“I’ll Stand Before My Lord With Song”

Obviously, music can serve many different purposes for many different people. It can help pick you up when you’re feeling sad about something, or you can scream a fast and aggressive song if you need to “vent,” or it could even relax you. Sometimes, a certain song can give a person such a good feeling and be such a strong reminder of a loved one that it becomes “their song.” But what a lot of people don’t really notice is that music plays an incredibly strong part in worship. Think about it, have you ever been to a church or special service that doesn’t have some sort of music playing at the beginning and/or end? Many modern churches use the method of putting the lyrics on the screen for the congregation to sing along with, while many other churches, like my own, use the old hymnals that provide the words and the sheet music for it as well. To me, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. For the contemporary stuff, you can’t always tell how the melody or rhythm is going to sound until you hear it a few times, but sometimes it seems to have a better way of “building” up to a high point in the song. The hymnals have the pitches and rhythms right there on the page, but this isn’t always helpful if one can’t read music, and sometimes we tend to focus so much on getting every note and rhythm right, we don’t pay enough attention to the lyrics and the power in them.

Personally, I like the hymnals better. Don’t get me wrong, I think the modern stuff is amazing too, primarily because of the meaning and the inspiration behind the songs. However, you can usually take an old hymn and make it your own if you try for it. Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, and Vince Gill have all successfully taken some of their favorites and sang them in their own style, and all these performances were so well thought out and had so much emotion behind them. Every now and then, my church will ask my dad and me to bring our guitars and sing on some Sundays, and we’ve done many different songs. I like playing the ones that everybody knows and no one needs a book for, because at that point, nobody in the room is focusing on the written melody. Everybody pays attention to the words so much better when they don’t have a book sitting in front of them. Some of my favorites include The Old Rugged Cross, I’ll Fly Away, Mansion Over the Hilltop, and though it may not really be considered a Christian song to many, I really love Hallelujah. These songs always get the crowd singing and it’s so much fun every time.

I go to a southern gospel music school every July for about two weeks called TSGSM (Texas Southern Gospel School of Music). I’ve been attending since I was thirteen and it has been such a great experience for me both musically and spiritually. For two weeks, we learn about music and God, and on top of that, we get to sing about God ALL THE TIME! We have devotionals every morning, and at the end of the two weeks, we make a CD of all the songs we’ve learned and hold a concert the last night. I even played and sang The Old Rugged Cross at the concert one year, and the crowd’s reaction was so uplifting. To this day, I still consider that one of the best spiritual experiences of my life.

There are so many different ways to connect to somebody spiritually, but I think music is the best way to speak to that side of me. I hope you all enjoyed this post, and even more, I hope you give music a chance to speak to you spiritually, whether it be a hymnal or a contemporary piece. Thank you for reading!

“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.” -Psalms 98:4

“Even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before my Lord with song and nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.” -Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

-Bailey Shea

Purple Rain

Hello readers, and welcome to my blog!

For my first post, I was assigned to write about a song that I didn’t like at first, but grew on me the more I listened. Now I’ve heard multiple songs in my life that I started out hating but eventually learned to like them. James Blunt, OneRepublic, even some rap, believe it or not. But one song that I really started to love the more I listened is Purple Rain by Prince.

When I was younger, my mom and stepdad would always have 70s and 80s classics playing in the house. Now I would always jam along to Def Leppard and Aerosmith, but the couple times I heard Purple Rain I just didn’t care for it.

This past summer, I met a good friend of mine, and he just happened to be a major music junkie just like me. He was into all the same music (I mean really, what other 20 year old is going to sing John Waite with me?) and so music was most of what we talked about. We were talking about Prince one day and I mentioned how I didn’t care for him all that much. He told me Purple Rain was his favorite and that I needed to listen to it, but like I do every time someone tells me I should look up a song, I blew it off. “I will!” Not.

One night right before I started my first semester of college, I was driving over to his house to hang out and when I drive, I always have to have music playing. So I got in my car and put my phone on the aux cord and pressed the shuffle button for all 800-something songs in my library. The second or third song that played made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up with the first chord struck. The progression gave me chills and when he started singing, I immediately turned it all the way up and tuned in entirely. I didn’t even recognize it! I’m sitting here thinking “What is this song and why have I never heard it??” Then I hear “I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain” and thought “ohhhh….” I got to his house about four minutes into the song and literally sat in the driveway for four more minutes listening to the rest of it. To this day, it is the only eight minute song I will listen to all the way through.

So why do I love Purple Rain so much? First, the progression. The chords are pretty basic. It’s the order that makes the progression so beautiful. Instead of playing a I V vi IV or vi IV I V that is heard pretty regularly in most modern songs (Taylor Swift is a great example of this), the progression is actually a I vi V IV pattern. Sounds difficult, but overall, not a hard song to play and is still stunning.

Second, THE VOCALS. If you’re planning on ever writing out the melody line for the vocals of Purple Rain, step one is don’t even attempt it, there is no set rhythm or pitch in the majority of the song, which makes it all the more emotional to me. This is definitely a hard song to match vocally, but if anything, I think it just makes the song even more powerful. Not to mention his falsetto run at the end. I WISH I could sing as high as Prince.

Third, lyrics. If anybody has ever lost someone close, they can probably relate. Now to me, this song doesn’t sound like it’s about death, but maybe losing touch with someone that once meant the world to them.

And last, just a random fact about Purple Rain that really sends it over the edge for me, Purple Rain was never recorded by Prince in a studio. That eight minute long song you can find on iTunes was recorded live. At some points, especially near the end, you can even hear feedback and the audience clapping and cheering. Cool, huh?

I couldn’t find a YouTube recording of the version I’ve been raving about, so I attached a cover that at least shows off the vocals and progression a bit. However, my favorite version can be found on iTunes on the album “The Very Best of Prince.” I encourage you all to listen if you haven’t heard it before and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Thanks for reading!

-Bailey Shea