between myself and an amazing musician with a heart for kids and families. That friendship has allowed me the opportunity to meet and hear even more musicians and their music.

I can't read or play a note of music (though I can mix it with the best of them.) But that has only made me love music and the people that make it even more. I love my CD's and records, but there's nothing like hearing it live. If you've never taken time to appreciate it, do so soon. When you do it, remember the music you're hearing is as real as music will ever get. Life is short, fill it with live music.


Blogger Laura G. Young said...

Hello Sam --

Perhaps you can answer something that I've been wondering about recently.

As a Christian who has had contact with many "worship bands", what are your thoughts regarding some people's concern that polished onstage performences, wonderful though they might be, might lessen the possibility of true group participation?

10:52 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Great question Laura. From personal experience I have a very strong opinion on this topic, but I need to be rather PC so that I don't offend some people who may read this. (But I also think that question deserves an honest answer so I won't diverge from that.)

I was involved in a specific church for 9 years that had two different types of services... One supposedly geared towards new believers and one to established. The worship team for the latter was exactly that, a team of musicians that led people to the throne of God with their worship. They didn't practice very often, and sometimes messed up. The team itself was bigger which was hard to control at times. The team for the first could best be described as a band. Their songs could be somewhat tricky to sing along with due to featured solos of the better singers and musicians. But the band itself was perfect. They sounded good, the songs were practiced to a T, and the presentation was flawless. For all onlookers it was a better group in all areas. They even just cut their own CD.

So does that make them better? And by better I mean more effective in the goal of touching lives and leading worship. In all areas, I would have to say NO! But if the question is it better to look good to make a good impression so as to get more people in the doors...I'm not sure what I'd answer. Politics is unfortunatly a big part of established churches these days. Leaders use any eye/ear-candy they have to draw in the crowds. (That may be a different topic that opens its own bag of worms.) Yes, I feel that a "polished" group can tend to discourage "group participation." The reason is that a perfectly practiced and honed team doesn't have within itself any room for variation. They do verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus-ending. If the Spirit moves a leader to re-sing a specific verse or repeat a chorus more than two times, only a leader who is willing to deviate from the list (so to speak) would be able to follow that. I know there could be exceptions, but in my experience that would be rare rather than the norm.

What are your individual thoughts on the topic?

12:50 PM  
Blogger kimw said...

As a worship leader myself, I agree with a lot of what you say, Sam. I do prefer a smaller group because it is easier to control. There is, however, a good argument for letting "whoever feels moved to be in the music ministry" to participate. To an extent this is true. But, God did give each person a specific talent to use for Him. And for the person who wants to sing in the band but can't carry a tune, that's probably not what He inteded for you to do for His glory. All that being said, I think that a group of people whose "job" it is to lead people into worship need to be practiced and well-rehearsed so as not to distract a congregation with blaring wrong notes and beginnings/endings/changes that fall apart. In my opinion, this is distracting and can bring someone crashing down from the Throne Room quickly. I do feel that a leader should always listen to the leading of the Spirit and follow where it leads - even if it means singing verse 3 one more time! There is also some freedom in familiarity, where people don't have to think about what they're singing and can "let go" a little easier.

This got longer than I intended. I hope I made myself clear. As always, Sam - GOOD POST!

2:47 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

The whole practice thing was something I touched on but didn't say enough about. I think someone who has a talent/gift to play or sing (and especially if they are leading) has a responsibility to know what they're doing. I agree with you Kim...that foghorn-sounding lady who thinks she's a soprano does not necessarily have a right to be in on stage. And vice-versa, the concert opera singer might not fit into a group setting. A messy sound can distract just as much as a song that you can't sing to. The key, as in all things, is to find that happy medium. I do not promote a no-practice group with a lot of heart any more than I promote a well-oiled-machine that can't get over their "set list"!!!

I wonder what our Black Baptist brothers and sisters would have to say about this topic. Even if they tried they wouldn't be able to follow an order of worship. I have only had the wonderful opportunity to worship in a predominately black church on 5 occasions. And I have heard them belt out some really bad notes and some botched endings/transitions that never messed with the wonderful energy and moving of God. Just another facet to think about.

3:11 PM  

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