Sunday Summary – Music: May 24, 2009

Ugghhh…. Holidays are great and all, but they sure do get you off your schedule. Seems like Tuesday and Wednesday are just for playing catch-up for what you couldn’t do on Monday.

Are you with me, people??

OK, well, here’s a look at this past Sunday….

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Every once in a while one of my hair-brained, off the cuff comments actually becomes a reality. Y’know when you say something expecting a laugh, but are delighted when people actually say “Yeah – that’d be fun!” That’s what happened this past week.

As we looked at Andy’s 4-part series “Staying In Love”, we had margin to put in specials 3 of the 4 weeks. So two of them were love songs (“Faithfully” week 1, “L-O-V-E” week 2). Week 3 was consumed by celebrating the graduating High School seniors, and we wanted something special for the final week.

So I threw out the idea of a cheesy lounge/wedding singer doing some schtick and some wonderfully classic/horrible love songs – complete with the powder blue tux.

Well, that idea stuck – as long as the right person was available. And, by God’s mercy and grace, he was!!

Brandon O’Dell is an unbelievable talent – actor, comedian, writer. He writes for The Re:Think Group, acts professionally around town, and is one of our KidStuf hosts.

Imagine a taller, lankier Steve Buscemi who loves Jesus, and you’ve got Brandon…

As the concept progressed, it turned into Brandon – as wedding singer Chet Maxwell – rolling out his “audio cart” to the middle of the stage. A rolling audio rack, complete with mixer, CD player, and the coveted tape deck all the way at the bottom.

“Chet” introduces himself and the series, “They’ve asked me here today…” Then proceeds to do the verse and chorus of 4 of the greatest (cheesiest but recognizable) 80’s love songs.

The Power of Love – Huey Lewis

I Just Called to Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

Hello – Lionel Richie

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (oh, yeah – he did the big key change into the out chorus!!)


What sent the whole thing over the top was the idea to use wretched MIDI tracks, easily found for free on the Internet. They end up sounding like a child programmed them on their Casio. Wonderful. Horrible, but wonderful…. πŸ˜‰

The whole thing was a big hit!

– – – – –


God is Alive

Glory to God Forever

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

East Band Steve Fee, Matt Adkins, Heath Baltzglier, Brandon Coker, Jared Hamilton

West Band – Chrystina Fincher, Steve Thomason, Jayce Fincher, Danny Grady, Doug “Slug” Mitchell, Trammell Starks


Sunday Summary – Music: March 08, 2009

I can’t remember a time when something happened as much as it did this past Sunday…

But more on that later (doh!).

As with many of our power-packed services, especially ones with baptism, we were a little pressed for time up front, especially since we were definitely going to do closer. And doing closer means Andy needs to be on stage speaking even earlier than usual.

So we opted to two worship songs that were a little out (or outdated!) from our current songs to strategically go with Andy’s message series. Again, we don’t normally program worship to be directly coordinated with a specific message or series, but yesterday was one of those rare times we did.

Andy was wrapping up the “He’s Still Got The Whole World In His Hands” series – one that has really hit home for a lot of folks in lieu of these crazy days we’re living in.

So we dusted off Charlie Hall’s version of “On Christ The Solid Rock” from the Passion Hymns album to start. We’ve done it a bunch over the last few years, so it wasn’t a total newbie – plus it’s a great rendition of the classic hymn. And hey, who doesn’t like a good 6/8 sea shanty? Somehow all the musicians turn into Maritime fisherman or pirates…

But the lyric sets it all up: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…“.

We then did a tune that we haven’t done for a looong time, and even when we did, it was infrequent and short lived at best. It’s Matt Redman’s “You Never Let Go“. It was a big hit at High School camps a few years ago, but never really had that “grown up” appeal. Something about that “oh no, You never let go..” part that has always seemed a bit, I don’t know, campy? The content is not, it’s the “oh no” part. Maybe it’s just me…

Either way, the Worship Leaders on each side did a great job with it, and it helped a ton that it was appropriate for the series, and not out of left field.

Steve Fee and his Fee Band boys, who were with us in East this past week, had done this tune at Buckhead Church at the beginning of this sermon series and put an extra spin on it. At the end of the tune they did not ritard, and when the band hit the last chord Steve on acoustic kept playing the “1” chord. After 4 bars of just acoustic he started singing the verse of Amazing Grace:

Through many dangers, toils and snares…

we have already come.

T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…

and Grace will lead us home.”

The band hits big diamonds on “T’was” and “safe“, then builds through the last line into a giant all-skate of the 1st verse (Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…). Goosebumps, people. Goosebumps! Some serious Holy Spirt movement, if you know what I’m talkin’ about. From there, back into one final chorus of “Oh no, You never let go…“.

The whole thing is about 6:30, but worth every second.

BUT! If you can believe it or not, the musical highlight came at the end of the service….

Steve and the boys are currently working on a new album, and Steve had played one of the new tunes for Andy – who loved it and even shaped some of the series’ message content around the tune.

It’s called “Everything Falls” and will probably be the first single off the new record, due in August.

Steve and Eddie Kirkland wrote the song, and it’s one of their best.

Plus a great band and a live string quartet made the whole musical experience incredibly powerful – especially on the end of a very relevant message and series.

On a personal note, I played the live piano for that tune on Sunday, which is totally exposed for the intro, 1st verse and chorus. And I don’t know if I’ve ever been so nervous playing 4 of the most simple chords – Am, F, C, and G.

A child could play those in their sleep, but all I could think was “don’t screw up, everyone’s counting on you, don’t screw up, they can hear every note you’re playing, don’t screw up, this is probably going on a DVD, don’t screw up, one wrong note and you’ll ruin this moment for 5,000 people, don’t screw up, or you’ll never get asked to do anything ever again, don’t screw up, you’re a professional, don’t screw up, what’s the order of these 4 stupid chords???, don’t screw up, is it Am first, or C? AAHHHHHH!!!!!”

And now you see why musicians are neurotic.

But everything was OK – due to years of practice, but mostly a whole lot of grace from God.

– – – – –

East Band – Steve Fee, Matt Adkins, Heath Baltzglier, Brandon Coker, (with strings and me on the closer)

West Band – Danny Dukes, Ryan Stuart, Brad Long, Danny Grady, Wayne Viar, Richard Meeder, Keith Thomas

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What runs through your mind before your featured moment on stage?

Sunday Summary – Music: February 15, 2009

“What was with that second song? I hated it!”

That’s what I heard from my wife as I came off the East Auditorium stage this past Sunday morning after our worship set.

Gosh, I wish she’d learn to open up and share her feelings…. πŸ˜‰

OK, so apparently you can’t win them all.

We opened the set with what would typically be a “third” song for us – a slower, very worshipful tune: “From The Inside Out” by Hillsong United.

We do a shortened version, just over 4 minutes, that nixes the solo and gets to the out choruses quicker. Anyway, it’s a great song, and the crowd usually reacts well and really worships through it.

We ramped it up after that, doing what will inevitably be a topic of conversation for weeks to come.

“Chainbreaker” by Charlie Hall is the tune in question….

Some of us were excited to do it, while others of us were questioning it as an effective corporate worship song. We all agreed that the verses were weird, wordy, and the weak part of the song, but the chorus and bridge were really cool and something that the crowd could latch on to after a couple go-rounds…

BUT, was the good chorus worth the awkward verses….?? Hmmm… Well, my wife sure didn’t think so! We’ll see what some others think…

Bottom line is that – in my opinion – the East band (Steve Fee, the Fee band boys and I) gave the song the best possible legs to stand on. I was really proud of us on that account. We gave it a great musical treatment, and introduced a cool piano part.

(OK Keyboardists – try this one on: Piano with 3-way delay at 154 bpm – right & left delay set to dotted 8ths and center delay set to normal 8ths. Now play a single note dotted quarter note pattern at 154 bpm.)

Anyhoo – we’ll bat this one around the table a while and let you know where we land…

We rounded out the set with Steve’s new tune “Glory to God Forever”. OK, it’s not totally new, but it does have a new name! The title Steve used for the first few months was just “Glory to God”, but the he adjusted the title as he and the boys hit the studio to record the upcoming radio release.

Well, there you go. An interesting Sunday: 2 winners and a questionable draft choice… Did we draft Michael Vick or Matt Ryan?

And if that just confused you, it’s time to do some research on the Atlanta Falcons’ last few seasons…

– – – – –

East Band – Steve Fee, Matt Adkins, Heath Baltzglier, Brandon Coker, and me.

West Band – Todd Fields, Brad Avery, Keith Thomas, Ashley Appling, Richard Meeder, Dee Dee Maillian

– – – – –

What has ever been your “draft choice in question”?

Sunday Summary – Music: January 11, 2008

Certainly NOT your average service….

So here’s the back story:

We now have the ability to send the High Definition and Standard Definition feeds of our campuses to one another in real time.

In other words, Browns Bridge, Buckhead and North Point churches can hit a switch and see and hear what is going on at one another’s stages. MEANING, Andy (or whoever is speaking) can be LIVE at all 3 churches!!

So the campuses are now all on the same schedule – the same series, the same message, the same speaker – all at the same time!!

And each campus has the ability to host the live speaker and send the signal to the other two. So Andy might be at North Point one week Buckhead the next, and Browns Bridge after that.

VERY COOL. Micah Stevens and his crew did an unbelievable job making this a reality!

Well, at first I thought this was going to be a programming nightmare. It’s tough enough to program and synch two stages in the same building (East & West), let alone 3 churches and 4 stages!! (East, West, Buckhead, Browns Bridge).

BUT!!! It turns out that each campus also has a device that records and holds the live feed until it’s ready to be played back, Basically a glorified Tivo or Digital Video Recorder.

However, in order for this all to work, the campus hosting the live speaker must get the speaker on stage and going before the other campuses take the feed. Other wise the other churches could be sitting around twiddling their thumbs until the speaker starts.

We’re programming a safe window of about 5 minutes, give or take.

So to make up for this, the host campus will program at least 5 minutes less content at the top of the service, and usually make it up at the end with a closer or worship. Or maybe even get out a tad early.

Each campus still gets to program their own content (songs, specials, welcome/announcements, baptisms, etc.), but will adjust the time allotment based on whether they are hosting the live speaker or receiving the feed. The receiving campuses are also planning some stalling maneuvers just in case of technical problems from the feed, such as extra choruses and tags of worship songs, etc.

So how exactly does all this affect a service’s music and content?

Well, this past week we had Andy live here at North Point, meaning we needed him to be rolling the message’s Title Pack by 9:18 and Andy speaking by 9:19. But we also had baptisms AND a special featured video promoting this year’s mission trips.

A live welcome and video set-up, missions video, live follow-up of the video and set up of baptism, baptisms, worship, and offering se-up – all in 18 minutes.

Plus, the missions video was a little melancholy, and we followed it with baptisms. So the morning as a whole was far more subdued than normal. No big opener, no fast worship, no comedy (other than some funny stuff in the 10B4 segment).

So we strategically programmed our worship as a response after baptisms. And there was only time for 1 tune:

From The Inside Out

That led into offering and the message.

We did, however, then have time after the message for a closer. We chose to do another worship tune, and again, one in response to the message:

Take My Life

In all, it was a reflective day. Certainly not depressing or sad, and most of the other folks involved with the service didn’t find it as “down” as we in Music did.

There was lots of light, fun stuff – mostly in the 10B4 and some of Andy’s stories in the message. But we as musicians felt down, and we figured that was because we didn’t do at least one toe-tapping, rock and roll worship tunes, or even more than one song in a row!

Amazing how your perspective on a day changes when you alter your “norm”….

– – – – –

East Band – Eddie Kirkland, Matt Adkins, Heath Baltzglier, Brandon Coker, Steven Marcia

West Band – Todd Fields, Danny Grady, Ashley Appling, Pat Malone, Jared Hamilton, Chelsea Brooks

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As a side note, a reminder to get to North Point early. Otherwise this will be you during the service – watching it on a TV in the hallway….


IMG_0777.JPG IMG_0778.JPG IMG_0779.JPG

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What have YOU altered lately?

Sunday Sumary – Music: December 14, 2008


If you tune in mostly for the Sunday Summary, then chances are you are somehow involved with music at your church.

Or you’re an insomniac.

Of course, being involved in church music in December is obviously a great recipe for insomnia… (To which the only relief usually ends up being the pastor’s sermon… πŸ˜‰ )

We’re all in the same boat. I was at church all weekend, involved in our Christmas rendition of Married Life Live, complete with about 40% more musical material than a usual MLL. All day rehearsals on Friday and Saturday, and shows on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Add in a power-packed Sunday morning and our over-the-top preparations for this upcoming week’s Christmas service, and you’ve got one tired puppy here…

It’s already Monday night, and I’m at my kitchen table, surrounded by a MIDI controller and Pro Tools MBox 2 Micro, ready to keep working…

BUT FIRST, a look back at yesterday…..

Yesterday’s music was actually a real highlight for me, personally. One of those days I really wished my parents could be in the audience to get a glimpse of what I get to do.   

Have you ever looked out at a huge crowd – hundreds, or even thousands of people, and been just a little sad because there was one or two (or a few) people missing? That was me yesterday.

It was a really big day for me – and that’s quite rare, because most of my efforts are behind the scenes and in preparation and support of others. But yesterday was kinda my day. I’m not bragging – I’m just saying I wish my wife, kids and parents could have been there.

We started out doing Pre-Service Christmas music, including a Christmas song that Todd Fields and I wrote called “Do You Hear?”. Now I’m not a song writer by trade, but an idea hit me a few weeks ago, and I somehow got the crazy idea to write it all down, record a guitar/drum machine and vocal demo, and share it with our music staff for their opinion and input. We’re talking Todd Fields and Eddie Kirkland here, so I felt like VanGogh’s son giving him a finger painting.

The song had some great ideas – especially the chorus. Todd shared some ideas on developing the verses, and we encouraged him to dive into the song and see what he might add to it. We continued to bat around some ideas on lyric, form, chords and overall concept over the next week, and were even able to invite our good buddies Pat Malone and Ashley Appling in to record a live demo.

Long story short, we were really happy with the end result, and I’ll try and get a decent copy to post one here soon.

So that was cool!

Then Danny Dukes – one of the greatest humans ever – did Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”. Danny was stinkin’ amazing – like watching a 50 year old man channelling Adam Sandler from Saturday Night Live in the 1990’s. Simply incredible. I’ve never seen anyone – ANYONE – that lives constantly and consistently with that much joy! If you don’t know Danny Dukes, you need to!

So you know how the song starts with all that piano stuff? Sure you do. So that was my part to play. After all, I’m a pianist, so that’s my gig. BUT, the shock and awe – at least for my friends, fellow musicians and co-workers of the last 5 years – was when I played Clarence Clemmons’ growly saxophone solo.

They had no idea. Of course, why would they? I’ve never played saxophone at North Point. Fortunately (for yesterday, at least), sax was my secondary instrument in college. I adored David Sanborn growing up, and so all those years practicing in those cold, dreary practice rooms at Oakridge Secondary School and Belmont University paid off yet again, if only for a moment…

We rounded out the Pre-Service by playing Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)”. And between programming all the orchestra parts and playing the piano parts live, I was once again thankful for all those countless hours in the practice rooms…

So for worship, we just did a couple carols, because the rest of the service was pretty full with baptisms, Andy doing some special announcment stuff about the service campaign that had wrapped up and introducing our special guest speaker, Scot McKnight.

The first carol was “Angels We Have Heard On High”, and Danny brought to the table earlier in the week a Louisiana zydeco / Little Feat type arrangement he had done a couple times a few other places. Well, we got into it, and BANG! Time for me to unwrap another gift…

My accordian has lived backstage for a few years since we recorded the North Point Music Christmas acoustic songs, and so what better time to bring it out than a zydeco tune?

Now it’s not that tough – especially for a “cheater”. I cannot work those buttons with the left hand. I understand their purpose and even how they are arranged – but that’s a far cry from ability. Instead, us piano players just play the keyboard with our right hand and squeeze with the left. It’s just a squeezy keyboard! But for some reason, folks just ate it up!

Plus, it’s nice a shiny in the lights πŸ™‚ Which is surprising.

I bought it for $150 – used on consignment at a music shop in St. Thomas, Ontario in 1996 while coming back from a day of paint ball near Port Stanley, Ontario, while I was home one summer from college. And with the whole “acoustic boom” of the late 90’s, it paid for itself years ago…

Even though I “grew up” in London, Ontario, I was born in St. Thomas. So, other than my parents, my body, and my pre-school education, I guess it’s the only thing I have from the city I was born.

Holy tangent, batman!

OK, OK… We wrapped up the day with a take on “O Come All Ye Faithful” based on the arrangement we did for North Point Music a little over a year ago. Very nice.

– – – – –

Alrighty. That was a good break. Back to Pro Tools….

– – – – –

East Band – Eddie Kirkland, Steve Fee, Matt Adkins, Heath Baltzglier, Brandon Coker

West Band – Todd Fields, Danny Dukes, Ryan Stuart, Danny Grady, Pat Malone, Ashley Appling, Me

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