From a Bottle Full of Dreams to Journey’s End – Guitarist’s Gig Log

AT more than extreme risk of sounding pretentious (because it is), herewith I give you some notes from my most recent gig. (Let’s be honest, first and only gig to date but hey, everybody starts somewhere – even those who just turned 50.) And “my” is stretching a point. It was actually Autumn Dawn Leader‘s gig – Heartstrings & Heartsongs – at our church last week.

Heartstrings_band

Featuring Yours Truly on accoustic rhythm guitar, Heartsongs showcased several of Autumn’s self-penned songs, many of which have been buzzing round my head since rehearsals began. The set included:

  • The Dream – Great opener and “The closest I get to rocky,” as Autumn puts it. Jolly good fun to play. If only I hadn’t messed up the first intro bars it would have been close to perfect. Allegedly nobody noticed but I await the video with interest.
  • Fire and Rain – A version of the James Taylor song accompanied by two quiet guitars. In fact, this show’s the first time I’ve seen fellow (and better) guitarist Bob play electric – in order to avoid accoustic overkill – and very cool it was too.
  • Come Here, Let Me Hold You – An Autumn love song that makes its way “from crooning to belting”, as per her musical direction.
  • My Knight – A melodic ode to Autumn’s beloved hubby accompanied by Ellen’s gentle backing vocal and suitable knights / damsels video produced by my good lady. Note to self: In future when not involved in a song, leave the stage!
  • Journey’s End – Beautiful ballad based on a poem written by said beloved hubby. The sentiment brings a tear to my eye as I think of getting older with my own beloved lady.
  • Bottle – Simple and heartfelt, just Autumn and the keyboard. Quickly written (in 10 minutes, it seems) but encapsulating Autumn’s experiences of dreams deferred and the angst attached thereto. 
  • Undivided – Based on one of David’s psalms set to Autumn’s music, this is a plea to God for a devoted heart of worship and a life dedicated to His service.

The set concluded with a rendition of the classic Simon & Garfunkel number Bridge Over Troubled Water. I’m a great admirer of Paul Simon’s lyrics and musicianship, and though I doubt he meant it to speak of God’s faithfulness, that was the clear sentiment by this stage of the show.

It all seemed to work pretty well despite my fluffed (or altogether missing) chord changes, which is quite right because this wasn’t about one instrument (thankfully). Great experience and who knows maybe not the last.

By now you’re probably looking for links to MP3s, videos and YouTube-y things. Follow the YouTube links to individual videos above or see Autumn’s YouTube channel. You can also keep an eye on Autumn’s Facebook page or follow her @songmistress Twitter account.

For now, I really must find out how to play an F2 chord…

The Power of Listening – and the challenge of remembering to do it

Listening

Now listen – no, really – just listen up for a minute. It’s common knowledge that most of us aren’t very good listeners. (By the way, “it’s common knowledge” is a cunning writer’s ploy that means “surely you don’t expect me to back this statement up?”.) Well anyway, I think that, in general, most of the time, in most instances, by and large (oh dear, drifting into Sir Humphrey Appleby mode) – most of us ain’t very good listeners. What’s more, we think we are – and are thereby deluded.

In reality we commonly respond to what someone else is saying by offering advice, changing the subject (probably to our own story) or, most commonly of all, simply by interrupting. It’s true. It really…no, let me finish…it really is true. I do it. You do it. we all do it. You know we do.

Consequently we frequently fail to understand what’s being said to us – or why. And thereby hangs many a sorry tale of frustration, conflict and sub-fruitful conversation. But all is not lost.

We can learn a better way. I learnt by doing a course. You could probably learn on many different courses, I suppose. But the one I did is called The Marriage Course. Because it focuses on marriage, unsurprisingly. Not, it has to be said, that the need for listening is limited to married people. Just that it’s a key skill for that particular relationship. Anyhoo, this course, or this particular bit of it, teaches you to realise what a naff listener you are most of the time and then shows you how it’s possible to listen – really listen – and reflect back what you heard and ask the right questions without jumping in with size 12’s and just champing at the bit to say your next line. It makes you try it out. And trying it out makes you see how badly you do it most of the time.

It also makes you resolve to do it properly in future. Until the next time a tricky conversation arises, at which point you (OK, I) forget everything you (yes, yes, alright – I) learned and jump right back in with those size 12’s again and remember waaay too late that you should have been listening and not jumping to conclusions; that you should have been reflecting back and not offering solutions or slowly losing your cool. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

This sorry state of affairs is akin to buying a hammer and then trying to knock nails in with your fist: it’s ineffective, painful and completely unnecessary. The key to this self-inflicted misery is simply this: use the tool you acquired earlier. Just, as they say, do it. Much better. And admittedly easier said than done. But done it must be.

So I commend to you the power of listening. I commend to you learning how to do it better. But most of all I commend to you doing better than me at remembering to listen in real life.

And please – don’t try knocking nails in with your fist.

The Power of Encouragement – Do it today

Recently someone referred to me as a “talented musician”. While I’m under no illusions as to the level of said talent, I’m also in no doubt that she meant it and that I do, indeed, have a measure of guitary talent that others don’t.

What she doesn’t know is that in years gone by someone else referred to me as “not a real musician”. That was powerful, to the extent that I had to work through giving it to God, practicing the art of forgiveness and all that good stuff. But despite doing all the good stuff there’s no doubt the words influenced me. I’m not one to practice for hours, I can’t pick, I can’t transpose in my head (unless there’s a maximum of three chords 🙂 and I can’t give you screaming solos. I know all that. I also know I’m a decent rhythm guitarist – but those words back then put a kind of glass ceiling above me and created the proverbial inferiority complex.

 

So to hear myself described as a musician – let alone a talented one – is surprisingly significant. And quite helpful a couple of weeks before featuring in the backing band at a gig.

 

The point is – you, like her, have no idea how your words might help, enthuse, empower or spur somebody on. So give it a try today. If you pray, ask God to show you who, and how, to encourage. Encouragement’s one of those gifts of the Holy Spirit so don’t dismiss it.

 

Just do it.