June 3, 2020

Prepare to Sing Again

Things are beginning to move. Scotland has begun its cautious approach to easing us out of lockdown. It is probably reasonable to expect that local churches will be able to resume meeting together, in phased capacities, over the next six months or so. 

Therefore, now is a good time for us as musicians—instrumentalists and singers—to start preparing to resume serving our churches in leading, accompanying, and facilitating congregational singing. So what can we do now to prepare?

Prepare Well 

I am planning a series of very practical articles over the next few weeks and months for instrumentalists and singers specifically for our 20schemes churches and church-planting teams. My aim is to use my experiences over the years to help and encourage you to be able to serve your local congregation well, and also to think through how you can be a good steward with your God-given gifts.

I am the music co-ordinator at 20schemes. However, my musical background is not in Christian music, which I regard as a good thing (I’ll explain that later). I grew up going to church, where congregational singing was nice and simple. It was usually one old lady on an upright piano facing the wall, last line of the chorus as an intro or last line of the verse if there wasn’t a chorus. ‘Bob’s your Uncle, Fanny’s your Aunt’. Standard church music.

My Music Background

Meanwhile, I really got into music—started with piano lessons, then drum lessons. The drums were my main instrument, and as a teenager all I wanted to do was be a top session player. People would tell me I had potential and I practiced for hours and hours. I studied under some top, well regarded tutors—a perk of growing up just outside London—including Jon Duff, a drum instructor at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) who had a weekly tutorial page in ‘Rhythm Magazine’.

In the late 90’s I was also doing a two year popular music course at college, learning the practical elements involved in playing in a band, rehearsals, recording, etc. and making lifelong friends—a number of whom are now highly regarded professional musicians in London. This course was taught by Mike Goodman, also from the ACM, who had a 10-year run as a weekly contributor to Guitarist Magazine.

We were all gigging the pubs and clubs around where we lived years before we were legally able to order a pint. I then went on to join the band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines where, on completion of basic training, I studied orchestral percussion, along with music theory and big band and jazz—all under top London music professors and performers. I attended clinics and masterclasses whilst gigging regularly in different bands.

In 2003, I was drafted up to the band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Scotland, based in Rosyth, where I spent the next six years performing in the UK’s biggest concert venues and travelling the world performing at some amazing and iconic events. During this time, I also began composing and having my music performed. At the same time, I was networking in the pubs and clubs and joined a number of different local bands gigging in Fife and Edinburgh as well as one amazing night in the Cavern in Liverpool (where The Beatles started out). I have taught drums privately on and off for over 10 years, and recently completed a four year BA (hons) in popular music at Edinburgh Napier University.

God’s Mercy and Grace

As I think back on all this stuff, I have nothing but thankfulness for the experiences I’ve had. Yet, for most of those years, I lived indifferent to God and His Word. I actively tried to ignore my conviction of sin, choosing instead to pursue it like a drug.

All those years of gigging in pubs and travelling the world, living out of a suitcase and a different hotel or military base every night, brought many real temptations, several of which I indulged in. Yet God, in His grace and mercy, preserved me and brought me to repentance and faith in Him. Now I am excited to be able to share with you, through the many experiences I have had as a working musician, some ideas and tips as to how you can develop as an instrumentalist and/or singer in your own local scheme church.

These articles will be fun (hopefully) and I pray they will be helpful. I will be writing them to be suitable for complete beginners as well as for more proficient players. While they will be very practical, we will also be looking at what the Bible has to say about skill, gifting, willingness to serve, right attitudes in how we serve, along with the more generic instructions in God’s Word concerning singing in our local churches. 

I will also be promoting the simple importance of a love of music. If you sing or play out the front at church, you should really love doing it. It should be genuinely enjoyable. I hope these articles will convince you that is actually a good thing. 

I have created a playlist on our 20schemes music YouTube channel.

These are specific instructional ideas and methods I’ve found just this week as well as some videos of some top players playing your specific instrument. I hope they will help to inspire you to want to learn and want to improve and develop your God-given gifts. These playlists will change and grow as I find better content. 

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully, and shout for joy.

Psalm 33:1–3

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