What's Your Calling?

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on February 1, 2010

Do you feel a specific sense of direction yet in your writing? This book focuses on worship songs, but we realize that many of our readers will also write other kinds of songs, from CCM to wholesome entertainment.
Paul has a very specific calling to write worship songs. That’s what he is, a lead worshiper/songwriter, and his songs reflect his calling.

Jimmy and Carol felt early on that their calling was not so much to write for artists, although they have done some of that, but to write for churches to perform, and especially to write dramatic musicals (involving  characters, dialog, etc.) and interactive musical events (involving minister/ narrators and audience response.)

Their advice: If you decide to write musicals for the church, recognize that there are two drawbacks to this:

1. Although you record your musical with professionals, you’re really writing for amateurs to perform, so you have to be careful about the level of difficulty. Doesn’t sound very satisfying to the writer’s ego, does it?  But when we use the term amateur, we don’t use it in a demeaning way. Although it does mean “someone who doesn’t make a living from his work,” it also has another meaning.The ama comes indirectly from the Latin amare, meaning “to love,” and amateur means someone who does something for the love of it. That’s not bad. There are lots of “amateurs” out there who are better than some professionals.

2. In writing musicals, realize that most of the songs you write will never be heard apart from the musical. There are, of course, certain songs within musicals, which we refer to as takeaway songs or lifters, that can stand alone. But most songs in musicals are book songs. They carry detail about the plots and characters, further the action, and replace dialogue. For example, a song called “Nothin’ Ever Happens Here in Galilee,” from Jimmy and Carol’s The Witness, sets the stage for the appearance of Jesus on the scene, but is unlikely to be sung apart from the musical. Or the emotional “Where Have the Children Gone?” will probably never be heard outside its setting in Heal Our Land.

But these songs served their purpose well.

So although the Owenses have some 250 published and recorded songs, about 70 percent of them are parts of their 12 musicals. But they’re content with this. That has been their calling, and it’s more satisfactory to see their musicals used than their individual songs. A musical is synergistic. That is, its effect is greater than the sum of its parts. The 15 or so songs of a musical, along with its story or narration, concentrate their power in a way that, as individual songs going their separate ways, they couldn’t do.
Maybe you haven’t felt a specific sense of direction yet, but be open for anything.

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