Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saddleback Conference, Day 4

The final day of the conference was compressed since it more or less ended mid-day with a beach gathering and bonfire at Huntington Beach later that evening. I don't know how well it was attended, and as you would expect on the last day, the attendance began to dwindle as many had to catch flights home.

Emily and I went to Alva Copeland's "Transforming Singers into Outstanding Servants." It was outstanding. Some tidbits from her talk:

  • When auditioning vocalists, the first question she asks is, "Did you come to serve?" If you came to sing, this is the wrong ministry!
  • We're looking for servants who can sing, not people who are looking to be seen.
  • Just like the disciples, sitting around looking at each other wondering "which one is the greatest?" instead striving for
  • servant leadership: group of people submitting to each other to achieve something they could not do alone
  • The platform is not for personal affirmation--the cross is for that.
  • No level of importance is attached to an assignment.
  • Nurture the "glad we can be doing something" spirit in the team. Don't ask them to make sacrifices you aren't willing to make.
  • Do not allow the pursuit of excellence to foster or fuel a performance mentality (Quest for perfection). Excellence is more about discipline and sacrifice to give something that was costly to you.
  • Set aside personal gain, abandon personal agenda.
After her session we went and got a burger at the famous "In N Out Burger" fast food chain. And yes, it was a good burger. I checked out of my hotel room and went back to campus where I explored their new "Refinery" building which is supposed to become their youth hangout facility. The building comes complete with skateboarding ramps,

a little place to buy food and chat with your friends,

an incomplete amphitheater,

a basketball court (behind the windows),

a nice view from the outside stairs going to the 2nd floor

and a game room.

From there, I wandered into the in-progress Deliriou5? concert. I wasn't too interested in hearing them, but I recorded part of their video word-feeding ideas which I thought was clever.

Finally, I met up with The Chapel gang one last time at Laguna Beach where we stood around for a while and tried to figure out where to have dinner.

They left for SNA and I hung out for a while and got some sun-setting pictures before heading off to LAX.

My flight was a 11:55pm departure to Atlanta. It was a four hour flight and I ended up in Atlanta at about 7:00am. I did not sleep well. I think I maybe got a total of two and a half hours. I was real conscientious of the guy next to me for some reason. Anyway, I slept more on the plane on the way from ATL to RDU. I don't remember the take off and when I woke up we were beginning our descent.

It was a great conference--it has been a treat to get to go there because you are surrounded by people just like you. My plea again will be for members of my staff and members of our volunteer team to be able to take it in together. There will be infinitely more musical benefit for us as a ministry and staff than yet another trip to NAB.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Saddleback Conference, Day 3

It is very difficult to articulate the choked up feeling you get when you hear hundreds, really over a thousand voices lifting up worship with a song that is so simple, yet so well written. Such was my experience earlier today with Paul Baloche with his song "Your Name." Baloche as much as anyone seemed to understand and appreciate his audience. He led and was led by the wall of three part sound coming back at him from an enthusiastic crowd. One thing about this conference, it never lacks for worship participation nor enthusiasm. Pictures or video will never do justice, but here are some pictures of the hour we had together,

as well as the "room," completely engaged.

In a short time he encouraged worship teams, worship leaders, and spoke from the vantage point of one who knows exactly how challenging it can be to do what we do, but his words of encouragement from scripture and prayers were challenging and uplifting.

The workshop sessions today were an hour and a half each. The first one I attended was entitled "Church 2.0" which dealt with using 2.o web as an asset to not only connect our congregations and teams, but our communities and the unlimited scope of the internet gives us tools to reach the whole world. There was a lot of great content and the session was taught by Greg Atkinson, who is finishing a book of the session title.

A couple of websites of interest discussed in this session were
The next session I attended was taught mostly by Carlos Whittaker. He talked about how he used 2.0 tools to manage his team. In particular how he "cheated time" by keeping connected with people and what they're thinking through blogging and Twitter. He said he hardly ever communicates with people by email anymore. He has his team sign up for a twitter account, encourages blogging, has everyone share a account, share their devotional thoughts through youversion, and encourages all of them to be on Facebook so that they have a way of staying in instant and tight contact.

There was a lot of information given in these two sessions and a lot to digest, and a lot ot process practically and philosophically. It was a great day of learning for me and I'm excited to see what kinds of things I can do to implement some of these things for our team.

The evening concerts were big. Big Daddy Weave sang the first hour,

and Kirk Franklin led the second half. Everybody should experience a Franklin concert at least once. It was high-energy but well balanced. Great singers and players-the keyboard harmonies were so cool--someday I'll learn how to play like that! Best quote of the evening from KF "I didn't fly all this way just to do Stomp!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saddleback Conference, Day 2

This busy day began with a general worship session, that began with none other than Psalty. If you don't know Psalty, you probably didn't grow up in the 80's. The time ended with a group and pastor from Destiny World Church in Atlanta. They had a lot of energy. I think that is an understatement.

After our break at 10:30, we regrouped in the worship center for a worship concert with Nathan and Christy Nockels. They were great. It sounds like they have a lot going on as they are literally moving from Nashville to Atlanta this week.

The lunch break featured the usual live music around campus. First there was the Saddleback team doing some gospel tunes in a little amphitheater area, then there was the fusion jazz going on in another area. They weren't afraid to run that one loud, and Rick was prepared with ear plugs.

The rest of the afternoon were spent in workshops. The first one I attended was about improving your church's vocal team. Some of it was stuff I had heard before and things I think we practice pretty well, about being on time, being prepared as a leader to help your team be prepared, hedging and confronting pride issues, etc. The workshop ended with Tim Davis showing us how they do their vocal charts. He uses the Nashville number system. As you can see below, this system codifies parts and pitches, but does nothing for rhythms. He dictates the rhythm and then rehearses each part. The numbers represent the scale degrees. We spent some time learning this little tune.

Reasons he mentioned for using this method for their vocal teams: 1) many people can't read music, and those who can, can't read the rhythms anyway 2) he can make the chart quickly 3) he doesn't have to pound out the parts on the piano. In response to my question about transitioning people who are already used to reading notes and rhythms to this system, he responded by saying, in essence, if the team already knows how to read notes and rhythms, then don't move them, and oh, if you can find the charts with the rhythms and parts on it, then great. I think we'll be ok.

The next session I went to was a session on maximizing Ableton Live in your worship services. This was an esoteric workshop that was lightly attended, but helpful, even though it was sponsored by a vendor offering his performance tracks. The tracks they sell are actual studio tracks that are used on regular recordings (Israel, Baloche, Tomlin, etc), so you literally have the guitar, loop, pad, fxs, drum tracks, even backing vocal tracks that you can play (along with click) to fill in the spots you don't have. Pretty slick.

The last session I went to was pretty good, but it was too elementary for my experience. I am not an experienced B3 player, but I was hoping to learn more than what this class offered, which was stuff I already knew. It was nice, however, because it was set up as a lab and we all got to play along and watch what he was doing through his little camera projected on the wall.

The evening concert featured Jadon Lavik, who played and sang all of his songs with just his guitar--no band. He was excellent. Great writer and singer.

The Saddleback team presented an entire arts package, which was also excellent, centered around the American church's complacency regarding social injustices around the world, from human trafficking to AIDS in Africa. My favorite moment of the night was the Selah arrangement, which they did in the weekend services of I Bless Your Name.

After the concert, I went with my Chapel friends to the Cheesecake Factory for fun and, of course, cheescake.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saddleback Conference, Day 1

The day did not hold a lot of events for us. We really took it easy today, after going to the gym of course! We went to Laguna Beach and ate lunch,

got our toes wet in the Pacific,

and tried to keep from getting knocked over by sudden waves at apparently high tide.

We found The Chapel gang at registration and went in for a concert, featuring Adam Watts, Meredith Andrews and Leeland. Meredith was great. Here is one of her songs.

After the concert, there was some great jazz out on the plaza held together by Tony Guerrero. Here is their performance of Blue Monk. The guitar solo is particularly good.

It's been another late day--meeting time begins at 8:30 and I'm still going to try to get a good leg workout in early in the morning!

Monday, June 23, 2008

SoCal adventure, Day 3

Today we had a busy day. We have visited three churches and taken in five services in a little over 24 hours! It has been great to see how various churches "do church" and hear how other churches experience similar positive and negative issues from a musical and technical standpoint as we do at Providence.

We started our morning back at Saddleback where I went to the gospel style "Praise" service and Kenton attended the high octane "Overdrive" service. In the Praise service, they covered a couple of the Israel Houghton songs. Here is a little snippet of the service:

One of my disappointments about being away from home this weekend is that I was going to miss Joel and Sonia's version of "When I Think About the Lord." Well, I was fortunate to hear it covered congregationally at this service. A great sound!

A couple of quick observations.
  • There were a total of four songs in the opening.
  • Buddy Owen's sermon included some worship time at the end so I'm betting they did that today as well (we didn't stay for the whole thing).
  • They had another B-3 in this venue.
  • It appeared that the sermon was the 4:30 service from Saturday was the one they used in the outside venues all day.
  • The "welcoming pastor" spent a good deal of time inviting the congregation to thank-by-applause the members of the band and the vocal team and the choir, some specifically by name. I don't know if that was the norm.
  • Saddleback does a good job of welcoming people coming onto their sprawling campus.
  • It was interesting that with the venues spread out across campus, when the music your venue was done, you could often hear and feel the pulsating music from another venue.
  • Across the campus the venues focused on a theme, but did not necessarily contain the same songs. Each venue leader appeared to be allowed, maybe even encouraged to plan a service that matched the overarching weekend theme in the language of its venue.
After our time at Saddleback for the 9:00 services, we took off for Mariner's Church to take in their 11:00 service. This seems like a nice church. The whole courtyard area is set up for kids. Not sure if this picture shows all the beach balls and toys out in the lawn area, but I wanted to run out there and play.

The music was led by a band, song leader playing acoustic guitar, electric, bass, drums, keyboard, violin, and two female singers. The song selection featured a couple of hymn reworkings for band (Great is Thy Faithfulness and one other well-known one that I've forgotten), along with You Are Holy (Prince of Peace), and Heart of Worship.

The presentation looked nice, the worship leader was a little elementary-school singing some of his instructions which felt weird to me for some reason, but seemed likable and enthusiastic. The pastor's name is Kenton, which Kenton seemed to think was cool.

This was the church's version of laying hands on people during a dedicatory prayer for their VBS teachers for the week.

They must do it often because people didn't need much instruction on what to do. I just thought it was interesting. There was an overflow area we discovered that was pretty full, multiple flat screens carrying the service. I don't know what to say about the 45 minutes we spent there. It seems like a nice church--I don't know what I was expecting, but from a musical standpoint, from an engaging standpoint, it was kind of underwhelming. Of course, I had just come from a high-energy gospel style service to a small-sound presentation, but still, I was hoping for a little more on the musical side.

After this service we ran up to Dodger Stadium where we sat and watched the Indians play the Dodgers. The bad news was it was 94 degrees. The good news is our seats were in the shade from the overhang of the section above us. The bad news is, the Indians lost the game. The good news is, they won the series. The final score was 4-3. Paul Byrd was rocky in the first inning and gave up all four runs before the first out was made. The team never recovered.

I think Casey grounded out on this at bat, but a run still scored.

After the game, we drove a couple miles up the road to the 6:00 service at Mosaic Church. This church was in downtown L.A. It meets in a nightclub known as the Mayan Theater.

Erwin McManus is the pastor. I'm glad we went. It was an interesting experience. The church at this location (they have others spread around town) is geared for the 20-something crowd. They began a series today called "Practical Wisdom" from the first seven verses of Proverbs 1.

Here's what the room looks like. I captured this before the service started.

This band was led by a guy singer playing electric guitar, a female singer who also played Sleigh Bells and Orchestra bells. The drummer played "shieldless," and there was a bass player as well as a rhodes/moog-mod player and an electric violin player.

I think the mix was the best one we heard all day. The guy and girl sounded great and there was a third girl that played the piano (solo) and sang at the end. Also very good.

The songs were not familiar to me. Some seemed original, only on one song did I get a sense of the congregation singing along like they really knew it.

From the moment the doors opened (about 15 minutes before 6:00), a gal was sitting on a little side stage, evidently oblivious to the room. She was creating a thing in photoshop or pagemaker that was projected from her laptop onto an over sized tee-shirt "screen." She finished with it about three quarters of the way through the service (in the middle of the sermon), got up and inconspicuously walked away. No one said anything about her, or about it, pointed it out, etc. Just kinda happened.

McManus was great. After teaching a little bit on Proverbs 1:7, he decided to dispense wisdom by taking specific "what should I do in this situation" questions from the "community" with the help of people on roving microphones. He handled it really well.

This has been a really long day. Kenton has been sawing logs over here since 10:00. We look forward to seeing the rest of the Chapel crew arriving tomorrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

SoCal adventure, Day 2

As a YMCA member, I am entitled to take my local Y card to another community greater than, say 50 miles than where I normally live and use it to get in to another Y where ever I may be visiting. I found close to where I am staying, however, a 24Hour fitness center and discovered that they had a free 7-day pass online. So I printed it out and brought it with me.

Turns out they really only want you to use the free seven day pass thing if you're a local resident. I get it, but "Mark" was kind and decided to give me the pass anyway so I can come in and use the gym over the next several days at no charge--even though I will never be joining that gym.

The place is very impressive. In total square footage, (I believe he said 60,000) larger than the Y I'm used to, and layed out differently. It is a huge rectangle with an upper mezzanine level. There's the group fitness aerobic class behind a glass wall so everyone who comes in can watch, a "pro shop" where you can buy your vitamins and protein shakes, a ton of treadmills, eliptical stuff, and a cycling class room. There's also a basketball court, lap swim lanes, and a spacious weight area, full of all sorts of great machines.

The place was packed and that was probably because it was Saturday morning, but I still had no trouble getting to the equipment I needed for a good shoulder work out. One weird thing, when I got up stairs to the weight area, I saw a sign that said something like "Towels are mandatory, sweat is optional." OK, I thought, where do I get a towel?

I went to the front desk and asked an indifferent employee about this and she told me I had to buy one for $3.25 or bring one from home. Well, since I was already THERE, I decided to just buy one. No complimentary towel service? Weird.

After the workout, I got a sandwich and some guys came in to get some food in this car. I have no idea what it is, but it was very cool!

Kenton changed his plans and came in on a train to the Irvine station, just five minutes from where I'm staying. That worked out real well and it's been great to catch up.

We went to two services at Saddleback. The first, at 4:30, was what they called their "Classic" service and was led by Rick Muchow, a band, a trio, and an orchestra.

The message was great, about Paul and Silas in jail from Acts 16, and was given by Buddy Owens. I have to say, if you go expecting Rick Warren and you get Buddy Owens instead, that's not so bad. He did a great job.

We had planned on going to the "Elevation" service, but found out it was a singles service. It was in a different venue, at 6:30. Despite being married, we decided to sit in the service for the music set and then left once the same sermon we just saw started.

Aside from one song (Selah's I bless your name), the whole worship set was different, but the thematic content was the same. The band was pretty good--your average church band (though I have to say the band at the "classic" service didn't exactly knock my socks off--and I realize I'm being hyper-critical of the pianist who had a hard time with time. Don't we all? The drummer was very solid and in two slow songs, a cut time song and a slow 6/8 held everyone together). Anyway, I'm glad we went to the venue. It was well-equipped. Oh, and both venues had a B-3! How cool is that!?

After the services, we grabbed something to eat and decided to go see Indiana Jones. Let me save you the time. Don't see it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

SoCal adventure, Day 1

I enjoy traveling from east to west. And I don't mean from Capital to Glenwood, I mean from Raleigh to SoCal. The thing about leaving early is that even though you spend what feels like most of the day traveling, once you arrive, you still have plenty of time to do things because of the three hour time change. In my case, I arrived so early, I almost had too much time.

I decided to go spy out some famous streets in North LA, in an area known as Hollywood. Maybe you've heard of it.

I got a couple of pictures of the famous Hollywood(land) sign, but this may have been my best angle.

After spending some time finding a place to park, I stepped out of my rental car (which, by the way, is a red Mustang--truthfully, I don't really care for it) and found myself at Hollywood and Vine in the midst of the "Walk of Fame." I took a few pictures of the stars with names I recognized.

One of the more interesting things about this to me was that this was in an area full of regular stores. Below is a picture of a line of stars along Hollywood Blvd next to a tire store. But this is just a downtown area. The stars continue around Sunset Blvd and several of the connecting streets adjacent to a CVS, a Borders, an auto repair shop, a McDonalds, etc.

Another feature of this area are the homeless people. This caught me off guard as you had a surreal mixture of touresty people like me, taking pictures of the side walk, regular people scurrying from place to place to either shop or go to work, and homeless people asking for change. The whole juxtaposition was not at all what I expected.

The whole reason I hung out in this area of town (not specifically to see the sidewalk, I can assure you) is because I had arranged to meet my cousin, professor Joe at a restaurant. He is teaching at USC in San Bernardino, and teaches mostly Children's Literature. It sounds like he's enjoying it. We had a great time talking about families, interests, and life stories. I was surprised at how similar our interests in understanding things are, but with specialties in different disciplines.

We had decided to meet at Taix French Restaurant on Sunset Blvd. in part because I thought I might go to see the Dodgers play the Indians. We were SO CLOSE to the stadium, but we didn't finish up until after the game started (we were chatting nearly three hours) and I was beat up, having gotten up at 3:50 that morning.

I had about an hour drive down to Orange County where I am staying. It was fun to listen to the legendary Vin Scully call the CLE/LAD game on the radio. He's been their broadcaster since 1950. Once I got back I stayed up a bit, finished the game, discovered I had a full-sized refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, microwave and two stove top burners in my room (it's a Candlewood Suites hotel) so I went and got some food before I went to bed.