Last weekend I co-ordinated the Uniting Church’s second national gathering of worship songwriters here in Adelaide, along with Neryl McCallum, Suzi Cousins and David MacGregor. About 40 people from around Australia gathered to create new songs for congregational singing. It was a wonderful weekend of creativity, sharing, encouragement and inspiration.
The guest input person was Rev Malcolm Gordon from New Zealand. Among other things he co-ordinates the “One Voice” Project. Malcolm is an excellent songwriter and musician and an insightful teacher about music and worship. His contribution was outstanding. Malcolm invited us to reflect on how the art and act of songwriting and singing are part of God’s work in and for our world.
We were blessed to have a number of gifted musicians available as mentors over the weekend – Malcolm, Dale and David MacGregor, Robin Mann, Leigh Newton, Amelia Koh-Butler and Ian Coats. The combination of an encouraging community, plenty of free time and spaces to write, insights from Malcolm, and the assistance of the mentors, all provided a very fruitful environment for creativity. If you want to allow people to create, don’t over-program. (We intentionally had fewer program elements than the first Songwrite.)
On Saturday we set up two recording studios – Pete Stephens mixing and recording ‘live’ in “Sun Studios” and I was set up more for track on track in “Abbey Road”. I had a couple of Rode NT1s for vocals and an NTG-2 for acoustic instruments (thanks to Keith Ellison from TEC) recording into Reason. It was a lot of fun and we captured some lovely performances. Here are Malcolm Gordon and Scott Heron singing a benediction written by Malcolm over the weekend: The Grace. David MacGregor was incredibly busy over the weekend producing score sheets of people’s new songs. Participants were able to share their music recordings and scores with others on a USB stick that each received at the end of the weekend. (They’ve also been invited to join a UCA Songwriters group that we set up at the last Songwrite.)
Saturday evening featured a cafe space where people could share a song – some new, some old. A fantastic evening, at times hilarious and also deeply moving. Here is Jess Hutton from Brisbane singing her benediction from Ephesians. A deep, strong, moving song.
On Sunday morning we joined the two morning worship services of our hosts, Adelaide West Uniting Church. Malcolm Gordon preached and shared some music and Songwrite participants shared some of their new music. Scott Heron from Townsville offered this stirring song with backing from Songwrite participants. The two worship services, led by Suzi and Ferg, were full of wonderful, memorable music moments. A couple more videos here.
After the weekend, one participant wrote:
I found myself enjoying drifting from one group to another.. being invited in to individuals’ private song writing space to listen to their songs and give feedback – and felt blessed to have shared this mutual trust.
I appreciated having so much time for creative space. And I appreciated being given permission to work on what I felt I wanted to work on, to sing with others.. and not feel I needed to magically come up with an amazing congregational worship song.
I am so thankful. I have a sense of Peace and feel blessed to have been in such a special community where we could freely give and receive each others gifts.
A great weekend. Photo gallery here.