The Songwriting Journey: The First Release

Moving houses can be a stressful process. Someone told me recently that it is rated as the second most traumatic event a person can go through. I’m not sure traumatic is quite the word, but it was constant low-level stress that was enough to make you feel unsettled, but not enough for adrenaline to kick in and give you a rush. Kind of like the background whirring of a plane engine when you are on a long-haul flight that causes you to never really feel rested.

I’m glad to say we are finally over the worst of moving. We’ve still got some boxes to unpack and some rooms to set up, but at least we can more or less live a normal life from our new place.

Last Sunday, as a worship ministry, we crossed another threshold. If you have been following my rather sporadic writings over this last season, our church has been on a journey towards writing and singing worship songs crafted by our own worship team.

In my last post, I talked about how we went through the process of crafting the lyrics.

A few weeks ago, our music directors and lead musicians got together to put some musical flesh to song. Building on the basic structure, riffs were introduced. Our drummers even charted the drum patterns.

And then last Tuesday, another group of musicians and singers ran through the song one more time.

Finally, on the Sunday just past, without much pomp or ceremony, we quietly introduced the song to the congregation. I was very privileged to lead our congregation in singing the song. None of the original writers of the song were on the team that week, and so the song became truly owned by the worship team and the church rather than by the few who composed it.

It was such a thrill to realise that this had become a collaborative team effort. It took some to write the song; others to adjust the lyrics; and still others to work on the arrangements. And ultimately, the arc was finally completed as the congregation gave voice to the song.

The significance of the moment was not lost on me. I believe that this will be first of many more home-grown songs to come. Songs that capture the heartbeat and cry of our church as we journey towards discipleship and disciple-making. Songs that will create memories of a time and season in the life of our congregation.

Quite coincidentally, when the song, entitled “Your Love” was written in around October last year, we had no idea that when we finally released it, our church would be going through a sermon series on God’s Love. And we could not have predicted that last Sunday, the preacher rostered on was actually our worship pastor, Dave Wong. And if we think about what’s been going on in our city, with many people losing jobs and struggling to hold on to hope, the song reminds them that God is “our rock, our strong foundation / There is nothing to fear, God I know You are here.”

Only God could have orchestrated such a prophetic moment.

So here is the live recording of “Your Love” as sung last Sunday.

 

And here is the final version of the chords and lyrics.

Your Love

by Joe Chuah, Rina Tean, Melvin Kway, Brittany Gan

Key: G

Intro: C D Em C

Verse 1:
C                                                 D
All my eyes have seen will pass away
G/B
But You will never change
C
You remain the same
C
When darkness closes in
D
I’m not afraid
G/B
Your arms around me
C
Surround me

Pre-Chorus:
C         D/C
Here I stand
Am7                    D
My life is in Your hands

Chorus:
G       Am                  C                              D
From my heart, I will sing a new song to You, Lord
G                  C                            D
From my soul, I will give You all the praises
Em   D            C       G/B
And even in my lonely hour
Am                       D
I will lift Your holy Name
C                       D          C
For Your love will never change

Verse 2:

When troubles come my way, my hope remains
Lord I will seek Your face, for all my days
The voices of the world will fade away
As I call out to You, only Your words are true

Interlude: Em   Bm C  Am x2

Bridge:
Em                G
You are my light, my salvation
C                             Am
Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear?
You are my hope, my validation
Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear?                        
You are my rock, my strong foundation
There is nothing to fear
God, I know you are here
You are my rock, my strong foundation
There is nothing to fear
God, I know you are here

Instr:   Em G C Am (end on D)

I pray that as you listen to and worship with this song, God will really minister to you.

I can’t wait for the church to sing it again this coming Sunday.

The Songwriting Journey: Crafting the Lyrics

In an earlier post, I described how our church began its songwriting trajectory with the view to eventually having our congregation use a pool of “homegrown” songs in our corporate worship.

To recap, we selected a winning song from all those that were written as part of our New Song Cafe in September last year.

That song was “Your Love” by Joe Wee Chuah, Rina Tean, Melvin Kway and Brittany Gan.

We then purposed to refine the song further and then to work out its musical arrangements.

Over the last many weeks, Dave and I have been working on the lyrics to:

  • ensure the song is theologically grounded;
  • refine the words further to tidy up some thematic threads and to give the song an overall unity;
  • round off some of the imagery.

Actually, we have been really slow in exchanging drafts, and to be honest, the original was already pretty polished.

Here is a mark-up of the changes:

Your love Lyrics

As you can see, the changes were minimal since the original lyricists did such a good job.

When I first read the lyrics, I thought they were pretty generic. Recently, however, I was sharing with the Perth Prayer team about “hope”, particularly because in the current economic conditions in our city, with people losing their jobs, the price of oil dipping (our economy is very much based on oil, gas and mining) and the fall in the sharemarket, there is a lot of pessimism out there.

But yet, I believe that this year is a “Year of Possessing Our Possessions”, of entering into the promised land.

The problem is one of perspective. In Numbers 13, of the 12 spies that were sent to scout out Canaan, 10 reported a land that devoured people; a land, whilst full of milk and honey, was inhabited by indomitable giants. Only two of the spies came back with a different report. Caleb and Joshua kept their eyes on God and saw that the land had already been given to Israel. Ultimately, of their generation, only Joshua and Caleb were able to enter into their promised possession.

So this year, I believe that God has already given you His promises for your life. But the circumstances around you might seem unyielding; that the promises seem improbable and distant. Keep your eyes on God, the One who is able to fulfill His promises. His promises are “yes” and He has called us to echo with “Amen!”.

When we revisited the lyrics to “Your Love” it became clear to me that the song was breathed out of a prophetic moment, capturing a sense of hope in God’s unfailing love despite the circumstances that we may face. It will capture the cry of many in our congregation. And it will also be prophetic in the sense that it will propel our ministry forward in the area of songwriting.

Tomorrow night, a team of musicians will get together to work on the arrangements. It’s going to be exciting.

In the meantime, here is the “raw” recording of the song by Joe Wee. He plays everything, so the recording is not really that “raw”. Enjoy!

 

Set List: Faith Community Church (23 June 2013)

I had the privilege of serving yesterday with Band 4 at Faith Community Church for the Sunday Service.

Continuing from my thoughts yesterday on “Personal Genesis”, I felt that God was releasing a new anointing on our band. I actually wish I had the music recorded from yesterday’s service because the sound that was released was quite unconventional.

When it comes to worship, I err on the side of predictable. I like familiar, tried and true arrangements. Like my wife likes to say, you don’t mess with the classics.

But our music director on the band, Joe Wee Chuah, is a consummate musician and I wanted him to explore and push through his own creative frontiers so I asked him to attend to the musical arrangements. Joe Wee ended “scripting” some incredibly fresh renderings of old, near-weary songs.

At first, I was a bit cautious because, as I said, I like predictability. But I was personally challenged too – if we could pull it off as a band, why can’t we have a “both/and” mentality dabbling in both familiarity and surprise?

What also really impressed me was, apart from some novel musical arrangements, some of the guys were so dedicated to see it through that they spent an extra session rehearsing together, without my even asking for it! To me, it was a sign of our band’s maturity to take personal responsibility for the delivery of worship and to support my leading, without leaving me to carry the load on my own.

And deliver they did! It was one of the freshest of Sunday worships we’ve done as a band. For me, this was the raising of a new water mark and a breaking through of the glass ceiling.

May we only go from strength to strength from here on in!

Here is the list:

// God is Great (B)
// Lay Me Down (B) (Chris Tomlin)
// Here I am to Worship/Call (E)
// Your Name/Cry of the Broken (A)

Here is the version of Your Name which we did from Darlene Zschech’s Revealing Jesus album.

Set List: Faith Community Church Sunday Service (28 April 2013)

I had the privilege of leading worship with Faith Community Church’s Team 4 recently. The theme of the set was “Transcendence”. In Exodus 33, Moses asked God a rhetorical question: “what would distinguish God’s people from the rest of the nations if it were not His presence?” God has set eternity in the hearts of men. We long for transcendence – for something that is beyond ourselves. God’s provision for that longing is His glory!

Here is the songlist:

// Today is the Day (C)

// I Am Free (C)

// Magnificent (Darlene Zschech’s version) (G)

// I Stand in Awe (A)

// The Stand (chorus only) (A)

Thanks to Joe Wee Chuah our music director for the awesome arrangements!

Reference

Check out Darlene Zschech’s version of Magnificent from her new album Revealing Jesus.