Category Archives: musical styles

Thoughts on producing Badminton Road’s first EP

It was nearly a year ago when I had the privilege of leading the band for our College Graduation service. Most of us had sung and played before with each other during chapels and conferences. Apart from serving together at college, we’d have not much in common!

But when we ran through this arrangement of “Crown Him With Many Crowns” for the first time, I had a sense that there was something a bit special about this band. In His kindness, since then we’ve had a year of wonderful opportunities to glorify God’s name and encouraging His people as a college band (Badminton Road).

I’m happy to report that we’re releasing an EP next Friday, 22 November – six songs from our Croydon community. You can pre-order/pre-save on BandCamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and other digital platforms soon. And once exams and our last days of College are over (yay!), we’ll get to work on charts, lyric videos, song stories, and other helpful resources.

There’s all kinds of stories we could share of God’s incredible provision to make this EP happen – from last-minute donations, perfectly timed schedules, grace to solve band disagreements, unexpected ability to sing difficult parts, and non-Christians who watched us depend on God again and again. But for now, I thought I’d share three ways working on this project has impacted me.

1. My heart for God’s glory to fill the earth has grown.

The EP title, Among the Nations, comes from Psalm 96:3 –

“Declare His glory among the nations,
   His marvellous deeds among the peoples,
   for great is the LORD and most worthy of praise…”

Week after week of meeting workers serving in difficult places, near and far, have shown us that others who live out this passion too. And we wanted to encourage them (and ourselves) to press on and persevere in the unfinished work of proclaiming the gospel.

So when Kim, our lead vocalist, suggested we try a multilingual version of Sovereign Grace Music’s “Behold Our God”, I thought it was a bit too hard! But she was right — it’s turned out to be such a great idea! The words are fantastic: you have the amazing truths of Isaiah 40:12-14, the good news of Christ “humbled to the grave” for our sins and “risen now to reign”, and a chorus inviting us to “behold our God, seated on His throne.” So what better way to celebrate that than to bring together friends from different countries and cultures, and to sing these truths in all of our heart languages!

Each of us have a favourite moment on the EP, but I have several from this song:

  • The first line in the bridge reminds me of our friends in Central Asia who sing praises to Jesus softly, for fear of neighbours turning them in to the police. It’s a small way of remembering our persecuted brothers and sisters.
  • We got to feature students from our international community. There’s something amazing about watching your friends praise God in their heart language – whether it’s Japanese, Korean, German, Irish, French Urdu, or even Nepali!
  • We included a duet in Mandarin and Cantonese. With all the unrest and tension tearing China and Hong Kong supporters apart (even in churches and our families), Veronica and I got to briefly display, in song, a taste unity and harmony that’s possible when we glory in Christ Jesus.
  • The final chorus, we just sing in our own languages – to remind one other that our future reality in Christ isn’t monolingual, but far better:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.””

Revelation 7:9-10, NIV

There’s so many other magic moments throughout the EP – I’m so grateful for each singer and instrumentalist who poured their desire for God’s glory to fill the earth into each take, each strum, each line, each sample. May it move us to serve the Lord in whatever way we can to see His Kingdom advance!

2. My appreciation for working in intercultural teams has increased.

It quickly became apparent early on that we weren’t capable enough to do everything on our own. We so needed the Spirit’s help! Thankfully, we’ve had an amazing team of supporters praying for us and encouraging us since the project began. Whether it’s the team from Sovereign Grace (Bob, Bekah, Grace) who have reviewed translations, sorted licensing issues and shared words of encouragement, or the SMBC alumni musician community – Nick Freestone (whose song features on the album), Trevor Hodge, Brian Leung and others, we’ve seen first-hand how any work for Christ can’t happen on one person’s steam.

We saw God’s kindness in our team of contributors too. We were all different people – some introverted, some extroverted; with different communication styles, gifts and preferences. We like different food, have different upbringings. But with this project we got a chance to negotiate differences and serve with what we had in common in mind: our love for the gospel, God’s Word, and our brothers and sisters. We still had our distinctions and disagreements, but they weren’t as important.

3. I’m learning that we serve to be replaced.

It’s humbling and thrilling to think that we’re not the first musicians to have graced the steps of Benson Barnett House. From the barbershop quartets of the 50’s and 60’s, to the Music Conferences in the early 2000s, to worship songwriters such as Rob Smith, Trevor Hodge and Alanna Glover, there have been plenty of graduates singing and writing for the sake of His holy name.

We hope Badminton Road follows this rich heritage by providing a new avenue for creating and sharing music that glorifies God, and encourages our family in Christ in Croydon, Catalonia and beyond. But we don’t want to presume our longevity – God determines when our contributions are helpful, and when it’s time for us to fade away and others to do a better job than us. (Besides, it’s hard to stay together as a band when we’re all leaving for different countries in a few weeks’ time!)

We’ve come to go – and so our College’s Centenary Song, written by Rob Smith, reminds us of our main purpose:

We will declare your glory among the nations
We will proclaim your greatness in every land
Until the trumpet sounds and all the earth resounds
With the praises of the Lamb!
We will declare your glory among the nations
We will proclaim your mercy from shore to shore
‘Til every knee shall bow and every tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord
Jesus Christ is Lord

We Will Declare Your Glory” by Rob Smith

I’m thankful to God for this opportunity to make this album with Rob Smith, Kim Patterson, Jack Batchen, Matt Williams, Jacob Oh, Jotham Booker, Luke Padgett and the many, many others near and far who have contributed their time and treasures. And I’m excited that you’ll all get to hear it in just a week’s time!

Until 22 November, you can pre-order Among the Nations on Bandcamp for $7 or more and download 2 songs now – with all proceeds going towards the College’s 100-for-100 Scholarship Fund.

Soli Deo Gloria – may His glory fill the earth!

Edify Conference – building the church in word and song – set list

It was a joy over the weekend to serve at the first Edify Conference, hosted at our home church (Howick Baptist). We had a great time opening the Word and considering the importance of what we do when we sing together as the gathered church.

Cheryl and I were in Sydney for Emu Music’s Word in Song Conference last year, and in 2011 got to attend the WorshipGod conference hosted by Bob Kauflin. And after talking about the idea of a music / gathered worship conference on and off for years, it was great to finally have a go at hosting one in NZ ourselves in partnership with Rowan Hilsden and the team at Auckland EV.

It was also neat to meet and get to know Greg Cooper, a songwriter and musician from Sydney who served on the Edify band on Friday night and led several workshops on Saturday. I personally learned a lot from observing and considering how skillfully he played the guitar – in a way that served the band and supported the church singing. I also loved his servant-hearted attitude and easy-going nature.

I enjoyed playing guitar and sing in the Edify bands – once on Friday with a full band, and again on Saturday morning with a stripped-back, acoustic team. It was good to have a go at modelling congregational church music for different contexts.

A few people asked for the songs we sang over the weekend, so here is the set list below:

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST:

 

FRIDAY: CONCERT / EVENING OF WORD AND SONG

SATURDAY: MAIN SESSION 2

 


A Lament to the Lord – Two Poems

Some might have heard of this poem that does the rounds, particularly among our senior brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a call for singing the old hymns and laments the use of new songs, modernised words and the ongoing changes in our worship gatherings.

A LAMENT TO THE LORD
– Mavis Clark, “This England”, Spring 1990, Vol.23 No.1

They’ve brought you up to date Lord, down at Saint Cecilia’s.
They’ve pensioned off the organ, and they’re praising with guitars.
They’ve done it for the young ones; we want to draw them in,
But I do wish they could worship without making such a din.
For I’m growing rather deaf Lord, and when there’s all that noise,
It gets so very hard Lord, to hear your loving voice.

They’ve written brand new hymns Lord, with tunes that I don’t know,
So I hardly ever sing now, though I did love singing so.
They’re very go-ahead Lord, they’re doing ‘series three’,
But the words are not so beautiful as the others used to be

They’ve modernised the Bible and the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed
When the old ones were so perfect that they filled my every need.
My mind’s not quite so agile, as it was some years ago
And I miss the age-old beauty of the words I used to know.

It’s very clear to me Lord, I’ve overstayed my time;
I don’t take to change so kindly as I did when in my prime.
But it can’t be very long now before I’m called above,
And I know I’ll find you there Lord, and glory in your love.

So ’til then I’ll stick it out here, though it’s not the same for me,
But while others call you ‘You’, Lord, do you mind if I say ‘Thee’?

After some sleuthing on the Internet through historical archives (and a bit of cheeky wordsmithing), I think I’ve “discovered” the second poem in this series.

This poem is a call for singing the old metric psalms and laments the use of new hymns, modernised words and the ongoing changes in our worship gatherings (there’s nothing new under the sun…)

A LAMENT TO THE LORD ABOUT THE HYMNS OF DR WATTS
– circa 18th century, in the spirit of William Romaine1

They’ve brought you up to date, Lord, in the Chapel at Mark Lane2,
They’ve done it for the young ones; we want to draw them in
They’ve put aside the Psalms and now they worship God with hymns,
But I do wish they could sing without resorting to “Watts’ whims”.

They say he’s modernised the psalms to point to Jesus Christ3
But why change what was perfect? The Psalter has sufficed!
These hymns aren’t as divinely blessed as metric psalms, you see
If psalms were good enough for Christ, they’re good enough for me!4

These hymns are new and needless, they’re Quakerish and Popish,5
I’m scared that next they’ll start to bring in instrumental music
These hymns are just a money-making scheme for Watts to gain from,
Why use them? All our fathers got to heaven fine without them!

I miss the age-old beauty of the words I used to know
My mind’s not quite so agile as it was some years ago
And with these brand new hymns, Lord, they use tunes I do not know
So I hardly ever sing now, though I did love singing so

It’s very clear to me, Lord – I’ve overstayed my time
I don’t take to change so kindly I did when in my prime
But it won’t be very long before I’m called above
And once I’m there I’ll sing the Psalms and glory in your love

Till then I’ll stick it out here, though it’s not the same for me
Though others think these hymns are great, I firmly disagree!

Note: I wrote this light-hearted parody to try and illustrate that what’s old was once new, and that by God’s grace Christians young and old can delight in the best old hymns of the faith, while also embracing the best songs that the coming generations have to offer, all so that Jesus might be more beautiful and believable to us.

 


  1. Who once said: “Christian congregations have shut out divinely inspired psalms and taken in Watts’s flights of fancy…” and “Why should Dr Watts, or any other hymn maker, not only take precedence over the Holy Ghost, but also thrust him utterly out of the church?” 
  2. Mark Lane Independent Chapel, Stoke Newington, where Isaac Watts began as assistant pastor 
  3. “But since I believe that any Divine Sentence or Christian Verse agreeable to Scripture may be sung, though it be composed by Men uninspired, I have not been so curious and exact in striving every where to express the ancient Sense and Meaning of David, but have rather exprest myself as I may suppose David would have done, had he lived in the Days of Christianity. And by this means perhaps I have sometimes hit upon the true Intent of the Spirit of God in those Verses, farther and clearer than David himself could ever discover, as St. Peter encourages me to hope. (1 Peter 1:11-12)” – Isaac Watts, Preface to The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, And Applied To The Christian State and Worship  
  4. Nahum Tate recounts the story of a servant-maid who disapproved of singing a revised version of the Psalms: “If you must needs know the plain truth of the matter, as long as you sung Jesus Christ’s Psalms, I sung along with ye; but now you sing Psalms of your own invention, you may sing by yourselves.” 
  5. Said Thomas Symmes in a newspaper editorial in 1723, about Isaac Watt’s hymns:
    1. It is a new way, an unknown tongue.
    2. It is not so melodious as the usual way.
    3. There are so many new tunes, we shall never have done learning them.
    4. The practice creates disturbances and causes people to behave indecently and disorderly. 5. It is Quakerish and Popish and introductive of instrumental music.
    6. The names given to the notes are bawdy, even blasphemous.
    7. It is a needless way, since our fathers got to heaven without it.
    8. It is a contrivance to get money.
    9. People spend too much time learning it, they tarry out nights’ disorderly.
    10. They are a company of young upstarts that fall in with this way, and some of them are lewd and loose persons. 

My seminar at STAND 2013 on hymns

God was kind to allow me the opportunity to present a seminar on hymns during the most recent STAND conference. I previously shared on the STAND website some of the reasons why I did this seminar.

If you’re interested in listening to it, here’s thelink to the recording, here are the notes, and here’s the slides that went with it:

 

Personally I think it went OK, though I typically don’t speak well in settings when I’m nervous, and I also wish as follow-up everyone who attended just listen to the more detailed and helpful lecture series by Kevin Twit. I hope more practice in future will help me to be a clearer and more helpful speaker.

But I had a patient and understanding audience who asked good questions, both during and after the seminar. I’m especially thankful that people were genuinely interested and there was a good group of young adults present and challenged to consider what hymns really are, why they’re worth passing on to the next generation, and some ways we could do that.

For example, I chatted with someone from a Reformed Church (she said they sing both psalms and hymns psalms only) who commented how helpful it was to discuss this topic. In addition, I heard afterwards that it gave a few young adults good food for thought on using and singing hymns, so I thank God for that.

As usual I prepared too much to say in too little time. If I could do it over again, other things worth mentioning would be:

  • More specific ways of using hymns in personal and family worship
  • How to use tunes we know to sing hymn texts we don’t know (this can be really fun and rewarding to do)
  • some good examples of hymns that have been set to more accessible music

Anyways, where to from here? Probably just keep on learning and passing hymns to the next generation… like this…

—————————-

20130822-115548.jpg

Some reflections on singing together at STAND 2013

 

Cheryl and I have just come out of a busy weekend of serving during our home church’s Stand for the Gospel conference. This was the 4th year we helped out (this time around I organised the music ministry and helped plan the general sessions, taught a seminar on hymns, and also helped to get the website and registrations system up and running, Cheryl helped to bake some food for morning tea and looked after E all weekend). It was a privilege to serve over 300 people from across NZ (and Australia) and boy, did the LORD meet with us through the preaching, singing and praying of His Word.

I’ll share a bit about how the hymns seminar went in my next post. But for now, here’s some of my reflections on planning and leading the gathered worship through 20+ songs during STAND 2013:

  1. The singing was LOUD. For example on Friday night by the time we hit the last chorus of our first song (Behold Our God), I was struggling to hear the instruments either side of me because of the volume of the church. That’s a good problem to have! As a worship leader it’s wonderful to hear the church singing praise to God, almost to the point where we could have just stopped leading from the front and let the truths being sung just wash over us. So thankful that we experienced this time and time again throughout the conference.
  2. Throughout the weekend the conference attendees were very gracious and game to be stretched a little with a couple of new songs and tunes (e.g. Thou Lovely Source, Psalm 130 – From the Depths of Woe, The Apostles’ Creed). Actually I was pleasantly surprised how easily they picked them up, with most people singing full volume by the end of each of those songs (You can see a full list of songs we sang together here). It seemed like new songs were easier to pick up when led sensitively (e.g. simplified as a tune, demonstrated by the vocalists, doubled on a melody instrument), and when the church was convinced/prepared to sing them (e.g. the story behind a song shared, or an explanation about the particular gospel truth a song helped us to consider).
  3. God’s providence was on display. Several times the LORD kindly connected songs we sang to things that were happening during and around the conference. Thabiti referenced “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” in his sermon, and we ended up singing the same song. Peter prayed passionately to God the day before same-sex “marriage” comes into effect, and we had a song like “We Belong to the Day” to respond with. There were many people struggling with fresh trials, and topics discussed like sexual abuse and youth suicide… and we were able to sing gospel hope with lines like “Our Shepherd Good and True is He who will at last His Israel free from all their sin and sorrow…” and songs like “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” and “I Asked the Lord“. It’s funny, we can be so busy putting together set lists, music parts and making plans, but I was reminded again that it’s the LORD who truly directed steps and made things connect richly.
  4. I appreciated Thabiti’s challenge during the Q&A session about ensuring that what musicians lead from the front enables and enhances the congregational singing, which should be the primary sound of a church singing. The consistent feedback from STAND 2012 was that we didn’t do well on this, so I’m so thankful that God continues to impress this principle on us and help us grow in this. Some ways we tried to encourage the congregational singing this year was to do things like inserting “voices only” sections when leading as a full contemporary band, leading a session with just male voices and organ, and thinking through the musical arrangements of our songs and shaping it with dynamic contrasts.
  5. Also, Thabiti’s suggestion of practising Col 3:16 and Eph 5:19 by including times of singing to each other – actually turning from left to right to sing God’s marvellous truths to each other – was brilliant. I’m already thinking of how we could encourage HBC to grow in this area. Don’t be too freaked out the next time I’m standing next to you and singing to your face! 🙂

It’s easy and tempting to turn conference singing into times of showing off what we as worship leaders and musicians are capable of, or to frustrate people by forcing lots of new songs on them, or to be a lightning rod for musical style arguments. But I think what we tried to do — sing the gospel and its implications to the Lord and to each other, in a variety of musical styles — helped us to savour Christ crucified for our sins more, supported the message of 1 John (that we might be more sure of our salvation in Christ), and supported the preaching of God’s Word. And I pray that God used our sacrifice of praise, perfected only by Jesus Christ, to magnify His Name this weekend.

————————-