Tuesday, April 28, 2009

nice to hear

Apparently MPN's "Catch The Spirit" 2009 VBS curriculum has been selected as a "Top Pick" by the Center for the Ministry of Teaching of Virginia Theological Seminary (CMT)... The article says that "the Center’s evaluation highlights the curriculum’s focus on worship and the original music by Mennonite composer Bryan Moyer Suderman as particular strengths."

Nice to hear...


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

new recording and "upper body injury"

NHL hockey players are not the only "tough guys" that battle through physical injuries during the grueling "second season" of the Stanley Cup Playoffs... it turns out that recording artists occasionally have to "take one for the team" as well...

Last week we began the recording sessions for my new CD (the 4th to be released on my SmallTall Music label), and I'm very excited about it! So excited that it seems I somehow injured my shoulder (was it the vigorous guitar playing all day Monday as Darren laid down those drum tracks...? Or the continuous tossing of various backpacks and instruments over my right shoulder while getting on and off buses to get back home after the session? Or perhaps it has something to do with my now 40-year-old body and all those tennis games over the weekend - the first of the spring...)

Anyway, I find myself nursing what the doctor calls (please pardon the melodramatic medical jargon) a "mild shoulder sprain"... trying my best to ice it regularly and down enough anti-inflammatories so that I can play through the injury and heroically head into tomorrow's recording session and fight through the pain to do a bunch of guitar tracks...

It's tough being a tough guy, but I'll do my best. Better watch some more playoff hockey, to draw inspiration from those that grind it out and give 110% and play it one game at a time and leave it all on the ice and don't let such minor things as broken bones and facial scarring get in the way of a good playoff run... and if I can avoid fisticuffs in the studio, that would be great too (so far so good), although Rick at CedarTree Studios has been telling stories of various bands (such as The Police) for whom such activities were all in a day's work and part of "the creative process." Maybe I should give it a try.

But then again, given my lack of success with such basic macho requirements as a "playoff beard," maybe not... I can only carry this "tough guy recording artist" image so far...

In fact, maybe I should go the other way and try getting in touch with my "sensitive side"...

Which reminds me, where did I put that ice pack?


Monday, April 13, 2009

location of a song

Two weeks ago I was part of a fundraising concert for MCEC youth traveling to the Mennonite World Conference Assembly this July in Paraguay, where I'll be part of the music team. It was a fun evening - a real treat to play with amazing musicians as part of a band, which I don't get the chance to do very often. And four of my songs that we did that night felt right "at home" in that place - "You're Not Alone" (a solidarity song with suffering brothers and sisters around the world), "Prayer of Agur," "To Be Content," and "Tengan La Mente De Cristo" - a new song I wrote in traditional Andean Huayno style, as a setting for the theme text from Philippians 2:5-11.

Then last weekend I played at the Latcham Gallery here in Stouffville - a really cool event called "what does a piece of art sound like?" where local musicians are invited to write and/or choose and perform a musical piece inspired by one of the artworks showing in the gallery. This is the second time I've participated - these events are the brain-child of Marie-Lynn Hammond - and I think it's a great idea, and a fascinating exercise in "locating" a song (here's a little YouTube video with clips from the different performances). I did the instrumental "Off The Grid" and "Not For Human Consumption" which connect in various ways to a couple of the paintings... next time I hope to get to the gallery earlier and be able to try writing something new based on one of the artworks.

And this past Sunday, Easter morning, I was with the Iglesia Menonite Nueva Vida in Toronto. It's been a long time (well over a year, I think), and as always it was lots of fun and very inspirational to be with that community again. And, thanks to my being confused (again) about the time the service got underway, I was actually able to finish writing the song I had hoped to use that morning - "Rumores de Resurreccion" - and there was something special about writing that song "in location" where we would be worshiping, with that song among others, in that very space. Somehow it was easier to connect with that community by being physically in that space while writing that song.

So I guess songwriting does have something in common with real estate. Location, location, location.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

maundy what?

Today is Maundy Thursday. But you'd never know it by the lack of liturgical rigour at our house this season.

In any case, wishing you a blessed Easter.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

friends on the radio

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Stuart MacLean played a song by Judith and Simon ("The Land") on The Vinyl Cafe... this past week I heard an interview with The Waking Eyes on Q (Joey of The Waking Eyes has played bass on all three of my SmallTall Music CDs)... and tomorrow morning Alan and Aiden ("Stringer Lake") are going to be featured on Fresh Air.

And just when I was starting to feel left out I got a note from Tony Copple saying that he's going to be playing my "There's a Jubilee a-Comin'" song tomorrow on his "Over My Head" show in Ottawa.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

pulled in two directions

As we get started on recording the new SmallTall Music CD (Yippee!!), I find myself pulled in two (at least) directions.

I had a conversation with a close friend last week who said "I don't know if I'm ready for a new CD from you yet, Bryan... I think the last one is so important, and relevant... I'd like to see you ride that one a while longer, and get it into more people's hands and hearts... I'd be sad to see you move on from that material already..."

This would be one representative voice from the camp that has been particularly moved by the songs I've written that are more "adult oriented", that lean more toward the "tall" than the "small"... and that have been encouraging me to write and record more in that vein...

And then there is another friend with a small child who recently told me "I hope your next CD will have some more songs that are fun and playful again..." This would be a representative voice from the camp that regularly tells me things like this: "I have been looking and looking for good Christian music for my children (or "for the children I teach/lead"), and I've been so discouraged by what I find... until I found your stuff. Thank you so much! Songs that are fun and engaging and easy to sing along with, that express a theology that I can support and feel good about..."

The other night I got together with "the band" to explore the new batch of songs that we'll be recording in the next two months, and again it is a real mix of "songs for small AND tall"... some are really fun, rather quirky, with some delightfully silly moments (I've been having fun with these in concert already), and others are more reflective and a couple are fairly dark - one that is even quite "apocalyptic" in its imagery, and another that is an expression of deep pain and hurt.

Can I get away with putting all these songs on one album?

This is not the "conventional wisdom" of how "the music business" - or even how the world of "Christian ministry resources" - works. I really have not been able to find a better label for my music than "songs of faith for small and tall," because that is EXACTLY what they are. The new CD will have songs that are guitar-based folky, a few that are piano-driven, others that are bluesy, jazzy, one that might be bluegrass...

Is it "children's music?" "Christian contemporary?" Gospel? Folk/Roots? Something else?

Too bad iTunes and music awards don't categorize artists by theology, ecclesiology, and missiology rather than by "genre"...

In any case, I continue to be pulled in different directions, as from a "marketing" perspective I'm sure it would be more "effective" to pick a "category" and release songs that way... and yet I continue to resist that approach, because what I do really is for the CHURCH, which is an intergenerational body, and I continue to be driven by the question "what do we need to SING together?"

If you have any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them.

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