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Calling all Catholic Songwriters! -guest post by Nick Alexander

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A few weeks back, I issued a challenge to the subscribers of the blog via our weekly e-news. (By the way, if you haven’t signed up for our enewsletter that means yours not a CWB subscriber and are missing out on some incredible MEMBERS ONLY content like full length interviews, special promo codes, and more!)

The challenge was: “What content do you want to see on the Catholic Worship Blog?”   I was incredibly humbled when Catholic speaker & comedian Nick Alexander e-mailed me in response and described his frustration with music ministry in the Church today.  As Nick sees it, Catholic songwriters are having difficulty breaking through to the wider Catholic audience as a result of a knee-jerk reaction by most music ministers to primarily include only those songs which are on the CCLI top-100 list.  Nick does not intend to casually dismiss these exceptional non-Catholic songwriters, but rather he issues a challenge to Catholic music ministers to discern what is holding back the Church and sharing her own expression of worship.

Currently, the blog features “Thirsty Thursday” as an opportunity for new song discovery, however these songs aren’t always Catholic and may already be well known – what Nick is advocating is a full project dedicated to Song Discovery in the Church, and I for one, can’t wait to get started!  Below you will find Nick’s challenge, enjoy!

Dear Tom,

Last night I caught up with two of your podcast interviews, (with Chris Padgett and Robert Feduccia). And there was something in those interviews that, in my mind, strikes the very heart as to my request.

You had asked Chris what new songs that he liked, and he shared his love for “Our God” by Chris Tomlin. Now, I knew of this song already–it’s got a super-fast trajectory to #3 on CCLI’s Top 2000 list, even though it’s been out for about a year. By next go around, it very well could claim the top spot, eclipsing Tomlin’s very own “How Great Is Our God” (another exceptional song). This means that a LOT of people, Protestants, Catholics, interdenominationals, postmoderns, prayer groups, Bible studies, youth groups, youth camps… they all feel the very same way that Padgett and Bob Rice did upon hearing the song, and many of them play this song with nearly the same frequency. And to its credit, it is a very powerful song; it’s singable, the lyrics are Scriptural, and the sentiment is efficacious for the myriad types of environs that it is used in.

Let’s suppose that Robert Feduccia or Vince Ambrosetti or any of the other majors were to have uncovered such a song, except it was written by a Catholic artist. What do you think would be the chances that such a song would be embraced by Bob Rice or the numerous LifeTeen music coordinators? Answer: a LOT smaller. Infinitesimally so.

This is not a statement against such a song itself; it’s a statement on the current problem we have with Catholic praise music.Why would Catholic song coordinators (myself included) find ourselves instantly attracted to whatever’s buzzing about in interdenominational worship circles? A second question: Bob Rice has been doing keynotes and music for Steubenville conferences and prayer meetings for a longer period of time than Chris Tomlin has been writing songs. What were the elements in place that made Chris Tomlin’s songs (which are very good) acceptable to the circle of Catholic worship leaders, while Bob Rice’s most exceptional “I Shall Be Healed” is used at a considerably smaller fraction of venues?

Forgive me if this stirs up a sort of dissention that’s rarely spoken of. My intention is not to stir up envy. I want to point to a considerable comparison and contrast between the multiple sources as to where people discover new worship songs.  But (correct me if I’m wrong) in January of 2010, “Our God” had just been introduced at a national youth rally run by worship leaders underthe “Passion” banner. This rally was attended by nearly the same number of people who attend a NCYC every two years. This rally is a fraction of the size of the numbers of who attend World Youth Day every three years. And yet, these songwriters also have a series of radio outlets that play their songs (those of us who have Catholic radio are mostly stuck w a talk format, because music licensing is too cost prohibitive). These songwriters have a national following, go on tour, are written of in “Worship Leader” magazine, have CCLI.com put them on their front page, are written of in numerous blogs, and are youtubed and tweeted and facebooked, many of which are done by individuals who run their own music sites.

Now all of the songwriters that are signed by Feduccia and company–many of them are trying to get noticed, and some of them have songs that are definitely worthy of inclusion in the Catholic worship omnibus–but why is it that the average Catholic worship leader, including those as high profile and effective as Chris Padgett or Bob Rice, why do most of us bypass the Catholic scene altogether?

I look at Padgett’s answer to the question about which song he’d like to remove from his lists, and you can hear the pain in his voice: he isquite tired of songs like “Lord I Lift Your Name on High”, but the crowds “know it”, and it’s got hand motions. It’s a lot easier to get a crowd pumped with a song they already know than to start from scratch.  Conversely, the crowds had to learn “Our God” from scratch, (along with high-tempo’d songs like Fee’s “Glory to God”, Tomlin’s “Sing Sing Sing” or Lincoln Brewster’s “Love the Lord”), and that didn’t stop them/us from introducing those songs over one of their own.

I guess my question is, and this is for other worship leaders out there, can we have an honest analysis as to what it takes to break through a Catholic-written worship song into our respective itineraries? What you look for? How it’s presented? How it’s social-media’d? Whether it breaks out of the Catholic music ghetto or not? Or… are most of us buying into the lie that Catholic music just isn’t good enough to matchthat of the interdenominational circles?  And if one knows of a great “unheralded” song, perhaps not even recorded yet, is there a way to fast-track this into the public conscious? And not get lost in the clutter of “worship-wannabees”?  Peace,Nick

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://catholic-worship.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/nickAlexander.png[/author_image] [author_info]Nick Alexander is a dynamic Catholic-Charismatic-Christian comedian/worship-leader/speaker. He has three comedy albums out, but is also available to share the Great News of the Living Reality of Christ in our Daily Lives, in a way that is engaging, funny, heartfelt and effective. Nick Alexander is ready and willing to serve you and your needs, to help foster renewal to families and youth/young adults. Nick shows how one could be thoroughly alive for the faith, in the midst of a culture that oftentimes rails against it…. with a smile on his face. [/author_info] [/author]

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