Christmas Songs in March: A Lesson in Collaborative Songwriting
Since we last spoke, a lot has happened. In December, I came through my hip-hop surgery with flying colors, thanks to a great surgeon and an even greater husband and family who nursed me back to health. At first I was on a walker, then graduated to using my pimp-stick (otherwise known as a cane) and am now walking nicely on my own – thank you very much. I feel great and although I still need to take it easy, I am feeling (almost) back in full swing.
As if on cue, I was handed a blessing from God. Back in October, Joey and I received an invitation asking us to attend a week-long songwriting retreat in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The objective: to write traditional Christmas songs. So, at the top of March, we packed our bags and said YES to the offer. Twenty-five well established songwriters from all over the country flew into Grand Rapids to be part of this invitation only event at Calvin Christian College. Their collegiate slogan is – Think Deeply, Act Justly, Live Wholeheartedly. And we did just that.
Each morning, we went to class to learn about the story of Christ’s birth told from the biblical perspective of Luke and Matthew. Class was taught by a wonderful Christian scholar versed in the hymnals of Charles Wesley (“Hark! The Angels Herald Sing”); Wesley was a 18th century Methodist leader widely known for writing over 1600 hymns. We also had the chance to view historic pieces of artwork, by Rembrandt and others depicting the birth of Jesus. This only served to widen our songwriting instincts as we considered the awe surrounding the meaning of Jesus’ birth. After morning class, we broke up into collaborative groups and wrote what was in our hearts using all of what we had been taught and what we personally felt about the magic of Christmas. In the evening, we came together to share what we had written.
If that wasn’t good enough, we had beautiful accommodations, the guidance of delightful staff and three delicious meals served to us each day. Remarkably, the universe did its best to set the stage for writing Christmas songs in the month of March by sending us a beautiful snow storm on the first day we were there. I thought, ‘Where am I right now? In heaven?’ Perhaps I had died on the plane and thanks to a good life, I was granted happiness in a place where nice songwriters gathered to write.
At the end of the week, the group had generated over 25 songs and we all felt a great sense of accomplishment, camaraderie and gratefulness.
Here’s what I learned about collaborative songwriting:
- Say YES to music no matter where it may take you
- Be willing to step into new situations, and new surroundings.
- Check your egos at the door and do what’s best for the song
- Work with other songwriters who have written before. Things will move along faster
- Stay focused on the task at hand
- Carve out a schedule and stick to it
- Each songwriter brings a gift to the process. Be aware of yours
- Eat good food, sleep well and be on time. This is essential in the creative process
- Be present. There are miracles all around you all the time, like snow storms and scholars and beautiful things.
- Be grateful that you were given the gift of music in your life