Extreme Rescue 2011 - "Mighty to Save"

Categories: MusicReligion

Note: Before you read this, I'll warn you that it's really nothing more than a self-indulgent effort to fulfill a desire to express myself for my own selfish reasons.  There's probably not much of interest to the average person, nor is there a moral or lesson.  I would recommend you "cut to the chase" - scroll down to the video link, click the image, and enjoy the song and video.

January 24, 2011

This past weekend was a weekend I'll never forget.  I had been asked to be the sound technician for what was described as a "youth rally" at Mountain View Seventh-day Adventist Church in Las Vegas.  Yeah, sure, no problem, I'm happy to help out.  I had no idea what I was getting in to.

I occasionally do sound for special events - revivals, baptism services, weddings, etc.  But this weekend was to be no ordinary special event.

The story starts on Friday afternoon, January 21, 2011.  In addition to the evening youth rally, we had two regular Sabbath (Saturday) morning worship services that we needed to prepare for and rehearse on Friday night.  In the past, we would rehearse for those at 7:00pm Friday.  Lately, we've been moving the rehearsal time up to 6:00pm.  When it was discovered that rehearsal and youth rally would conflict, we had to move the rehearsal up to 5:00pm.  Just as we started our rehearsal, some musicians came in and started setting up their equipment expecting a sound check for their performance which was to start at 7:00pm.  For the worship services, I was scheduled on computer graphics.  I was to move over to sound when the youth rally started.

The short story on Friday evening was that the conflict prevented a good rehearsal for worship services and adequate set-up and sound check for the youth rally.  What's worse, while I was trying to accomodate the musicians, my computer crashed and disabled the multiple monitor set-up we use to display video and graphics on the two large, overhead screens in the sanctuary.  It seemed like it was going to be a very bad night.  Had we not all been Christians, it would have been much, much worse.  Just minutes before the rally was to start, we set up a back-up display system.  Suddenly, everything came together, and the show, billed as "Extreme Rescue 2011", was under way.

For me, it was a challenge.  Our church is set up so that instruments feed directly into our in-house sound system, and the sound tech controls the mix.  But the musicians at the rally wanted to use their own amplifiers, and that creates another challenge for the sound tech.  No matter how great a musician is on his/her instrument, musicians are not good at mixing simply because they're on stage and can't hear the mix out in the audience where it's important.  That is, of course, why we always see the sound techs set-up in the middle of the audience at concerts.  So musicians tend to want everything turned up louder because they can't hear anything on the stage.  When they turn their personal amps too loud, the sound tech loses control over the mix.

My personal preference is to have the vocals dominate (vocals are, after all, the source of the message), and use the instruments as accompaniment.  That's how it should be.  But with the amps turned up loud, I had a difficult time getting the vocal volume to cover the instruments.  It was either low vocals or feedback, and feedback is not acceptable, so we would miss alot of important vocal parts.  Fortunately, most people, even professional musicians, don't really know the difference.

It turned out to be a great night, and in the end, I had a better idea of what I would be dealing with for the next night.  I knew that there were two bands, not just one (little did I know that that was just the beginning).

I stayed late to fix the computers and, thank God, got the overhead displays working again.

Some of the musicians told me they had hoped to arrive the next day at 3:00pm.  Since I usually don't finish with worship services until 1:00 or 1:30, and I wanted to get things set up before the musicians arrived at 3:00, I had made the decision to just stay at the church all day.

Even with two bands, I wanted to get thing set up early, so I went in to the church at 8:00am on Saturday morning to do some prep work for the youth rally that night, and to make sure the computers were going to cooperate.

The first worship service was, as usual, a little scrappy, but we made adjustments for the second service which was much better.

After worship services, I started setting up for the youth rally.  At about 3:00pm, some musicians came in and we started their set-up.  A little later, more musicians arrived, and wanted to set-up and do their sound check.  Fortunately, the sound mixer at the church is advanced enough to allow us to save settings.  Unfortunately for me, I'm "old school", and I tend to want to do a real-time mix rather than rely on saved settings.  Still, I saved what would be the primary bands' settings and used that as a base from which to modify the other performers' mixes.

So we got the two bands set up, the second of which had eight vocalists.  Then, more musicians came in and wanted a sound check.  Then more, and more.  At some point, I was given a "play sheet".  It was only then that I realized the magnitude of this event.  There was a total of three bands, 32 performers, one M.C., one host, and one speaker.  As if that wasn't enough, one of the singers was Dave Wallace, Jr., a professional singer I had met in the past and greatly admired.  I would not allow myself to let him down.

I began to wonder if no one had told me what I was facing for fear that I might decline the invitation, thinking I wasn't competent enough.  I'm not, after all, a professional.  But I love a challenge.  No, you don't understand - I thrive on challenges!  That's the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.  "What great obstacle can I overcome today?"

Having talked to so many of the performers about the challenges we all faced, many of them reminded me what was really important about the night.  It wasn't me or what I did.  They reminded me to have fun and enjoy the show.  That's a bit difficult for a sound tech, knowing that just about everything that is heard (or, more importantly, not heard) during the show rests on his shoulder.

Finally, the show got started and I hoped (and prayed) for the best.  And what a show it was!

There was one particular moment when I realized the night was a huge success.  The final group of performers, "Saved by Grace" (the group with the eight vocalists), started the song Mighty to Save.  (Here's a link to the live Hillsong video but I need to state that this was not a part of "Extreme Rescue 2011" and I played no part in the production of this performance or video.)

I had heard Mighty to Save and knew the song somewhat.  But not being a singer, I hadn't focused much on lyrics, certainly not enough to memorize them.  In the middle of this song is an a capella part (no instruments or accompaniment, just vocals).  At the appropriate time, the band (we're back to "Extreme Rescue 2011") stopped playing and encouraged the audience to sing along, which, without hesitation, they did.  (There's just something about a large group of people singing a song as loud as they can!)  The lyrics were being displayed on the overhead screens.  The first phrase ended and the vocalists continued into the second phrase, but the lyrics on the big screens didn't change.  "Oh great," I thought to myself.  "This awesome opportunity and the lyrics aren't on the screen.  The audience is going to quickly drop out if they can't read the lyrics."

"Saved by Grace" performing at Extreme Rescue 2011 on January 21-22, 2011 at Mountain View Seventh-day Adventist Church in Las Vegas.
click to enlarge
I was so wrong.

The entire audience continued singing.  They didn't miss a beat!  They didn't need the words displayed on the screen.  They knew the words!

For a moment, I felt left out because I didn't know the words and, without the lyrics displayed on the screen, couldn't sing along with the rest of the group (not that I could sing anyway).  But hearing and seeing this entire audience, young and old, singing this song a capella was incredibly inspirational.  It made me feel like there is hope for the future, not because these people could sing, but simply because they were all Christians.  This is where God had led me - to be among this incredible group.

After the show, many of the participants (and even the parents of the M.C.), came up to me to compliment me on what I had done, and thank me for all I did.  But they had no idea what they had done for me, which is the ultimate purpose of this message.

I don't know who first threw my name in the hat, but my thanks would start there.  It would continue like this:

Although I really wouldn't expect anyone to understand this, I'll remember the period from 5:00pm on Friday, January 21 to 11:30pm on Saturday, January 22, 2011, as one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  To those of you who were involved, especially those who put their trust in me, I can't thank you enough for allowing me to be a part of it.

I look forward to the next "Rescue" being even bigger and better.

User Comments:
Jon Yutuc - Sep 25, 2011 12:01:34 — Didn't realize this existed. You were definitely one of the main components that held this rally together. Not trying to jump the gun, I would actually like to ask you to help coordinate the sound at the next youth rally, which is slated to take place in either the Spring of Fall of next year. Once again, you were definitely a Godsend, and I truly appreciate all your hard work. God bless, and we'll keep in touch.
Jonas - Sep 25, 2011 01:38:10 — Hey, John! Thank you so much for the compliments and the invitation. Yes, of course, I'd love to be a part of the next event. How about Spring AND Fall?!

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