Worship Log: The Pho of Worship Transitions – Intentionality is a MUST (My BIG Mistake!)

***Correction: For the version of “Everlasting God” I liked the artist was Lincoln Brewster NOT Brenton Brown. I mixed the two up and probably got too into that Brenton Brown looks like Juachin Phoenix comment to notice otherwise.

Granted, I love Brenton Brown and he gets very little credit as either a singer or a songwriter, even though HE was the one who wrote “Everlasting God” and other great songs like “Lord Reign in Me” and “Hosanna (Praise is Rising)” and “Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing).” And I think Brenton’s version of “Everlasting God” is more dynamic than Tomlin’s pedestrian version. Yet I think Lincoln Brewster has the best arrangement IMHO.******

Led worship for the first time in a few months. Here was the set list:

  • Came to My Rescue (Hillsong United)
  • Everlasting God (Brenton Brown/Chris Tomlin)
  • Lord Prepare Me (Bishop Charles E. Blake)
  • Renuevame (Marcus Witt)
  • Offertory: May the Mind of Christ My Savior (Hymn)
  • Response: Hallelujah! What a Savior (Hymn, arranged by Tommy Walker)

I loved the set because I thought it had some of solid ingredients I enjoy in a worship set:

  • Emotional power-house songs (hot, tasty broth)
  • Upbeat celebratory grooves (chewy and flavorful noodles)
  • Fun, congregation-interacting elements (meatball)
  • At least one song not in english (tripe)
  • A nice tempo arc (slow-fast-slow) (crunchy fresh sprouts)

Well, putting it like that makes it seem kinda like a delicious Pho of worship, with fresh, appropriate ingredients that warms the soul:

I guess in this case, the Pho of worship had some kimchi dropped in there for good measure. Anyways, let us dissect this worship delicacy, shall we?

.

Came to My Rescue – this is one of the Hillsong United songs that kinda got lost in the hubub over “From the Insight Out” and “Mighty to Save”… I’ve always liked this song because it, like any good hillsong song from this era, is deeply commitment oriented (“my whole life I place in your hands), anthemic and emotional intense. I think the eighth beat of song provides a driving intensity that’s just about the right place to start off on a Sunday morning.

What concerns me is the octave jump from the verse the first time to the second time… the only way to make it work is if there are strong background vocals that don’t intimidate the congregation (most guys can’t reach those notes unless they have tweezers in their pocket… or they are placido, domingo and/or pavorotti… or was one of them named luigi?).

Everlasting God – Very popular song for good reason. The fact that its God-centered versus I-centered and the fact that it is a mid tempo that manages to feel celebratory instead of the emo emotional rock feel of most CCM numbers these days, makes it a unique song for me and one that I like to go to when I think the set needs an emotional breather.

I liked our transition into this song from “Came to My Rescue”… coming out of the bridge (“In my life be lifted high…”) we played the chorus soft and bare with just a little acoustic and at the downbeat following “I wanna be where you are.” I proceeded to sing the chorus, “You are the everlasting God” in an almost acappella, rubato feel. I didn’t announce it or anything, just went right into it and it turned into a pseudo-solo. I liked it because I felt like I was declaring it to the congregation, but there also wasn’t any confusion where we were.

Quick aside: Its not that I dislike Chris Tomlin buuuuut….

I really don’t like the Chris Tomlin version of the song. Its kinda herky-jerky and I think the slower tempo kinda puts the words and ideas of teh song in bondage. I REALLY prefer the Brenton Brown version… its freer, more celebratory and I think the music more closely reflects the tone of the lyrics.

What do you think?

Brenton Brown - the real brains behind Everlasting God... tho he kinda looks like Jauchin Phoenix in this pic.

Brenton Brown - the real brains behind "Everlasting God"... tho he kinda looks like Jauchin Phoenix in this pic.

Lord Prepare Me NICE Gospel arrangement by Charles E. Blake.

I like it because it keeps the melody the same (easy, singable) but gives a really bouncy Gospel groove. It takes this familiar old camp-fire song and gives it a new life and changes the tone of the song. Instead of “Lord Prepare Me” as a slow, meandering, downer… it’s now LORD PREPARE ME – a feel-good, celebratory groove.

The one potential it fall of this song was that it could be monotonous and repetitive. Because its just two parts:

  • Verse
  • Call and Response

The recording gives the song shape by modulating a ton of times… but we were musically limited in key changes so we had to find other ways… but thanks to band collaboration, I think we ended up shaping the song fairly well using a variety of techniques.

How to give simple Gospel songs dynamic shape besides key changes?

  • I gave shape through my worship leading. After I sang the first verse by myself to introduce it to the congregation, I let the vocalists sing once by themselves, without saying or singing anything. Then, I noticed Fred Hammond does this a lot, I tried to build my leading up the major scale. So I may lead the first time around middle C then the second time go to F and the third time go to A… as I go higher, the song gets more intense.
  • Teach parts! This was Dan’s idea apparently from the North Park Gospel Choir. After we sang the song a few times through together, we broke it up in parts – tenors sang their parts by themselves, then altos, sopranos… then we put all three together. It was beautiful– a natural crescendo!

Renuevame – MY BIG MISTAKE

This was my big mistake…. a very rough transition. We went from a big trash can ending of “Lord Prepare Me”… fun, upbeat and interactive. To this slow, reflective, meditative, pretty little ballad. It was dead silence for about 5 seconds (which felt like eternity)… some moderate clapping dying in waves… then a light plucking of guitar, the universal signal for: its now time to be soft and reflective!

Marcos Witt is praying for me bc I botched the transition into his song.

Marcos Witt is praying for me bc I botched the transition into his song.

I blew this big time… I didn’t even think about how to connect this song with the previous one. I had one thing on my mind: I want to feature our dynamite alto, Kelly. We did… and she did awesome, but I failed to consider how to get out of Lord Prepare Me into Renuevame.

Sandra, one of my biggest mentors in worship, said it best: As a worship leader, you have to always have an idea where you’re taking the congregation.

So here comes a big lesson I need to learn with worship leading: I HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN. I HAVE TO BE INTENTIONAL.

Its like… can you imagine someone cooking Pho unintentionally?

Now, the Holy Spirit may have had in mind for our congregation this instead of Pho:

Maggiano’s wonderfully delicious Rigatoni “D” — but that still does not preclude me, or any other worship leader for that matter, from at least having a plan and an intentionality in all that I do.

So what would my Pho have looked like if I had thought this through more? A few options for a more clear transitions:

  • Exactly the same, but some stronger leadership on my part leading into the acoustic guitar strumming and Kelly’s solo. I could have said a sentence or so connecting the theme of “Lord Prepare Me” to the theme of renewal, change. That would have been good.
  • We could have tagged “Lord Prepare Me” as a slow acapella, campfire  song… which would have naturally brought the tempo and feel down to a more reflective mood
  • I could have prayed, a standard transition technique.

Anyways, those could have made the pho deliciously sweet. I was close tho… maybe next time!

Last two songs, real fast:

May the Mind of Christ – I’d like to devote a whole entry to this. We did this song with just piano and four parts. I copied the hymn music for the congregation and we taught the parts. Big lesson I learned: I talk too much… I spent 5 minutes explaining the darn thing when I could have done so in 2 sentences.

I find it frankly shocking and dismaying at my wordiness, redundancy, lack of verbal discipline and all-around repetitiveness. I wonder if this similar wordy redundant repetitiveness can be found elsewhere in my life?

Hallelujah What a Savior – A brilliant re-arranging of the old hymn, “Man of Sorrows,” by my favorite surfer worship leader, Tommy Walker! This song leads itself…

….

One quick note/run-on sentence (the sriracha/hoisin of this entry): After a sermon about “The Next Evangelicalism” in which Soong-Chan Rah argues for a freedom from “Western Cultural and Theological Captivity” — one aspect being the West’s emphasis on the crucifixion at the expense of the resurrection — it was nice and ironic to sing a western hymn that spends 3.5 verses on crucifixion, .5 on resurrection/ascention and 1 verse on the consumation.

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