There is nothing that represents The musical essence of gospel music better than a B3 Hammond organ. The other night I had the opportunity to work with a few members from our church choir and two other black churches in Nashville. It was a milestone evening for me.
I get very emotional when I see the tension of race in the media. I feel kind of helpless and want to do my part in making a difference. The other night I got that chance. There was an invitation to Bob Farrell, Daniel Bondaczuk and me to premiere a song from a work that we are currently developing.
This song is one of a group of songs about coming together in the multi-cultural biblical unity we share as Christians. This includes tearing down walls of racial disposition, and most certainly includes the importance of not making judgments on others who do not share our beliefs, but to love one another and be light in a world that now finds itself in a tumultuous state.
After we rehearsed, Bob Farrell shot these segments as we worshipped together for about a half hour around the piano, bass, guitar and a beautifully honed B-3 delivered by my friend, the impresario of all things Hammond, Murph Wanca. It was all spontaneous, but everyone was on the same page. I live for moments like these. The Spirit of something like this can’t be rehearsed or replicated… I wanted it to last for days. It’s inexplicably infectious, but you have to be in the midst of it to fully appreciate the energy.
Keesha Rainey led the way and sang her heart out, Maestro Denzel Bester, Shane Cooper, Saiid Lewis and the B-3 stylings of Alton Gibson took us to as close to the throne room as we could get. Delando Smith brought his wonderful choir joining with the Simeon and Judson choirs. Blessings upon blessings!!! All I can tell you is this. Jesus was there.
One other thing. What you see and hear cannot be approximated or purchased at a store. These sounds come from deep deep waters. The music these musicians play and sing was first heard from their mother’s womb and growing up in the church. It is authentic, and comes about like slow cooked ribs. When these believers sing and play, they’re not thinking about notes, because it is as natural to them as drinking a glass of water. They sing with abandon of the faith that is in them. I do too.
As writers, we lay the foundation of the song, but these brothers and sisters bring the work into a cultural reality. They decorate the melody lines and stylize the feel…the soul…and the essence of gospel music. Apart from that, all we can really do is go to school, take notes and stand amazed at the beauty of culture.
Our humanness is life’s common denominator, to yearn for freedom, safety, acceptance and love. Culture is the world’s story expressing those feelings in music, art, dance, architecture, systems, customs and traditions. They are unique, and those differences are one of God’s most beautiful gifts to us.
(I speak for me, and me only in these next sentences. I know there are many people with varying views on religious or non-religious beliefs.)
Love at best can only be recommended. Hate only tempered. Whether by prescription or law, society struggles with both. My personal belief is that Jesus Christ gives me the ability to love, because in and of myself, I am incapable of the love He requires. When I listen to His voice, His love is at my disposal. When I don’t, ugliness raises its head. Faith is not just about living eternally, it is in part, about intentionally caring for the needs of the poor, orphans, widows… and seeking justice in the here and now as well. I believe in the constructs of the Bible. It is what has seen me through great difficulties in my life, and is the essence of the music I write.
I may be 71, but I keep looking for new friends, new opportunities, and my pursuit and participation in all of this endeavor is ongoing. This is no one-time deal.