City News uncovers the spirit behind City Harvest Church’s definitive style of praise and worship.
Contributed By Cindy Koh
Leading the congregation in ushering in a new sound as the church moves into its new worship premises at Suntec Singapore is the City Harvest Church music team. “There are some physical changes that we will need to familiarize ourselves with, such as the shape of the stage and positioning of the musical instruments,” remarks worship leader Teo Poh Heng.
“Other than this, we’ll be doing what we’ve always been doing,” he says. That, in turn, is nothing less than communicating the message of the Cross through the most relevant, progressive music style possible. One of the distinguishing marks of a CHC weekend service is its lively praise and worship sessions, complete with strobe lights and video effects. “We want to continue the trend of making music that is modern and cutting-edge. Worship is an experience with which we touch Heaven,” adds music director Jessel Yam.
The team is rooted in humble beginnings—from a guitar, bass, keyboard and drum kit 20 years ago, it has grown into a 12-piece ensemble plus a horns and percussion section. City News goes to the heart of the matter with some of the longest-serving members on the music team and uncovers how worship is done at CHC, behind all the spotlights and multimedia effects.
THE HEART OF WORSHIP
At the starting block of the music are the songs sung during the weekend service, many of which are penned in-house. The songs not only have to resonate with CHC’s broad demographic of churchgoers—from the young to the old, from teenyboppers to tycoons—they also need to stay culturally relevant. This is done through drawing from current events, media and pop culture. At the same time, the songs must communicate the message of Jesus Christ without compromise.
The result, as is heard at every weekend service, is music that would fit right in at, say, a rock concert. But it’s more than just a performance. Songleader Calvin Ho, a regional sales and business development manager who has been serving in the Music Ministry for 17 years, says, “Worship ministry is unlike a show. There are similar external elements such as stage works, musical instruments and lighting but the differentiator is the God-factor—the anointing factor.”
In fact, it is very much like entering into worship in one’s personal devotion time, by laying aside all distractions and burdens. “It is easy to fall back on experience but I have learned that the more we depend on Him and His leading, the better will be our service,” shares Benson Kong, a quality manager who plays in the brass section.
For percussionist Samuel Kwan, the technical preparations entail listening to the recording of the praise and worship session during rehearsals earlier in the week, but prayer is still the most important factor—“Having our spirit and heart tuned in to Him is vital, he says.
FROM THE HEAD TO THE HEART
Despite striving to deliver a contemporary look and sound, the imperative of the team remains to build up an atmosphere of faith by helping the congregation transfer worship “from their heads to their hearts.”
Drummer and percussionist Tan Boon says, “When we see the congregation getting ‘lost’ in worship and in total abandonment to God, to the point when they don’t even need music to sing, that is when we know our job is done. Adds Ho, “A successful worship session to me is one that is vibrant yet well-paced, spontaneous yet creative, anointed yet sensitive, uplifting yet unrushed … I like what Pastor Kong used to say, ‘People’s heads spin quickly but their hearts move slowly.’ If someone said, ‘I can feel the presence of God during worship,’ then I think we have helped deliver something to the people.”
Kwan admits that it is easy for someone on the stage and often in the limelight to fall into the sin of pride, and constantly reminds himself that it is all about God; he is just the “instrument.” “Just like the Word says, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.’ If the Holy Spirit does not move, we can do nothing,” he concludes.