I’ve been saving this bit, so brace yourselves: “My name’s Nick, and I’m a musician”. I lived for years in denial, but finally had to admit it, firstly to myself and then, gradually, to family and friends. I began furtively, sneaking quick fixes of Simon & Garfunkel here, dropping a couple of Beatles songs there, and before you know it, I was hooked! I could barely go a couple of hours without listening to music. At the tender age of 15, after 9 years of nagging, I got my first drum kit, at 20, my first guitar and at 22, my first (and only, much beloved) bass. A relative late comer by some people’s standards, but by 24 I was touring the UK with my own, twee, anorak wearing Indie band (it was the late 80’s) and by 27, writing songs for the Chrysalis Music Group. It was F A N T A S T I C!!!!!!! I literally ached for music. Cut me in half, blah, blah, blah.
Before we go on, I want you to be honest with me: how many of you worship musicians grew up in church? I thought so. And how many of you have played outside of Worship Teams? Hmm. As my new found state of curiosity emerged, my attention, as a musician, was quite naturally drawn to the Worship Team, and I was bemused to say the least. Having had no past experience of this sort of thing, I had no idea of whether or not what I was seeing was “normal” or usual, good, bad, indifferent, worthy, funny, sad – as I said I was bemused!
There seemed to be no structure to the worship. There also seemed to be have been very little rehearsal and there was clearly no quality threshold as far as musical ability was concerned – the ultimate in inclusivity: if you wanted to be in, you were in. As I made friends with people, I offered my services as a sound engineer. I’d stopped playing in 1993, this was 2005. I hadn’t picked up a guitar in anger in 12 years and I wasn’t about to. My offer was graciously accepted and, fortuitously so, as our “full time” engineer left the church a few short weeks later. However, after 6 months of engineering, I was persuaded to attend rehearsals by one of the worship leaders which, I must say, has positively changed my life forever, but which was a trial by ordeal to begin with.
Rehearsals took place on Thursday evenings in an average sized classroom in a building we owned next door to our church’s site. I say site because our building had just been demolished and work had begun on the construction of a brand new facility. We used a small vocal P.A. and everything else was a question of every (wo)man for themselves. Each practise was attended by whoever felt like turning up. Each Sunday Worship Team consisted of whoever felt like turning up! No rota. Easy come easy go. As I say, we were the ultimate in inclusive. It made for interesting services though: a singer, drummer and 3 flautists is not something you can readily legislate for, but boring, it was not. Sometimes, 5 minutes to service, sound check over, in would walk a cellist, “where shall I sit?” they’d ask. At home? No, thought not. To add to the confusion, pre-determined song lists (Did you see that? I remembered not to call it a “set list”. Result!) were frowned upon. Or if not frowned upon, clearly hadn’t been invented yet.
Another slight digression. Who, WHO, came up with the idea of giving every worship song in the world at least 2, if not 3, titles? I’d bet … £2.72 … (I know it’s not much, but I’ve just checked and it’s all I’ve got, so please don’t see it as a reflection of my vitriol) that it was the aforementioned life-long church goers. I can barely remember the day of the week, so when someone turns to me and mouths the words, “I have frozen Diane’s knee”, or what looks an awful lot like that, I’m left slightly agog. I miss the count, hear the first line, grab my file of charts only to discover that there isn’t one filed under “I Am Chosen, I Am Free”, (though to be honest, I preferred the way it was going with Diane’s knee), I scour the darkest recesses of my mind for the first line of the chorus, a ha, “My Chains Fell Off”. Nope, nothing by that name either. Verse 2, and I still haven’t played a note. I start squinting at my band mates’ charts for a clue and sidle up to the viola player. Hurrah! “Holding Nothing Back”. Let joy be unconfined! We are, of course, up to our knees in the Middle 8 by now and my sole contribution to this Tim Hughes classic so far has been more in the way of a light show from the scarlet hue of my face! Not, I repeat, not a happy bunny.
It was a bumpy, bumpy ride, but it’s a journey I’m still making, although I now wear a seat belt and a crash helmet. No fewer bumps, just less bruising!