Category Archives: holidays

Advent Reminder

Every year, I have to ask Doug to remind me what the weeks in advent stand for. Since I don’t have a handy notebook near, I’m posting this here to remind me throughout the season, and so that I can find it with a snappy little blog search next year.

Advent is four weeks long. The four weeks are:

  1. Hope – the Prophet
  2. Love – the Holy Family
  3. Joy – the Shepherds
  4. Peace – the Magi

On week 5, we celebrate the traditional “80-Proof Christmas” candle, wherein all music pastors pass out from exhaustion and slip into the numb embrace of Bookers.

Predictable…like dry turkey.

Ok, so this question is as predictable as cranberry sauce and Uncle Hensley’s snoring that starts 3 seconds after he settles himself on the couch, but still…do tell…what are you thankful for?

A friend said to me today “So what is at the top of your thankful for list…no, too obvious, what is 5th?” For our purposes (yes, we do have them. I think.) here on Addy Road, I’ll take anything from your top 10. Oh, and my number 5 was art or music, it’s a toss up. My friend rejected that answer and made me get more specific, so I said “that I’m healthy enough to paint and learn to play cello.” I’m not as picky as my friend, so you can be obtuse or specific here…I cast a wide, wide thankful net.

Creative By Committee: A Christmas Miracle

In this week’s episode of the popular and ongoing “Creative by Committee” series, the fabulous collective musical genius of the roadhouse will be helping The Right Revered Professor Lee (DMA, MA, SPF, Esq.) assemble the musical soundtrack to that most miraculous of seasons, Stressmas. NervousBreakdownmas. Noseefamilymas. Can I get a shout out from all the pastors in the house?

So, I’m looking for three things this christmasy season. First, I’m in desperate and immediate need of choir music suitable for eager and hardworking seasonal choir members of limited reading experience. In token and pledge of gifts to come, I present to you “Child of Peace“, done by our choir last year, freely yours to use this year. Dan, I’m looking your way. Share the love. The lovely, lovely love. If your piece is picked, you will be the proud winner of a complementary set of rehearsal tracks, recorded for my choir, free to use for yours.

Second, I’m looking for hymns, psalms and spiritual songs that have fallen by the wayside, and deserve to be picked up, dusted off, and lovingly reused as either congregational worship or special music, possibly with string quartet. Chad, I know you have some good good in your back pocket for this one. Aly, I’m looking at you too.

Finally, most contempo worship for Christmas belongs in the crap drawer, next to contemporary music for weddings and contemporary music for funerals. If you happen to be in secretive possession of that most elusive of finds, a singable up-tempo modern Christmas song that doesn’t make you want to drink yourself into oblivion and start a fist-fight with the nearest lyricist, then by all means, share.

It is hereby moved and seconded, the motion carries, Creative by Committee is now in season … er … session.

Audio Christmas Card ’07 — Hark This

Well, I told you I’d post it, and here I am a whole week early. In between all the gift giving and receiving and hustle and bustle, we threw this little ditty together to complete our three song homemade gift for family and friends (ya’ll :)

Perhaps you’ve heard about the so-called “War on Christmas.” I, myself, think it’s all a bunch of Christian baiting hype, and I have only one pet peeve, and it’s been going for years and years and years. It’s the fact that when people talk about Christmas Carols, they mean.. Rudolph. Frosty. Sleigh Ride.

Bah Humbug.

What follows, my friends, is a Christmas Carol. This is where theology and poetry intersect with timeless results. It was my hope to draw attention to the staggeringly beautiful lyric while at the same time catapulting the arrangement into another time zone. I’m hoping to clobber you with joy. If you’re hoping for sublime and articulate, I suggest you look elsewhere. :)

Merry Post-Christmas, friends.

hark_thedailies.mp3

Authors note: After many unsuccessful attempts to embed the cool audio thingie in the post without help of the webmaster (who apparantly thinks that it’s alright not to answer his cell phone on Christmas day – BTW, Mike… yeah… that 2nd message, the one where I said I had it figured out… premature) I just did a workaround.

When you read this, Mike… feel free to fix it, delete this, and mock me.

(ed: fixed, snarky comments left intact for posterity)

Oh, and then tell me our track is great.

Audio Christmas Card ’07

Greetings, Christmas participants worldwide.

Mercifully, this blessed season of joy, peace, and early bird specials is drawing to a climax, with the big day just around the corner. This being our first year of Christmas in the post-church-employment era, and consequently also being the first Christmas of the post-regular-paycheck era, Erica and I have decided to augment our gift giving with a couple of homemade goodies.

First, we present Ella. Ella is 4 and a half years old, and we decided that she was old enough to participate. I do not believe I am just speaking from a perspective of proud papa when I say that if you can get through the next 3 minutes without a big, stupid grin on your face, then bah humbug indeed.

go-tell-it-on-the-mountain.mp3

Next, the grownups would like to serenade you about the children.

somechildrenseehim_mix_2.mp3

I have some commentary for the tracks if anyone’s interested. I’ll post in the comments section in time. Tracking a vocal session with a 4 year old? Yes, it was entertaining, thanks for asking.

I’ve actually got a 3rd one cooking and if I can get it done before New Years, I’ll post it for ya’ll. If not, We wish you a very Merry, peaceful Christmas to you and yours in the days to come. I know that I’m trying to reconnect with Jesus in 2008, and I hope the same for you.

That Night

I’m in the midst of cooking up some Christmas Miracles for our church this upcoming Sunday and Monday, and a thought rattled up from the depths of my Nyquil addled brain. Back in school, Chad had done a choral arrangement of an poem by an unknown author, presented in a book called The Book of Jesus, by Calvin Miller. The words are almost perfect for the theme that our pastor, Doug, is preaching on this Sunday, and I wanted to rewrite a new song around it. It took some time to track them down, but here are the words. If anyone has any further information on the author, I’d appreciate any insight.

That Night

Author Unknown

That night when the Judean skies

The mystic star dispensed its light,

A blind man moved in his sleep –

And dreamed that he had sight.

That night when shepherds heard the song

Of hosts angelic choiring near,

A deaf man stiffed in slumber’s spell –

And dreamed that he could hear!

That night when the cattle stall

Slept child and mother cheek by jowl,

A cripple turned his twisted limbs –

And dreamed that he was whole.

That night when o’er the newborn Babe

The tender Mary rose to lean,

A loathsome leper smiled in sleep –

And dreamed that he was clean.

That night when to the mother’s breast

The little King was held secure,

A harlot slept a happy sleep –

And dreamed that she was pure!

That night when in the manger lay

The Sanctified who came to save,

A man moved in the sleep of death –

And dreamed there was no grave.

child o’ peace

Christmas is coming! I wrote a little hymnic song for the choir this year, called Child of Peace.

COP-mix.mp3

If anyone is interested in using it with your choir, here’s a copy of the chart: Child of Peace

This was by far one of the hardest demos ever to record – we did it wild, with no click, one part at a time. The timing was based on listening to the breath of the first bass part recorded. Once the choir has learned the parts, I’d love to bring some singers into a room and actually record a real demo of the thing, without the distractions of having to use separated parts.

Operation Christmas Goat

Once I thought of the title, I had to follow through and do this thing.

Operation Christmas Goat: Addison Road is going to help you turn your Christmas shopping into World Vision goats for families in developing nations.

I know many of you are book nerds, and even more of you like the convenience of ordering Christmas gifts online. We here in the Lee family are planning on doing almost all of our Christmas shopping at Amazon.com.

amazon logoAmazon.com has something called the “Amazon Associates Program”. If you follow a link from this site to Amazon and buy something from them, a percentage of your sale gets kicked back to us as a referral fee. The percentage changes a bit, based on the total number of items sold, but it ends up being about 7.5% of the sales price. I’ve posted a page here on the site that leads directly to Amazon.com, called the Operation Christmas Goat page. Here’s the link:

addisonrd.com/amazon

It doesn’t matter what you buy on Amazon, new, used, on sale, full price, from Amazon or from their resellers marketplace, books, CDs, DVDs, groceries, electronics, as long as your session at Amazon starts by using the Operation Christmas Goat page, a percentage of everything you buy will be returned to us. And then we will turn that money into goats.

goat girlWorld Vision is an aid organization that provides sustainable local economic and health improvements for communities in developing nations. Their goal is to provide basic services, education, medical care, and economic development for communities, train members of that local community to sustain those developments, and then to leave.

One of the ways they do this is by providing goats to local families. From the World Vision site: “A goat nourishes a family with fresh milk, cheese, and yogurt, and can offer a much-needed income boost by providing offspring and extra dairy products for sale at the market. It even provides fertilizer that can dramatically increase crop yields.”

It’s a donation that can change life for a single family. It moves them from subsistence level to having economic options. They can afford to have a child go to school. They can make improvements to their homes and land. They can begin to thrive.

From November 1st through December 31st, every dollar earned here at Addison Road through the Amazon Associates Program will be donated to World Vision, to provide goats for families that need them.

All you have to do to participate is use the link given, addisonrd.com/amazon, to do your Christmas shopping. Buy whatever you would normally buy, and a percentage of your sales will go to Operation Christmas Goat. On average, every $1000 in sales generated through this site will provide one goat.

If you want more information about World Vision, their mission, and a full disclosure of how they spend their money, you can find it at WorldVision.org. You can also find a link on their site to donate directly to them, without having to do any shopping at Amazon.

Please feel free to spread the word. If you know of someone that you think would like to take part in this, send them an email with a link to this post, or send them straight to the Operation Christmas Goat page (addisonrd.com/amazon).

Operation Christmas Goat is on!

(update: if you’re on facebook, you can join the group. Invite your friends, help promote this thing!)

Informed Moviegoing

It’s been months since I submitted anything regarding Films or moviegoing for general consumption and discussion here at Addy, but Hollywood and Christendom are again locked in an epic battle of ideas and I cannot resist.

But before I go there, I think I need to talk about Informed Moviegoing.

See… I know a lot about going to the movies. I’ve never written a screenplay, never acted on camera, never sat in an editing bay, never composed a score. I am not in “The Biz.” I am, however, a regularly overzealous hobbyist when it comes to actually going to movies, pondering them, discussing them, and coming to something like an opinion about them both before and after actually seeing them.

Last night, Erica and I caught a late show of American Gangster. I knew I wanted to see it. Aside from Denzel, I am a big fat Russell Crowe fanboy. Aside from the often visually beautiful direction of Ridley Scott, is the fact that the screenplay was written by the great Steven Zaillian, whose work ranges from engrossingly entertaining, (Gangs of New York and The Interpreter) to downright brilliant. (Schlinder’s List, Awakenings, and, made a film in 1993 that may the greatest film you’ve never seen: Searching For Bobby Fischer)

A few weeks ago we caught Michael Clayton, which is a terrific film. The primary reason I wanted to see it was because it was written and directed by Tony Gilroy, whose screenplays for all three Bourne movies have been master clinics on how to write suspense in the 21st century.

All that to say… typically I know more about upcoming movies than the average joe. I grew up reading the Los Angeles Times Calendar section. Every morning. I read, and re-read Roger Ebert’s books. In High School, my Former Young Republican father took me to a weekly UCLA extension course where a film would be screened, usually ahead of it’s release, and then a moderated discussion with one of the filmmakers would follow. It was on one of these evenings, when I was 15 years old, that I challenged screenwriter Callie Khouri as to what would motivate Thelma to engage in a one night stand with Brad Pitt’s drifter boy toy, a scant 24 hours after her attempted rape and the subsequent murder of her would-be rapist. Aaaah the innocence of youth.

It was walking out of American Gangster that we saw a poster for the upcoming film The Golden Compass. “That looks… interesting.” Erica says. She’s leery of the fantasy genre, as a rule. “I got some email about that movie… what’s the deal?”

The deal, my friends, hearkening back to the first paragraph, is that The Golden Compass is slated to be the center of another controversy between Hollywood and Christian folks, just in time for the holidays!

I have never read the books, so I am but a simple messenger relaying information here. The Golden Compass is the first in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman is a former Oxford professor and children’s author and is also, brace yourselves: a noted atheist.

His Dark Materials has been described in the media as the anti-Narnia. It’s a children’s story filled with adventure, mystery, magic, moral dilemmas, good and evil and allegory and all the trimmings, but the allegory points to a world where the church is evil, God imprisons ghosts, and Polar Bears sound like Ian McKellan.

So the culture war is on! The Catholic League is protesting. Focus on the Family is going to put the evangelicals on alert. Even Snopes, the Urban Myth Debunking website, confirms that the story is anti-Christian, and to top it all off, your Aunt from Kentucky will send you an email about it that she got from this other lady at her church.

Hey everybody! Remember The DaVinci Code? Anybody? Came out like… oh 18 months ago? No? Well, You mean to say you vaguely remember it… you mean, yeah, you caught it that one time on the airplane or on TBS or something. Remember how it was like, the greatest threat to Christendom, like, ummm, ever?

You don’t? Know why?

Because it sucked. It was so boring and awful that a scant year and a half later, the only person who gives two shits about it is Tom Hanks’ CPA, and he only cares because he’s paid to.

May I again make a case for not getting our panties in a collective twist over this?

Get all informed about going to movies, I’m all about that. Make a choice based on what you read, and how it strikes you. Go on IMDB and check out the director, the writer, the source material. Have you enjoyed their work in the past? Do you want to spend another 2 hours with them?

Don’t be a lamb. Don’t go see it because it has cool looking effects. Don’t not go see it because your pastor told you not to. Please don’t believe that if you support or boycott this movie that it has a damn thing to do with God’s Kingdom or Jesus getting glorified or not. It’s. A. Movie.

Most movies that you see are created by people who believe that the Christian world view and belief systems are arcane and oppressive. Learn from them, or tune them out. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that by skipping this one, that you’ve somehow remained ideologically unstained.

Go see the movie and deconstruct it with your atheist friends. Do I even have an atheist friend? Do they care about this movie one bit? Do they care what I think of this movie? Are they watching me to see what I think or say about it? Am I being evangelized by this movie? How does that feel?

Avoid the movie all together and go hear some good live music. Or drink wine with friends at the Getty. Or grab your kids and start The Hobbit and thank God for Christ-follower JRR Tolkien and his ability to weave allegory with such a deft hand that it speaks into the minds of people of all creeds.

Just don’t get your panties in a twist. Please.

On Good Friday and Spinal Tap

You remember Spinal Tap, right, England’s loudest (and perhaps least clued) band? Amps that go to 11? D minor is the saddest of all keys? Drummers that spontaneously combust?

Yeah, you remember.

Spinal Tap was the first in a line of absolutely smashing mockumentarys from Christopher Guest and company. Spinal Tap has given birth to many cult jokes since 1982, but in our family, there’s one called, “Having a Spinal Tap Moment,” that I need to share with you right now.

If you’ll remember the film, there are two scenes that vividly illustrate The Spinal Tap moment, as we define it. The first is the famous Stonehenge scene, where the band has written a long, operatic song about the mysterious monument, and has arranged for a model to be lowered from the rafters onto the stage at just the right moment. A clerical error makes the model eighteen inches high, instead of eighteen feet high, and therefore they must have midgets come dance around it to give it the right scale.

The second scene was the one where they had decided to make their grand entrance from large, adult sized, alien looking pods. All went well, except for Harry Shearer’s character, who remained stuck in his throughout the song, finally bursting forth just as his bandmates had already returned to their pods of origin.

A Spinal Tap moment, in our family lexicon, refers to something that was meant to appear dramatic or sinister or moving, but due to any combination of ego, incompetence, and general bad luck, comes off looking silly.

Church productions, unfortunately, are rife with Spinal Tap moments. The most classic one in my memory banks happened at a megachurch in our area. In this particular story, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, as for them all I have deep affection.

Several people of talent and means had pooled their resources with a singular purpose in mind: to create an Evangelically minded, Broadway style musical that would tour the nation. The working title was something along the lines of “God of Glory!” These were serious people. The financial backer and chief creative force had been at executive vice president of a major Hollywood film studio. He is a good guy, knows a lot of people, and knows how to move and shake with them all. One of the composers is the grand poohbah of church choral music, the other a successful player and arranger, with some of the funkiest bass chops around.

So, they’ve all been working on this thing for about 18 months… developing, writing, rewriting, etc. They decide to have a showcase, and invite essentially every major player in the Southern California church scene, in an attempt to raise awareness and support for the project. Nearly all of them showed up, it was quite a thing to mingle that night. Erica and I were invited, not because we have money or influence, but because… well.. actually I can’t remember why… but we were there.

The program was to be about 60 minutes, featuring sequences from the first half of what was to become, like I mentioned before, a fully orchestrated and produced two-and-one-half-hour Cirque-De-Hey-Soos-A-Pallooza. The story was being told on two levels, one revolving around the difficult life of a Latina woman working with inner city youth and battling her own past and present, and another revolving around the demonic and angelic forces engaged in warfare behind the scenes. Think West Side Story meets This Present Darkness meets… I dunno. YWAM.

It was… meh… so-so. A for effort, though. I saw what they were going for and, wanting to believe the best for my friends, was trying to look for the good.

About forty five minutes in, a villainous character was introduced and all of a sudden the stage was flooded with red lights, the orchestra struck a mightily menacing minor chord, and a half dozen muscular actors, clad head to toe in full Tim Curry-esque demonic regalia, descended on ropes from above the stage in a tight formation, like kinda-gay Navy Seals. Five out of six of them landed safely, continuing their menacing stances against the hombres already on the stage.

The sixth one, dead center, got stuck halfway down. He did his best, really. He struck scary looking poses. He used his angry eyes. He continued to stay in character even as the stagehands rushed to the catwalk, and started to pull him back up. At one point, again to his credit, he actually did a mid air backflip to position himself for re-entry to platform, still looking really pissed.

His best efforts aside, it’s safe to say the moment was ruined. What was meant to be terrifying was instead a giggle fest.

I told this story to the creative planning team at our own little church about five weeks ago. It was meant to be a humorous warning against reaching artistically beyond the limits of your stagecraft and personnel. Keep it simple, stupid. You see. we had decided to take a creative approach to Good Friday. We wanted to get people out of the sanctuary. We wanted to put our hands on something real. We wanted to get out of ComfortLand for one night.

We divided up four aspects of the Good Friday story and assigned them to the three pastors, and one elder who teaches and sits on our planning team. We decided to take the congregation, break them into four groups, and rotate them on a walk on our campus, making our presentations simultaneously four times before returning to the sanctuary for one final reflection and act, more on that in a moment.

Andy was tasked with talking about Jesus’ suffering. He and a friend went down to Universal and rented some really great looking props, which were arranged on top of black cloth so that everyone could just barely make them out in the flickering candle light. No Spinal Tap moments in there, just an accurate telling of what happened when someone endured a scourging by professional Roman Soldiers.

Mike was asked to teach a little bit about how Jesus’ body would have been prepared for burial. A mother and daughter set up five 10′ X 10′ outdoor tents on the lawn next to the sanctuary. They draped the entire 200 square foot structure with black cloth, and decorated the insides with candelabras and torches. Mike found some actual Myrrh incense and burned it inside the tent. It was slightly low, you had to duck slightly to get through the opening they had created, and it was slightly damp feeling inside due to our strange SoCal spring weather. Our church is in a rural-ish part of town, and our neighbors have all sorts of barnyard animals, braying in the distance. No Spinal Tap moments in there, it was atmospheric and haunting.

I was asked to speak on the grief of the disciples and Jesus’ family. Being me, I wanted to use media, so I got the youth room, as it was configured for projection. My friend Kala draped the entire room in black, and arranged a sea of candles. No Spinal Tap moments in my room, I wrote a good piece, and I had simple and effective media to go with it. We were in the moment together four times in a row. It was a personally satisfying creative experience, and I don’t get to say that often enough.

As I mentioned, our campus feels very rural, spread out over several buildings. Two other ladies had arranged dozens or perhaps hundreds of candle bags and tiki torches around the property, lighting paths from one room to the next. Mike turned the lights off. Crickets and frogs sung, and we heard them, because two hundred people walked in near silence throughout the entire sixty minute exercise. It was a great marriage of content and vibe.

There was only one thing remaining. We have this really cool 10 foot tall wooden cross. It’s really impressive, sturdy and thick. We wanted to end our evening by somehow making a connection between the cross and the torn curtain. We decided to put the large cross at center stage, but drape it until the end of the service. Then, we’d re-gather, read that final bit of Scripture together, and someone would actually tear the curtain at the same time, revealing the cross. The service would then be concluded as people chose to meditate, pray, make confession, or leave.

It was in this planning of this final event that visions of Spinal Tap began to dance in my head. There was a brief discussion about creating some sort of facade with piping around the cross. I had visions of old women being clobbered in the face with a PVC pipe as an overzealous deacon started REALLY putting his back into ripping that thing apart.

In the end, simplicity won out, and we decided to run a long strip of velcro along the front wooden crossbeam and hang the curtain from it. We would not actually tear it, but pull it to the ground, the sound of the velcro giving us the aural satisfaction we wanted.

It was first set up on Wednesday, as a test. It was a totally striking visual, to see it in place for the first time. It was a large piece of cloth, perhaps twenty feet high and forty feet across. The stage was rendered almost completely invisible. With permission, I tested it, and it worked like a charm. We had to rehearse that night, anyways, so we all knew we were going to put it up twice. Our chief decor engineers reset it sometime Friday afternoon.

So, we’re back to Friday night. We open with worship (Erica and I on the floor of the Sanctuary with two vocal mics and one Fender Rhodes), then we break into our four rooms, and rotate four times. Then we are all back together. We’re giddy at this point, because all the logistics had thus far worked perfectly. We were downright Emergent! The night had been thick with the Holy Spirit, no joke.

So, Bill (the elder) starts reading the Scripture, and Mike moves to the stage for the big reveal. At first, it works brilliantly, and there is even the sound of breath being caught in the room, as people realize what’s been shrouded this whole time. About two thirds of the way down, the amps go to 11: the cloth gets caught on something.

My pulse quickens.

Bill keeps reading. Mike squares himself and starts pulling. The curtain… rips. It’s violent and beautiful. It looks like we meant for it to happen. Mike tears it to the ground, and disaster is averted. Almost. See… he still wants the other piece, a section about five feel across still hanging from the crossbeam.

No, I think. Let it be. We’ve had this amazing moment. We can see the cross. It’s cool, dude!

He’s gotta get it. He is a tall man, father of six, and not exactly a wimp. He squares up again, grabs it with both hands and give it all he’s got. I’m trying not to think about the lighting rig, intermingled with the velcro. He cranks on it, and it doesn’t budge. A titter murmurs from the crowd.

This is it… the moment I’ve dreaded. Our very own Alien Pod, our Dangling Demon. Jerk-weed cousins visiting for Easter will make fun of us after they go home. Crap.

He pulls again, and it gives way, and he nearly topples over, remaining upright despite physics’ best attempt. The remainder of the curtain falls, as well as the last ten feet of the velcro strip, which now dangles to the floor. The crowd erupts into applause, totally sincere. We had really worked them over emotionally that evening, and they were ready for victory. Their Savior had wrestled sin and death to the floor, and their pastor had wrangled that #%$*#!! curtain to the floor, and they sincerely wanted to cheer about it.

It was a beautiful moment. I loved Good Friday this year. I needed Good Friday this year. Who knows of you out there read this stuff, but if you are, I hope that somehow Jesus found you this season.

Oh, and we did crank it to 11 this morning. Happy Easter, everyone.

The Accidental DJ

So, here’s how we spent our new year’s eve. It’s an epic tale, a veritable odyssey of awkward fun. It started like this:

“What are you doing for new years? Yolanda and I (the names have not been changed to protect the innocent, as this story is deeply entrenched in affection) are throwing a huge bash and I would love for you to come and play a few of your songs for a couple hundred of our closest friends. It’ll be so cool!”

Sounds good, Anthony.

Remember Anthony? He’s the cat who convinced me that I could lose 1/3 of my bodyweight. I’m there, dude.

The phone call comes about three weeks ago. “So… we’re still good for New Year’s. It’s gonna be so awesome! We’re gonna rawk the 70′s rock, and the theme of the party is love. I want you to do that song you did in church about love, man (more on this in a moment) We have the tent in the back, bartender, I’m doing a whole video and picture montage for the party guests, and I’ve got everything just totally set up for you, and all you need to get is a piano and a sound system.”

Oh… is that all?

“Don’t worry… money’s no problem, just lemme know.”

You got it man, we Dailies aim to please.

Phone calls go out to friends who rent that type of gear. I hit him back with this a day or so later, “Ok, it’s gonna be $400-$500 to rent the piano, and I’m still working on the sound system. They’re strangely all booked for New Year’s Eve.”

“Ok, well that’s a lot to rent a piano. I think I could buy one for like two grand. We’ve been looking for just the reason for awhile anyways. I’ll just buy one and have it delivered. Oh, and also, Dave from church said he could set up sound, so just call him and tell you what you need.”

What I need is the same thing that I’ve needed since time began, homie, 88 keys and (2) 58s. Reverb is optional. Delay is recommended, because we put down is worth hearing at least one more time.

A few days later: “Ok, so, we’re gonna have to go to plan B on the piano thing, there’s just no way I have time to buy a piano before Sunday.”

Plan B (schlepping Erica’s digital piano from her teaching studio) is already in effect, as we Dailies saw this coming.

“Oh, and my friend Bruce is going to call you. He sings jazz, and I want you to do something together. He’s the coolest, you’ll love him”

Anything you say, brother man. It’s all good. Peace and love in the ’07.

Couple of days pass. Ring, ring. “Hey, it’s Bruce! I hear you’re a magnificent pianist.”

Sure man, I know all the Chris Tomlin songs and I can do them in all of God’s approved keys, which are, of course, D, G, C, E, and A in a pinch. I am not, under even the most generous and, for the sheer sake of argument, intoxicated, circumstances, a magnificent pianist.
I play piano like a frustrated guitar player, all major sevenths and angst.

“Well, how about ‘Fly Me to The Moon’ in C, you know that?”

Dude, I can fake nearly anything in C, as long as it has those handy dandy little chord symbols. Send the sandwich, bring da funk.

I call Anthony a few days later.

So, we’re gonna do our song Loved for you guys, as per the theme of the night. What else you got in mind? (Thinking about the other nine songs on the album we’re trying to promote.)

“What about that song you did in church a few months ago. You sang love like a bazillion times. Could you do that song too? I asked you about it that day, but you said you didn’t write it. Can you think of it?”

The strange thing is that I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out which song he meant. I had to bust out my service order file at work and thumb through the services of the past year to figure out what he was taking about. I found it and called him.

I remember the tune, it’s called “After the Last Tear Falls,” and it was written by Andrew Peterson.

I sang him a few bars, and he shouted with recognition. “That’s it, man… that’s the one.”

Ever the service planner, I think to myself… So, lemme see here. We’re gonna have 150 people with an open bar and the most gregarious host I know. By the time 10:30 rolls around, they’re gonna be in a pretty lubricated mood. We’re gonna then sing them a love song about our children and then a song that describes God’s love at the end of some achingly beautiful and heartbreaking lyrics. Then some dude named Bruce is gonna hand me a chart for “Fly Me To The Moon,” in C, and we’re gonna swing away.

What could possibly go wrong?

I arrive at their house in the afteroon to begin setting up our gear. Dave from church, the biggest servant-hearted cat in town, brings over the Church’s little portable system. We get set up and sound checked, and Yolanda (Anthony’s wife) says, “So… Anthony has all these CDs ready to go for background music. Can we play them through the system?”

Yes.

Then the question that will eventually turn my night hilarious. “So… you have an iPod or something you could bring? I might want to have something more… modern… to dance to later in the night. You got any Beyonce?”

Girl, you must not know ’bout me, cause I’m all up in that.

I return home to hang out with the kiddos, and get ready for the main event. Turns out Erica hadn’t done the Andrew Peterson tune with me before, so we had to… you know… learn it. It helps with performance, you see. We turn over the kids to the ‘rents, and set out.

The house is great. They have the tent, the space heaters, the big balloons, the bartender, the whole shebang. We stake out a spot close to the rig and make small talk. We don’t know… anybody.

The party fills up. Anthony’s having a great time. He introduces us to people, he wants us to feel included. It’s sweet. All I can think about is those freaking unrelenting 8th notes in Loved, and wishing that I’d hired Mike. Bill and Becky from church break the drought of familiar faces. We hang out with our friends and wait for the big moment.

Now, as per Yolanda’s request, I put together a little playlist for the occaision. I was shooting in the dark, here, and keep in mind that my MP3 collection is light on top 40 dance tunes. I get some requisite Beyonce, and yes, I did bring sexy back. I also threw in some Beck and Gnarls Barkley for a little indie cred. Add a little Marley and Steve Miller Band for some old school flava. Prince and D’Angelo for funk, Gavin Degraw and Sheyrl Crow for rock, as we white kids still just wanna have a little fun before the sun comes up over Santa Monica Blvd.

It was a pretty hip mix, if I do say so myself. Yolanda loves it. She actually has a bottle of Cristal. We’re big pimpin’ like hova himself.

10 minutes later, Anthony comes in. “Dude… play this, they’ll love it, I guarantee.” It’s Clapton’s greatest hits. You got it, boss.

10 minutes later, Yolanda comes back in. “Play some DANCE MUSIC!!! And TURN IT UP!” You got it, boss.

And so it continued… During this time, at one of the swings back to my iPod, I noticed that Sheyrl Crow sounded about a half step flat on “Soak up the Sun.” I turned around to see two drunk girls doing impromtu karaoke with one of the live mics I had set up. Fantastic. You sound beautiful. And by beautiful, I mean ****faced.

At about 10:30, Anthony finds me. “Ok, you’re on, guys!”

Cool man… cool. So… this is gonna be one hell of a transition. Are you going to introduce us? He’s already on the mic. He does a pretty good intro, welcoming people officially and explaining that he’s asked us to share some music with them. He introduces us as recording artists, which I suppose is technically correct.

We do our two tunes. I do a little banter, thanking Anthony for having us and jokingly warning people that the evening is about to take a serious left turn. Our songs are actually pretty well received. All things considered, enthusiastic applause at the correct moments is usually a good sign, methinks. So far, so good, right? Anthony’s back up. “Welcome to the stage (dark corner of the tent) my good friend Bruce to sing for you all.

Now… Bruce has not a simple jazz fake chart in his hands, but a full blown book of Tony Bennett arrangements. “Fly Me to The Moon,” is not in the accidental free key of C as promised, but in the moderately unfriendly key of Eb. Oh yes, I need to tell you this: you know what helps when reading (and performing) a chart for the first time in a key that you weren’t expecting? Light!

Yes friends… It was a dimly lit place. Erica hovers behind me, trying to get my iPod light to stay on long enough for me to see what the next change. “A flat major 9!” she hollars, saving my bacon. Bruce is all over the place. He wants it faster… he wants it slower. “D diminished 7!” she shouts.

Oh god please let this be a substitutionary dominant going to Gminor7! Yes!!! I ROCK!!! THANK YOU PHIL SHACKLETON, wherever you are, for my theory training, because I cannot see butkus. I friggen hate flat keys.

I actually do alright, and the song ends. To my impending misfortune, the crowd applauds heartily.

Bruce turns to me. “Let’s do ‘I Left my Heart in San Francisco!’ It’s in C, and it’s on page 72″ It was in Bb, on page 54. I’m in trouble. I don’t even remotely know this song. Bruce doesn’t know “Here I am to Worship,” unfortunately.

I’m floundering, and the iPod light goes off every five seconds, as I have instructed. Oh no, a page turn. Erica goes in for the turn, and we’re both starting to giggle uncontrollably. She grabs like… six pages. We’re so done. I’m audibly snorting and guffawing at this point. Bruce actually turns around mid phrase and goes, “What’s so funny??!?!”

Dude. What’s not funny? I swear on the grave of Old Blue Eyes that I am not laughing at you. Well… a little, but this just gets more insane by the moment.

He’s trying to be gracious. “You know what, no worries. I’ll go acapella.” He sings… “When I fall in love….” Erica just looks at me with the most classic look. Keep it together… keep it together. I fold my hands until he finishes a verse and a half or so before Anthony makes his way to the front to stop the entire trainwreck-tacular.

“Thanks Bruce! Well, let’s all move into the living room, I’ve prepared a little video for you….”

We slink back to our seats. Our friends have gone inside to watch the video with the majority of the crowd. I get a glass of wine and Erica grabs a gin and tonic. The bartender, having witnessed the performance, made it a GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIN and tonic. When the hell is midnight, again?

I’m not really in a terribly foul mood, at this point. I am more amused then anything, but still a little annoyed. I don’t do music badly on purpose. I prepare. We are professionals. I don’t like getting hijacked. Oh well. Time to get buzzed and surly, and kiss my girl when the big ball drops.
Erica suggests I fire up the iPod again. Aaah… yes. Let’s do that. Beck’s funky beats always put a smile on my face. Oh yeah, Gorillaz, bring me that funky stuff. My mood improves. The video ends, and the partygoers return to the tent. I’ve got the mix working pretty well at this point, enjoying playing DJ with my eclectic yet dance-able mix. Bootys are starting to shake. Lauryn Hill pours her soul into our bones. Erica and I sing and dance along in excessive abandon, glad our part of the night is over, our church friends starting to look at us a little sideways.

Anthony returns. “Dude, you’ve gotta play some disco!” Dude, this is my personal iPod. I don’t really have disco. “I’ve got a CD.” Let’s spin it, then!

Now freed from the DJ duties, we make our way inside in a quest for finger foods. We make small talk. People seem to be genuinely interested in us and our music… turns out we made an impression after all, so that’s good.

We’re closing in on midnight at this point. Yolanda comes screaming in. “If I don’t hear Crazy in Love RIGHT NOW, I’m gonna freak out!!”

Well, we can’t have that.

I’m back at the stereo. Now, mind you, all of this is happening with an 8th inch to RCA adapter that I’m physically alternating between my iPod and the headphone output of the CD changer. It makes a huge crackle and pop when it’s removed or inserted. Erica fades the inputs on the little mixer like a pro. “Gimme gain!!” I yell, and beat drops. The crowd goes nuts and another Christmas miracle is made by Chad and Erica. We make magic happen, darnitall.

It’s about 11:58 after the song is over. Champagne us poured and Anthony is back on the mic. “Now… We have just a few minutes before the new year and I want to open up the mic to anyone who wants to give us a prayer or a blessing, but not too personal, ok?!”

Uh oh, I think. Fear the Open Mic.

I look at my wife. We’re beyond delirious at this point, a pair of giggle junkies. A guest drunkenly rambles on the mic. I look at my cell, and it’s 11:59. Anthony invites more people up, as we have, “Just a few more minutes until midnight.” Yolanda hands me a CD and says (shouts), “The last track is Auld Lang Syne, so we have to play it at midnight (it’s 12:01 and I just kissed Erica happy new year.) More guests speak. At about 12:06, Anthony cuts it off and starts the new year’s countdown.

“Happy New Year!!!!” Everyone yells, everyone kisses. I push play and hear something that sounds a lot like an 80s love ballad and not anything like Auld Lang Syne. Yolanda comes up, “Uh oh! What can we do?!?!” iPod to the rescue! Erica fades, I swap inputs, and furiously dial up James Taylor’s beautiful arrangement of the same song. This arrangement kills. It’s so sweet. The first 10 minutes after midnight are always the best. Strangers hugging, lovers kissing. Sometimes strangers kissing. It’s like everyone gets reborn for a few perfect minutes before reality comes back in with sunrise and a hangover.

This guy grabs the mic from Anthony, and actually proposes to his girlfriend. He has the ring and everything. She cries, they kiss, it’s a beautiful moment. His friends start screaming at me, “We need some special music!!! Do you have Romanza by Andrea Bocelli?”

No, I don’t have Andrea Bocelli, because I am not either (A) gay, or (B) warned that I needed to be equipped to DJ this party. How about Norah Jones?

“Chad!”

Yes?

“WE WANNA DANCE!!!”

Done.

We’re cookin’ now. Floor’s packed, beats are bangin’. I’m starting to have some fun now. Drunk Admonishing Lady comes over next. “You havvve to play thisss CD, track 12 nessst. It’ssss the best…” Sure… we aim to please here at Improvisational DJs, inc.

Erica swivels out of the small space we’re sharing behind the keyboard to let this lady get in with her music. Unfortunately, she catches the cord coming out of the iPod and yanks it clean across the room. We go from bangin’ beats to dead silence. I’m still in an uncontrolled giggle fest, so I think I started shouting at Erica in an olde English accent talking about disaster and chaos whilst frantically searching the floor for the one cable out of 12 that I need. Did I mention it was dark? I keep on shouting and laughing and Erica’s laughing (because she knows I’m delirious and not really angry) and searching and meanwhile it’s… dead silent.

Dead silent, except for… “You ssstttoooppp talking to her like that!” Admonishing Drunk Lady says, “Ssssheee didn’t mean to… you stop that. You tell her you’re sorry. Tell her you’re SORRY!!!”

But I’m too hopped up on red wine and surreal experiences for apologies!

We find the plug, finish the song, and I put her CD on. The song that we HAD to hear was, no joke, Just Can’t Get Enough, by Depeche Mode. Not a bad song, but a total vibe changer. I’m all about the smooth transitions, so, I was struggling a little.

Erica looks at me, “We have to go.” My folks are hanging out at our house with our kids, and they’re sick (my folks that is.) I told them we’d be home by 1ish. “After this song ends, you spin up the Disco CD again, take the iPod and run!” She’s a smart one, my lady.

We make our way to the tent exit / house entrance and the door’s locked. Anthony is showing the video again, and I think he wanted to keep the sound down. We sigh, and retreat to the yard, where people are smoking cigars and sipping on REALLY expensive tequila. An old italian dude was trying to light a cigar and failing. Erica offered to help and lit the match for him and he started puffing away. He kept at it until he nearly choked on a big puff and doubled over in a fit of coughing. “Imma sorry,” he says, “I wassa transfixed-a by her eyes. How did you ever get-a such-a beeeauuutiful woman?”

Dude, I have no idea.

We try and escape around the back, as there’s a small corridor between the edge of the tent and the retaining wall in the back yard, but some couple has decided that the retaining wall looks really comfortable, if you know what I mean.

We wait. More giggling.

Finally, the video ends, and we slip into the living room, say our goodbyes, hug our hugs, and we’re gone.

I cannot remember a more memorable New Year’s Eve celebration. Hope yours was as exciting as mine. Cheers to the ’07.

15 Hymns: Do You Hear What I Hear

My friends, I can’t tell you how wonderful this little experiment has been. I love the music, and I love that you all buy into these kinds of ideas. Thank you all for being a little bit of sanity in the midst of the Christmas madness.

The Dailies sent this in last night, to cap off the 15 Hymns run. Have a merry Christmas everyone, and I’ll see you all on the other side.

dailies_DoYouHear.mp3


photo by orange beard

Merry Merry…

Hi everyone. This afternoon, I’ll be shutting down the computer at noon, heading to the office lunch/party, and I won’t be back at work until after the New Year. Unfortunately, I won’t be sipping egg nog and hangin’ with the family all that much, since Sara and I planned the Most Ill-Timed Move Of All Time, into our new place in Burbank.  Yuck. A holiday filled with packing and moving. Looks like I won’t be online again until 2007.
So, to all of you: Have a Merry Christmas.

I’m so happy to be a part of this little community. It’s evolving Christianity with insight, respect, and humor. Mike, thank you for your commitment to making this website something real.

15 Hymns Interlude: A Long December

This goes out to all the music pastors in the world, who spend all of December buried in charts, and orchestrations, and powerpoint, and rehearsals, and who produce “Christmas Miracles” every single year. Here’s to you.

I imagine that this song was probably written on a night much like this one, and ground out in about 20 minutes. I didn’t stop to check the chords, or even to attempt to play them correctly. I suspect that’s how the original went down, too.

ml_december.mp3

piano destroyed
photo by snweb

15 Hymns: Hark The Herald Angels Sing

From the Stick Man himself, featuring his own glorious singing in it’s international worldwide debut!

Hark, The Herald Angel’s Sing, a 15 Hymns exclusive. (Until he releases the Christmas record that he originally recorded this for.)
stick_hark.mp3

christmas choir

photo by drp