Category Archives: Worship & Music

Breath of the Spirit – a poem, litany and song

Breath of the Spirit — a creative process

I’ve just written a poem, that became a catch phrase for a concert series, then a litany and then a song. Here’s a description of the creative process.

Some background

For the past 7 years Wellington Methodist Parish have offered a series of free lunchtime concerts and weekend film showings as part of our Winter@ Wesley festival. Graeme Millar sowed the seeds for W@W when he was our minister for a year. His vision was that we should spread some light and warmth in the gloom and misery of winter darkness. We offer free soup and bread after the lunchtime concerts and have found this to be an effective, gentle way of reaching out to our central city neighbours. The performers also bring their friends along. My wife Heather has managed the concerts from the start and does a fine job of contacting and hosting local musicians and singers at our church.

Each year I have designed a poster for Winter @ Wesley. Last year Rev Motekiai Falkatou suggested that we make wind the theme for the festival. With that in mind I created the spiral logo you see in last year’s poster. 10 days ago I was talking with Motekiai again and he said that this year we could focus on breath and wind. That immediately made me think of the Holy Spirit.

Winter_at_Wesley_2015_A4_22_May_15

The writing process

A couple of days later the phrase “Breath of the Spirit, blowing among us” popped into mind and I grabbed a pen and scrap paper and started to write the poem. Take a look at the three photos of my scrawled notes which show how the words developed.  This took less than half an hour.

breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1A breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1B breath_of_the_spirit_draft_1G

I started with passive phrases “blowing among us” and “reforming and reshaping us.” When I realised this, I changed them to active voice phrases “come blow among us” and “reshape and reform us.” This gives the words more urgency and implies movement.

There were too many instances of the word “us” at the start, so I took some of them out, e.g. “fill us, inspire us with…” became “fill and inspire us…”  Some phrases didn’t work at all, e.g. “connecting to each other” became “link us together to form a new whole.” And the odd word got changed, e.g. “dark corners” became “dark places.”

So this short poem emerged:

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Weave your deft patterns, reform and reshape us
link us together to form a new whole.

Roar down our streets – winter gale blowing
sweep clean our dark places – hearts bare and renewed

Uplift and free us, help us to soar
May your energy power us, turn all hearts to you.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

You can see a video of me performing the poem on YouTube here:

 

2016 poster takes shape

The next step was to include the words “Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us…” in this year’s poster. You will see that I have fitted the words on a curve below the spiral logo.

A design tip…The best way to create a poster like this is to use multiple layers in Adobe Photoshop. This enables me to size and position each element separately, until a nice visual balance is achieved. You will also see that I have re-used most of the 2015 poster design, with the biggest change being the background colour, which was blue and is now purple.

Winter_at_Wesley_2016_A4_23_May_16

When the design is finished and approved we will print an A1 poster for the front notice board, A4 and A5 posters and maybe A6 leaflets, all from the same A4 PDF file.

Then a litany

Being a worship leader, it soon occurred to me that the poem could be adapted as a responsive litany. It would work as a call to worship or a prayer of approach a bit later in the service. The congregation repeats the refrain and the leader speaks the verses.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Weave your deft patterns, reform and reshape us
link us together to form a new whole.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy.

Roar down our streets – winter gale blowing
sweep clean our dark places – hearts bare and renewed

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy

Uplift and free us, help us to soar
May your energy power us, turn all hearts to you.

Breath of the Spirit, come blow among us
fill and inspire us, with life-giving joy. Amen

You can see a video of me performing the litany on YouTube here:

 

 

 Then a song…

 I showed the litany to a poet friend. The next day she sent me a Facebook message saying, “The liturgy you wrote yesterday could also be turned into a hymn with a repeating refrain.”

To which I shrugged my shoulders. Mmm, maybe?

But the next day, when walking home from the bus stop after church, a bit of tune came into my head from the Finale of Jonathan Berkahn’s The Third Day, Easter cantata, which I have sung many times with Festival Singers. It fitted the first few words of the refrain. When I got home I got out the litany and started to sing melodies to the words – the first step in composing.

Having convinced myself that I had some good melody ideas, the next urgent step was to write out the musical notation. Urgent, because if I don’t capture the musical ideas quickly I will forget them. I don’t write the notes by hand onto lined manuscript paper. Instead I use music notation software – Noteworthy Composer (US$49). This lets me enter a few notes and I can then get the software to play them back. Often I enter the wrong pitch or length of a note, so hearing the melody played back lets me check what’s written down against what’s in my head.

The other tool I use at this first draft stage is an electronic keyboard. I have an old Yamaha keyboard which can sit next to my screen and computer keyboard. I use the keyboard to try different patterns of notes for the phrases of the song, and keep fiddling until I’m happy. After I have entered all the melody line into Noteworthy I print out a first draft of the sheet music.

20160527_223542

Then I get out my guitar and experiment fitting different chords to the melody, and write them by hand onto the music. Then I sing through the whole song, ironing out the rough edges until I’m happy. While I have Grade 7 Royal Schools music theory and have sung in good choirs for many years, I can’t “hear” the underlying harmonies and chords when I’m writing a song. Heather and my son Christopher do have that ability, which I greatly admire. I just have to bash my way through.

Now the acid test. “Heather, I’ve got this new song. Would you like to hear it?” To which the response, after listening to it, is, “It’s good, but…” An exercise in humility then follows in which I am given several suggestions for better chords, tweaking the verses so the melody ends on a rising note, allowing ease in the timing so that people singing can catch the breath we are singing about and so on…

I accept some suggestions and tactfully decline others. Another couple of rounds of editing the sheet music follow. And, we are done. The whole creative process took 3 days.

Click this link to download a free PDF of the sheet music: Breath_of_the_Spirit – Melody

Note: The song is set fairly low which will suit basses like me and altos. If you prefer a higher setting, transpose it up a tone or two by using a capo on your guitar.

You can see a video of me performing the song in our Winter@Wesley concert series on YouTube here:

 

Then publish abroad God’s glorious name!

Now I get to share the poem, litany and song with the rest of the world.

I’ll make them and this story available as a blog post on my website. (This is it!) I’ll share that post on Facebook and Twitter to help build my brand.

I’m going to sing the song when I perform the first concert of the Winter@Wesley series on 9 June. I’m going to introduce it to Festival Singers when I lead the closing devotions on Monday night, and to our 10am Singing Group at Wesley.

I’ll also do a post on kiwiconnexion.nz and record videos to post on You Tube performing the poem, litany and song.

I might base my next service at Pukerua Bay on the litany…

People, choirs and churches are free to use these in worship or anywhere else. Please just credit me as the composer/writer.

If you want to record or publish any of them commercially please email me at books@pgpl.co.nz

Brief reflections on the creative process

Interactions with other people were important. Motekiai sparked, “Spirit.” My poet friend liked the words and said, “Song?” Heather helped to polish a rough diamond into something shinier.

It’s good to recycle and re-purpose an idea. A simple devotional poem, can be extended for use in worship. I have also in this case borrowed the first two bars of the tune from Jonathan. I don’t think he will mind.

I wrote the words and the song because I felt inspired to do so. I like making things and the process somehow comes naturally to me.

I’m not the best poet, liturgist, composer, singer or musician in the world. But I have enough skills, and the confidence to use them, to produce worthwhile creative work. It would be silly for me to be held back by waiting until I achieved perfection, good enough will do.

Make it, share it, see what happens.

Philip Garside
28 May 2016

p.s. There is an excellent podcast interview about the creative process here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/05/16/creativity-art-business/

Dance With Us – A response to hatred

Click to download a PDF of the melody line and guitar chords

Click to download a midi file of the melody

Dance With Us

  1. When you are troubled,
    have no fear, have no fear.
    Christ has a message
    we want to share:

Refrain:
Come and dance with us,
sing with us,
walk along our way.
Help us bring alive God’s kingdom
on earth today.

  1. Leave behind hatred,
    turn away, seek the light.
    Love one another
    no need to fight:
  1. Hear one another,
    loving care, kindness shared.
    Hearts and hands open,
    world in our care:

Words and music:
Philip Garside
10 January 2015

(You may copy and sing this song freely, with acknowledgment.)

Ten Plays gets great review in Touchstone Nov. 2014

Review by John Meredith in Touchstone – November 2014

“The pattern of Sunday worship is generally fairly predictable, but congregations appreciate something different at family services and especially at Advent and Christmas.

This is scarcely surprising, since the birth of Jesus and the events leading to it shattered the expectations even of those who had long been watching and waiting for the appearance of the Messiah. We have become accustomed to nativity plays featuring grumpy innkeepers and shepherd boys on hillsides, but these 10 plays take us to quite a different realm.

After making suggestions about an Advent wreath and candles, Rosalie offers five meditations that may be used during the four Sundays in Advent, two meditations being read on one of these Sundays. The meditations titled ‘Christmas women’, are the voices of Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin), Anne (Mary’s mother), a woman traveller (one of many women on her way to Bethlehem for the census), the inn-keeper’s wife, and Anna (the prophetess).

These meditations are complemented with an Advent prayer for two voices. There are no bland words here, for the challenge is to think about what the coming of Jesus means for us in our world and what we need to do about it.

These Advent meditations are followed by a play titled ‘No Room,’ designed to promote the work of Christian World Service at a time when the annual CWS Christmas Appeal will be presented to many congregations. The play features two modern day families who learn that making room for Jesus includes making room for asylum seekers and that giving to CWS can help make lives better for people living in dreadful conditions.

There is also a play using 13 characters from the Christmas story with an activity of creating stick-puppets.

For Easter, the other major festival of the Christian Year, there is a play reading based on five women named in the Easter story.

Those looking for something different for Bible Sunday, Waitangi Day, Anzac Day or Wesley Day will also find it here.

One of the appealing features of this collection is the prominence of women throughout. The drama ‘Mahlah and Sisters’ draws attention to five little-known young women in the biblical narrative. Their stand for justice translates effectively to women’s rights and equal opportunities in today’s society.

In another play, voices of women from biblical times and early New Zealand history who used their initiative to build peace and harmony are heard in monologue.

As is stated on the cover, these are short easy dramas. Few props, staging or costumes are required.

Most of the plays work best with a combination of adults and children and lend themselves to reading without the need to learn scripts. All are readily adaptable for different physical settings and availability of characters.

They are highly commended as a resource for any church or group seeking imaginative ways of presenting gospel ideas and aspects of faith in action. Ten Plays is also available as an ebook.”


Buy now Print or eBooks

 

Listen to a recording of a Service exploring the Nativity Stories and Celebrating Christmas

Help your congregation to explore the Nativity Stories and why we Celebrate Christmas

On Sunday 22 December 2013, I prepared and led a worship service for my 10am Congregation at Wesley Methodist Church, Taranaki Street, Wellington.

A congregation member said that she would like to be able to share a recording of the service with her church back in her country, so here it is.

I have re-recorded the service by reading my leader’s version of the Order for Service, which includes my sermon, the readings and discussion questions.

Download the recording .mp3 file here (32mb)

  • The mp3 link will take you to a page where you can either listen to the recording or download and save the file to your computer to listen to later.

Download a PDF of the Order of Service here

  • Clicking the PDF link for the Order of Service will immediately download the file to your computer.

I felt that this service was particularly effective in stimulating the congregation to think again about the nativity story. I set the scene by explaining that stories about Jesus conception, birth and childhood only appear in the Bible in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels, and pointing out that these gospels actually tell two different nativity stories.

In the middle of the service, the congregation formed four groups to discuss these questions:

  • Group 1: What if Mary said “No” to the angel? Think about how this would affect our
    relationship with God and God’s relationship with us.
  • Group 2:  Matthew and Luke provide nativity stories. Paul, Mark and John don’t. What
    do you think about this?
  • Group 3: Matthew has wise men. Luke has shepherds. Does this tell us anything about
    the two writers and the audiences they were writing for?
  • Group 4: What is your favourite part of the nativity stories. Are there any parts you don’t
    like. Why?

They spent 10 minutes sharing within their groups and the groups then reported back their responses to the whole congregation.

Worship leaders are welcome to use or adapt any of my ideas in the Order of Service and the recording can be freely shared.

You are welcome to comment on this post clicking the Leave a Reply link or by emailing me at books@pgpl.co.nz

Cheers, Philip Garside

Sing a New Round: Christmas Halleluia

Here’s the melody line and words for a simple round to enjoy this Advent/Christmas – PDF Christmas_Halleluia_Melody_2013  Works well in 2 or 4 parts.

So you can hear how it sounds, here are midi files two parts Christmas_Halleluia_two_parts_2013 and four parts Christmas_Halleluia_four_parts_2013

I suggest that each part sings the 8 bars 4 times through. The tune does not resolve in the last bar.  For me this symbolises that the work of Christmas message never ends.

Use this music freely, with acknowledgement.

Cheers and Happy Christmas
Philip

Two Worship Tips and a Song

Two Worship Tips and a Song

1. Rehearse

How does it feel to hear the worship leader stumble over a prayer or miss their place in the sermon? As a member of the congregation this is distracting and disrupts the flow of the service. As the leader you get a sinking feeling, knowing you could have presented that part of the worship better. Here’s how to avoid this.

Early in the week of the service, read the whole liturgy aloud, i.e. from the Welcome and Gathering through all the prayers and responses to the final Benediction. If you are going to ask the congregation to share the peace or move out of their seats and take part in an activity, write down the instructions in your edition of the order of service and practise giving these instructions. If, like me, you are not good at praying “off the cuff,” write out all the prayers in full.

Often reading aloud reveals words and phrases that need to be edited or replaced altogether. Maybe you will decide to keep the wording, but highlight a comma or underline a phrase to help you best convey the sense of the text to the congregation. Practise reading the liturgy two or three times mid-week until you are comfortable with it.

At our church worship leaders get the order of service to the office by Thursday in time for it to be printed and for the words of the hymns to be added to the slideshow on Friday. So another tip, is to be prepared well ahead. Start writing up the order of service the previous Sunday night if you can.

Having finalised the liturgy, then finish the sermon, (which you might have been working on for two weeks.) On Friday night read it aloud a couple of times. Mark in pauses, e.g. in your text type [pause]. Also write [Speak slowly] in two or three places to remind you not to rush. Add sub-headings for your own reference, even if you don’t read them when you preach. Make any edits to the text that you need. Move paragraphs around. Even adding a comma or two will help you break up long sentences and make your final presentation more understandable to the congregation.

Read aloud through your sermon once on Saturday to keep it fresh in your my mind.

Being well prepared and rehearsed, will give you the confidence to lead the worship well on Sunday.

2. Use physical objects to engage the congregation

The second tip is to use physical objects to engage the congregation. Words, singing and pictures are great. Holding something in your hand adds another dimension to the experience of worship for those taking part.

On Palm/Passion Sunday this year I asked the small congregation of older people I was leading worship with to make flax crosses. You can see a short video of how to make a flax cross here on YouTube:

We used these readings: Luke 19: 28-40, John 12: 12-16, and the flax, to explore the theme for the service of – Celebration – Struggle – Transformation.

As people entered the church they were each handed a flax leaf about 3 feet long. For the opening hymn we sang: Give Me Joy in My heart, which has the refrain “Sing Hosanna to the King of kings!” While singing this we all waved our flax leaves like the crowds welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem.

Before the sermon my wife and I showed people how to make the crosses using their flax leaves. The video was projected on the screen, on repeat mode, while we did this.

Some people picked up the technique quickly and made several crosses, others battled through to make one with assistance. We then sang John Stainer’s hymn Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrow.

Everyone produced at least one cross to take home with them for Holy Week. It was a delight to see people engage in the worship this way. They have probably forgotten the sermon, but will remember the physical experience of waving the flax and making the crosses.

So, worship leaders, use your imagination and take a chance on doing something different in your services.

3. A Song

Kindle a Flame can be sung unaccompanied or with guitar. 

Download a PDF copy of the music here:

Kindle_a_flame_D_minor_5_verses_melody_line

You can sing it through as a whole song. It is also effective as a sung response to intercessory prayers – either just use verse 1 as the response each time or insert a prayer between each of the 5 verses.

Choirs and churches are welcome to copy and perform the song freely. If you are going to record or publish it commercially, please seek permission from Philip Garside first by emailing books@pgpl.co.nz

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As always, your feedback on this blogpost is welcome.

Cheers, Philip Garside