On this and other websites we have the opportunity to share original music with thousands of other musicians.  This is really great -- one of the best features of the twenty-first century -- as long as we have the ability to create songs and find helpful people to accompany or record.  You can even record yourself on a telephone with adequate quality to send over Facebook!

 

But there are lots of people in our congregations who have musical and artistic abilities of various sorts -- songwriting, poetry, visual arts, drama -- who have little opportunity or training to share and develop the gifts they have. 

 

Example:  A lady comes to me with a whole sheaf of songs and stubs of songs.  I can tell right away it will take years to hone down her dense poetry and tune up her rhythmic cylinders so they all fire in sequence.  What can I do with her?  She has all this music in her, a music minister who is willing to mentor her, but no one else to hear her music!

 

A few years ago, I started a songwriter's fellowship, using basic concepts gleaned from a missionary who had taught Africans in the bush how to set Scripture to music.  I reinforced this with music examples from all over the world, to arrive at some notions of what makes a song really work, so "composition" is something beyond just stringing out nice ideas until the urge goes away.

 

The Fellowship went for about a year, when I ran out of ideas.  I've experienced some marvelous approaches to creative workshops, such as a time 80 of us took a Psalm and turned it into a powerful contemporary worship song, aided by a very competent and fast-thinking leader.

 

I really want to start a new Fellowship and make it a place where all, from raw beginner to experienced composer, young and old, can share their gifts, ideas and substance.  There must be some here who have experience working with the creative genius which lies imbedded in many more people than we think.  Who'd like to share their best ideas?

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As far as the lady with the whole book full of songs, start out by asking her if it's okay if you "rework" her lyrics (I'm assuming here that when you say "songs" you mean "lyrics in need of music.") to turn them into songs. If she says no, then, uhh, weasel your way out. If she says yes, then pick a couple of her pieces that inspire you in the same way that maybe a psalm text would, rework them into song lyrics and show her the result. She will either "get" that song lyrics need to be more rhythmical and regular, and write you some of that, or she won't get it and decide that you're not a good person to collaborate with :-)

As far as the new Fellowship goes, are you thinking online or in person? We already have a songwriter's corner here for critiquing original songs, but you could start something along those lines for people who write lyrics (or poems, or inspired prose). Maybe guide it along more than the songwriter's corner is. Maybe a monthly thing - the first week, you suggest a theme or a scripture and post (or link to) some songwriting tips - years ago, I was on a songwriter board where there was a theme, but there was also some songwriting technique for people to try - "this month, write a song about a lost love, using an ABCB rhyme scheme. An ABCB rhyme scheme is..." Second week, people start posting their lyrics and commenting on each other's work, reworking, etc. Third week, invite some people from WtR who do music to pick a lyric and set it to music. Fourth week, post recordings (simple demos OK) and go through critiques on those, even have the music people explain why they picked the lyric they did, the changes they made to the posted lyric, what they changed and why they changed it.

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