The Grace Chicago Consort James Falzone: director, clarinet, tin whistle Davin Youngs: voice Rebekah Cope: violin Karen Schulz-Harmon: cello Marty Metzger: guitars Tim Mulvenna: hand drums and percussion Sounding Grace: Reflections on the Music of Grace Chicago Church About a year ago I was working on my sermon in The Grind, a local coffee shop located near Chicago's famed Old Town School of Folk Music. Due to it's proximity to that venerable place, the shop always features top notch, thoughtfully chosen music. As I pondered the mysteries of the gospel, and wrestled with how to bring them to God's people on Sunday, Gillian Welch's, "I'm Not Afraid To Die" came over the sound system. This song is a part of Grace Chicago's musical repertoire and hearing it brought my heart and soul across space and time, into the last Good Friday service, where it was sung in an arrangement much like the one on this recording. In that moment, the song evoked for me not simply a thought or memory, but embodied an entire experience of God's gracious presence with our church community. I was moved to tears as I thought of the way this song, like the music at Grace in general, evokes a world scarred, but hungry for healing. We think that the music at Grace Chicago echoes the mysteries confessed in word and sacrament. We hope it sounds that way to you too. Bob Reid Minister, Grace Chicago What is music? I wonder this quite often. Scholars tell us it is something like "sound organized in time" and this is true enough. But we all know there is so much more involved-so much mystery, so much that moves beyond what language can measure. Perhaps an equal question is: what does music do? This can be easier to answer I think. It makes us move, feel, fall in love, go to war. Napoleon rather infamously stated that an army is only as good as it's marching band. We know music can help define culture or galvanize a group of people around a cause or idea. Every heretic employed a hymn writer. And still there is mystery. How does it all work, really? As is often the case, there remain more questions than answers. But in these questions we may discover a starting place for describing the music that has developed at Grace Chicago Church: when we cannot speak anymore, music enters. And then, how can we keep from singing? From the start, the music at Grace Chicago has had a few guiding principles. We've wanted it to develop with a high level of professionalism, a commitment to creativity that mirrors our Creator, and a blatant disregard for any sort of genre allegiance. We've wanted the music to be about these people in this place, at this time. The whole thing has developed. . . improvisationally. The first service was forty people singing to a lonely clarinet. As of this writing, five years hence, our regular attendance numbers many more and the six-member Grace Chicago Consort is the ensemble in residence. The members of the Consort are each incredible musicians who have given their time and talents to Grace in ways that far exceed their remuneration. These are musicians you will find on Saturday nights in the finest jazz clubs and concert halls around the city (actually, around the world) and then bleary-eyed on Sunday morning, fully dedicated to the mission and vision of "sounding grace". You'll hear that on this recording: Tim's hands coaxing beats that speak volumes without volume, Rebekah soaring above the texture with descant lines like a nightingale, Karen grounding us all with precision and beauty of tone, Marty ever coloring, his chords twisting like our faith, and Davin singing all styles at once yet never sounding like anything but himself, always like someone totally convinced of what he is saying. And I'm there too; my compositions and arrangements, a touch of Klezmer and New Orleans from the clarinet, the tin whistle like a train calling in the distance. But part of my role is the man behind the curtain, making sure this whole thing points somewhere else. That's a church musician's chief aim it seems to me: pointing. This music represents a small cross section of what we do at Grace Chicago. This is a taste of our Sunday morning. If you're a member of the community, you'll sing along. If you're new to it, you may scratch your head a bit: "that ain't Great Is Thy Faithfulness!" What we're trying to do is bring a sonic dimension to the Gospel. We are attempting to sound grace and sometimes this might resonate a bit like one of Jesus' parables. It may not make sense right up front. You have to let it ring a bit. And then it finds an echo in your soul. . . and how can you keep from singing? James Falzone Director of Music, Grace Chicago.