March 23, 2008
Stations of the Cross for Global Justice and Reconciliation
The Episcopal Public Policy Network has made available for free online (and also as a printable booklet) these Stations of the Cross for Global Justice and Reconciliation, which includes prayers suitable for U2charists in any liturgical season, although they are particularly appropriate for Lent and Holy Week.
Check out all of their prayers and litanies; I think they're helpful in a wide variety of denominational and non-denominational contexts.
Hancock UCC U2charist: playlist only
Preludes: "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" (acoustic arrangement, with hand drums and bass coming in on the second verse); "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
Opening hymn: "Pride (In the Name of Love"
Song of confession: "When Love Comes To Town"
Song of assurance (absolution): "Mysterious Ways"
Song of intercession (prayers of the people): "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
Prayer of Dedication: "Yahweh" (acoustic arrangement)
Communion hymns: "All I Want Is You"; "Where the Streets Have No Name"
Song of commissioning: "Walk On (the Hallelujah Mix)" (acoustic arrangement)
March 17, 2008
"Walk On" is a fabulous song, and it's one that I particularly love to include in U2charists. It's also a particularly good one to do live.
One of the best reasons to do it live, I think, is that recorded versions tend to be out of the vocal range of most people in most congregations. People who can sing the chorus almost always find the verses too low. And the few of those who don't find the verses too low find the bridge ("Home ... hard to say where it is if you've never had one"), which is even lower, absolutely impossible to sing. People can always drop things down or put things up an octave, but most people find it difficult to do several times in a single song.
However, if you do "Walk On" live, you can change the key to anything you like, and can even tweak the melody, as I often do to make it easier for congregations to sing.
But is it hard?
Nope. "Walk On" can be done with a total of four chords: D, A, G, and Em (the same chords as "Yahweh," incidentally). Capo it where you like to change the key easily.
Do you need fancy guitar effects?
Nope. U2 themselves were doing it acoustic -- just Edge and Bono -- on the Vertigo tour. I've got fancy guitar effects, and I almost never use them for this song; I go back to my acoustic guitar and play it through a nice, clean (simulated -- I use Guitar Rig 3 and keyboard amps) jazz or acoustic amp.
And I particularly love doing "Walk On" live as a closing hymn -- you can end the song with "Hallelujahs" as U2 do in "Walk On (the Hallelujah Mix)" and on the live DVDs from the Elevation tour, then have the guitarist or band keep playing the song softly while a service leader offers a brief spoken dismissal, and then have the band or guitarist go back up to full volume again and resume singing the "Hallelujahs." It ends the service on a distinctly high note, sometimes with people still singing hallelujah as they spill out the door and toward their cars or the bus or subway stop.
"Walk On" works in all kinds of places in the service -- I think the lyrics fit for absolutions as well, for example -- but the very end of the service is still my favorite place to put it for that reason. It's quite a community feeling singing those "hallelujahs" with a couple of hundred people while walking together from the site of the U2charist. It's a feeling I don't get in many other places - except for when crowds spill out of arenas still singing the chorus of "40" after a U2 concert.
March 14, 2008
Hancock UCC debrief: guitar selection
I've mentioned before that the live music U2charist at Hancock UCC earlier this week was recorded on video, both for broadcast on television (local cable, I gather) and DVD. Dana (the totally cool associate minister in the congregation) was kind enough to send me a DVD, and I've just had the courage to take a look at it.
This is the third time in my life that I've listened to a recording of me singing, and the first time I've watched a video of me doing so. Oh, there have been lots of recordings -- soundboard recordings of solo and band gigs and of U2charists, and some U2charists (including that first one in April of 2004) was recorded to video. I just haven't had the guts to listen to or view those recordings. I've preferred to judge how it went by how the crowd reacts, as music is just about the only arena in which I have a perfectionist side.
I'm watching the Hancock U2charist DVD now, and we've only just gotten through the preludes [which were "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"] so I'll wait to say more about the music and how it worked -- I'll wait at least until I've seen the whole thing for that.
So far, I'll say this: Nadine (my guitar) performed admirably. Nadine is a Reverend brand guitar -- a "Charger HB-FM," to be precise. This is a great guitar to cover a breadth of U2 material. The Edge (U2's guitarist) typically plays fifteen or more different guitars over the course of a concert -- acoustics, Fender Strats (Stratocasters) and Telecasters (Teles), Gibson Explorers, and Les Pauls, and even occasionally a Fender Mustang. Each of these guitars has a different sound:
Fender guitars have a neck that's bolted on to the guitar, which gives the guitar more "attack" and sometimes a bit less "sustain." Most Fenders also have a longer neck, which makes for more tension in the strings -- resulting, among other things, in a twangier sound. Edge plays Fenders for much of U2's material from The Joshua Tree and before. It was hard for me to imagine "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" on anything other than a Strat, for example. Fenders that haven't been modified uses a "single-coil pickup" -- again, for a twangier and more cutting sound, but which can produce a hum or buzz.
Gibson guitars have a neck that's set into the body and glued on, which makes for more sustain (i.e., notes can be held longer). The Gibson Explorer, which Edge plays for "I Will Follow" and a lot of U2's very early material, is great at chimey tones and that almost bagpipe-like sound that a lot of that early material has. A Gibson Les Paul guitar has a deeper body made of mahogany, and has deep, rich tones -- "muddy," for people who don't like it. And Gibsons either have what's called "P-90" pickups (which Edge doesn't use at all, as I recall) or what's called "humbucker" pickups (each one of which has two single-coil pickups wired together so they don't hum or buzz).
Nadine -- my Reverend Charger -- has a bolt-on and longer neck like a Fender, but a mahogany body, like a Gibson -- but the mahogany has chambers dug out of it, so the guitar is lighter, more resonant, and without the "mud" of a Les Paul. And Nadine has humbucker pickups, like a Gibson Les Paul, but Reverend brand humbuckers are, I think, better in many ways than most Gibsons -- they're a bit warmer. Nadine is also topped with "flame maple" wood on top of the mahogany, which adds to the guitars brightness and "attack."
But the biggest advantage Reverend guitars have for musicians who need a guitar or two to stand in for the sixty or more that The Edge tours with is a "bass contour" knob. With that knob rolled up, The bass tones are fuller, and Nadine does a convincing impression of a Les Paul -- only warmer and cutting through the mix better, in my opinion. With that knob rolled down, the guitar gets twangier and janglier, like a Fender Strat or even a Tele. Between that versatility and that of Guitar Rig software, Nadine stood in admirably for a variety of the The Edge's guitars -- and even for an acoustic guitar (as she did for "40" at the Hancock UCC U2charist).
For the most part, I don't expect that musicians will be buying guitars especially for U2charists, but if you're an acoustic guitarist contemplating getting an electric, I highly recommend Reverend guitars -- not only for their versatility with that bass contour knob, but for their quality and remarkably low price (you can get a new Reverend for as little as $500, and a used one for as little as $350 -- sometimes even less).
The Charger model with humbuckers has been discontinued, but you can still find them used on Craigslist and eBay from time to time. If you see one, pounce on it! Otherwise, I think if you wanted a guitar to cover as much as possible of the range of Edge's guitars, I think I would go with a Double Agent FM, a Gil Parris signature model, or a Warhawk II HB (a Warhawk I HB might be even better; the Warhawk II is a bolt-on neck like a Fender, while the Warhawk II is a set-neck, like a Gibson, but you'll have to find the Warhawk I on eBay or Craigslist, as it's been discontinued).
And no, you can't have Nadine. :) I love that guitar!
March 12, 2008
"Please," from the Pop album, is the song that gave us the title to the book Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog. It's a plea to people so convinced that they're in the right that they'll support or engage in violence for the cause they believe to be righteous.
It's not a big singalong song, but especially if you're doing a U2charist with live music and you're strongest in resources for acoustic (or solo acoustic) music, "Please" could work well as a confession of brokenness, though it does require, I think, the congregation to imagine themselves as the "you" in the song.
If you're curious as to how "Please" could be done acoustically, check out this version from Elvis Costello (on a classical guitar, no less -- be patient through the narration, which is in German, at the beginning) or this version from U2 on the Elevation tour in Miami.
Staring at the Sun
"Starting at the Sun" is one of my favorite songs from Pop, which I still hold to be U2's most underrated album -- especially as an album with spiritual lyrics. Pop is, I think, most U2's explicitly spiritual and Christian record since October, though its lyrics are more along the lines of psalms of lament and Romans 7's "who will rescue me from this body of death?" than it is like the exuberant "Beautiful Day."
It's also one of my favorite U2 songs live -- and it's definitely a song for which you do NOT need a full band if you want to do it live at a U2charist. U2 themselves don't do it with a full electric band. If you want to see why, check out this video of them trying to do the song with full band at the opening of the Popmart tour. Then check out the version on the Popmart DVD, or this YouTube video of U2 live at Slane Castle on the Elevation tour.
"Staring at the Sun" is much, much better acoustic, in my opinion. And its lyrics work, I think, as a confession of brokenness in oneself and in the world -- in other words, as a confession. It also works as an acoustic prelude. I like to introduce people gently to the full volume and singalong potential of the U2charist by starting with an acoustic prelude -- just acoustic guitar and vocals, and maybe (if you've got a percussionist) a shaker. It's especially good if it's a song that includes some opportunities to sing along on something very simple, and preferably with lyrics no more complicated that "oh." "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" is one such song; you can draw out the Edge's soaring "Oh"s before the final verse to get the congregation singing along, and so introduce them subtly to the idea that, this being rock and roll, they can unglue their eyes from the service leaflet or screens, and it also brings into full participation people who don't know U2's music at all, but who can sing a line of "oh" if it's repeated a few times.
The acoustic version of "Staring at the Sun" as U2 does it live doesn't have such an opportunity, but it's the easiest thing in the world to add it back in: just do the line of "oh"s that Bono does at the end of the album version, and do that line several times, at least one of which the singer sings away from the mike with hand cupped over ear, or with arms in a gesture of "c'mon!" invitation toward the congregation.
So if you've got at least one youth group member who can play bar chords on an acoustic guitar (and the song can even be adapted not to require bar chords!), you can do "Staring at the Sun" live.
We did two preludes at the Hancock UCC U2charist last week, the first being "Stay" (as the acoustic prelude) and the second being "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- which works really well in that spot, since (as we did it that night, anyway -- this song can also be done acoustic) it starts with just a light guitar riff and optional shaker or light tamborine, and has the full band coming in later, and since it also has great singalong potential (just do the chorus multiple times at the end).
But the next live U2charist for which I do the music, I think I might have "Staring at the Sun" as the acoustic prelude. It's a gorgeous and deeply moving song.
March 06, 2008
Hancock UCC U2charist debrief
As y'all know, on Tuesday evening I played lead guitar and did the vocals alongside drummer Elisa Lucozzi and bassist Roseanne Hebert at Hancock UCC in Lexington for a U2charist with entirely live music.
I didn't know until shortly before the start of the prelude, though, that the service was to be televised (on local cable) and recorded to DVD. *Gulp!* And on my first public outing as a lead guitarist too -- which I was trying to do while also doing lead vocals!
There were some additional challenges as well. Various technical issues meant that I didn't have a vocal monitor as such; we were using our monitors as a P.A. system to project the vocals and drums into the congregation. Even my guitar amps were angled primarily for the congregation to hear; the direct sound out from the amp hit me at about knee level. Guitar cut out during "Sunday Bloody Sunday." My microphone cut out during "Walk On." I missed a chord or two, I'm pretty sure.
In other words, it was rock and roll! I reminded the perfectionist part of me that U2 themselves often have things go awry, and sometimes (e.g., Bono's unplanned and very lengthy plunge into the audience during "Bad" at the original Live Aid concert at Wembley) the Spirit's worked powerfully through it.
I'm still not entirely sure I'm going to watch the DVD. I'd rather judge the evening by what I saw of the congregation's experience of it than by a recording. And by what I saw in the congregation, it was a very, very good night. A packed house pledged their voices to the ONE campaign and gave generously to Oxfam for relief of extreme poverty, and by the end of the evening, I don't think there was a single person in the congregation who wasn't on their feet and singing their heart out.
I'll be posting more about the experience and what I learned from it (yes, I've been doing U2charists for almost five years now, and I'm still learning!) in subsequent posts here at U2charist resources.
March 02, 2008
Hancock UCC U2charist poster
This is a very well-designed posted for a U2charist service, done by Dana Allen Walsh of Hancock UCC in Lexington, Massachusetts. The look is clean, and the message is strong. My only suggestions for the poster would be to include the address of the church and URL of the church website, and to include what specific nonprofits/NGOs furthering the Millennium Development Goals will be the recipients of funds collected (the ONE campaign does not and cannot accept monetary contributions -- they want your voice, not your money, and conditions for the Gates Foundation grant they received include that they not collect money from individuals.
Great job, Dana!