Music For Churches
Recently, for various reasons, I decided to put the drumming aspect of my life on the back burner for a while. My phone still rings occasionally, however, and I am not always capable of resisting its charms.
Last year I got a call from a guy named Jason who I knew a bit from my early Chicago gigging days with a country-rock group, Old No. Eight. Jason is a talented musician who got serious about religion after his wild years and was now leading a praise band. As a result, a few nights playing with a band that sang about prison and cocaine led to a Sunday morning at a church in Antioch, IL, drumming behind pop songs about how great Jesus is. Jason called again early this summer and lined me up for two more Sundays, playing four songs each service.
A week or so before the rehearsal, I got two CDRs in the mail with the eight songs. The rehearsal was on a Thursday night. Being a professional, I broke the CDRs out of their cases when I started my drive into work on Thursday morning. It took some cramming, but I was able to get through the songs. They weren’t exactly groundbreaking material, but there were enough modern production values involved (drum loops, samples and the like) that it actually set up a few playing challenges that I hadn’t experienced elsewhere recently.
The people in this praise band evidently take their religion, as well as their music, fairly seriously. As at last year’s rehearsal, there was a devotional session halfway through. Last year’s was fairly innocuous. This year, one of the performers brought up a disagreement she’d had with a friend about homosexuality. A few of the others, although hoping she could patch things up, expressed assent with her sentiments, with one of them likening this personal preference to alcoholism. Being somewhat invested in religion but not committed to the set of values that often accompany it, I kept a game face. However, I would not deny that these were nice people, and I had to sympathize, also silently, when the bass player talked about how it wasn’t easy discussing these things with his coworkers at his construction job.
We had to do two Sundays in one rehearsal, which made things a bit grueling. On the last song we did, Jason was trying to get the lead guitarist to strum some chords into a digital echo unit to set up a U2-ish intro, but no one was especially willing to devote the time to truly get this to work. Rehearsal ended around the same time I usually go to bed in my newly domesticated lifestyle.
Antioch is a stone’s throw from Wisconsin. The drive back from there to Chicago is not short. I was rather frazzled, and had not much other than a not-very-well-mixed-soundboard Zeppelin bootleg for entertainment in the car. One time a few years back, I chose to drive straight through the night after a gig to get to my family’s place for a Christmas break, and I remember the music from the car that night as being a bit like a series of metal darts which grated, but kept me awake. Zep served a similar function this time.
Sunday was an early wakeup, but this was more pleasant. The performance went fine and it seemed to be over in a few seconds. I got stuck helping haul out PA gear after the service, but in compensation, I had a nice lunch with Jason, who treated me to a sandwich and a fun discussion of old times. The preacher said that I sounded good, but that I needed to be louder. I haven’t heard that often.
Next Sunday also went okay, although I don’t think anyone, including me, learned those songs as well as the previous Sunday’s. A few people may have noticed this in the song with the U2-ish intro. The guitarist tried to kick in some chords and ended up setting a verrrry slow tempo, leaving me stumped for a few long seconds as to what to do. I ended up starting at that tempo and cranking it up after a few bars, and soon everyone joined in. The song may have ended up sounding the best of the four, but my life didn’t stop flashing before my eyes until around the second chorus.
All in all, it was a good reminder of the odd, entertaining and enriching situations that can come up when drumming becomes a central aspect of one’s life.