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February 22, 2008


"Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" is a gorgeous song off of U2's all-too-frequently overlooked album Zooropa. It works very, very well with nothing but one guitar and one voice to lead it; indeed, U2 often do it acoustically with just The Edge and Bono, and I've found that congregations can with coaching do The Edge's vocal part fairly easily.

I think it works as a Confession of Need (as in need for healing), but thus far, I've placed it in U2charist services as a prelude -- something that does a bit of tone-setting as people are coming in. U2 fanatics sing along, and since it was never a big single, others tend to join in mostly when invited to do so explicitly by the usual concert cues -- the singer (and this is one reason to do it live!) can step away from the microphone or point the microphone toward the congregation and just sing loudly enough for the first 15 rows of people to hear singing without amplification. Ear-cupping works as well. It's not the orans position -- indeed, that gesture doesn't have a Latin name at all that I know -- but it's about leading worship in a way that invites full participation from everyone present. And "Stay" is brilliant as a prelude, not only because it's a very cool song that can be done solo and acoustic (and therefore won't steal thunder from an opening hymn), but also because there's this part, normally sung in U2 concerts by The Edge just before and during the final verse, that's just a series of soaring "ohs," and congregations do that almost instantly when invited.

So "Stay" is a potential tone-setter in multiple ways. It's one of U2's more explicitly "God-talky" songs among their recent material, while still being very grounded in everyday realities. And doing it as a prelude live -- and inviting the congregation to sing the "ohs" at least -- can introduce the congregation to your intention that this is a worship service, not a concert, and that everyone will be invited to participate.

Along those lines, I also have started offering to do a session before a U2charist (either a week before at the same time, or two to three hours beforehand, so I can rest my voice and hands before the service) in which people who are intrigued by the concept but don't actually know U2's songs very well (there are quite a few people who fit that description -- especially when it comes to U2 songs, such as "Yahweh," which are great for U2charists but have never been singles or gotten much radio play). It seems to do a great deal for the congregation's experience of the service. If you've got a worship leader in your congregation who can do that -- even if s/he's doing it to a backdrop of recorded music -- that pre-service opportunity can be very helpful.

February 22, 2008 in Acoustic music, Confessions, Music, Music tips (live), Playlists/song choices, Preludes, Small bands (i.e., songs that work without bass and/or drums) | Permalink


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