Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lead Worship workshop with Paul Baloche

Tuesday 16th November 2010

I’ve just come out of the closing session of Paul Baloche’s workshop and while I wait for the worship concert to start tonight, I thought I’d write a bit of a blog about the day.
This will probably be a bit of a random selection of thoughts and notes but I wanted to get stuff down while it was still fresh in my mind.
There was a lot of emphasis placed on timing and “the click”. The band actually plays to a click live on stage! They have it played through their in-ear speakers. They all practise to a click on their own too! The drummer has an electronic metronome beside him which is connected to the monitor system (ie, what the band hears, not what ‘we’ hear). The drummer selects the tempo and starts the metronome.
The drummer also uses some techniques to communicate the timing of a song to the band before they fully launch into a song. Typically this would be a couple of well timed cymbal taps or a shaker. The congregation/audience only notice it as atmospherics - the band uses it to lock down the tempo.
The drummer has the set list pinned to the metronome and beside each song is the BPM. So he just punches it in as each song starts. There’s also a tap-in tempo selector if he’s not sure exactly what BPM he needs.
Oh yes, it’s a beep rather than a click sound, as the click can get lost a lot easier in the real drums sounds.
While our band at church will not feasibly be able to have a click played to all members, it’s definitely something the drummer can do with a dedicated set of head phones perhaps. That said, perhaps we can have the click played through the monitor speakers?
While we’re on drumming, another main topic was that of ‘drum loops’. These are pre-recorded drum beats that are usually a bit more complicated or involved than the standard beat you would play during a live song. Indeed, they are often many drum beats mixed together to create an overall groove.
Again the drummer has control over this as he has a laptop beside him which is connected to the PA system. This time, the sound IS fed to the congregation.
The loop would start the song of and the drummer would play the normal beat over the top.
There are loads of websites out there that supply pre-recorded drum loops for free and for purchase. There are some recommended software packages to put on a laptop which can be used to manage the drum loop in the live situations.
One final cool thing about drum loops is that they are a lot more fun for the drummer to practise along with!
Drum loops is one of the major missing pieces we have in sounding more like one of the CDs that we like to listen to. We would need to look into how to provide the laptop and have it connected up to the PA system.

As for worship itself there were no magic cheat sheets to how to be an effective worship leader (by the way, this includes everyone in the band, not just the person calling the songs). If I was to sum up the core message of the day is that worship is something we should LIVE, not something we DO. Indeed, Paul used the phrase, it is something that is “caught, not taught”.
So what does that mean in practical terms? Well it means that we should be practising a lot – but not just the actual musical composition, but the words. Get to the point where you don’t need the words or music in front of you. Sing the words over and over. But don’t just sing a song then sing it again or move to the next one – sing many songs; make a melody of the ones you know and like. Even throw in random lines from well known songs, hymns or even Psalms!
In fact, the band spend a lot of time talking about singing Psalms and reading Bible passages in between the songs you are singing.
All of this prepares you for God leading you in how you lead worship.
One thing was very clear today and that is the band only has a rough framework of what they want to do during a worship set. Before during and after songs they may just doodle over the words of a song, or speak Bible verses or well known lines from other songs. They are mainly just hanging on a single chord and playing/singing over that. One of the most striking examples was when Paul called the congregation to just sing lines themselves – while Paul sang a particular line over and over, the congregation sang their own lines. I’m not sure this is something that our church is ready for, but it was an interesting dynamic.
A lot of the above of course is down to the actual leader, or the worship pastor as they preferred to call it. It is up to the leader to interpret how God is leading the time of worship. But crucially – the rest of the band will follow the leader and will be able to do so because they have practised the songs so much and committed the words to their hearts that it comes naturally.
So the core message here is that we as members of the worship band should be singing and playing our songs as often as possible in our own time, committing the words to our hearts. While I don’t see St Paul’s opening up to free worship like this for a while, the principle still holds true.
One particular piece of advice I have taken to heart is to go to the church in my own time every now and again and simply play. Turn the PA on and just play. I’d love to share that time with anyone who would like to do it with me.
Some other titbits from the day:
We are all “mini-g’s” – a tongue-in-cheek reference to mini Gods or mini creators. The meaning being that everything else in creation operates to God’s divine design and plan – whereas humans can actually “create”. After all, that’s what music is, right? Our creativity. We should consider that gift an incredible blessing and we should use it!!
When we practise and prepare for leading on a Sunday, we should close our eyes and imagine looking at our church. In our mind, picture various people that we know and where they sit. We’re leading THEM in worship. Pray for them and picture them as we prepare.
New songs. No hard and fast rule about how often to introduce new songs. One band member said when they introduce a new song, they do it for 3 weeks in a row. Others were saying one new song a month. Give them a chance but don’t be afraid to drop them if they don’t work.
“Pads” on a keyboard are incredibly atmospheric. Even if the keyboard player just holds this and does nothing else for 5 minutes, this can be incredibly powerful.
Don’t force or guilt people into worship. Some people will always look grumpy. The main thing is to lead by example. Make the time of worship a time of WORSHIP! Not just songs. Let God soften their hearts.
Bass guitar. A cool technique during the quieter parts of songs is to play as far up the neck as possible to get softer notes. Then to move down the neck (playing exactly the same thing, groove and all!) when you start to build up the song, and perhaps even during the livelier parts.
Finally, worship have a relaxing, welcoming, community feel. Paul used the term “unconcert”. IE, the big concerts are on Friday and Saturday night where the music is played to you – the unconcert is where people should be having the opportunity to come to God. Consider even an imaginery fire place at the front of church and we are all gathered around it!

All in all, a fantastic day and I’m really looking forward to trying to apply what we learned to our own situation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Star for a day

They've put my picture on the front page of the local newspaper, the Ulster Star!!

A nice big story on page 8 follows.

I'm a wee bit chuffed!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All good things

Well that's it. 1711 miles. 7 cities. 5 hotels. 5 countries. 5 trains. 1 boat. 1 taxi. 151 hours since my flight was first cancelled. 60 hours since I started my journey home on Monday morning.

I know it's not exactly Tom Hanks in Castaway, and I know there are folk who are still stranded and in worse position than me, but my front door was the best thing I've seen in a long time. It was a long, tiring experience that I'm certainly in no rush to experience again.

The ferry ride was a bit dull, after me nearly missing it this morning. Not much to do on board. At least I had a cabin. I seemed to spend most of the 8 hours comatose! It's been a tough few days.
It didn't help when it took them at least 35 minutes to get the foot passengers off. I guess they were overwhelmed with foot passengers compared to their normal service, so were not really prepared for it.

It was also errie to see Belfast City airport so quiet, even though planes had started flying today. It was in view for a good 45 minutes and even though it's not usually Heathrow level of busy, it was rush hour and I would have expected to see a handful of flights in that time. There were none.
Things are obviously not quite there yet, and it definitely vindicates my decision to travel home by land & sea.

The taxi driver was a hoot coming home. He told me his plan for world governance. Apparently the best thing to do is for Europe to stop trading with the rest of the world, unless they join the EU!! Not sure if he's got my vote if he ever stands... A good bit of light relief anyway.

Ben had planned a wee party for me. He'd drawn a welcome poster for the front door and another one in the house. He'd even wrapped up his favourite toy to give to me! He made sure mummy had plenty of daddy's favourite food ready when I arrived. And of course, mummy made sure the champers was on ice!

Nice to see the neighbours giving me a welcome wave too - thanks guys!

The Ulster Star photographer came round tonight. I'm sure I'll look like a demented manaquin in the photo. We'll see when it's published tomorrow.

I just want to thank everyone for all their nice comments, positive thoughts and prayers over these past few days. Thank you to anyone who has helped Emma while I've been away. Thanks to the girls at CWT who looked after my travel and did a fantastic job.
I've got loads of comments from folk who have enjoyed reading this blog. I'll post a few more in the next day or two to fill in some of the blanks.

There's no place like home.

Tripping at the last post

That was close.

I didn't realise ferries had strict check in windows - stricter even than airlines it would seem.
I rolled up in my taxi to the port at 55 mins before the sailing, and they were waiting for me!!

Am on the boat now. Can't understand why they would close so long before the sailing, for foot passengers at least.

Anyway, my cabin should be ready in an hour. No wifi by the looks of it so we'll see if there's any mobile signal on board.

My local newspaper wants to include me in their piece on stranded "Lisburnians". Probably going to have photographer waiting for me when I get home!!

Oh yes, I forgot to mention yesterday my meal choice on the Eurostar - the choice was salmon or rabbit. Hmmm. Those of you who know me, what do you think I chose??

9 hours and counting...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trip of firsts

A few firsts for me on this "trip". My first train on the continent, my first time in the channel tunnel and now my first visit to Liverpool.
Won't get to see much of it but I'm definitely "walking alone"... did you see that? I made a football joke! seriously - me. I better say something about F1 to balance the universe again, er isn't Jenson Button doing great this year?!

Train arrived at 23:30. Probably wasn't the wisest thing I've ever done, but since the hotel was only 0.9miles away according to Google maps, I decided to walk. Strange city, late at night, nobody around... Just glad I didn't add my first mugging to the list too! I also noticed how loud my wheeled bag is on paving stones with buildings all around for the sound to echo off.

Good to have British TV back - shame the first thing I stumble across is Graham Norton!

I see the UK airports are starting to open. I don't know whether the flight I had reserved from Heathrow will fly or not, but I think I'm happier taking the ferry option.

Emma tells me the boys are missing me, particularly Ben (who's 4). He's been telling his school class all about it and how "daddy had to go on a train under the sea". I've been away from them before - maybe even for a longer trip, though you cope with planned trips differently - but it's been hard being away from them this time. Doesn't help when I hear how much he's missing me but I'll see him and Matthew soon.

8 hour ferry tomorrow, then 20 minutes in a taxi should get me home for around 7.30pm.

Never will my front door look so appealing.

French excursion

I'm sitting in the Eurostar lounge in Gare du Nord, Paris.

I spent the day moving from place to place, trying to find somewhere to get online and be able to make phone calls. The world still moves on and I still have work to do. Ironically a lot of the work I need to do is connected with a conference next week that I have to travel to in Amsterdam! It's the biggest conference in my industry in Europe each year. And we host it - it's ours and we have to make sure we're on top of everything. It is a showcase for us and needs to be top quality.

But whether anyone will actually be able to attend is the main thing on everyone's lips right now!! We're all making contingency plans to attend but it's kinda moot if none of our customers/attendees do the same. We'll see.

I ended up this afternoon in a small hotel close to Gare du Nord. I picked it as there was no one in the lobby (as small as it was) and they had wifi. Of course, as soon as I joined a conference call I was due to be on for the afternoon, some work men decided it was a good time to start drilling in the wall right beside me!!!

I've now made it to the Eurostar terminal. One treat is that I got a business ticket so I got in to the lounge. We don't usually get this in our company but it was the earliest/only ticket we could get.

So at least I'll be back in the UK tonight.

The travel agent has held me a flight from Heathrow to Belfast tomorrow, just in case, but I don't fancy that at this stage so I'll just go on to Liverpool and get ready for my ferry in the morning.

About 24 hours to go now. In 2 hours, it will be my 4th country in 2 days... Nearly there.

36 hours and counting

Had a bit of a scare with my Eurostar confirmation. Although my itinerary said "confirmed" there was no seat number and the absence of a confirmation code wasn't encouraging either.

I called the travel agent and they were a little concerned too, although they did have the seat number.

My hotel is 2 mins from Gare du Nord so I went and with a huge sigh of relief I was able to pick up my ticket.

I didn't have a bag with me so as I walked back to my hotel I guarded it as if my life depended on it! There were so many people about the station who knows how desperate some people may get.

With the skies seemingly clearing, I have a flight reserved for tomorrow morning from Heathrow to Belfast. If the news looks good tonight, I'll stay in London and catch that tomorrow.
Failing that (which is likely) I'll continue on to Liverpool as planned and catch the 10:30 sailing to Belfast tomorrow morning.

The journey continues.