Monday, September 27, 2010

On Joy in Music Making

Most of you know that I make music. Some of you know that more than others as I am a man of many hats, but truth be told, music is my first hat. It's the hat I've worn most comfortably since I can remember. My earliest memory of making music is at the age of 2 when I sang at my parent's 25th wedding anniversary. I believe the song was "You Are my Sunshine" and the audience was friends, family and church family. That moment kind of started the whole thing. It seemed inevitable that wherever I would be from then forward I would be making music in front of people. Through my life, this has been both amazing and challenging. I suppose as anyone who has a public facing talent knows, it feels so good to share it, but sometimes it feels burdensome to figure out exactly how best to use it.

I'm still trying to figure this out. I think about it all the time. I'm not sure my musical calling is specific and so in what ways can I be fulfilled as an artist and share with others.

Rather than indulging my existential conundrum on this blog, I'd rather like to highlight one of the things I do weekly which brings me great joy in the music making process. I think it is way in which I've found myself as an artist while sharing with others.

I've been the vocalist for the Grace Chicago Consort in residence at Grace Chicago Church for about five years now. What once seemed a possible short lived gig has turned into a long time respite with other talented musicians. We are making music for a sacred setting which has so much tradition to glean from and the results are often, what I think to be, somewhat magical. Now before you balk at this being about church, might I suggest you take a listen?

I've had my little Zoom H2 recorder the last couple of Sundays and I wanted to share some stuff.

The following is a little prelude to start off the service, something A Capella:

This is the same song a bit later with the ensemble to accompany communion:

This is an example of one my favorite things we do. It involves taking a hymn that the congregation sings and kind of turning it on its through improvisation. This usually happens during communion time and is free form, based on a melody everyone in the congregation is familiar with:

Finally, this is an example of me leading the congregation. I can't imagine enough people know what it is like to stand in front of a group and have them sing at you. I believe this recording is about 135 voices, facing me and I at them. It is really powerful and moving for me:

So, all this to say, although I struggle to find my identity as musician, I know what it is to find joy in making music. It is rare that I feel the ability to sing with abandon and be true to that which I feel in the music. Each Sunday at Grace, that is exactly what I do.

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