Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without music

There are many components to what we might call “the Christmas atmosphere”, depending on your particular preferences.  Things like satsumas, roasted chestnuts, tinsel adorning everything conceivably adornable*, flashing lights, mince pies, mulled wine, and so on.  But there is one thing that trumps them all for getting us in the Christmas mood – music.

It’s played in shops from mid-November onwards (if you’re lucky).  It’s sung by church choirs.  It’s sung by enthusiastic (if less skilled) pub goers.  It’s played on pretty much all radio stations as soon as December arrives.  And because it’s represented in every conceivable musical style, it’s accessible to absolutely everyone.

I have my own Christmas traditions involving music.  Every year, without fail, I am compelled to create a new jazzy arrangement of a Christmas carol which, sadly, is likely only to be heard by me and the spider living inside my keyboard**.  Then there’s the Christmas jazz group at church, which plays an assortment of festive tunes between the 4pm and 6pm carol services on Christmas Eve.  And of course Christmas wouldn’t be complete without tinkling the ivories of whatever piano happens to be available when we visit various family households, frequently culminating in a duet of sorts with my brother on whatever instrument(s) happen to be at hand.

Have we missed the point, though?  Are we in danger of forgetting the wonder of Jesus’ incarnation amidst all that sound-making?  This year I worked up an interesting arrangement of ‘Silent night’ on the piano, which sounded really cool, but if I’m honest it had nothing to do with the words and even less to do with worshipping Jesus.  Last night I went to the Service of Lessons and Carols at our church, a traditional choir-led evening of music and familiar Bible readings.  The harmonies made me remember with fondness singing all those parts in the school choir, and I took pleasure in listening to the natural acoustics of the church.  But where was God?  Even in a church, in a religious service, surrounded by Christians, singing songs all about Jesus, listening to verses from the Bible about Jesus, it seems it’s possible to miss what it all means (that’s a topic for another day).

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill.  Maybe it’s just me, and everyone else hears God loud and clear in all Christmas music.  Maybe I should take comfort that we still manage to trickle-feed theology into the masses every year, getting them to sing songs about God without them realising.  One thing’s for sure – if Christmas was totally devoid of Christmas music it would take a very long time indeed (if at all) for me to feel ‘Christmassy’.

What about you?  Do you need music to get into the Christmas mood?

 

* I’m not sure ‘adornable’ is actually a word.  Apologies.

** I’m not 100% certain there is a spider in my keyboard.  It would be cool though.

Come back to me

So you think I don’t remember when you said you’d follow me
years ago when you were young and innocence was free
when the sun was always shining as you made your memories
nobody stood against you, it was easy to believe
But now that all that water’s passed beneath a bridge or two
you’ve told yourself it’s all a game so you don’t face the truth
Somewhere along the road you’ve taken all the wrong advice
and now you find you’re even more alone

Come back to me 
Come back to love 
Come back to where you should always have been 
Come back to me 
My grace is enough 
I want you to see 
I would move mountains for you 

So you think that you are too far gone and nothing could be done
you’ve stayed away and lived your life, but always on the run
Do you think that I don’t see what you have said and what you’ve done
you think you’ve burned your bridges, passed the point of no return
We both know you haven’t lived exactly to my plan
you’ve given your excuses thinking I won’t understand
But there’s nowhere you could run that I have not already been
take my hand and let me lead you home

Chorus 

There’s a price that must be paid to bring you back to me
it’s more than you could bear, that’s why I paid it on the tree
no sin too great, no path too far that you could not return
just take my hand and I will guide you home

Chorus

(C) Matthew Dawkins 2013

 

Listen online: https://mattdawkins.bandcamp.com/track/come-back-to-me

Amazing grace

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found;
was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart o fear,
and grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

Yes, when this heart and flesh shall fail,
and mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
a life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been there a thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we first begun.

Words by John Newton
Music (C) Matthew Dawkins 2010

 

Listen online: https://mattdawkins.bandcamp.com/track/amazing-grace

The mystery of the cross

Hands that created the earth and the sea
Those were the hands that were nailed to a tree
Tower of strength, God of infinite might
Dragged through Jerusalem without a fight

The mystery of the cross 
that you would choose to save those who were lost 
It’s incomprehensible what you have done 
The fathomless love of the Son. 

God of all majesty, glorious above
Scorned and despised by the ones that he loved
Friend of the sinner, and friend of the lame
Tortured and beaten for taking the blame

Chorus 

Till suddenly, gloriously, rose from the dead
giving us hope again, just like he said
He died to forgive us and paid for our sin
but rose to be with us and welcome us in

Chorus

(C) Matthew Dawkins 2006

 

Listen online: https://mattdawkins.bandcamp.com/track/the-mystery-of-the-cross

Do I need riches

I’m laying down my foundation stone where I think it should be
build a wall around the things that are important to me
blinded by the triviality of security
protecting me

I take the things that I treasure most and lock them all away
making sure that thieves and villains cannot take them from me
I cannot bear to live without all my luxuries
they’re all I have
they’re all I am

Do I need riches 
or people watching me 
do I need lengthy words 
to honour you and praise 

You came to earth and went to dinner with the blind and the lame
they didn’t offer you expensive gifts, they just praised your name
you didn’t hang around with princes, but lifted the shamed
in grace you saved

You said there’s more to this life than making money for gain
camels won’t go through a needle’s eye, life is no game
you cannot win just by playing by society’s rules
they’re not the same
as your perfect way

Do I need riches 
or people watching me 
do I need lengthy words 
to honour you and praise 
I don’t need riches 
or people watching me 
I don’t need lengthy words 
to honour you and praise 
I’ll honour you with praise 

All I want is you
All I need

I’m laying down my foundation stone where God says it should be
breaking down my walls and being who you want me to be
all my treasure stored in heaven for eternity
that’s where I’ll be
that’s where I’ll be

You are my riches 
you’re all I’ll ever need 
direct me by your words 
to honour you in praise

(C) Matthew Dawkins 2007

 

Listen online: https://mattdawkins.bandcamp.com/track/do-i-need-riches

The earth is the Lord’s

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it;
the earth is the Lord’s, and all who live in it.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
Only those with a pure, clean heart
who seek Your face, O God.

Lift up your heads, O you gates, 
be lifted up, you ancient doors, 
lift up your hands, O you people, 
that the King of glory may come in. 

And who is this king, this King of glory?
He is the Lord, strong and mighty.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
Only those with a pure, clean heart
who seek Your face, O God.

(Chorus)

(C) Matthew Dawkins 2006

 

Listen online: https://mattdawkins.bandcamp.com/track/the-earth-is-the-lords

One day (Holy holy holy)

One day the powers of hell were put to shame
that day when Jesus died and rose again
bringing life to all who trust in him
and hope for those who are suffering
Jesus reaches out and we will praise

Holy, holy, holy 
Holy, holy, holy 
is the Lord God almighty, 
is the Lord God almighty! 

One day the world will see you face to face
amazed at how you’ve given us your grace
every tongue declaring all you’ve done
redeeming us through your precious Son
earth will join with heaven singing praise

Chorus

(C) Matthew Dawkins 2013

 

Listen online: https://mattdawkins.bandcamp.com/track/one-day

Moving Mountains

album-artIt’s ready!  Last night I published the worship album I have been working on, ‘Moving Mountains’.  I’m quite excited by it, mainly because it’s turned out far better than I had expected.  The is power behind the message, and that makes me more determined than ever to make sure the album is heard by as many people as possible.  It’s tempting to keep looking at the download stats to see how many copies have sold, but in reality the more important figure is how many people have listened to it – I don’t mind if no one buys it, as long as they listen to it!

So please head on over to mattdawkins.bandcamp.com to listen (and download if you want), and explore mattdawkins.co.uk for more information about the album – I’ll  be posting more info there in the coming days about each track.

Recording day 6: the clear-up

Today was the last day of recording.  I methodically went through each song, checking to see whether there was anything else that needed recording or re-recording, and generally listening to the result of my hard work this past week.  I re-did the vocal part for Jesus your name is higher, and put some solo guitar bits into Father God you reign – that was the hardest part actually, since solo electric guitar is arguably the musical discipline I’m least proficient at, that being the most recent string added to my already-brimming bow.  As a result, I had to do a lot of practice to get a solo riff I was happy with, and even then it took at least 4 takes to get a clean recording of it.  A little frustrating, to be honest, and clearly the area I need to work on most.

Once that was done, it was time to pack up camp.  To start with, everything was unplugged.  Then cables were coiled and separated into groups depending on which part of the house they needed to end up in.  Then the computer was taken upstairs, followed by all its related peripherals and cabling.  The guitars and keyboard were put back in their corner, in cases where appropriate.  The microphone was put back in its case, the pre-amp was put back in its bag, and all the remaining cables put back in their respective homes.

Recording day 5

First up today was the re-recording of Father God you reign, which actually appeared on the Rooted album In the beginning.  I remember being pretty pleased with the original recording back when I did it, but the more I listened to it the more I thought there was more that could have be done with it.  It needed to be louder.  It needed to be more rocky.  It needed better electric guitar sounds.  It needed better guitar solos.  So I decided to re-record the song from scratch to appear on this album as well.

I started off with a drum track, using drum loops, and then added guitars, bass and vocals.  I’ve given it a slightly edgier feel, and hopefully a more mature interpretation too.  It took a while to get right though.  A younger version of myself would have dismissed most rock music as being unsophisticated and requiring very little intelligence – after all, it’s just a case of turning the guitars up too loud and playing three chords…  But I’ve learnt in recent years that there is a definite art to creating a convincing ‘rock’ sound, and getting just the right sound from the guitar and amp combination is tricky stuff.  And of course if you then add in complex guitar solos as well, you can take it to a whole new level again.

Now, I’m not saying that my recording of Father God you reign would compare to a version recorded by Brian May, for instance, but it is pretty rocky, and I reckon it’s much better than the version I did for the Rooted album.  We’ll see once it’s been edited.