Why a new Chris Tomlin song will not make our rotation
By Jon Nicol
I love Chris Tomlin.
OK, not in the same way I loved Elizabeth Shue when I was in the 7th grade. Ralph Macchio got to hang with Mr. Miyagi AND date Elizabeth Shue. Lucky…
But back to Chris.
He's got this God-mix of anointing, talent/skills, gifting and experience, all being worked out within a uber-rare community of musicians and friends. I think it's that combination that makes his music resonate with so many.
Among those songs that resonate, there are certain ones that scream to be added to my active song rotation. But there are a few of those that I just have to plug my ears and go "la-la-la-la-la-I can't hear you…."
Jesus, Son of God is one of those songs. I instantly connected with this song when I heard it on the last Passion release, White Flag. I grabbed the chart off SongSelect and put it on my list to introduce in the coming months. But as I played it, I realized I'd have a pretty awful time trying to lead the song.
The range. So reluctantly, I struck it from the list.
Hearing it again on Chris' new album, Burning Lights, I'm revisiting the idea of rotating it into our worship services. But the prognosis isn't looking good. It might just need to be a "ministry" (aka: special) song for communion or a tie-in with a related message.
I can rekey most of Tomlin's tunes for average voices. I usually take them down a 3rd or so for the male leaders. A 4th or 5th for our female leaders.
Not so, "Jesus Son of God." It's so dang wide. The range is over an octave and a half (B below middle C to F# at the top of the treble clef.)
For performing artists, that's a cakewalk. For most worship leaders, doable. For the average congregation, forget about it.
I basically have three options to do this song in regular congregational worship:
1. Do it as is.
Actually, I wouldn't do it. I'd tap one of my other leaders with a better range to tackle it and incorporate one of my female vocalists to be Christy Nockels. But that limits which Sundays we could do that song. I don't know about you, but I don't have a Tomlin and Nockels scheduled every week.
And let's face it, most of the congregation with an XY chromosome would be left down in lower orbit wondering what to sing.
2. Use different voices for the different sections.
I could just farm out the various parts to the singers who could sing them. If you listen to the Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern version of "The Wonderful Cross," Tomlin and Redman do that. Redman sings the lower verse, and Tomlin takes the higher chorus. There can be a loss of continuity when you use this method, but it can work.
However, there's still have the wide range to contend with. And let's face, we all likely have a good number of people in our congregations that don't just automatically sing an octave down when it gets to high (or vice-versa).
They just stop.
So what could fix that?
3. Flatten it.
What do I mean by that? Essentially, I could rekey so the verses are comfortable, and then sing the chorus in the register, not jumping up the octave. This makes the song singable. But unfortunately, it does exactly what the method sounds like. It falls flat. It loses something without the dramatic jumps and the power of the higher registers.
I was a part of a worship band for a pastors conference and the worship leader did this with Here For You, another Passion (and Redman tune). Since I was playing lead guitar, I wasn't really focused on what was happening vocally. Instrumentally, it felt great. But something just didn't jive like the recording.
I realized later it was because the leader kept the verse and the chorus in the same register. And honestly, while you and I would feel the loss of the powerful octave jump, very few in the crowd there would have missed it.
For us musicians, it's like taking filet mignon and grinding it in to hamburger. But most of our people aren't going to notice. So that's something we need to weigh out.
So at this point, while I LOVE "Jesus, Son of God," it might be better served as a one-off special versus a congregational song in the regular rotation.
So what about you? How do you deal with wide-range songs? Let us know in the comment section.
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January 14, 2013Tweet