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Joyful Sounds
Southern Ontario is richly blessed with an amazing diversity of Christian musicians who want their music to enhance praise and worship in the Christian community.

From makeshift basement studios to the most professional recording facilities, talented local musicians are expressing their faith while sharing their gift of song. The Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville area is richly blessed with an amazing diversity of Christian musicians.  And while their musical styles and influences may vary greatly, they are united in offering advice and encouragement to aspiring Christian musicians, and in the desire that their music will enhance the praise and worship of the Christian community.

Monica Heeg-Admiral

In addition to being choir director at Hamilton District Christian High School, Monica Heeg-Admiral writes and performs music for solo piano.

Her first album, Doxology (2003), was followed in 2007 by Keys to Christmas, containing many favourite Christmas carols in beautiful arrangements for solo piano.

Encouraged to record by long-time friend Christopher Clause, who is worship pastor at Hamilton’s James Street Baptist, Monica says she “went into the project completely new to the whole process” and valued complete freedom to make all artistic decisions.

Monica’s music has been self-financed, and she promotes her music, a gift to share with others.  Her advice to musicians is to foster contacts within music circles and to work with, if possible, an experienced, local producer.

Peter Tigchelaar

Peter Tigchelaar is another Hamilton-area songwriter whose acoustic guitar and stage presence have caused others to rejoice.  Peter recorded his music as “a completely independent venture, a product of the vision that brought the songs out.”  He was clear about his place in the recording process: “I’m not the sort of musician who is at all inclined to do my own recording.  A certain amount of distance is probably a healthy thing, between creating and producing a project and the more technical, engineering aspects.”

Unmasking idols

Peter offered a warning that “the music industry has always had a fair amount of idolatry, lust for power, fame and wealth.  Idols are often there as a counterfeit of the real thing, and can obscure truth and beauty. I find it an intriguing exercise to unmask the fake while remaining engaged with it.”

Peter’s music was almost completely self-funded; family and friends supported him.  He said he would repeat the process, expressing the personal view that “creating a project outside of a recording contract – that seems the only way to go.”  His advice to fledgling musicians was austerely compassionate. “Know why you want to do your project and what your anticipated market is,” he said.  “There is a lot of ‘listener fatigue.’  It has become, in some ways, too easy to record and there is just too much stuff to listen to it all.”

Colleen Reinders and Grace Moes

The duo of Colleen and Grace (Colleen Reinders and Grace Moes) have been serving God’s people through worship renewal since 1981, and have released 11 recordings. Their Oakville-based ministry includes worship leading, praise and worship conferences and worship team clinics.

The studio experience

“Recording, compared with a live performance, is tedious and humbling,” said Grace Moes. “You can get away with a lot when you’re performing live in front of a group of people – they’re ‘in the moment’ with you and those little instrumental or vocal mistakes are quickly forgotten. But in the studio, it’s another matter: you really want to capture the best performance you possibly can and that can require a lot of perseverance, not to mention money.”

The duo firmly believe in the need to maintain a high degree of humility during the entire recording process. “Colleen and I have had the pleasure of working with some fantastic musicians and background singers who can play and sing circles around us,” continues Grace. “Then it’s our turn and we ask ourselves ‘how come our names are on the cover? – we are the least qualified people on the project!’ That’s when we really have to centre ourselves again on the reason we’re doing this: if God has called us to do it, He will also qualify us to get it done.”

Diane Clemons

Oakville’s Diane Clemons, the wife of football legend Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons, recently released her first gospel CD, Fly Away. Diane says she too was particularly struck by how different the studio experience is from a live performance.

“There’s the mixing, arranging and producing that go hand in hand to make a quality recording and the equipment is more precise,” she says. “I learned this especially when it came to my microphone technique. There is a way to work the mike in the studio to give your vocals the best sound possible and it’s important to pay attention to those kinds of details. It’s also important to remember to enjoy the moments you spend in the studio.

Lisa Nicole

Lisa Nicole is a Burlington-based songwriter who, along with guitarist Daren Swanson, form the acoustic duo Alchemy Unplugged. Lisa is also the manager of Vintage Vocals, a company that advertises other companies’ products through music.  She endorsed self-production, purchasing a compact-disc burner and burning all the discs herself. Lisa’s advice to young musicians is that if they believe in themselves, in God, and in their fans, they could do no wrong.  “When your heart’s music sounds like it should,” she said, “then it’s from God.”

Taking the music to market

However, even once the music is written, the tracks are recorded and the CDs are burned, many musicians have discovered that the truly hard work is only beginning if they are looking to make their project a commercial success.

Vili V is a dynamic 30-year-old singer/songwriter born in Hamilton, and now living in Burlington. He was inspired at a early age by Elvis Presley’s gospel recordings, and went on to study jazz and classical music at Mohawk College. His debut album Indigo Blue (2003) is distributed through EMI Records, and he has just released a new inspirational album, The Journey.

Vili V

“If I had to do it all over again, I would have given myself even more time to plan the marketing,” says Vili.  “I’m a highly creative person who doesn’t take readily to the business side of things. If you are like me, I highly recommend finding someone to help you with promotion and marketing. You should also try to get as much knowledge about the music business as possible, so you can produce and promote your music effectively. I recommend reading books about Internet promotion and marketing.”

Diane Clemons agrees that “the work does not really begin until after the CD is completed! Being in the studio is actually the fun part because it is a more personal experience, and it’s about you and your music.  But once the recording is done, it’s all about working the media, arranging distribution, and creating exposure for your product.”

Sharing the joy

Monica Joy

Singer/songwriter Monica Joy grew up in Hamilton and now lives in Zurich, on Lake Huron’s shores.  She recently released a folk-pop gem, her album If Everything is Lost.  Monica’s financing method was novel: she sold 16 shares at $500 each, and as CDs sell she writes cheques to her investors.  “In future, however,” she said, “my music would move toward governmental and record label support.”  

Monica enjoyed recording with producer Michael Bannerman in The Music Room, and would, she said, continue to make use of a studio for future recordings.  Her advice was that mentorship was important: too many musicians enter the studio not knowing what to do.  Practice your songs, she said, and bring the best of what you have into the studio.  Finally, she reminded artists “to seek out God’s heart and follow it, develop your craft and do it excellently. Christian musicians must honour God with what they do, and, ultimately, realize that what they do is a gift from God.”

A need for more support

Neeraj Prem

Hamilton’s Neeraj Prem admits that he is sometime frustrated by the lack of support for the ministry work musicians are engaged in.  Neeraj recently released his Indo-Canadian Christian album United Voices, a collection of western, eastern and original compositions from 18th century to the present day, with $2 from each CD going toward church development in northern India.

Neeraj says there is an abundance of talent within the local Christian music community, but they often do not receive the support they need and deserve. He believes Christian music can be an effective way to reach those currently outside the faith, and he encourages church leadership to include support for local Christian musicians as part of their outreach and evangelism priorities.

Hamilton’s Jason Pluim chooses to record from home for three reasons: finance, artistic freedom, and convenience.  For the music that Jason was writing, the rawness and simplicity of the home-recorded route fit well.

Jason Pluim

“The main objective in my music,” he says, “is to promote honesty and transparency with God, each other and to ourselves, which I think was somehow enhanced in the raw way it was conveyed.”  Regardless, he was positive about the place of the studio in the music’s development.

“Sometimes you need an unbiased perspective to enhance your production,” he said. Funding for Jason’s projects is raised through concerts and the support of family and friends.  His advice is to start with what one has and to get recording, to have fun, and to research as much as you can.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Glen Soderholm is the director of Moveable Feast Resources, a ministry consulting organization, and was formerly the pastor of two Presbyterian churches in the Campbellville area. Glen has recently released his fifth CD, This Bright Sadness.

Glen Soderholm

Creative control

Glen says that “with the advent of cheaper ways of recording, the cost of recording was the motivating factor for self-production. Also, the opportunity to create art is not limited by a record label’s controls.”  Glen’s concern addressed the record label’s unwillingness to create a sustained following.  “It’s so easy,” he concluded, “to be the flavour-of-the-month.”

Martinus Geleynse is a producer and the manager of Hamilton-based World Media Red and 9A Records.  When asked about self-production, he responded that “as a producer, one of the biggest reasons for in-house production is the cost efficiency.” For funding, Martinus recommended that artists turn to family, friends, and government and corporate grants. CHUM Media, he said, administers funds through promoFACT and videoFACT programmes.

Martinus endorsed the healthy role of a good, independent producer. “It leaves the artist to simply perform their art,” he said.  His advice is to “pay attention to making the music sound good.  When listeners sample your track online, they need to be convinced that they should purchase the song.  Musicians must remain competitive, especially if they try to wade into the fray without record label clout.”

As he works toward the release of his first album From Shipwreck, Hamilton’s Joshua Weresch is drawing upon the wealth of experience and talent within the local Christian music community.

As he works toward the release of his first album ‘From Shipwreck,’ Hamilton’s Joshua Weresch is drawing upon the wealth of experience and talent within the local Christian music community.

Make the music shine

Whether the goal is to produce music that is commercially successful, or if the main objective is to lead a ministry of praise and worship, Grace Moes says aspiring musicians should “hone their craft at the local level and be faithful in the ‘small’ opportunities.

“Be part of your congregation’s worship team and not just someone waiting for the limelight of a successful music career,” she says. “In our experience, very few are called to ‘the road’ and too many have boxes and boxes of unsold CDs in the basement. If God does lead you to do a recording, enjoy the ride and stay focused on pleasing Him in all that you do.”

That sentiment also rings true for Vili V. “Through my music, I also learned to trust God more and to let Him lead me when I’m recording and planning,” says Vili. “In the end, it is not about making money, but about touching people’s lives with beautiful truth woven into song. You must have a passion not only for music but also for reaching others and helping make this world a better place as Jesus Christ has asked us to do.”     

To hear songs by some of the musicians featured in this story, click here. To visit their individual websites, click here.

Joshua Weresch is a songwriter and freelance writer who is working toward the release of his first album, From Shipwreck, which is being recorded at home.  He may be found online at www.joshuaweresch.ca

Originally published in Beacon, September 2008.

 

 
 
 
 

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