Meet current Worship Band members: Paul, Lorna & Steve.
If you’d be interested in finding out more about our band, or maybe even fancy joining in, do give us a call. 01636 704811
Recent article published in Benefice Bulletin: February, March, April 2022 edition
written by Paul Handley
The contribution of Christian music to contemporary popular music is often underestimated. The foundations of modern popular music are to be found in rhythm and blues and country music which were, for the most part, born in the Southern Gospel and Protestant churches of mid twentieth century America. Mainstream Anglicanism, it has to be said, hasn’t been quite such a player in the unfolding annals of rock n’ roll. Somehow the choral treasures of Hymns Ancient and Modern didn’t seem quite as sexy to as either Little Richard or Hank Williams – which is not to say that the rich tradition of Christian hymnody hasn’t played it’s part. However, as someone once said, ‘the times they are a changin’’ and over the last two or three decades the ‘contemporary worship band’, in line with a more charismatic and less liturgical approach to worship, has become something of a fixture and fitting within many modern British churches.
I think it’s fair to say that our modest benefice hasn’t exactly been at the cutting edge of the contemporary worship scene, and in my view that’s not altogether a bad thing. However, if mission is central to what we do as a worshipping community, and it should be, speaking to a largely unchurched wider world in a language that’s understood is surely imperative. You never know, we might even enjoy it?
Anyway, this is how ‘the band’ got started in the BBC churches – and electric guitars first crossed our much loved Romanesque threshold.
I gave up playing the guitar in my early twenties and when I returned to St Giles nearly a decade ago, any involvement with contemporary church music was the last thing on my mind, and anyway ‘happy clappy’ wasn’t really my thing. So, when I found myself being asked to join in by Jackie Brisbane, no one could have been more surprised than me. I probably agreed to play bass guitar out of either a painful sense of duty or an opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering. I wasn’t quite sure which.
Lorna and Steve Caddy – accomplished musicians, and luckily, it seemed, with as great an appetite for martyrdom as me agreed to join our happy(ish) band and right from the off there were glimmers of hope. Steve’s Yamaha composer work station, not to mention his obvious accomplishment as a keyboard player, brought some order to the proceedings so even if the Third World War was going on elsewhere – as it sometimes was – they dutifully held things together.
The first few weeks were quite tense; we had what is known in the trade as ‘musical differences’, ie Steve and Lorna were quite musical and we weren’t, but it wasn’t musical differences that got the better of us in the end. With the arrival of a new incumbent, the Reverend Louise, theological differences suddenly seemed far more pressing, the Refresh service came to an end and Jackie Brisbane decided to stand down. Could ‘the band’ go on without Jackie? Could Pink Floyd go on without Syd Barrett? As it turned out, yes.
I can’t quite remember now how the band initially slotted into services once Refresh was no more, and to be honest I was still rather half-hearted about the entire enterprise until we were asked to do a concert in the community hall two or three years ago. It gave us the opportunity to rehearse a set, of both worship and non worship music, but more importantly to get things right, or as right as our abilities allowed. The fast turnover of hymns required for services means it’s often difficult to find the rehearsal time to learn material as thoroughly as one might like, but for the concert we were able to do just that. I don’t suppose we gave the Rolling Stones a run for their money but it’s fair to say we had a few moments of musical lucidity and I decided to get my chops together. So much so that I found myself one evening on a housing estate in Birmingham buying a Fender Stratocaster I’d won on eBay.
How I came to start singing with the band is also a bit of a blur. I’d joined the choir at St Giles in 1971, but after completing all my RSCM exams had jumped ship for the St John’s Ambulance cadets when it became clear I was never going to knock Jeremy Springett off his head boy perch. I played fairly extensively in bands as a teenager but never fancied singing. Teenage boys have sharp elbows and egos not entirely consummate with their abilities and I never fancied the head to head when deciding who was going to front things. I was happier just playing bass. Anyway, we had a singer in Lorna. She didn’t have the strongest voice but it was reliable, tuneful and sweet. I think Reverend Louise suggested I might do a bit more singing. A small vote of confidence and bit of encouragement counts for a lot sometimes.
After that our moments of musical lucidity increased a good deal with our confidence and I think the idea that we were starting to sound quite good, all things being equal, suddenly occurred to us all. I started to take guitar lessons so I had a fighting chance of keeping up with Steve and Lorna and I’m currently in the process of getting to the top of grade seven. There isn’t much call for altered chords or jazz improvisation in worship music but it’s good to have a bit of headroom.
The band has changed my life to a surprising degree. Music, aside from listening to it, I thought was pretty much a done deal for me. I’m too old to rock n’ roll but my involvement with the band and working with Lorna and Steve has been an unalloyed pleasure. Our musical backgrounds and temperaments are very different; Steve and Lorna were learning to do things properly while I was making an unholy racket in a garage, but that means we each bring something very different to the table without which the remainder would be impoverished. Steve and Lorna are organised and precise, whilst I tend to do things by intuition and leaven the proceedings with a little chaos. We rehearse two or three times a week, usually in preparation for a Sunday service within the benefice or for the online ‘Encounter’ service on Wednesday evenings. More recently we’ve performed at the ‘4@the Hall’ family service and ‘Free to Be’, a service without a formal liturgy which has allowed us to be a little more creative and indulge ourselves musically far more than the usual ‘bread and butter’ services allow.
Although we’ve greatly improved as musicians over the last couple of years, we’re aware there’s always room for improvement. We’re currently writing and arranging incidental music for use at the beginnings and ends of services and since there are physical limitations to what the three of us can do live we’re experimenting with recording backing tracks so that I can add extra guitar and bass parts, Steve can add more dynamic rhythm parts and the different voices of Lorna’s aerophone (a sort of digital saxophone) can add greater texture and depth to the music.
With the imminent arrival of St Giles’ new audio visual system it opens up the creative possibilities for new kinds of worship enormously.
Recently, the three of us have been attending a worship leaders course run by the Potting Shed Church near Southwell which has enabled us to examine a range of approaches to leading worship as well as the privilege of working with other musicians – often with far greater experience and expertise than us.
One of the strengths of St Giles and indeed the wider benefice, is that it is attempting to build a very mixed economy of worship styles and approaches in order to best serve the very varied communities of Balderton, Barnby and Coddington.
The band I hope, will be able to make a significant contribution to that unfolding process. This non-partisan approach will enable the benefice to best meet the future’s challenges and that however we choose to express him, the person of Jesus Christ will be central to all we do. After all, he’s far more concerned with our substance than our style.