Friday night, I attended the live recording of a new worship album by Gateway Church, located in nearby Southlake, which is just north and west of the D/FW airport, not far from our offices in Grand Prairie. I was there at the invitation of the worship pastor, Thomas Miller, who has been a friend for some twelve years or so, since we served together in the music department at another church.
Gateway is a rapidly growing congregation in a rapidly expanding section of the D/FW Metroplex and I have a number of friends and co-workers who work or attend there. Under Thomas' direction, Gateway Worship has assembled an excellent cadre of musical and technical talent.
This CD/DVD will have a number of new worship songs that will feature several emerging worship music writers and performing artists. In addition to Thomas' inspired singing and leading, there were top-notch vocal performances by Kari Jobe, Walker Beach, Zach Neese, David Moore, and others. Kari Jobe has a powerful, richly beautiful voice and a very mature musicality that belies her age. She is especially good at the slower, ballad-type songs, which every professional singer will tell you are typically much more difficult to sing than uptempo pop or rock-style tunes. Thomas, Beach, and Moore handled most of the rock-and-roll leads, but Zach Neese sang lead vocal on just one tune, that he wrote, that I liked a lot. Excellent vocal work, compelling lyrics, and a distinctly different sounding song, stylistically, and it really stood out.
The instrumental performances were all solid and well-delivered, with a minimum of solo features. I would have liked to have heard some more guitar shredding, actually, and there was room for it. But then, that is clearly a personal thing with me, and I have no complaint with anything I heard. Everybody sounded very, very good, tight and rehearsed, but clearly not intimidated by the pressure of the live recording vibe. Lots of good sonic textures, layers, and rhythmic complexity - very thoughtful and creative arrangements. The drum sound in the room was excellent and both drummers played very well. The bass player was really fun. Reserved in demeanor, but his six-string rig provided some amazing, room-filling, low-end presence.
The two choir ranks, probably totalling 200 voices strong, really added to the energy and power of the songs, too.
One of my favorite things, though, came in the middle of the evening when they stopped the recording and Thomas invited their senior pastor, Robert Morris, to the stage. He gave a short, thoughtful devotion, lead us into a time of prayer, and then the serving of communion to the worshipping audience. Really special and something I wouldn't have anticipated.
This will be Gateway's second release on Integrity Records. They have some "industry buzz" going on, so there were some music industry notables around, including Don Moen. The church has a top-notch professional technical staff and a lot of the audio and video production tasks were done by their own folks, staff and volunteers. There were some outside pros involved, too, naturally, and a couple of truckloads of state-of-the-art recording, camera, and production gear.
It was a profound blessing to be a part of this worship event. My heart was lifted and I was encouraged by the whole experience. I flew in a couple of days early just so I could take it in, and I am very, very glad I did.