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Steven S. Billings

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Friday, June 29, 2007

VACATIONING

Nay Aug Park

The picture above was taken Tuesday, June 26, at Nay Aug Park in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I was there with Monica (right) and her 2 nieces Alex (center) and Paige (left). It was a beautiful - though hot! - day. Perfect for using the water slides and swimming pool! I didn't go in, actually, but spent the time taking pictures and enjoying the sunshine.

I've been having such a blast so far on my vacation. It's so good just to get away and clear the head. So far I've written 2 songs, and I have ideas for at least 3 more!

The songs I've finished I've been contemplating for awhile, but I just didn't have the time and/or creative energy to flesh them out. The first was one I started writing over a year ago and just got stuck, mainly because the relationship it deals with was kind-of stuck. Now that the relationship has been resolved I've been able to complete the song. It's going to be somewhat bittersweet, but I think also very poignant. I'll post the lyrics in a future blog.

The second song I finished doesn't deal with any relationship in particular, but is reflective of the state of my heart these days. I've never cared much for rejection. Not that anybody likes it. But lately I've learned that it is no picnic regardless of which side of the rejection you're on. I hate rejecting maybe even more than I hate being rejected. Look for the lyrics in a future blog.

So, yeah, I'm going through another wonderfully creative phase. I expect that by the time I get home, I'll have completed writing at least half of my second album. One is already done and demo'd. That's the one I wrote a year or so ago for my brother Jim's promotion to Lt. Colonel. Cool story, that, and I'll talk more about that in a future blog as well.

It's cool to think that even as I'm finishing the first project there's another one already waiting patiently - or not! - to get under way.

More CD booklet pages are yet to come, so look for those. Thanks for reading!

10:50 am edt

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CD BOOKLET - Pages 7 and 8

CD Booklet Page 7

CD Booklet Page
                                    8

Pages 7 and 8 contain the lyrics and information for the song "Where Is the Love? (In the Body of Christ)." Since it deals with fighting in the church, I chose a painting of a shouting angry man. I reduced it to 2 colors and then color-replaced it with the 2 shades of green, symbolizing envy, since that, I believe, is the source of a lot of trouble in the Church. Greed and envy. God help us!

11:31 am edt

Monday, June 25, 2007

CD BOOKLET - Page 6

CD Booklet Page 6

Here's page 6. I love jigsaw puzzles, so I put this one together. Then I always seal them and frame them. This one was up on my wall for several months. While it was hanging there, I took a picture of it. Then I processed it to highlight the lines between the puzzle pieces and blurred it a little bit, so as not to obscure the text.

I think one of the reasons I like jigsaw puzzles is that my whole life feels like a puzzle at times, and this is one kind of puzzle I can solve myself. The rest I have to leave up to God.

Which isn't a bad thing, really. Because He seems to be solving all the rest of my puzzles just fine!

8:02 am edt

Sunday, June 24, 2007

CD BOOKLET - Page 5

CD Booklet Page 5

This is page 5. The photo is that of the lovely girl for whom I wrote the song. She's modest, so only those who know her will be ale to tell that it's her.

I processed her photo in a very impressionistic sort of way. The further away from it you get, the more you can tell what it is. It's kind-of like a Monet, but more like a Seraut.

I think I had in mind that she should look like a work of art, since, to me, she pretty much does anyway. I get to see her this week. Yay! (She lives several states away.) We're just friends, but I still enjoy her lovely face. (Shhh! Don't tell her!)

Actually, I don't think I've written this anywhere before, but this song and "Massimo Is Waiting" were taken from the same poem that I wrote for her. So, if you listen to this, then listen to "Massimo," you get the whole picture. If I ever find the whole poem, I'll post it sometime. But "Spirit In You" is pretty much the bulk of it. I'll tell more about the "Massimo" thing when I post that page.

10:50 pm edt

Monday, June 18, 2007

CD BOOKLET - Pages 3 and 4

CD Booklet Page 3

CD Booklet Page
                                    4

Here are pages 3 and 4 of my booklet. These pages contain the lyrics and information for "The Evil We Love." The background is a set of shackles, which I reduced to 2 color black and white and then colonized with shades of red, symbolizing the bondage caused by sin.

The image was inspired by the line in the song that says: "I was shackled to the evil I love." What a joy to know that Christ has paid our debt of sin through the shedding of His blood on the cross! Now we can live without fear before Him, knowing He has washed us clean. But more than that! He has empowered us in our struggle against the flesh, so that by His grace we may emerge victorious from the time of testing.

Obviously, we don't defeat temptation every time. That's why we need Jesus! But He gives us glorious evidence every day that His power is at work within us - strengthening us in our fight, even while forgiving us when we fail.

For the Christian, it's a win-win situation. Enabled by God's Spirit, we are given victory after victory in the war with our flesh. But even when we fail we have the assurance that our repentant hearts are purified by the atoning work of Christ.

He saved us at Calvary. But He continues to save us each and every day of our lives as we face the day's temptations. What a loving, giving and forgiving God we have!

11:17 am edt

Sunday, June 17, 2007

PLEASE HELP ME AGAIN!

Now that my booklet cover has been chosen, it's on to making a decision about the CD label. Below you will find 3 options. Please tell me which one you like best.

As always, any other suggestions you may have will be more than welcome!

Thanks!

CD Label 1

CD Label 2

CD Label 3
11:58 pm edt

Saturday, June 16, 2007

CD BOOKLET - Page 2

CD Booklet Page 2

This is page 2 of my booklet. It's the first page with song information. The song is one many of you are familiar with: T.G.I.F. (Thank God I'm Free!). The photo behind the text is an open prison door. I've PhotoShopped it down to 2 colors and then grayed it out so that it's almost a ghost image.

The idea is that in Christ we have been released from bondage to unhealthy ways of thinking and living. God desires healthy living and has set His law in place to draw us away from unhealthy ways and guide us into ways that are healthy. Satan hates us and hates God and tries - often successfully - to trick us into going against God, which, ultimately, also goes against our own best interest. When we sin, we not only offend God, but we injure ourselves and others in the process. Christ came to free us from sin and slavery to the devil's schemes. He not only has saved us for eternity, but He rescues us every day, opening our self-imposed prison cells and releasing us to live in the liberty of His grace.

Thank God I'm Free!!

10:56 am edt

AND THE WINNER IS . . .

CD Booklet Page 1

Overwhelmingly, this cover version received the most votes, and I have to admit, I wholeheartedly agree. I've changed the fonts a bit, and I really like the way it now looks.

I'm going with the title "The Journey Home," because it describes what this project is all about. Our life here is a journey. This album project has been a journey for me, and I think it will be for those who hear it.

The past two days I've spent working on the booklet as a whole - creating the graphical images and writing the liner notes. I've had a lot of fun with Photoshop and other related software tools. I think it'll be worth the effort and the cost of purchasing a CD rather than just downloading it.

So, I'm one step closer to being done with the project. We'll finish mixing "Big Little Man" next week, and I'll record the trombone parts for "At Least a Thousand Reasons," possibly even getting to the stage of singing on that one as well. After we mix that one, there's only one more to go before the mastering phase.

Maybe I'll have this thing done in time for Christmas!

I'll be sharing the various pages of the booklet in future blogs, so please stay tuned!

12:18 am edt

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

YOU CAN HELP ME DECIDE!!

Possible CD Booklet Cover #1

Possible CD Booklet
                                    Cover #2

Hey, I need your help!

I've been trying to come up with a booklet cover for my CD, and so far I've put together 2 possible options. My working title for the project has been "My Home Is You," and I've put that on one of the mock-ups. But I was thinking that another option would be to show myself at a young age in front of the house I grew up in, and the theme would be kind-of a return to those care-free years, so on the second mock-up, I've changed the title to "The Journey Home."

So I have 2 questions for you:

1) Should I use the artwork in the first option (blue background), or should I use the artwork in the second option (me as a kid)?

And

2) Should I go with the working title: "My Home Is You," or should I use the title: "The Journey Home"?

Any other advice and/or suggestions will be welcome as well!

Thanks for your help! I look forward to hearing from you.

God's peace!

4:24 pm edt

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

TROMBONE-ING
Steve with Dave Streeter

This picture was taken during the horn session on Friday. That's me on the left and Dave Streeter with the baritone saxophone. Dave did a great job recording not only his parts, but also the missing trombone parts. I've known Dave for a lot of years. His still directs the instrumental music program at Southside High School in Fort Wayne.

Since a trombone player needed to be re-scheduled, I decided to dig out my horn over the weekend and see if I could cover the parts myself. I used to play trombone pretty well, and even performed professionally for a number of years. But it's been SO long since I played at that level. However, it seems that the old "chops" are still lurking beneath the surface, and I'll be able to record the trombone parts the next time I'm in the studio. What fun!

You should have seen my horn when I opened the case! It's a silver Bach Stradivarius (16ML, for anyone who's interested), and man, was it tarnished! I whipped out my polishing kit and gave it a once-over. It didn't take long for it to get nice and shiny again, thank God! Look for pics to be added to my slide-show in the very near future!

12:13 pm edt

Saturday, June 9, 2007

STUDIO FUN

Had a really productive couple of days in the studio this week. Chris and I were working on the mix for "Big Little Man" all day Thursday, and I actually got to get on the board and help with that. (Hey, that gives me an "engineer" credit in the liner notes! hee hee!)

Friday we continued with the BLM mix in the morning, and then had the horn session for "At Least a Thousand Reasons" in the afternoon. It really came off well, with one exception - the trombone player just didn't show up! Nobody knew what happened to him. So the baritone sax player recorded the trombone parts. It sounds good, but we're hoping to get the trombonist in next time to record those parts. I really wanted that sound in the mix, so, hopefully, we'll get it. The other players were quite competent, especially on the solos. I can't wait to get in and sing that one!

Today I get to officiate my niece's wedding. She's marrying a guy who seems really neat. From what I know of him, I really like him a lot. I won't get to stay too long at the reception, as I have to get home tonight to rest up for services tomorrow.

Hope you all are doing well.

God's peace!

8:21 am edt

Monday, June 4, 2007

A FESTIVE DAY

Yesterday was kind-of the "last hurrah" of the festival season at our church. It was Trinity Sunday, the only festival of the Church Year which celebrates a fundamental point of doctrine rather than an event in the life of Christ or the history of the Church. To commemorate the day - in addition to incorporating the Athanasian Creed into the Divine Service - we had our annual Graduates' Reception after church and our annual Organ Recital in the afternoon. Each of these events was accompanied by fellowship and goodies. I think I ate more sugar yesterday than I've consumed in a month! But, of course, I limited my intake. That, together with my heightened activity - burning lots of calories - helped to minimize any "weight bounce" I may have incurred.

A sad note on the day: One of our elderly members discovered a bone-density issue the hard way. As he was walking through our narthex, his left leg snapped in two places. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and I was able to visit him later in the day. I kept my prayer short, as he was pretty heavily medicated and - not surprisingly - more than a little worn-out.

And, quite frankly, so was I. Tired, that is, not medicated. ;)

9:31 am edt

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A SATURDAY OFF?

Wow! It hasn't happened in months, but I suddenly find myself with a Saturday full of nothing in particular. Guess I'll get to some more of those fun little projects around the house. I also want to finish the horn arrangement for "At Least a Thousand Reasons." It's all arranged; I just have to finish breaking it out into parts. It's been so long since I've done this, I had to get out my orchestration manual and refresh my memory concerning transpositions and tessituras. Trumpets and upper saxes are done. I only have the trombones and baritone sax to complete yet.

Scheduling the recording session for the horns has been problematic. But maybe that's a good thing, since now I finally have the time to finish the arrangements. It looks like we'll get it on the calendar soon, thank God.

10:15 am edt

Friday, June 1, 2007

RELAXING, YET PRODUCTIVE, DAY

It was a good day today. I had time to relax, yet I got a lot done as well. Did some filing - which I hate! - and even got out to run some errands. In the midst of it all, I finished a brass arrangement for one of my songs and even got around to doing some fun little projects I've been meaning to get to.

In other news, I've managed to continue my weight loss trend. I'm down 12 pounds now! Whoopee!! Only about 28 to go! Oy! But I think I've actually discovered a way eventually to achieve my target weight. It's a very empowering feeling!

9:30 pm edt

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Click one of the links above to view earlier posts.

For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21)

Be sure to get in touch so I know you're out there!