Peter's Blog

Oil: Beauty and Horror in the Petrol Age

Written by Peter Johnston on .

We in Ferryhill Parish Church were approached a few years ago by two of the curators of a new exhibit which was gathering items for that exhibit from around the world. Their interest was in one of the stained glass windows within the church designed and created by Jennifer-Jane Bayliss: the Piper Alpha Memorial window. 

After much delay it is great to see that the exhibit based in the Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg, Germany, is ready. It will be open from 4 September 2021 to 9 January 2022. You can see more about it here.

As the curators write:

No other substance has shaped societies in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries as much as petroleum. Airplanes, tanks, and spacecraft, motorways, shopping malls and suburban settlements, nylon stockings, mountains of plastic, and vinyl – key materials and technologies, lifestyles and visions of our time owe their existence to the energy density and transformability of oil. Now, however, the dusk of the “petrol age” is looming, whereby neither can its end be precisely dated, nor its consequences adequately assessed. The exhibition Oil. Beauty and Horror in the Petrol Age therefore takes a speculative, poetic look back at the presence of the modern age of petroleum, which has lasted for roughly one hundred years. From the distance of a hypothetical future, we ask what was typical of our time, what was great and beautiful, what was ugly and terrible, and how all this is reflected in art and culture.
This is all taking place in Wolfsburg, the home of Volkswagen, and thus, like Aberdeen, a city which has been profoundly shaped by the petrol age. It is humbling to know that amongst all the pieces of art on display in Wolfsburg will be a rendition of the Piper Alpha Memorial window - a reminder of the costs of this age directly on families.
Here is the Piper Alpha Memorial window in situ in the Memorial Chapel:
 

Amazing Grace

Written by Peter Johnston on .

A wee project for the National Day of Prayer for Scotland 2021 was the creation of a virtual rendition of Amazing Grace (and He Is Lord) with folks from many different churches and denominations around Scotland. It was great to have a little part in it. Enjoy!

New Autumn Issue of Spill the Beans

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 40

We come to the end of the second year of our three year cycle with the Revised Common Lectionary with a new issue of Spill the Beans from the team. We spend some time exploring the Letter of James, the story of Job and some of the Psalms in this issue. It takes us from Pentecost 14 to Reign of Christ Sunday, the last Sunday in the church's calendar (29 August to 21 November 2021). As always, you will find contained within a rich variety of resources and continue to be mindful that many of us may have a mixed economy of worship and age group activities.

Sampler

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then please have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 40 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy Now' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The pdf file is approximately 6 MB so it may take a little time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so!

Spill the Beans Issue 40 Cover

Buy Now

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans website, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new Facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

The office in which the printed copies are made is currently only periodically open due to the pandemic so we cannot provide any printed copies of this issue. Our apologies for that inconvenience.

 

Bring It All To Me - Virtual Choir

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Thanks again to our fabulous contributors! Here is the finished version of the song which we will be using on Sunday 27 June:

Hi singers, we are going to be experimenting with some in-person (and behind masks) singing in church this Sunday. But at the moment still see a role for our virtual choirs for encouragement of folks worshiping at home and to give an encouraging lead to worship within the sanctuary too.

I'd love to create a virtual choir version of the meditative and beautiful Fischy Music song "Bring It All To Me" that we will use on Sunday 27 June, a Sunday when we will be thinking about lamentation as we share in David's grief at the loss of Saul and Jonathan.

This is a unison song, so we are all singing the main melody (though if some of you are minded to add a bit of harmony yourselves, please feel free). We've used this song a few times before at Ferryhill. I may use trios of voices for the lines, with all singing the repeated "Bring it all to me". But for the recording, please sing the whole thing through when you are recording. That will give me maximum choices for the mix and edit.

Please listen to the guide track to get a feel for this one, it is a gentle sing.

See below for full technical information on recording and a link through which to send your submissions. It would be really helpful to have submissions in hand by the end of Monday 21 June.

Musical Score

You can download a copy of the musical score and lyrics here.

A copy of the lyrics alone is available here.

Guide Track

Please use the audio Guide Track to listen to as you record yourself.

SYNC CLAP: It is very helpful to have a nice clean clap on the audio/video to help align everything when mixing and editing. Please clap on the first beat of the fifth bar of the introduction (this is where the violin comes in).

 

You can also download a copy using this link.

Technical Instructions

We recommend having a good few practice sing throughs before you film yourself and then when you’re ready to go, you can record yourself by playing the audio track through headphones on a device other than the one you are recording on. This way, the recording will only pick up your lovely singing! (I personally found it easier to only have one headphone in my ear so I could hear myself singing better, but that’s just personal preference!)

Do as many takes as you need – I know I have never once got it right the first time! And remember: even if it sounds a little weird to hear your voice on its own, when everything is edited together it will sound beautiful! You may want to find a spot where you can stand to sing to help your breathing.

A couple of little notes about filming: if possible, try to film somewhere quiet and well-lit (ideally with you facing a window) so that the videos look lovely! Please film landscape instead of portrait – it is so much easier to edit everything together if the videos all have similar proportions. Lastly, please keep recording until the music finishes! This just means that we don’t have some people’s videos cutting out way before others’ and means we’ll have a better finished video.

While we can absolutely have people film on their phones/tablets, recording using Zoom itself results in a much smaller file which is more manageable (both for sending the file and for editing the video together). If you are recording using Zoom on a laptop or desktop computer note that there is a new version with some enhanced features that is just now available so you may want to go back to their website (https://zoom.us/download#client_4meeting) and download the client and install it so you have the latest version.

Once you have done this, open up the Zoom programme and on the home page click on the wee gear icon in the top right corner. This takes you to "Settings". Then click on the Audio option on the left column.

  1. Click the "Advanced" button at bottom right of the Settings window and check the box to Show in-meeting option to "Enable Original Sound" from microphone.
  2. Under "Microphone" uncheck the "Automatically Adjust Microphone Volume" option and then sing a bit and look at the "Input Level" line and adjust the slider so that the volume peaks around 2/3rds along the line.
  3. Leave "Suppress Background Noise" on "Auto".
  4. Under "Music and Professional Audio" check the option to "Show in-meeting option to 'Turn on Original Sound'", and the option for "High fidelity music mode", you can keep the other two options unchecked.
  5. When you then go to record your session on Zoom ensure that you have clicked the link at top left hand corner that would say "Turn on original sound" so that it illuminates in blue and says "Turn off original sound" - it is a bit of awkward language, but when it is blue then you are recording the original sound from your microphone.
  6. Ignore all of this if you are using Zoom on a tablet or smartphone as these options are not available!
  7. If you film on Zoom, the files will be saved once you end the meeting and it should save an audio file and a video file – it’s helpful for our editing if you can send us both of those! These are the m4a and mp4 files.

If this is all a bit complicated, don’t worry. It’s fine to just film on your phone/tablet – just be aware the file will be much bigger and might take a while to upload (depending on how good your internet connection is!)

When you have your recording, it would be helpful if you could rename the file with your name and, if an instrument the part you are playing, then you can upload your files directly to me using this dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/xiJyVUCLatiQoQYCyS9p

DEADLINE

As mentioned earlier it would be really appreciated to have the audio/video submissions in hand by the end of Monday 21 June.

Thank you so much!

Doomed to Repetition

Written by Peter Johnston on .

In this morning's service I shared some of my frustrations with where we are as the UK headed, once again, during the challenging times of this pandemic. I mentioned a piece in the British Medical Journal that was published on Friday. Here is a link to it: 

https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/05/28/the-uks-response-to-new-variants-a-story-of-obfuscation-and-chaos/

An important section from it:

In a briefing held on 14 May 2021, Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, announced that his government would proceed with stage 3 of easing lockdown, even though this was contrary to its own scientific advice.  A situation update released by SAGE earlier that day, estimating that B.1.617.2 was very likely more transmissible than B.1.1.7, suggested that a 40-50% increase in transmissibility would lead to hospitalisations at a level similar to or higher than the January peak in the presence of stage 3 easing. Advancing to stage 4 could exceed this. [6] A model from SPI-M-O suggested that this peak could be even larger if B.1.617.2 showed a degree of vaccine escape. While we do not yet know the exact extent of B.1.617.2’s greater transmissibility, a significant risk clearly exists. Thus, one of the key tests for further easing of lockdown, “the assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern,” was not met. 

We should be reminded that it dd not have to be this way, and indeed other countries have done far better jobs than we. The link below is to an article comparing the responses of a range of OECD countries. The UK made wrong choices, and, alas, seems doomed to keep repeating those mistakes.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00978-8/fulltext

 

Artificial Intelligence And The Church

Written by Peter Johnston on .

For the last few years I have been serving on the Church of Scotland's Society, Religion and Technology Project. Over the last 50 years this group has been investigating and reporting on important areas such as bioethics, the environment, technology, and the economy.

The latest report is one which I helped author which is of particular interest to me as I did much research of Artificial Intelligence some 20 years ago. The report is exploring some of the ways that Artificial Intelligence is affecting us today, what is good and what is troubling, and what our response as a church might be.

Internet-based new technologies are rapidly changing the way we live and have become a remarkable lifeline to people socially isolated during the covid-19 pandemic. Machines with artificial intelligence (AI),at the heart of search engines, voice assistants and speech and face recognition on mobile phones, are powering much of this revolution. AI is used in business and government administration, including the assessment of social security, employment and loan applications. AI algorithms also underpin some impressive innovations in healthcare, assisting doctors to diagnose illness, discover new drugs, read medical images and use robots in surgical operations.

 

The Church has many reasons to celebrate and embrace these technologies,but some difficult questions arise about the implementation of the digital revolution. Is our privacy adequately protected by the large tech companies who collect and profit from the personal data of everyonewho uses the internet? How much awareness is there amongst users of social media platforms of how those platforms function and monetise them, as users, selling and manipulating their attention for the sake of advertising revenue? How much human supervision is required when life-changing decisions about our health or employment are based on outputs from computers running AI algorithms? Who is held responsible when unfair or damaging decisions are made and do we really understand what these algorithms do? How safe are driverless cars, and who is responsible if things go wrong? How do we respond to the deployment of autonomous weapons or the use of sophisticated AI surveillance tools in policing and the persecution of religious groups by governments? Should we be fearful that runaway technology will move beyond human control? And, ultimately, how does increasing reliance on technology and AI implementations affect who we are as relational human beings, made in the image of God?

If you would like to read the full report, you can find it here.

Pentecost Virtual Choir Song

Written by Peter Johnston on .

UPDATE

And here is the finished song. Thank you everyone!


We are seeking to create a new virtual choir song for Pentecost Sunday. We have picked one of John L Bell and Graham Maule's beautiful songs, titled "Enemy of Apathy" and found in the Church Hymnary at number 593.

This is a unison song, so we are all singing the main melody and may well be familiar to you. Please sing the whole thing through when you are recording, but be aware that I will be then using different voices for different sections for some variation throughout the song.

We are singing it pretty much as written in the musical score with one change. The final note we are going to hold for four beats (the whole bar) rather than the two beats in the score. The audio guide track will keep you right here. At the end of the verse please try to come off with a nice clean syllable on the first beat of the next bar. Listen to Kevin singing it in the Guide Track to get the idea.

See below for full technical information on recording and a link through which to send your submissions. It would be really helpful to have submissions in hand by the end of Monday 10 May.

Musical Score

You can download a copy of the score and lyrics here.

Guide Track

Please use the audio Guide Track to listen to as you record yourself.

SYNC CLAP: It is very helpful to have a nice clean clap on the audio/video to help align everything when mixing and editing. Please clap on the first beat of the second bar of the introduction.

 

You can also download a copy using this link.

Instrumental Parts

We would welcome instrumental recordings for this one too and have provided a variety of parts:

Technical Instructions

We recommend having a good few practice sing throughs before you film yourself and then when you’re ready to go, you can record yourself by playing the audio track through headphones on a device other than the one you are recording on. This way, the recording will only pick up your lovely singing! (I personally found it easier to only have one headphone in my ear so I could hear myself singing better, but that’s just personal preference!)

Do as many takes as you need – I know I have never once got it right the first time! And remember: even if it sounds a little weird to hear your voice on its own, when everything is edited together it will sound beautiful! You may want to find a spot where you can stand to sing to help your breathing.

A couple of little notes about filming: if possible, try to film somewhere quiet and well-lit (ideally with you facing a window) so that the videos look lovely! Please film landscape instead of portrait – it is so much easier to edit everything together if the videos all have similar proportions. Lastly, please keep recording until the music finishes! This just means that we don’t have some people’s videos cutting out way before others’ and means we’ll have a better finished video.

While we can absolutely have people film on their phones/tablets, recording using Zoom itself results in a much smaller file which is more manageable (both for sending the file and for editing the video together). If you are recording using Zoom on a laptop or desktop computer note that there is a new version with some enhanced features that is just now available so you may want to go back to their website (https://zoom.us/download#client_4meeting) and download the client and install it so you have the latest version.

Once you have done this, open up the Zoom programme and on the home page click on the wee gear icon in the top right corner. This takes you to "Settings". Then click on the Audio option on the left column.

  1. Click the "Advanced" button at bottom right of the Settings window and check the box to Show in-meeting option to "Enable Original Sound" from microphone.
  2. Under "Microphone" uncheck the "Automatically Adjust Microphone Volume" option and then sing a bit and look at the "Input Level" line and adjust the slider so that the volume peaks around 2/3rds along the line.
  3. Leave "Suppress Background Noise" on "Auto".
  4. Under "Music and Professional Audio" check the option to "Show in-meeting option to 'Turn on Original Sound'", and the option for "High fidelity music mode", you can keep the other two options unchecked.
  5. When you then go to record your session on Zoom ensure that you have clicked the link at top left hand corner that would say "Turn on original sound" so that it illuminates in blue and says "Turn off original sound" - it is a bit of awkward language, but when it is blue then you are recording the original sound from your microphone.
  6. Ignore all of this if you are using Zoom on a tablet or smartphone as these options are not available!
  7. If you film on Zoom, the files will be saved once you end the meeting and it should save an audio file and a video file – it’s helpful for our editing if you can send us both of those! These are the m4a and mp4 files.

If this is all a bit complicated, don’t worry. It’s fine to just film on your phone/tablet – just be aware the file will be much bigger and might take a while to upload (depending on how good your internet connection is!)

When you have your recording, it would be helpful if you could rename the file with your name and, if an instrument the part you are playing, then you can upload your files directly to me using this dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/wumOUTLcBtkRbSQTl6vt

DEADLINE

As mentioned earlier it would be really appreciated to have the audio/video submissions in hand by the end of Monday 10 May.

Thank you so much!

Spill the Beans Issue 39

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 39

Here we go with another issue of Spill the Beans from the team covering the summer months. We are diving into the Old Testament texts for this season and following the story of King David from a young shepherd boy through the ups and downs of his life through to Solomon taking over the crown. This issue covers from Trinity Sunday to Pentecost 13 (30 May to 22 August 2021). Based on the Revised Common Lectionary texts, we are continuing to provide a rich variety of resources and continue to be mindful that many of us may have a mixed economy of worship and age group activities, some in person and others online.

Sampler

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then please have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 39 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy Now' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The pdf file is approximately 7 MB so it may take a little time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so!

Spill the Beans Issue 39 Cover

Buy Now

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans website, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

The office in which the printed copies are made is currently still closed due to the pandemic so we cannot provide any printed copies of this issue. Our apologies for that inconvenience.

 

The Nolan Principles

Written by Peter Johnston on .

In this Sunday's sermon I mention briefly the Nolan Principles or the Seven Principles of Public Life. You may be interested to read a bit more about each of these than I was able to give in the message.

The Seven Principles of Public Life

The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services. All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The principles also apply to all those in other sectors delivering public services.

1.  Selflessness

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

2.  Integrity

Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

3.  Objectivity

Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

4.  Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

5.  Openness

Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

6.  Honesty

Holders of public office should be truthful.

7.  Leadership

Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

These come the first report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life led by Lord Nolan, and have been adopted in many Codes of Conduct. You can find out more here.

It is lamentable how little regard there is for these principles in the actions and utterances of the most powerful people in our current UK Government.

 

Easter Virtual Choir Instructions

Written by Peter Johnston on .

A massive thank you to everyone who contributed to our Holy Week and Easter Virtual Choir pieces. Here are the finished results, plus remixed versions of the two songs we created last Easter when we were still relatively new to this endeavour.

Ride On

A Palm Sunday hymn (CH4 370).

The video file can be directly downloaded here.

Travelling The Road To Freedom

A Palm Sunday hymn from John L Bell and Graham Maule, created in 2020, remixed for this year.

The video file can be directly downloaded here.

When Jesus Journeyed

Thanks to Rev Robbie Hamilton (Airdrie New Wellwynd Parish Church) for sending me a copy of his recently written hymn for Maundy Thursday. Here is our finished version of it.

The video file can be directly downloaded here.

Wondrous Cross

An anthem for Good Friday based on the words of Isaac Watts "When I survey the wondrous cross".

The video file can be directly downloaded here.

Oh Freedom

This Easter Day song, based on an African-American traditional song.

Enjoy a sneak peak here:

The video file can be directly downloaded here.

Come, Ye Faithful

A joyful Easter Day anthem with ancient words from the eighth century John of Damascus, and music by R. S. Thatcher. Enjoy!

The video file can be directly downloaded here.

Thine Be The Glory

The majestic traditional Easter hymn with musical interlude between verses 2 and 3 taken from Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabeus, from which the tune for this hymn originates. This was created for Easter 2020, and remixed for 2021.

The video file can be directly downloaded here.

Have a thoughtful journey through Holy Week, and we pray that these musical contributions will be a blessing to you. Note that you can use these for your own worship if planning worship in another church.

 

The Merton Prayer

Written by Peter Johnston on .

MY LORD GOD,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, 
for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.

(Thomas Merton, 1915-1968)

Living Through Lent Daily Devotions

Written by Peter Johnston on .

A dear friend, Rev Liz Crumlish, has compiled a book of daily readings and prayers for Lent 2021 which she has made available for others to use. Thank you, Liz!

You can download your own copy of the pdf file through this link.

This provides resources for a daily time of devotions from Ash Wednesday through to Easter Sunday. Download it and save it so that you can readily use it to help your own devotional time each day.

There Once Was A Man

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Thanks to everyone who sent in submissions for our latest virtual choir piece. On the wave of the sea shanty revival, this is based on the traditional tune for "Wellerman", but with new words telling the story of Noah and the Ark. This was written specifically for Sunday 21 February 2021 when we will be focussing on that great Old Testament story. 

A massive thanks to Kevin for creating the musical arrangement.

If you want to download a copy of the video for use in an online worship service, please feel free to do so. You can get it directly from here.

The musical score is available here.

And the lyrics are:

There once was a man who walked with God,
a righteous man, who feared the Lord.
Old Noah heard what God did say:
this wicked world is done. (Huh)

                Soon may the Covenant come,
                from thunder clouds to shining sun,
                then will the holy one
                reveal the Arc of God.

With Shem and Ham and Japheth too
Old Noah set to build his crew.
The cypress trees came a-tumblin’ down,
the keel was laid for good. (Huh)

The ship did rise above the trees,
far distant from the nearest seas.
The people came to take a look
and smirked at Noah’s boat. (Huh)

The roof was fixed, the pitch did seal,
the door was opened wide with zeal.
The animals came in two by two
to find a place onboard. (Huh)

That awful day when the rains did fall,
the earth did weep and people bawl,
as judgement day arrived for all,
Old Noah’s ark did bob. (Huh)

For forty days and forty nights,
the rain came down, there was no sight,
and huddled deep in timbered frame,
creation’s remnant lodged. (Huh)

The rains did cease, the waters fell,
and a dove returned to break the spell,
becalmed upon the sea they dwelt,
until they ran aground. (Huh)

‘This ground I will not curse again,
be fruitful now, let life be gain,’
so said the Lord to Noah’s ain,
with rainbow sign and seal. (Huh)

Words: Peter Johnston
©2021

Slow Air In Remembrance

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, in a reflection, shared a video of a new composition for the pipes written in lamentation for the more than 100,000 lives lost in the UK to Covid-19.

Craig Herbert is the piper who composed this and said that "I was thinking of all the poor families and friends who were denied a chance to properly say goodbye to their loved ones."

Thanks, Craig, for your composition, and to Susan for drawing our attention to it.

A message from some Kirk ministers

Written by Peter Johnston on .

It is really tough at the moment, I know, to keep the church building closed. We would all love to be meeting together, and a time will come when we can do that. But it is not now, and not yet. At Ferryhill we have been regularly reviewing where we are and the Kirk Session has remained of the opinion that it is better to keep the church building closed for public worship. This ensures we are not adding to any possible transmission of the coronavirus within the community through communal gatherings of people. We maintained this position even when it was legally allowed to have public worship. We wanted to go above and beyond what the Scottish Government was saying was permissible.

A small group of church congregation's leaders have moved a legal challenge this week to the Scottish Government's instruction to close places of worship. This is not the Church of Scotland's position, nor that of Ferryhill Parish Church. Because of the confusion the reporting of this legal case may have amongst communities, some Church of Scotland ministers offered their voices of support to keeping places of worship closed at this awful stage of the pandemic. You can watch that statement above.

Ahoy There, Singers! Next Virtual Choir

Written by Peter Johnston on .

We decided to ride the wave of sea shanty revival with our next virtual choir song which we are preparing to use on Sunday 21 February. That Sunday the focus is going to be on the end of the Noah story and God's covenant. I've written some new words set to the tune of the sea shanty "Wellerman" and it has been arranged into parts by Kevin Haggart, our Music Director. There are parts for Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, Baritones and Basses. Gentlemen, if you wanted to try a couple of parts (tenor and baritone, for instance) please feel free to submit multiple recordings.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: 8 FEBRUARY 2021. (I will make this video available for other churches to use on Sunday 21 Feb, to enable that I will need to have it all finished in good time ahead of then.)

Choral Instructions

This is a song to have fun with, to enjoy the rhythm and sing relatively freely. Imagine yourself lugging some cypress, pulling a rope, tossing and turning in the storm!

Note that the verses are all written for the tenor part, but we will use different voices for the different verses:
VERSE 1 is for Solo Male (sing if you are confident, I may create a wee group)
VERSE 2 is All Male Voices
VERSE 3 is All Female Voices
VERSE 4 is for Solo Female (again, sing if you are confident, I may use solo or a small group for this)
VERSE 5 is Solo Male

We will sing the harmony for the refrain as per the score each time. For the following verses we change things up a bit with some variation (see score)

VERSE 6 will have Tenors on the melody, with Baritone and Bass parts singning harmony.
VERSE 7 will have Sops, Altos and Tenors on the melody together.
VERSE 8 will have Tenor solo, but with all voices coming in with "let life begin" and "with rainbow sign and seal."

Please listen to the individual guide tracks for your own vocal part a few times to get a feel for that part and what it does. Note that Kevin has made the particular voice louder and given an instrumental guide for each particular track to assist you.

SYNC CLAP: please clap nice and loud on the fourth drum beat to assist with syncing all the audio and video tracks together.

Resources

Kevin Haggart, our organist and music director, has created a number of audio files to guide you with each part.

Full Audio Guide Track

A version with all voices for you to listen to is available here. We would recommend you listen to this a few times to get the feel for the anthem.

 

Choir

The musical score is available here.

A single sheet with the lyrics (and designation of verses) which may be easier to use is available here.

Sopranos and Altos

Guide track for Sopranos and Altos can be downloaded here.

 

Tenors

Guide track for Tenors can be downloaded here.

 

Baritone

Guide track for Baritones can be downloaded here.

 

Bass

Guide track for Basses can be downloaded here.

 

Technical Instructions

We recommend having a good few practice sing throughs before you film yourself and then when you’re ready to go, you can record yourself by playing the audio track through headphones on a device other than the one you are recording on. This way, the recording will only pick up your lovely singing! (I personally found it easier to only have one headphone in my ear so I could hear myself singing better, but that’s just personal preference!)

Do as many takes as you need – I know I have never once got it right the first time! And remember: even if it sounds a little weird to hear your voice on its own, when everything is edited together it will sound beautiful! You may want to find a spot where you can stand to sing to help your breathing.

A couple of little notes about filming: if possible, try to film somewhere quiet and well-lit (ideally with you facing a window) so that the videos look lovely! Please film landscape instead of portrait – it is so much easier to edit everything together if the videos all have similar proportions. Lastly, please keep recording until the music finishes! This just means that we don’t have some people’s videos cutting out way before others’ and means we’ll have a better finished video.

While we can absolutely have people film on their phones/tablets, recording using Zoom itself results in a much smaller file which is more manageable (both for sending the file and for editing the video together). If you are recording using Zoom on a laptop or desktop computer note that there is a new version with some enhanced features that is just now available so you may want to go back to their website (https://zoom.us/download#client_4meeting) and download the client and install it so you have the latest version.

Once you have done this, open up the Zoom programme and on the home page click on the wee gear icon in the top right corner. This takes you to "Settings". Then click on the Audio option on the left column.

  1. Click the "Advanced" button at bottom right of the Settings window and check the box to Show in-meeting option to "Enable Original Sound" from microphone.
  2. Under "Microphone" uncheck the "Automatically Adjust Microphone Volume" option and then sing a bit and look at the "Input Level" line and adjust the slider so that the volume peaks around 2/3rds along the line.
  3. Leave "Suppress Background Noise" on "Auto".
  4. Under "Music and Professional Audio" check the option to "Show in-meeting option to 'Turn on Original Sound'", and the option for "High fidelity music mode", you can keep the other two options unchecked.
  5. When you then go to record your session on Zoom ensure that you have clicked the link at top left hand corner that would say "Turn on original sound" so that it illuminates in blue and says "Turn off original sound" - it is a bit of awkward language, but when it is blue then you are recording the original sound from your microphone.
  6. Ignore all of this if you are using Zoom on a tablet or smartphone as these options are not available!
  7. If you film on Zoom, the files will be saved once you end the meeting and it should save an audio file and a video file – it’s helpful for our editing if you can send us both of those! These are the m4a and mp4 files.

If this is all a bit complicated, don’t worry. It’s fine to just film on your phone/tablet – just be aware the file will be much bigger and might take a while to upload (depending on how good your internet connection is!)

When you have your recording, it would be helpful if you could rename the file with your name and which part you are singing, then you can upload your files directly to me using this dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/F5qprYim0seTPGYCWO3c

DEADLINE

As mentioned earlier it would be really appreciated to have the audio/video submissions in hand by the end of Monday 8 February.

Enjoy yourselves, me hearties!

 

Spill the Beans Lent and Easter Resources

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Spill the Beans Issue 38

Easter is on the earlier side this year, but we have a rich smorgasbord of ideas available for Lent and Easter seasons all the way to Pentecost Sunday in the next issue from the Spill the Beans Resource Team. This issue covers from Ash Wednesday (17 February 2021) to Pentecost (23 May 2021). Based on the Revised Common Lectionary texts, we are continuing to provide a rich variety of resources and continue to be mindful that many of us may have a mixed economy of worship and age group activities, some in person and others online.

Note that we are adding audio-visual resources regularly to the Facebook group, so please do keep an eye on that.

Sampler

Created by folks here in Scotland, this issue has lots of ideas and resources for you to inspire, adapt, use in leading worship or for age groups in Junior Churches and youth groups. If you have not used Spill the Beans before then please have a look at this sample.

If you'd like to download a full copy of Issue 38 for use in your church or personally, then click the 'Buy Now' button below. The cost is only £12 (GBP). You can make a secure payment via PayPal and then an email with secure link to the download should wing its way to you. Please note that you can only download the file using this link three times, so please make sure you save the file to your computer as soon as you have downloaded it. We recommend first downloading to a laptop or desktop computer before moving to phone/tablet.

Please follow the instructions carefully. The pdf file is approximately 8 MB so it may take a little time to download. Please be patient as your computer does so!

Spill the Beans Issue 38 Cover

Buy Now

You can also get involved in feedback and discussion on the Spill the Beans website, where we try to put up weekly PowerPoint backgrounds too. There is also a facebook page in which we share ideas and we have introduced a new facebook group which you can link to from the facebook page and which we hope will provide a place of mutual support, ideas and encouragement as we trek together through this new adventure.

Print Copies

The office in which the printed copies are made is currently still closed due to the pandemic so we cannot provide any printed copies of this issue. Our apologies for that inconvenience.

 

Stronger For The Storm

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Not one of our own virtual choirs, and I had forgotten I had sent off a contribution to this one that was organised by Aberdeen University under the banner of iSing4Peace. It is a beatiful song written by Paul Mealor, Grahame Davies and Fiona Kennedy who sings lead vocals. The choir is global.

It can also be bought here, with money going to support The British Red Cross (Disaster Fund), VSA, The Royal Commonewealth Ex-Services League, and the University of Aberdeen Development Trust.

In the current tumultuous times, it certainly has a positive uplifitng spirit.

A Virtual Christmas Choir Extravaganza

Written by Peter Johnston on .

A massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to our many Christmas Carols, Songs and Anthem over the last few weeks. Here they all are in their finished state ready to help lead us during this festive season. Or, work your way through them and get into the spirit of this time of year, loosening your vocal chords and letting rip!

Hark! the herald angels sing

O come, all ye faithful

Sharing God's Christmas Light

A new song from Fischy Music.

Once in royal David's city

A big thank you to Ella and Olivia for their starring part in verse 1 of this carol:

The Angels Say

This Fischy Music song was a bit of a mammoth one to complete, but we got there! Enjoy!

God rest you merry gentlemen

O little town of Bethlehem

Still, still, still

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our anthem for Watchnight, the beautiful Mack WIlberg arrangement of the Austrian carol, "Still, Still, Still".

Have a good Christmas, please do join us online for our streamed Christmas services where you will get a chance to enjoy singing along with these.