Sunday Summary – Music: May 10, 2008

Ryan Stuart is the man.

And you add some other real men on stage, and it’s a ridiculous display of awesomeness.

We’re in week 2 of Andy’s “Staying in Love” series, and we opened with the old jazz standard “L-O-V-E”. Michael Buble, Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, and countless others have done versions. We actually used Natalie Cole’s version as a road map for our interpretation.

Ryan sand lead, with jazz masters John Carrozza (piano), Scott Meeder (drums) and Steve Florszykowski (upright bass) along side. And I was super proud of Steve Thomason and Brad Long on guitars keeping up – jazz isn’t normally their gig, but you’d never know it!

This tune was a giant winner because we only attempted it knowing we had the RIGHT PEOPLE FOR THE JOB.

DO NOT throw something like this at your young emo rock band. They will fail.

That’s one of the joys of having a deep, rich pool of players. You use the right people at the right time. Think of your players and singers as a toolbox, and choose wisely.

And Steve F. on upright bass is not one of our regular players. He plays regularly at a different church – which is super cool – and we’ll try and book him when we need to use his particular skill set (in this case, a killer upright bass jazz player).

Think of that as renting a specific tool from the Home Depot for a day. πŸ˜‰

Here’s a view of the opener (live in East) being fed to West. The giant High Def screen in the middle, with the IMAG on the side screens.


Eddie Kirkland joined the aforementioned aficionados and led worship in the East, while Seth Condrey led in West.

Seth did a lot of leading for us in the Spanish Service, and did a great job in the West.


Hands of the Healer (Eddie Kirkland tune that we’ve been doing for almost a year)

Jesus Reigns (new Todd Fields tune, on his soon-to-be-released CD)

Those are both gooood tunes. They’ve both got interesting, intelligent melodies verses. Meaning that they might not be the easiest to pick up right away, but have enough substance to keep you interested and excited as the song lives its life as a corporate worship tune.

The choruses of both tunes, however, are great. Easy, catchy, and rich with meaning.

Joining Seth on West were Mike Hines, Danny Howes, Wayne Viar, Richard Meeder, Mike Gleason, and Keith Thomas

Here’s the West, live…



Sunday Summary – Music: February 1, 2009

Well, if you weren’t here yesterday, you missed some of the best guitar pickin’ to be heard ’round these parts.

We opened yesterday with “Start a Band” by Brad Paisley and Keith Urban.

And Todd Fields and Danny Grady played their pants off….

And thankfully that was just figuratively…

That was the tune that we were going to do last week, but we had to cut it due to time. So instead, we tackled it this week, and with a new band singers. And man, it was fun.

WARNING: This tune is not for the meek or the layman. I watched 2 of the best guitarists I know work on this tune more than anything since, well, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra tune we did in December. OK, so I guess that’s not saying much… But trust me: approach with caution! It’s tougher than it sounds!

But it was great, and the blend of Todd and Eddie Kirkland on lead vocals, along with Rachael Gillis’ backing vox was a super treat.

Man, I love watching great people do great stuff. Gets my blood moving and puts a smile on my face.

As for worship, we ventured into some quasi-unknown territory…

We decided to switch things up a bit instrumentally, just for a different vibe. Not all the way to the singer/songwriter coffeehouse vibe, but at least something different.

Here’s the assignment we gave to each side:

– Only 1 Electric, playing more organic lead parts (no whale calls or swirlies)
– Rhy elec plays Acoustic, really drives the songs
– Keys players just play piano and/or B3 (no synth stuff)
– Drummers use Blasticks

and, as an added treat, West will have Bethany Olds on fiddle

The results on each side were quite different, with a lot of the individual players’ personalities and musicianship coming through. And while it may not have been the greatest result, it was at least a good experiment.
Here’s my quick analysis… Instead of varying slightly, we should have varied more. Meaning, it should have been so different that folks really knew that we were stretching beyond our norm. Instead, on some parts it ended up sounding like anemic version of what we normally do – as though something was wrong.
Now it wasn’t bad by any means. I just think that next time we could change up a few things even more to capture what was in our imaginations. Like no electric guitar at all (2 acoustics), and perhaps a different, scaled down drum kit. Also featuring the piano / B3 more.
We do full-blown rock and roll so well, that when that’s not what we deliver, it can feel awkward unless it’s really different.
Also, song selection was vital in this scenario, and I think we may have missed the mark a bit. Some songs translate better to a different vibe than others, and I know we all wished that we had switched up at least one, maybe even two of the songs that really needed a rock band behind them.
Anyhoo – we stretched our comfort zone and learned a lot!

All We Need
Glory To God Forever (Fee tune, to be released soon!)
It Is Well (new Todd arrangement, also to be released soon!)

– – – – –East Band – Todd Fields, Danny Grady, Ashley Appling, Earl South, Jared Hamilton, Rachael Gillis, Eddie Kirkland
West Band – Chrystina Fincher, Danny Howes, Matt Melton, Scott Meeder, Richard Meeder, Bill DeLoach, Bethany Olds
– – – – –

East during worship:
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High Def screen in West during Opener (East feed):

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– – – – –What have you learned lately “the hard way…”?

Sunday Summary – Music: January 25, 2009

Hold On Loosely…

It’s probably happened to most of us at some point. Something we had planned for a while, or had worked really hard on, or were at least really looking forward to got yanked at the last minute.

When I first started working at North Point over 5 years ago, I had something I had worked real hard on get pulled at the last minute. It was probably some music for a title package or programming for a song, or at least something I had put time, effort and care into. Needless to say, I was frustrated. REALLY frustrated.

My boss at the time, Bill DeLoach, calmed me down and let me know something real important about “Creative Survival”. He talked about how, even though the Service programming we do is a big ship, we still need to be able to turn on a dime. That means being flexible and seeing the big picture, right up to the last moment. He taught me about having thick skin and an open mind to critique and other’s opinions. And that there will often be times when we have to give up our work for the better good.

Is that tough to do for a creative person? You betcha.

But here’s what I’ve learned, and continue to learn, day after day, project after project, service after service… Having thick skin is NOT to be calloused and jaded, but rather to understand that an other’s opinion of your work relates to how appropriate your creation is to their overall vision. Their opinion of your work is NOT their opinion of your personality or of you as a person.

It’s tough though, isn’t it, to separate who you are and what you create?

Just look at it this way – people who write bad songs can still be great spouses and parents. And people who write great songs can be horrible spouses and parents.

The greatest band director I ever had was the (Grammy nominated) Jeff Kirk, who directed the Jazz Stage Band and Jazz Combo 1 at Belmont University, both of which I had the privilege of being in for 3 of my 4 years at Belmont. (Man, there’s nothing more inspiring than being the worst member of an incredible band to get you to the practice room!!)

At the beginning of each semester, Jeff would tell the group that when (yeah, not ifwhen…) you played something wrong or bad, that he would call you on it. And when he did, that it was not a slam on your character or personality, or his dislike of you as a person, but rather a poor choice of notes on your part, and to choose better next time. But if you kept playing those poor choices over and over, then we’d have to talk privately about your character and personality…

And what about an open mind to critique and opinion? Well, first off, an open mind usually means having a closed mouth. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about… It’s having a filter on all the stuff that runs through your head…

Then it means listening. Listening to why that creation of yours isn’t right or the project, or why that song needs to be cut. Perhaps you just didn’t interpret their request properly, or (worse yet) spend too much time investing in something without demoing a rough cut to see if it’s headed in the right direction. Perhaps you need to take a bigger look at a service as a whole, and realize that after revisiting the plan, some things simply don’t fit.

And then, after time, you learn to anticipate what works and what doesn’t.

– How much time and effort is appropriate on a creative project before a trusted opinion is needed to see if it’s heading in the right direction?

– Who offers valued, useful critique that you can build on versus who is naive on the subject? No offense to parents, spouses or co-workers in another Division, but who is knowledgeable enough to tell you if something is actually good or not?

– “See if this is working” goes a long way compared to “I’m done – here you go…”

– Anticipate the level of quality expected. Someone worth their weight will not accept sub-level creative work from you. When you keep refining and reach a level they’re happy with, you’ll know what to deliver first the next time…

These apply whether you’re playing an instrument, singing a song, composing a score, writing a script, acting in a play, painting a picture, or pretty much anything!

Except your taxes. You want to do those right the first time. Trust me, I know from experience….

(OK, long story short, one year my wife and I had 19 different 1099’s and I didn’t know anything about Schedule C or Form SC at the time when I filed. And yes, it is scary when the IRS contacts you.)

So there you go.

Go forth, create with all your heart and soul, but hold on loosely….

– – – – –


I dove into all that to set up what we did – and didn’t do – this past Sunday.

The plan was to have Andy at Browns Bridge and we at North Point would get the buffered feed. Meaning we had time to do more content at the top of the service.

But we already had an opener, announcements, 2 worship songs and baptism planned – so it was full!

And the opener was a doozy, at least for the electric guitars. One they had to wood shed for hours. Literally hours! Steve Thomason told me he stayed home to practice while his family went to Longhorn Steakhouse and he missed out on a “Flo’s Fillet”. Trust me – for Steve, that’s sacrifice!

But mid-day Wednesday, we got word that Andy wanted to be live at North Point on Sunday to share his Presidential Inauguration experiences, specifically his involvement with the Inaugural Prayer Service. Once we found that out, we all pushed for the video of the prayer to be shown, and he agreed, which was cool.

BUT!!!! That meant something had to go. And in the big picture of things, it was the opener that got the axe.

So you can imagine me texting all the East band guys (especially the guitarists) 2 hours before rehearsal and telling them that the opener got cut.

Were they bummed? Oh yeah. Big time.

But, in the long run, it was obviously the right thing to do.

Oh, and here’s the kicker: The opener was moved to this upcoming week, with a whole different set of musicians having to learn it!


Different singers, different band, you name it. Everyone except the bass player. I just think that’s kinda funny….

And no – I’m not going to tell you what it is. You’ll just have to wait and see…


Let God Arise

This is a new(er) Tomlin tune, and we were able to rock it, big time. Actually turned out really good!!

Hands of the Healer

OK, thar she blows…

– – – – –

East Band – Eddie Kirkland, Steve Thomason, Ben Snider, Earl South, Scott Meeder, John Carrozza, Jennifer Young

West Band – Ryan Stuart, Brad Long, Danny Howes, Wayne Viar, Richard Meeder, Mike Bielenberg, Rebecca Iraheta

– – – – –


Sunday Summary – Music: December 21, 2008

Christmas Music at North Point Community Church – December 21, 2008

– – – – –

The Christmastravaganza is over.

Take a deep, deep breath. Now let it out slowly.

Repeat for the next two days. (OK, at least that’s been my prescription…)

The Sunday before Christmas is, without a doubt, one of the two most significant Sundays of the year. But we all know that, don’t we? Nevertheless, it’s the day us church music department folk work on for a long, long time. We say goodbye to our spouse and children after the Thanksgiving meal, until we return to their lives sometime around Christmas Day.

So first, let me offer a big horrah to all of you who work or volunteer with your church music and/or production teams. YOU make it possible. Thank you for everything you do for your church and the people you serve!

I’m pretty sure there’s a section of Heaven reserved for us – with top-of-the-line modern gear and rare, vintage instruments. And sound proof walls πŸ˜‰

– – – – –

So what’d we do? Lots. So let’s start from the top.


As the entire Service Programming Division, we tossed around a handful of ideas for the theme of the service, from skits and special numbers, dramas, characters, etc. over the last couple months.

However, an idea that we – the Music Department – pitched for the first week of December was so well received, that the decision was made to save it and use the concept for the Christmas Service.

The concept, that is… The actual Opener would then take the next 3 weeks to be moulded, tweaked, and, well, slaved over…

(NOTE: For those just tuning in, we have two 2,800 +/- mirror Auditoriums – the East and the West. It’s the exact same service happening at the exact same time. The welcome and announcements are usually from one side and fed via video to the other side, then live worship on BOTH stages – yep, 2 live bands doing the same arrangements of the same songs, and then the message is live on the other side and fed via video to the other. Confused yet? Yeah, us too…)

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The bottom line was that we wanted to celebrate the one thing that drives us crazy most of the year – the fact that we’ve got two stages (East and West Auditoriums) doing the same service at the same time. The synchronization and programming issues that plague us most of the year were going to – for once – be to our benefit.

The genesis of the idea came when we were searching ideas for “Do You Hear What I Hear” for the conclusion of the Listen and Learn series which happen to fall on the first Sunday of December – a natural tie-in to both the series and the season…

While the tune was still fresh in our heads, Eddie happen to hear The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” and realized that the carol’s melody fit nicely over the Bittersweet chord changes.

THAT’s where it all started.

Then our music staff – Eddie Kirkland, Todd Fields, Karyn List, Jared Hamilton and I – brainstormed for a couple days, and had tallied a list of popular songs over which traditional Christmas carols could be sung.

We whittled down the list, and discussed how one could flow into the other – all the while envisioning how the eventual medley could not only flow from song to song, but also from stage to stage, and even eventually come together and play the final song as one giant band. We’re talking 2 drummers, 4 electrics, 2 acoustics, 2 keys 2 bassists, a handful of soloists and a 10 piece choir. Oh, and a couple of concert bass drums.

And Pro Tools tracks out the whazoo…. 48 to be exact, all mixed down to the Digi 002R’s 8 outputs, with all the loops, samples, sequences, orchestral programming, background vocal and choir overdubbing, clicks and count-offs.

(Yeah, so BIG props to Dave Stagl and Luke Roetman – our audio heros!)

Alright – now you’ve got a better understanding of the back-story, so here we go:

TUNE #1 – “Do You Hear What I Hear – Part 1”

Starts in WEST with Chris Coleman finger picking acoustic guitar and singing using a great minor chord progression that Todd came up with. Chris is joined by a 10 piece choir of some of our most incredible vocalists doing “ooh’s” on some great, rich stacked chords. Really thick and nice.

At the end of a verse and chorus, the chords become the progression of “Bittersweet Symphony”. Then the actual Bittersweet intro sample creeps under Chris’ vocal tags, and just when the strings reach the climax of the intro…

TUNE #2 – “Do You Hear What I Hear – Part 2”

… the EAST band hits the downbeat where the loop and groove start. Then Ryan Stuart, live in East, sings the second verse and chorus over the live East band. The band then drops out as Ryan finishes the vocal tags. It then leads into a short string transition I programmed while, out of nowhere, a concert bass drum on each side starts beating out a new, faster quarter-note tempo. The strings then lead into…

TUNE #3 – “Angels We Have Heard On High”

… the Intro of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”, complete with a mammoth orchestral track, and band, live from the WEST.

(CONFESSION: The track ended up being 3 different karaoke tracks I bought on iTunes that were simply stacked on top of one another in Pro Tools. Each track was great in its own right, but stacking them created an absolutely gargantuan, lush, rich and powerful track. One had a great attack and bite on the strings, while another was dark and rich, and the third added just that much more power.)

Eddie sings the melody of Angels over top the Viva track, and the kicker for this piece was after a verse and a chorus, the 16 piece choir has split to 8 per side, all singing “Gloria” to the descant line of the original Viva tune. So live band and lead singer in West, and live choir and concert bass drum in BOTH auditoriums. Throw in some pre-recorded stacked choir parts, and you’ve got a four coupon orchestral ride, my friends!

Two words: Goose Bumps. Big time!

Eddie then joins the choir for a few more passes at the the soaring descant line, and then, on the downbeat of the next phrase…

TUNE #4 – “Go Tell It On The Mountain – Part 1”

… the EAST band hits a big ol’ windmill chord overtop a big, nasty half-time groove (half of Viva’s 138 bpm). Although we didn’t use the sample, think of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – you’ll get the idea. Ashley Appling on WEST is playing drums along with the East band at this point. Add to that the concert bass drums on both sides, and it’s a drumfest. Todd then sings two choruses of Go Tell It, and at the end of the second phrase…

TUNE #5 – “Go Tell It On The Mountain – Part 2”

… BOTH EAST and WEST bands simultaneously launch into a full on 138 bpm Black Gospel assault. That’s movin’! Think of the church scene with James Brown from The Blues Brothers movie. Again, you’ll get the idea…

Now keep in mind, BOTH bands are also simultaneously being heard on BOTH auditoriums! So needless to say, we had to divi up some parts. John Carrozza in East on piano, Chris Arias in West on B3. Don’t even get me started with the 4 electric guitars and two bass players each doing a walking bass line. Good times!!

And so, accompanied by both bands, Jen Carrozza and her incredible, powerful voice sang a verse from West, then Ryan turned on the soul and sang a verse from East.

And then – yep, you guessed it – the drummers traded solos. Scott Meeder in East for two bars, then Ashley in West for two. Then East one, West one, East half, West half, East quarter, West quarter, then a free for all leading into…

… the end shout choruses, complete with stacked choir, and Jen and Ryan blowing (improvising) over the top. All leading into a big, old, nasty trash can ending. One for the ages….

And, by special request, we even included an over-the-top reprise of the shout choruses and ending. But a little bigger the second time… πŸ˜‰

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And here’s a point of interest: The original demo we pitched was 4 minutes longer and had two more songs – one additional song for each auditorium. The Opener had been chopped, tweaked and edited more than a dozen times before it was all finished, including a few major edits after Wednesday’s rehearsal and even a couple on the Sunday morning…

– – – – –

The rest of the morning was, obviously, a little more subdued, and far more along the lines of our normal musical styles.


We did a couple corporate carols, including Fee’s All Creation Sing (Joy To The World) using a bunch of the North Point Music Multitracks, and a peppy version of O Come All Ye Faithful that we kinda, well, just came up with!


In place of a message, we did something pretty cool this year. Our media guys made a short film called “Footnote”. It’s essentially a history of Caesar Augustus with Andy as the host/narrator. Eddie and I were asked to score the film, and we were all really pleased with how it ended up. I’m sure there’ll be more on the film elsewhere soon, and I’ll elaborate more later…

However, coming out of the film we did a tune called “Here With Us” – an incredible and powerful song done by Joy Williams. We had Trammell Starks program the incredible orchestral track, but the piano and band were still live. Karyn List sang it in West and Mandy Miller was in East, and both ladies were terrific.

Let me talk about Trammell’s track for a minute, though. It was spot on the original, but recreated with virtual instruments – not live ones. And he did it in a day. His incredible use of samples and capturing and interpreting them to emulate real instruments is truly second to none. Really incredible stuff. Eddie, Jared and I just want to go over to his studio and watch him in action.


Andy then set up the candle lighting, and we moved into some great worship – something that sometimes gets left behind at Christmas as so many of us turn to the traditional carols when programming services. And with the candle lighting we sang:

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Son Of God

and then celebrated on an up note with the really up version of Angels We Have Heard on High that the Fee boys had worked up the week before.


Yeah, we went back to the Black Gospel “Go Tell It…” vamp from the Opener, complete with the guitars trading solos. (Can you blame us?)

– – – – –

East Band – Todd Fields, Danny Howes, Danny Grady, Scott Meeder, Earl South, John Carrozza, Ryan Stuart, Mandy Miller

West Band – Eddie Kirkland, Mike Hines, Jeremy Moyers, Ashley Appling, Richard Meeder, Chris Arias, Jordan Watts, Jen Carrozza, Karyn List

– – – – –

Man, I’m exhausted just reliving it. I need to go play with my kids….

Sunday Summary – Music: November 30, 2008

Okie Dokie… Thanksgiving’s over… Back to the regular grind…

Or so I thought.

Today (Monday) we spent 4.5 hours talking about what we want to do in the first 6 minutes of our Christmas Service on December 21st.

Ahhh, the joy of working in a church music department in December. Kinda like a Certified Public Accountant in March and early April…

(I’m just teasing – I love it!!)

Anyhoo, yesterday…

Last week Andy started a new series called “Listen and Learn”, based primarily on the premise that who and what you listen to will determine your actions and ultimate outcome. Yeah, it’s a pretty elementary concept, but a great reminder to all of us as we’re bombarded with media, advertising, and the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

And as a side note, there’s also a quirky title package with the series that the media guys asked me to write a theme for, as well as all the quirky, 80’s synthesizer sound effects.

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Check it out HERE. Click on the blue “Listen and Learn” icon, and then click the red “F” to watch via Flash Player Picture 3.png

– – – – –

As far as worship goes, we had some fun this week!

OK, it didn’t all start out as fun – especially in East….

Chrystina Fincher lead worship in East, which is great because she’s great – but she is, well, a she!

Yep, that means GIRL KEYS!

It’s no problem in the long run, but at mid-week rehearsal, playing those familiar tunes 4 or 5 keys away plays some serious tricks with your brain. Guitar voicings change, my keyboard licks fall differently under the fingers, and all that muscle memory goes kaput! And forget alphabetical chord progressions – number progressions need to take over or you’ll have your nose stuck in the chart all night long.

But something cool can end up happening, as it did to us at rehearsal. You get your BUTT KICKED!

Yeah, you heard me right – you walk away beat up, mentally and musically.

And there’s no greater motivator!!!

Personally speaking, I know I can get apathetic, simply because I’m surrounded by these songs all the time, and could play them in my sleep. But when you have to RE-learn a tune, it can sometimes be even more of a challenge than learning a new song from scratch. And that went for the whole band at rehearsal. We fumbled through rehearsal, each one of us being more embarrassed than the next.

And THAT’S when you hit the crossroads that separates the men from the boys. The fork in the road that asks:

“Will you woodshed it on your own time this week to get it right, or will you cross your fingers and hope for the best? Will you spend the needed mental and musical energy needed, or will your apathy get the best of you? Or are you simply not good enough – and if so, what are you going to do about that?”

Gladly, I was on stage with a group of men that knew that the music had gotten the better of them at rehearsal, and they were going to make darn sure that there was no chance of that same thing happening on Sunday.

And that’s exactly what happened. It ended up being a really, really great musical and worship experience on Sunday morning, with a new life and kick to some great worship tunes.


Salvation Is Here

Let Me Sing

Lead Me To The Cross

Good times…

(And now a shot of a headless Lanny Donoho during the welcome…)


East Band: Chrystina Fincher, Danny Howes, Danny Grady, Jayce Fincher, Ashley Appling, Jordan Watts, Me

West Band: Eddie Kirkland, Mike Hines, Daryl Lecroy, Richard Meeder, Scott Meeder, Trammell Starks, Karen Bitzer

– – – – –

What has kicked YOUR butt lately?