Last year I was sharing a Christmas song at a concert with a slew of other musicians. It was a lively night with jazz, folk, southern gospel, show-tunish carols and then, me & the piano with my rendition of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. My little offering was quite simple and quiet compared to the rest of the show. I felt a bit less-than. Afterwards, my friend David Tolley took me aside and encouraged me to think about doing a Christmas project- a cd of exactly what I had done that night. Simple, quiet, hopeful and beautiful music telling the story of God breaking into His creation in the most radical way never imagined. The beginning of 2010 brought a live recording with my best friend, Sarah Higgins. We were joined by some of our musically gifted friends (Jim Zartman, Chris Westra, Gary Jorgenson, Don Smith) for a night of lovely, haunting soul-folk. Sarah and I have talked about doing “our” music together forever. We’ve always had the context of leading worship together, but finding the time and energy to do our own project had always escaped us. So, we finally got our act together, scheduled a date and got inspired by an actual deadline. We recorded 7 original songs (which can be downloaded on www.itunes.com or www.cdbaby.com) and released our first ep in August. It is titled “Alright”. So, most of my extra time during the spring was taken with finishing off that project and getting it to the printers. Late in the spring I started seriously considering David’s encouragement to do a Christmas cd. I’ve always loved Christmas- the mystery and humility and promise. The last few years of the season have felt like more of a battle against the push of our culture. Noise and greed and stress. Very anti-good news. So, I started reading the gospels again. The voices of Anna and Simeon were loud and clear. Mary and Elizabeth. Angels and shepherds. I started writing songs and digging out old ones I hadn’t sung in a decade. The end result is that I spent the summer recording 12 songs for the advent season. I tuned up my old upright and sang my heart out. 1/2 dozen are traditional favorites with my own arrangements. 1/2 dozen are originals or re-imagining of ancient carols that I wrote my own music for. My dad contributed a song (yeah!) which was really special. My kids sang on the finale. It’s been a joy to create. In the coming weeks I plan to write the stories behind my original songs and post the lyrics/chords for those who might like to play them on their own. As Sara Groves says… “My off-line life is full, but my online life is anemic”. I’m paddling that boat too, so forgive me if my posts are not as timely as hoped for.