Rehearsal III

Here are some photos from this evening, from the beautiful table settings to the rehearsal.  We are doing a surprise song from memory tomorrow!!  Come and hear!

I trying something new for the slide show…but you will have to click twice on the links that appear below and then manually advance the PDF file that downloads.  Good night!


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Rehearsal II

The hardest thing about singing as a group is unified cut-offs and entrances. Unity is a gift from the Holy Spirit and we are experiencing the joy of that unity and proclamation of the Word!
We are His people!

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Coming into Unity: tonight’s rehearsal

We are starting rehearsal, Dan is addressing us. We love being with each choir. Dan just told us that Solana Beach has a new organ! What a praise! More later.

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Week 5 Journey to the Festival

Last night was another long march through snippets of songs.  We are holding on to the faith in John, trusting that he has prepared us well for Sunday.  Aaack, is the Festival just 3 days or less than 72 hours away?? 

Then, the sense of labored work vanishes, the white knuckle fear is changed to gratitude and worship as a piece comes together.  There were many such moments, but describing one will give a taste:

Ed Wilmington has set the traditional hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in a wonderful combination of Santo, Santo.  Santo is Spanish for holy.  The parts echo each other, first the men sing “santo” and women sing “holy”, then the women sing “santo” against the men’s “holy”.  Just lovely.

 The music draws us nearer to the Throne, with one seated on it who had the appearance of jasper and carnelian surrounded by an emerald rainbow.  Now the women cry holy, now the men.  Will we really be surrounded by such goodness in eternity?

 Got it.

 The journey fills my soul, energizes my body, and shows me new things about our Lord.

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Week 4 Journey to the Festival

Ed Wilmington has composed a vigorous musical setting of Bryan Jeffery Leech’s “Giver of the Gift of Singing” (words below) for the Festival. 

If you ever looked up at a choir loft and wondered just what those people, dressed in the same out-of-fashion robes, were thinking, these lyrics provide a window into their thoughts.  They give a sense of what motivates us to get to places in the wee hours, give away our free, non-working hours, and to gulp down meals between events. 

 And, it gives a useful corrective to our motivations.  Indeed, musicians are tempted to fall in love the sounds, the rhythms, being in front of an audience.  It really is all about us, right?  It is in the moment of forgetting and soaking in ME that humbling comes in the form of inert rocks providing compelling harmonies to God.  Whoops!  Thought it was ME that was important!

The music ends with a sense of moving forward into the worship at the Throne, the moment when we will get to see face to face that which “our being longs”. 

 Giver of the Gift of Singing

Bryan Jeffery Leech

Giver of the gift of singing,
We adore You through our songs;
We discover purest pleasure
When for You our being longs.

 Here we find a fresh excitement,
Here we sense true harmony;
We are raised up to Your presence
In sublimest ecstasy.

Giver of the gift of singing,
We do more than soaring birds.
We exceed the lofty skylark,
From the heart we sing You words.

 Tho’ts expressing adoration,
Themes that poets have refined;
Lyrics fit for celebration
From the heart, the soul, the mind.

 Giver of the gift of singing,
Music may become our aim;
So that worship fails to move us,
And we find ourselves to blame.

 When our gifts obscure the Giver,
When, forgetting You, we’re proud,
Then our sliver sounds are silenced,
And the stones much cry aloud!

Giver of the gift of singing,
You invented such delight;
Thank You for the music makers,
Those who sing and play and write.

 For we join the host of heaven,
Though we cannot hear their song,
Moving nearer to the moment
When we’ll join that perfect throng!

 Bryan Jeffery Leech links see here:

For a great look at the inspiration for one of Leech’s pieces, see here.  It’s worth the click! 

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Hosting Solana Beach Choir This Weekend (Feb. 11-12)

We are looking forward to sharing worship with a sister choir, from Solana Beach Presbyterian Church (, led by Dan Bird (, scroll down).  Dan is an accomplished choral conductor and composer, leading through music as much as through being a pastor to musicians.  Did I mention he is incredibly funny, sometimes a rehearsal will stop completely because everyone is laughing!  Dan was on the staff of Lake Avenue Church and so holds a special place in our hearts.

 There is a certain frisson in the air when church musicians gather.  We share our love and dependence on the Lord Jesus AND musical ability.  The practiced art of integrating the Kingdom of God with embodied expressions of praise creates a deep sense of community.

We will have a dinner and combined rehearsal Saturday evening, beginning at 5:00 pm, today Feb. 11, and lead together in worship Sunday February 12 at the 9 and 11 am services.

Do come for any and all of these lived expressions of worship!

We will try to live blog these events….stay tuned!

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Mark Hayes Interview

Mark Hayes ( is a special guest of the Brehm Center and Fred Bock Institute of Music worship weekend this Saturday February 11 and Sunday February 12.  Saturday is a full day of discussions, with Mark and others, around the theme of “Forming hearts, creating art” (link: 

We sing a number of Mark Hayes’ compositions; they are challenging and fun!  He is a prolific composer and encourager of church musicians.  He has a heart for bringing different worship styles together and for creating beautiful music for all types of audiences.  Mark was kind enough to participate in an email interview just for the LAC Choir Blog! 

LAC:  I find it interesting that you chose to add a children’s chorus to “Immortal, Invisible”, a piece commissioned for the Festival.  When I was a child, singing this hymn, the words and feelings seemed inaccessible to me, indicating a remote and “adult” God.  Surely, this God was not available to a child.  Could you elaborate a bit on your decision to include children and what you see their role is in this declaration of God’s nature?

Mark:  Ed [director of the Fred Bock Institute of Music] pointed me toward, “Immortal, Invisible” as the commission piece because that hymn fit into his grand design for the festival. He asked me to include children in the piece because they have traditionally been a part of the festival. I’m a big advocate of children learning hymn tunes and texts. Even though the text seems a bit esoteric for kids, I think it could stimulate a great discussion about the nature of God. Some of the adjectives like “immortal” and “invisible” and “light inaccessible” almost sound like qualities of a super power that kids would see in the movies or on TV. You could talk about how God is like or unlike their favorite super power. Since God is both transcendent and personal, you could figure out a way to explain those qualities in kid friendly terms. It’s never too early to teach sound theology to kids in a way that makes sense to them.  [AMEN!]

LAC:  Your mission statement, “to create beautiful music for the world”, is great—succinct, yet gestures toward some of our age’s significant issues with a transcendent God.  It seems as though one of the remaining places for Christian and non-Christian to connect is around the concept of beauty.  How has this mission statement opened, or closed, doors to you and your compositions?

Mark:  I’ve been invited to write for church choirs, community choruses, educational institutions and individuals. I don’t think my mission statement has closed any doors for me. If anything those doors are wide open. I am turning down writing opportunities because I don’t have enough time.  Everyone responds to beauty, which, of course, is quite subjective. I believe I get requests to write because people respect the excellence and creativity I put into all my work. Everything I write doesn’t appeal to everyone, but hopefully they sense the spark of the Spirit that is in my work. I write what I perceive to be beautiful and trust that it will resonate with the world.

LAC:  You have a passion for training church musicians, creating pedagogical materials and working with students.  How do you see the newer keyboard technologies (e.g., MIDI, composing as you go, ability to add rhythm/other sounds to a piece) as changing or expanding the role of a church pianist/accompanist?  Has this changed your approach to training church musicians?

Mark:  I use my Clavinova to input music using Finale music notation software. I play a digital piano at church for a Wednesday service, for which I am the musical director. Beyond that, I don’t use other newer keyboard technologies because I haven’t made learning them a priority. With the busyness of my life, I’ve had to prioritize how I will spend my time. I’ve written some piano collections that use tracks and will be starting another project this spring with accompaniment tracks. I look forward to providing more music for keyboardists who play synths and digital keyboards. I know that many of the new organs that are installed have MIDI sounds in addition to the traditional pipes. What used to be the bastion of traditionalism, the organ console, is now bridging the gap between contemporary and traditional. I applaud that.

LAC:  Where do you sense the Lord Jesus is leading you in the coming years, either as an artist or musician?  How would you describe Jesus’ calling on your life today?

Mark:  I feel a strong leading to continue to write choral, instrumental and vocal music for the church. I am feeling led to create music that bridges the gap between churches that are philosophically diverse, to create music that uses inclusive language for God, that encourages unity of spirit and promotes harmony between all faiths, even those outside Christianity. As a composer I look forward to writing more major works for chorus and orchestra. The next major writing project on my agenda is a Requiem. I will conduct the world premiere at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on May 27, 2013. I had the opportunity to travel to Sydney, Australia, Cape Town, South Africa and Seoul, South Korea within the last 6 months, where I concertized on the piano, presented my choral music, taught private lessons and led workshops.  God is opening many doors for me to teach and share what I know about improvisation, composition and arranging. I look forward to doing more of that and have received invitations to teach internationally. I teach a 10 week course at my church on spiritual principles for living, which has nothing to do with music per se. However I am receiving many opportunities to combine my love and knowledge of music with my passion for teaching spiritual principles that help us live the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

LAC:  I can’t resist a question about Kansas City barbeque—are you a fan of the sweeter sauces from Kansas City?  Or are you a North Carolina tangy sauce fan?  Maybe you have your own recipe?  

Mark:  I have no barbeque recipes of my own. I’m a fan of the sweeter sauces from KC. I’ve traveled enough to taste the North Carolina versions and they are all good, but I’d have to go with my hometown flavors. My favorite among the many sauces and barbeque restaurants here is KC Masterpiece.

 Thank you, Mark Hayes, for a delightful peek into the process of composition and your mission.  May the Lord Bless you and keep you as you share beauty with others!

Here is the link to the Festival on Sunday:

 Do check out these links!

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Week 3 Journey to the Festival

I strap on my seatbelt for the wild ride of rehearsal. John suddenly stops in the middle of singing “It is well with my soul”, with a jarring question:  “What does it feel like when things are not well with your soul?”  Swiftly come the answers:  angry, crabby, worried, anxious, depressed, nervous.  We know with clarity and immediacy these feelings of unease.  Very different feelings from those we are singing about:  peace, calm, joy. 

No-one can sing “It is well with my soul” in an authentic way, as a true offering to God, if we cannot identify both feelings of unease and feelings of peace in our lives.  Done as an offering in worship, the music will be a blend of our feelings of peace and worry.  It is no accident that sounds rise, just as the smoke of sacrifices and prayers rise to the Eternal Throne.  The opportunity for us to offer these mixtures of peace and anxiety up to God is transformative; we can become different people through an honest expression of feelings to God Almighty–transforming crabby-ness into warmth, anger into peace. 

Is this a journey to a Festival or a sudden experience of trading those “not well” feelings for feelings of joy?

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Week 2 Journey to the Festival

Rehearsals are definitely intense, as we move swiftly from one song to another.  John jokes, informing the visitors (January is “come try the choir” month) that the rehearsals are not usually so intense!  That elicits quite the guffaw from the choir.  But he is right…partly.

Festival preparation involves trusting oneself fully to the conductor’s sense of what needs to be done.  We see glimpses of each song—rehearse one phrase in one song, then practice the entire melody of another, and on we go.  Some pieces we analyze measure by measure, without piano accompaniment or singing, marking tricky moments with pencil.  All this music just doesn’t  add up—yet.  What will the Festival itself look like?  What is the major theme?  What is to be accomplished?  These are all great UN-answered questions.

Which is where the faith in the conductor comes in.  John warns us that we will just not feel comfortable with all the pieces until Festival day.  Transitions may seem unfamiliar, chord structures alien, but in truth, we will be ready.  Our faith in John is reciprocated by John’s faith in us.  He will prepare us and we will be prepared–maybe not to our comfort level.

Sounding familiar?  Well, it sounds a lot like how we have to live—placing complete faith in The Conductor, that Jesus knows us and will prepare us for big things, small things, all things in our lives.  God, in turn, invests enormously in us, ordinary humans who can excel, can overcome the world.

As long as we keep our eyes glued to Jesus.  Or the conductor.

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Journey to the Festival: January 5 Thursday Rehearsal

The first rehearsal back after Christmas break is a little like coming back to school after a FABulous summer.  During Christmas break, there were no 8 am Sunday call times, no sudden panic as you realized that you didn’t really know your part (what was that note?)  To soften the return, we want to be gently led by the smooth waters, slowly returning to the rigors of shaping tones and watching for cut-offs.

 Imagine our surprise when we discover, over the next six (6) rehearsals (from Jan. 5 to Feb. 9), we will be learning 18 new songs for a festival of worship on February 12 (  Eighteen??  And we are jogging through 14 pieces tonight!  No gentle beginnings here….

 Off we go into unfamiliar melodies, lots of words (and not so much time to say it all), wonderfully complex music.  Looking closely at the scores, it begins to dawn:  Many of these pieces are commissioned for the Festival.  The music is freshly composed!  Some pieces were published in 2011!

 We are blessed to have local composers who are working right alongside of the choral musicians.  They are producing glorious pieces to magnify our Lord, to give new glimpses of what it means to be living the with-God life. 

 Come along on the journey, as we whoosh through rehearsals to fully embody this music as an offering to God on Feb. 12.

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