Turnout, music are a hit at Canyon Worship concert
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau
Genaro “Gin” Giurgiu toured the Grand Canyon University Recording Studio when it opened in 2015, but he hadn’t kept track of how quickly the Worship Arts program progressed.
Then he was told that the student artists on Canyon Worship 2018 were going to perform at Harvest Bible Chapel West Valley, where he is Director of Worship.
So he listened to the album. His reaction: “This is producer-level work.”
Then he got another listen Tuesday night in the live performance, the first Canyon Worship concert, and was even more impressed – by the students’ musical ability, by the students’ production ability, by their entire approach.
“These guys came into this church, set up three hours before, and walked in like they’d been playing here for 10 years,” he said. “To be able to come in and do that is not easy – people don’t understand that. To be able to come in and put on a concert or a show for all these people without hardly any preparation, going through the songs one time, it’s pretty amazing.”
The “for all these people” part was particularly pleasing to Dr. Randall Downs, who put his heart and soul – and 600 separate, personally addressed emails sent to local pastors – into making the maiden voyage a success. People came from as far as Casa Grande to see it, and the new Worship Arts coordinator was thrilled with the turnout.
“This was an incredible first event,” Downs said. “After I got up on the stage to speak, I looked around and thought, ‘Oh man, a lot of people have come in.’”
Recording Studio manager Eric Johnson, who spends hours upon hours working with the students as they labor over their musical creations, was equally elated.
“I’m kind of like a proud papa, beaming with pride for them,” he said. “They rose to the occasion. They worked really hard, and this is the time of year when a lot of people get sick. They’re troopers. They live for this and they love it – absolutely love it.”
They showed their mettle even though several of them have been recently ill. You couldn’t tell during the performance – but you could afterward.
“My voice is completely gone. I gave everything up there,” said Logan Myers, whose “My Only Truth” was a crowd-pleaser.
Harrison Russell sang his two songs, “Rhythm” and “Come to Me,” about four octaves lower than usual just to make it through but he was more focused on the end result.
“I’m so glad this many people came,” he said. “It’s cool, too, to see everybody doing the songs they worked so hard on.”
That was another interesting aspect of the event, called Canyon Worship West because of its location not far from State Farm Stadium in Glendale: Even though they’re around each other all the time, the students hadn’t gotten to listen to all the songs on the album, performed live, back-to-back-to-back. This was a treat for them and helped quell any nervousness they might have been feeling.
“When you do it with people who share your passion for it, who want to make it great, it’s easier because you have all these people who are banded together and are trying to make an end product or a worship time – people who all have the same vision,” Russell said.
But, like Giurgiu said, it’s not easy. Myers said she felt nervous as soon as she woke up Tuesday morning, yet she views that as a good thing.
“Nerves mean that you care, that this is important to me,” she said. “I think the adrenaline makes the performance even better and makes me move in ways that I wouldn’t – dance and have fun with it.”
Courtney Welker, who sang her song, “Free Me” (Mallory Denson performed it on the album), said another challenge was remembering the final soundtrack of the song – things tend to change frequently during the recording process. But she liked getting to sing it with all the accompaniment of the tracks from the album and she welcomed the challenge of performing it live.
“My song is more like a prayer, so I have to go into it like, ‘Lord, I’m going to pray this with lots of other people around versus praying or singing it by myself,’” she said.
Listening to all the songs was pleasing even to Johnson despite his familiarity with them.
“There’s just the right amount of fun, introspection, songs that touch the soul, songs that encourage, songs that make you think,” he said. “They’re all over the spectrum. They’re great songs.”
Said Giurgiu, “I love how there’s such a different mix of songs. By listening to the song, I know who they’re inspired by in terms of artists.”
And these artists, these GCU students, are inspiring people, too.
“I’m just so encouraged by what God is doing at GCU,” Kirk VanMaanen, Pastor of the newly formed Christ Church Peoria, told the audience.
Afterward, he elaborated:
“New songs, new generation, singing songs and bringing them to the church – it was awesome.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].