What would it be like if legendary orchestrator Camp Kirkland was in your church?
Answer: You’d have a fantastic sounding orchestra with well-trained volunteers.
I had the chance to record with session vocalist Kirk Kirkland in Nashville this past weekend (wait until you hear him sing my new, upcoming version of O Holy Night – wow!) He’s an amazing singer and the son of famed orchestrator Camp Kirkland (isn’t it interesting that a great instrumentalist would have a great vocalist for a son.) Watch a video and hear a clip of Kirk singing at my DonChapman.net website.
Kirk is the worship leader at Judson Baptist Church in Nashville. I lived there for five years and must have driven by the church a hundred times but never noticed it on Franklin Pike (there’s a church almost literally on every corner in Nashville.) Judson is a Southern Baptist Church sitting on the conservative side of the blended worship spectrum with choir, robes, orchestra, suits and ties.
Once after my 78 year old dad visited Newspring Church while I was playing, I asked him “how did you like it?” (Newspring is about as cutting edge as it gets.) He answered “Well, I really don’t like that style of music but it was so well done I couldn’t help but enjoy it.” I think he said it all – whatever your style, do it well. And Judson does blended extremely well:
- Impeccable worship flow without any dead spots. Songs flowed from one to the other and everyone seemed to know what they were doing and what came next.
- A spectacular volunteer mini-orchestra (more on that later)
- A worship leader with heart and the added bonus of a voice you could listen to all day.
You might say “Ahhh, but that’s Nashville!” On the contrary – Kirk told me both the choir and orchestra are comprised of non-music-biz volunteers. I think it’s a case of good leadership grooming regular people into something special.
The choir had about 40 people and the orchestra about 20. Camp is the part time orchestra director and produced a group who was in perfect, polished tune. Even the 3 string players (who looked like teens), typically an intonation nightmare in church orchestras, gave me goosebumps as they sailed above the brass. I hadn’t sat in a traditionally blended service in a long time and I must admit I got choked up. A small rhythm section of drums (in a plexicage) bass, guitar and arranger Dennis Allen at the piano rounded out the musicians.
The service started with an instrumental opener of Trading My Sorrows, and continued with congregational songs Because of Your Love, He Is Faithful (from God With Us), How Great Is Our God and How Great Thou Art (one verse shifted into a high key and Kirk let loose into the sonic stratosphere, then the final verse resumed in a lower key as the congregation joined back in.) The choir sang Our God as a special with a video track. The service closed with Ruben Morgan’s I Give You My Heart.
Bottom Line: Whatever your worship style, do it well.