Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hillsong Live and Creative Christian Music

Last night, I attended the "Hillsong Live" concert in Kansas City with the lead singer of my Christian band, Stacy.  She invited me to join her for this show so that we could not only have some quality time together and get to know one another even better, but also so we could get some music and production ideas for our band.  We had a great night together and certainly got to know one another on a much deeper level--we talked the entire way to and from the show, in true female form.

Shamefully, I must admit that many times when I attend Christian concerts, I find myself feeling a little less than impressed at the musicianship of the band, as well as, the production creativity of the show.  I think this perhaps stems from the fact that I have the huge honor of singing in a worship band in a large church with incredibly gifted musicians who are every bit as professional, talented, and experienced in music as those I see perform in most Christian concerts.  I also know that my highly analytical, critical attitude at Christian concerts stems from my desire to see Christian music reach the level of demand, supply, and overall value as secular music.  It just seems that Christian music is lacking on the creative scale at times.  I hear people frequently say, "Well, I'd listen to Christian music more often, but it all sounds the same and I get bored."  I also hear people say, "Why is Christian music always so slow and sad-sounding?  I feel depressed when I listen to it for too long!"  This is a problem for me because in my view, Christian music should far surpass other music (or at least match up to it), in creative expression, quality, and musical inspiration--essentially, it should trump other music due to how it makes people feel.  If Godly lyrics aren't being transmitted to the masses successfully because the music to which they are set is typically "sad-sounding," or lacking in current-day relevance, we are doing God and the power of His words a great disservice.  I would agree that Christian music does tend to come from a cookie-cutter mold--it is as if there are certain standards under which it has to fall before it gets released to the world.  My worship pastor, Bryan, spoke about this exact topic and uploaded a link for a supporting article on his Google+ profile.  The article is an incredibly interesting take on Christian music written by Michael Gungor, a successful Christian singer/songwriter who fronts the band, "Gungor."  The link for this article follows and it is well worth the read: 

http://gungormusic.com/#!/2011/11/zombies-wine-and-christian-music/

Last night, I felt anything but bored, sad, and uninspired.  "Hillsong Live" is taking Christian music to new and exciting places--and to places where being "dumbed down" or fitting into some legalistic mode of musicianship is not even a consideration.  Hillsong is a group of worship leaders--they do not call themselves, "entertainers," or, "performers."  "Hillsong Live," is a band derived from, "Hillsong Church," in Sydney, Australia.  "Hillsong Church" started with 45 members, and now is the largest church in Australian history.  It has a total of 13 churches all over the world in its affiliation--three in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane), and 10 other congregations in London, Cape Town, Kiev, NYC, Moscow, Paris, Stockholm, Konstanz, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam.  This church has become a sort of, "go to" model, for Christian churches all over the world, much like, "Willow Creek Community Church," in Chicago.  But what makes this particular congregation special is its huge music ministry to the world.  "Hillsong Church" even has a college where students can ascertain ministry and music degrees of various kinds.   Much of the praise and worship music that you hear in Christian churches today, as well as on Christian radio, came out of "Hillsong Church" or "Hillsong College."  They have Christian songwriters that are unparalleled.

This concert (or "praise and worship service," as the "Hillsong Live" band members prefer to humbly call it), far exceeded my highest expectations.  Not only was the production of the show flawless, creative, energetic, and passionate, but the musicianship totally rocked.  They even performed (led) two of my favorite praise and worship songs, "From the Inside Out," (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-afZJ9_TIM), and, "Forever Reign," (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au3EGgISYMc).  (Be blessed and give them both a listen)!  They played, "Forever Reign," for their concluding number, and it was utterly powerful and moving--the perfect song with which to conclude the concert, in my view.  As a runner, the lyrics, "I'm running to your arms," speak to me deeply.  As I've posted about previously, I have had a vision of running to Christ on that day when my life here is done.  That will be my final sprint.  So this song has become a sort of, "personal anthem," of my heart.  Suffice it to say, I walked out of that show last night on cloud nine.

Upon the first song last night, Stacy and I were so caught up in the praise and worship that taking mental notes for our band on production and music ended up being pretty far down on the list.  As I gazed out over the crowd at one point, watching a sea of believers worship their God with hearts wide open, tears filled my eyes as I envisioned what heaven is going to be like.  When I attend Christian concerts, it always impresses me how upon entry, I immediately feel like I am with brothers and sisters in Christ, though they are technically strangers.  The people are so warm, congenial, and there is just a spirit of unity in the air.  Everyone has come there for the same purpose--to worship God, to meet with Him, and be moved by Him.  Mission accomplished.