at last night's labyrinth at grace chris read dreamed up the idea of music out of the ground - at various points headphones were there to stop and listen. ipods (in plastic bags) were buried in the ground with a track set to loop. in fact all the ipods were playing variations on the same track - cello, guitar, vocal, spoken word. they were from a forthcoming ep that chris and harry baker are putting together of contemplative poetry/soulful music combinations - watch out for it on proost later this summer. anyway it's about time for a worship trick - so this is no 52 series 4. steve has a photo set here
the design of the labyrinth is the one at ealing common by mark wallinger
if you are planning ahead for easter have a look at proost's resources for easter. there's some classics there and a few new things.
on the subject of new it's wonderful to have a new artist or two on proost - steve leach (who is also training on the cms pioneer course) has an ep gardens with three electronic tracks responding to the three gardens of eden, gethsemane and paradise.
restless: evening prayer for restless hearts also looks and sounds really beautiful - from tim snyder and aaron strumpel - both also new on proost! the sample track on this page is quite amazing...
happy new year anyone and everyone who follows the blog (or facebook or twitter where posts also flow)!
i actually really love new year - it's a time to reflect and look back. in our house for several years now we have had a meal at some point over the new year season with friends and/or family that contains bitter/sweet and discussed the year's bitter and sweet moments and then shared hopes and dreams for the year ahead. last night's bitter/sweet was kicked off with an amaretto sour which was a new take on bitter sweet and we had a fabulous evening with friends. overall the balance of the year for all of us was more sweet than bitter.
highlights for me were definitely an 8 day silent retreat, massive attack at manchester international festival, holidays, a visit to s korea, seeing the tour de france last stage on the champs d'elysees, and i simply love the work i do training pioneers, and it was year of wonderful music largely thanks to mary anne hobbs, gilles petersen and craig charles on bbc 6music - i think i listened to pretty much every show of theirs through the year thanks to the wonders of iplayer.
i am really looking forward to the year ahead - i start a new job today officially as mission education director at cms, which will be continuing much of what i do already but developing it wider and helping lead cms. before christmas it was announced that there will be a couple of other new director posts advertised in the new year so i will be part of quite a new team.
and i can't wait for joel and kat's wedding later this year - wow!
one of the sweet things of the year for me and mike was mary anne hobbs - this was the cause of quite a bit of banter last night round the table and jen even tweeted mary anne hobbs about it who was kind enough to reply! but at the risk of more banter here's what i love:
it's all about the music - mary anne hobbs is passionate about music. her passion is infectious, she's always enthusiastic, full of gratitude and love for musicians and listeners. you get a sense of her passion in this TEDx talk where she tells some of her story of pursuing her own love of music. i love music - it's been so much a part of the landscape of my life capturing feelings, moods, moments, longings. i have listened to music, written music, recorded music. there's just something about it - music is soulful, inspirational, healing even. i was thinking about gil scott heron's track lady day and john coltrane which opens with these words that capture how music can do that
Ever feel kinda down and out, you don't know just what to do--
Livin' all of your days in darkness let the sun shine through--
Ever feel that somehow, somewhere, you've lost your way--
And if you don't get help quick you won't make it through the day--
Could you call on Lady Day,
Could you call on John Coltrane
Now ‘cause they'll
They'll wash your troubles
Your troubles your troubles
Your troubles away!
then it's not just any music that is played - but the kind of music i love. of course this is about shared taste which is so subjective. but i had forgotten before mary anne started her breakfast show at the start of 2013 that it is possible to have music you like on radio that is not in the middle of the night. what is that kind of music? some music critics talk about the unpopular popular and that describes it pretty well. where else will you hear burial on a breakfast show, jon hopkins, kate tempest or erik b and rakim?!
it's also a delightful blend of the old and the new that gets played. she knows her archives and is able to pull out and play lots of great tunes spanning hip hop, electronic, experimental, alternative, soul and so on. she's a very similar age to me so i recognise and inhabit the tradition, but alongside that she is always dropping something surpising and new - it's very unusual to have a week where i don't scribble down a tune to follow up. this year for example she has introduced me to the likes of vondelpark, archie pelago, george ezra and loves to remind us that she was the first to play james blake on radio! this quest for the new and discovering how people are breaking open the tradition in creative ways is delightful - and it actually cuts across 6music as a whole - gilles petersen is a master at this as well. she has a wonderful imagination and looks at the world with fresh eyes and see new possibilities with a great openness. i train pioneers who are starting new things and mary anne is definitely a pioneer.
and lastly she likes to get below the surface. her series of epiphanies are interviews with a whole range of musicians and people involved in the arts and the wider cultural space. of course some are better than others but she loves to mine and probe what they are thinking and dreaming in the production of culture. after the manchester massive attack gig it was so interesting to hear her interviews with robert del naja and adam curtis where her question 'are we really free?' provoked the thought about being stuck in our own yesterday.
so happy new year everyone and especially mary anne hobbs and everyone at 6music who have made me fall in love with music all over again (not that i fell out of love with it)!
in our twentieth year in grace we are revisiting some old themes in a new playful way. last night's grace was a rework of communion by numbers. in the original, a liturgy was followed through by opening a sequence of envelopes around tables in a cafe style and following through a service together. the twist this time round was that each table needed to follow the hashtag #XmasByNos on twitter and instructions arrived via phone or ipad. it worked wonderfully well. and it was particularly amazing to have a few people joining in at the same time from other parts of the world. if you follow the hashtag you can see the instructions, link to some photos, see the tunes played and rework the service yourself.
at the bottom of this post here there are links to the various prayers used including a eucharistic prayer for christmas. i wasn't involved in the planning - it's always fun to arrive at a grace not knowing what is going to happen...
i am making it worship trick 46 in series 4
at grace last night i was asked to create a playlist. the service was tweeted and i kept updating tunes i was playing, but a few people asked for the list so here it is. please add your own suggestions in a comment (and no christmas naffness please!)... (and i am making this a worship trick - no 45 series 4). i will blog separately about the service.
FACT magazine silent night electronic mix from 2009
Elements Of Light - Photon
Always Waiting - Michael Kiwanuke
Believe in Me - Colonel Red
Center Your Love - Machinedrum
Oh Spirit Animate Us - Dr Dee
Power of God - Jaimeo Brown
Digital Pilgrimz - Chronicles In My Soul (this is the latest from Grace's very own Matt - available on itunes here )
Silent Night - Nathan Fake
Dreams Today - Efterklang
Gabriel's Call - Dubh
Blackout - Heights of Abraham
Story of Light - William Orbit
Gabriel - Roy Davis jnr
Gabriel - Lamb
O Come O Come Emmanuel - Sufjan Stevens
Angel - Massive Attack
Nothing To Be afraid Of - Lazyboy
Let Your Light shine - The Relatives
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down - Robert Plant
The Creator Has A Masterplan - Routine
Masterplan - Diane Browne and Barrie K Sharpe
Prince of Peace - Galliano
Stoned Together - Kruder and Dorfmeister
Jesus is For Losers - Calamateur
Overdose of the Holy Ghost - Clark Sisters
Jesus Gonna Be Here - 5 Blind Boys of Alabama
Fourtet - For These Times
Cody Chesnutt - Til I met Thee
thanks to david derbyshire who has set up a spotify playlist of the tunes that are available on spotify here
un-reroute the river
let the dam water be
there are some people down the way who are thirsty
so let the liquid spirit free
the people are thirsty ‘cause of man’s unnatural hand
watch what happens when the people catch wind of water hitting the banks, that hard dry land’
anyone remember the series of worship tricks on this blog? i haven't posted one for ages. it's not that i have stopped being interested in things that are soulful and evoke worship creatively. it's just been a busy few years so i have had less time!
anyway i have heard this tune liquid spirit by gregory porter on the craig charles funk and soul show a few times now over the last couple of months and his album was finally released this week. (i also loved his tune earlier this year - 1960 what). i sometimes think that alt worship and indeed me personally find it easier to create worship out of the melancholic stuff of life - a lot of the best art comes from that place. but it's wonderful to come across something occasionally that is simply infused with joy and hope. so bang this tune on and be uplifted! i have no idea what porter has in mind in writing this lyric. i expect it to get added to grace's playlist at least! here he is in action...
adam curtis and robert del naja were interviewed last night on bbc 6music by mary anne hobbs. the full interview was aired on stuart maconie's freak zone. it will be up on iplayer for the week and begins at about 44mins in. parts of it were also aired on mary anne hobbs breakfast shows on sat and sun.
one of the questions mary anne hobbs asks adam curtis is are we really free?
in response he suggests that the issue he is trying to explore in the film is how power works, how it pervades our lives - not just through westminster but through popular culture. one of the examples he gives is the feedback loops that are going on around us all the time thorugh computers - you like this so you'll like that. we've probably got so used to it now that we don't think about it. we're continually being given what we liked yesterday.
he suggests that the idea of the film/experience was to pull back like a helicopter to enable people to stop and see this static managed world (what he calls the pervasive ideology of our time). and he then muses whether we are really free?.. we're free to have what they think you like. is that freedom? it's a kind of static or limited freedom where you are stuck in your own yesterday!
i thought this was such a good line - stuck in your own yesterday. it's back to the previous post in some ways - with this approach to reality ideas and possibilities that are new will never emerge - they will be perceived as risky, unprovable, unmeasurable, and a threat. yet when we are stuck precisely what we need is this genuine kind of newness.
[update: thanks to laura for the link to this letter to massive attack and adam curtis]
last night i went to see massive attack with adam curtis at manchester international festival. i am really glad i came up. it was quite an extraordinary experience. i had alt worship envy - it was an industrial feel to the building with 11 of the largest screens imaginable from floor to ceiling - a totally immersive visual environment. massive attack were playing a soundtrack behind one of the screens. anyone thinking it was a usual massive attack gig would have been disappointed - there was one massive song and the rest were covers. but it was all about the film - everything is going according to plan. it roamed through cultural footage over the last 50 years weaving global narratives that unmask many of the paradigms or worldviews of that era. if it had a weakness it was almost too evangelistic! i wish i had had a notebook to jot down many of the themes but wanted to just soak it up. in the best sense of the word it was prophetic, evoking grief and shaking the numbness and ways we get used to business as usual. empires were crumbling as we watched, the gods of the age found wanting. i really hope it will come out as a film - we will definitely watch it on the pioneer training. it was a bit bleak and the offer of redemption at the end was simply saying that you can change things, that there are other possibilities (which was great to be reminded of!).
the theme that particularly got me thinking was what was described as 'managing reality' - how in the wider culture with fear of the future the logic turned to safety and trying to manage and control everything. it so reminded me of the church and even trends in the charity sector. i will probably come back to this when i think about it a bit further but the parallels are there.
i have said for many years that art and prophecy are close friends. this was another reminder - go and see it if you have a chance. for anyone involved in alt worship go and immerse yourself in the environment and be envious!
amazing glastonbury coverage from the bbc - not so much the presenters on highlights shows who can be somewhat annoying but the iplayer and iplayer radio apps, the bbc glastonbury web site and of course 6music. between them you can watch any stage live but also rewatch any act's extended highlights - scroll down here to see a list of videos from acts. i really hope they will be up for a while rather than the usual ridiculously short seven days. so far i have loved alt j, chic, elvis costello, local natives, primal scream... i tend to listen to music while cooking - i need to do a lot of cooking to get through all these acts!
[update - all the bands are on iplayer until the end of july...]
loving this year so far for music. bbc 6 music especially gilles petersen, craig charles and mary anne hobbs shows have become weekly essential listens. but the delights of the year so far include the likes of these artists some of whom have albums out, and some on the way
so what are you listening to?
yes that's probably a true statement but it's also the latest album from the reverend jon birch! i don't know if you caught it earlier this year but jon released an album which took old southern usa gospel samples which are over 90 years old and so out of copyright and created tracks around them. well he enjoyed it so much he has now made two more albums. there is something about gospel music that has such a wide appeal and is joyful and uplifting. the characters he has found include the likes of blind lemon jefferson - what a great name! anyway all that is by way of saying that this world's in a hell of a fix and witness are both available on proost this month. if you are a subscriber you can download them as part of your subscription... enjoy!
bob carlton sent me a link a couple of weeks back to a new video from sigur ros. they have commissioned a series of films to go with the album valteri. this one tied in so perfectly with the wake up theme and service i outlined in the previous blog post i couldn't believe it! we showed this during the communion at the end of the service. i was so hoping that one of the people would open thier eyes towards the end and sure enough...
i absolutely love the music made by dubh. we're really excited this month on proost to have added dubh's latest somnia along with two from the last year or two that we hadn't caught up with gentle sabotage and the insurrection EP. i listen to a lot of instrumental and quite chilled electonic music anyway and jonny's (jonny mecewen that is a.k.a. dubh) is right up there for me. i've been listening to it non stop since i got it. it's emotional and for me has a warmth and a longing in it. I can't quite find the words to describe it - aching, beautiful, haunting. perhaps the title of his firet album fractured broken and beautiful is as good a summary as i can think of. i also think this music makes a great atmosphere for worship/art installation type events. i asked jonny a bundle of questions which you can read here. one was how he thought this music connected with worship to which he replied
Music helps create a mood, gives hints of what is to come. It fills the gaps, creates a coherence, fills awkward silences, or insures that any silences are intentional.I started creating music in the context of ikon, because I had a hunch that, like Lebowski’s rug, it would tie the whole thing together.
we've had a really good year on proost so far - it's always a little unpredictable who is going to come up with what each month but we are definitely on a roll. if you subscribe which is only £60 for a year you get access to the whole back catalogue and new content each month. we'll be reviewing the price later this year and putting it up a bit as it's been that since we relaunched a few years back. but for the time being the price remains the same and if you subscribe you will be able to access all of dubh's music as part of that (and as ever it's available as individual items).
the creators of the original big chill festival have a new festival nova festival in the south downs from 5-8 july. i don't think i can make it. the big chill festival was bought by a bigger organisation and pretty quickly lost the wonderful vibe of the oriiginal festival so it's great to see something new landing...
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where i come across creative ideas, liturgies, movies, music tracks, service outlines or anything that strikes me, i add them as worship tricks. i started these in april 2002 when i first began blogging and they have built up over the years so that i am now on the third series. this has proved a pretty popular feature of the blog.