The Moment

(c) 2007 This Amazing Grace, Chris Falson

Early 2007 a writer/producer with whom I often work called to see whether or not I had my own (vocal) version of Amazing Grace. He was in the final edit of a documentary about a Prison and was at odds with the score for a particular scene…… he had tried placing several songs into the situation including Sufjan Steven’s recording of Amazing Grace and had yet to find ‘the one’. As he described the scene I could imagine the sound of an old, gray headed, blues singer (John Lee Hooker) sitting on a porch, playing a beat up guitar and singing to nobody in particular. But I wasn’t the director of this documentary was I……..

I wouldn’t have been calling me, or Sufjan for that matter (though he’s a great writer/singer)….. If I was the director I would like to think that I was fighting for the rights to some crackly old recording of John Lee, or Muddy Waters or the like…. telling a story…. a story the singer had lived himself…. a story he was able to pass on to me….. a white boy from Sydney….. a story of grace in the midst of pain, suffering, guilt, shame….. and hope.

I think I may have been thinking out loud during this conversation and had given the producer an earful…. still he kept asking me for my version….. which I didn’t have. This producer is a dear friend and I knew that he was really asking if I would make a recording….. in my ‘voice’ …. just for him and his project. On that day I remember being on a tight deadline for another project and a sensible person would have said no. But I am a sucker for distractions. And, until that moment I had never considered recording this song….. too many people had butchered it….. and what a pity for such a glorious piece of poetry set to music. But I was intrigued…………

So, of course I relented and promised to have something to him by the afternoon. I opened Logic, set up a few mics…. testing 1. 2. 3…. closed my eyes…. began strumming and sang the verses that came to mind. I could hear (in my head) the sound of a Dobro and so allowed some space for an overdub. If only I could leave things alone…. for then I wished too that I was wearing my old boots so I could tap along on the wooden floor….. and believe it or not I did that as an overdub too. Yeah I know…. there’s a word for that kind of behavior……!

However, despite my issues with over production I enjoyed the moment….. the several hours of recording and mixing…. where the guitar(s), the song and my soul connected. It didn’t matter if the track ever made it into the documentary….. it was such a moving experience during the recording of it….. that was my reward.

I was in Switzerland several years ago….. sitting on an old chair by the window, staring out on a forest…. and I was teaching myself how to play a baritone mandolin. I stumbled upon a little chord progression and from there began to hum a lovely simple melody. My natural reaction was to find pencil and paper and write it down…… but as I got up from the chair there was a gentle voice (in my head again) asking “will it be any less beautiful if you allow this piece to stay here…. and live only in this moment?”

What a strange concept!

I began to consider flowers and butterflies that live for but a day…. they are indeed beautiful….. even if no one ever sees them. What about a sunrise, or a walk in the forest, or the first kiss…. here for a moment and then gone, but not forgotten….. am I crazy or what!@#$%^&?

I played that piece for about an hour and when I got up I left it there….. in that mandolin…. in that old chair…. by that very old forest. It was a moment….. and though I cannot remember how the piece of music goes….the moment remains a special memory…. and this is probably more crucial to my being than many pieces I have written and still perform.

This little version of Amazing Grace is not quite as special as that moment in Switzerland…. but it is a moment none the less….. probably not the best recording or interpretation… it is a poor thing but mine own.

The producer, on receiving my mp3 (that afternoon as promised) was ecstatic…. full of my praises….. “the best version I have ever heard” etc etc etc….. he is a producer after all and understands the power of flattery….. who needs money after all that blarney?

He passed the track onto the director…. who also appreciated it’s honesty….. but asked if I could do it again and make it a little faster and a little happier.

Hmmmmmm….. I should have known better.

I explained my mind set, my time frame and my sense of this recording…. in that the producer had asked me to record the song….. meaning that he knew me and trusted me to give of myself….. me and the producer go way back…… (imagine two fingers crossed…. we are like that).

But this did not impress the director at all…. “that’s nice Chris, but just do a faster version and send it over”.

If I had been the original composer on this project the director’s request would have been quite the norm. Work for hire is basically that…. you write as part of a team and you rewrite whatever the Dr orders. But this was not the case at all….. and because of the subject matter…. the prison story…. the concept of grace….. and of course the song and what it meant to me…. well….. I said no….. I mean no thank you.

The director’s response was not very nice…… he told me that he had expected better of me. Another bridge burnt I guess.

Of course I wanted to answer back and tell him where he could stick his documentary. But that wouldn’t have been very gracious of me………….

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26 Comments

  1. great post chris. fantastic explanation of the joys of the moment – and the ‘joy’s of working for people : ) saying no is fun when you get the hang of it.

  2. Hey Chris,
    Very profound. I agree, there have way too many versions of that song but yours is a move toward restoring it’s dignity. Great job, and hope your well.
    alan

  3. Hi Chris – was led here by a link in Bill Kinnon’s blog…

    “The director’s response was not very nice…… he told me that he had expected better of me.”

    What an interesting response to receive after you took time out of another project to record this, try something new out, send it to them with little lead time (and no compensation, mind).

    I really enjoyed hearing the version myself – thanks for posting it.

    Chris.

  4. Oh my dear!

    Hollywood wannabe directors are all the same. Play “amazing grace” a bit faster and more happy?
    That sounds like “I’ ll have a chicken sandwich, but instead of the chicken I want tuna”!
    This song was written by John Newton, a racist and slave trader. This man had a godly exeprience one night in a big thunder storm. That storm has changed his whole life and his thinking, and from that monent on, he became a fighter against slavery. What the hell is the director talking about? Play it more happy?

    This is a great song Chris!

    Great blogg mate…

    Andre.

  5. Chris,
    Great word, brother. I loved this post.
    Your paragraph about that moment in Switzerland is amazing. What a wonderful concept! I’ve heard that same still voice when I tried to capture something on film, whether in nature or at a wedding, and experiencing frustration because I “missed” the perfect shot.
    I didn’t miss the shot, I missed the moment trying to capture that shot!

    Again, great word.
    Shalom.

  6. Wow. That is a great lesson for me … the moment part (not the stick it to your documentary part).

    Thank you.

    I need to do two things:
    1. go back to learning my new mandolin
    2. start writing songs

    You continue to inspire, motivate, and encourage me.

    Hope to see you soon,

    Bridge

  7. Chris…… I thank God for that producer who inspired you to produce this version of Amazing Grace. Don’t care about the politics, but love the product. I love it, wow it brought me to tears, thank God for the moment you had with the Lord, and thank God for the moment you gave us.
    Keep on having heart felt moments you can share with us. Thank you Chris.
    Mercier

  8. Chris Falson this is indeed nice hearing your music, actually you’ve made my day today in the internet because after listening to your music titled amazing grace I have recovered a lot that has been stolen by the enemy within me.

    Thanks and more grease to your elbow, continue in the faith.

  9. Chris – I’m continually inspired by your music, your faith, and your creativity. I really hope this is on your next album – it’s awesome!

    We miss you on Long Island!!!! Keep up God’s work…

  10. Chris: I hope you get this. When you were over here, you and Lew, visiting and chatting with Daniel, I found your wallet behind the coffee machine after you left. I didn’t know whose it was, so I looked inside. I didn’t know people carried $1000 bills around in their wallets! Well, to make a long story short, I told Marian about what I found. She asked me if I thought you would mind us borrowing some to help with the Christmas holiday presents for all the kids and grandkids. I thought it would be fine, so…..we took it all and have used it up. I know that people from Australia are all sweet, kind, and very generous, so I presume it is fine with you. My conscience has bothering me, but now I feel good about it! Come by soon! Later, Lenny

  11. Maaaaaaate!

    Beautiful version of a classic song of truth!

    Loved it!

    So I’ve spent the last three hours reading post after post on your site…

    so I didn’t get to the post office to pay that bill…

    so the lawn’s still long in the backyard…

    who cares?

    Love ya mate

    –Q

  12. Hi chris, I typed your name in and here you are, I think of you and Karen and the boys often and wonder where you are how you are going, well I can see you are amazing, still singing and writing and playing, loved this blog and listening to you singing Amazing Grace, you are so talented and I am so glad that your talent was recognised.
    Love
    Margaret Tilbrook

  13. Today good day 🙂
    The interesting name of a site – chrisfalson.com
    I today 8 hours
    sat in the Internet So I have found your site 🙂
    The interesting site but does not suffice several sections!
    However this section is very necessary!
    I have added you in elected!
    Forgive I is drunk :))

  14. Hi Chris,
    Remember that trip to Naples in 1981, the shocking redwine that made you sick, the fat cat and the scam merchants trying to make us pay too much for our accommadation. Would love to cathup somehow and chew the fat over the past years.

    Louise Barrett

  15. Wonderful. Shared!

    And although a little off topic, For The Rest Of My Days is a gift from God to us all. Thanks for writing it down and passing it on.

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