Pre-Production, Collaboration, and Criticism – 3 Keys to A Suc

I finally was able to sit back and watch Celebrate With Family 2010 yesterday from start to finish. I realized I hadn’t seen the entire show yet, only bits and pieces, and I was pleased at how the entire thing felt so cohesive. Nothing felt left-footed or out of place, there didn’t seem to be any weak moments. That was a great feeling.

I get to work with such talented people, but what’s awesome is that each of us helps make the others better. As we began to prepare for CWF, it was obvious that we would not succeed if we all worked separately – musicians creating the music, video producers creating videos, etc. There had to be a collusion of ideas, but even more a critique of each other’s work. In talking to so many worship leaders across the country I’m surprised to find that most of them work in a vacuum – void of any helpful criticism or direction as to how other service elements are being created. The reason our Christmas service felt so cohesive was that we all worked together.

To best illustrate this idea of collaboration and critique, I’ll share with you how pre-production laid the groundwork for our opening 3 songs for CWF 2010 – Little Drummer Boy, Deck The Halls, and The Grinch/Thriller. Six weeks or so before our first concert we nailed down the specific ideas for these songs referencing several songs by other artists, commercials, YouTube videos, and anything else that helped define the vision of where we wanted them to go.

LITTLE DRUMMER BOY influences
“Little Drummer Boy” by Jars of Clay from their project “Christmas Songs”
“Clap Hands” by Beck from his performance on the Sarah Kuttner Show via YouTube

DECK THE HALLS influences
“Deck the Rooftops” by GLEE cast from the project GLEE: The Music – The Christmas Album
“Play 60 Bus Commercial” by NFLRush.com via YouTube
“How Cute are These Boots” 2009 GAP Christmas commercial via YouTube
“Mickey” by Toni Basil (yes, seriously)

THE GRINCH/THRILLER
This one’s pretty obvious, although we did listen to a lot of Will Smith as we were writing the Grinch chorus. You gotta do what you gotta do…

Once we had that direction I took my staff musicians into the studio and we began to create. We spent several days tracking these songs as if we were making a record. We wanted to get as specific as possible with drum patterns, keyboard sounds, vocal parts, and even lead vocals. It was important to make sure our ideas worked now, not when we hit the stage for our first rehearsal. During this process we would send files back to our creative team to get their opinion. If what we had created didn’t match the initial vision of what we had discussed we would begin to make tweaks. Honestly, there were several times where we felt pretty good about what we had created, but when it was reviewed by our entire team we understood where we had fallen short. This process went on for at least 2 weeks, and slowly but surely our collective vision became reality.

The time spent in pre-production paid dividends immediately. On Tuesday, Dec. 14 we had our first on-stage rehearsal, just 4 days before our first performance, and it was apparent that we would not be holding up production while we made the music work. That saved time, wear, and tear on our crew and our volunteers. We made maybe 100 adjustments during rehearsals but the decisions we made during the pre-production phase were solid. And it translated into the most amazing production we’ve done here at COTM.

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Andy Chrisman
Worship Pastor
Andy came to Church on the Move in 2005, having been in the music industry for over 25 years. He's dedicated to raising up the next generation of worship leaders, and even though he spent many years with the group 4him, he says he's "having more fun now than I ever did on the road."
@AndyChrisman