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'Musical and missional'

Musician asks for pledges to fund CD, in turn pledges percentage to Presbyterian Hunger Program

March 17, 2010

A black and white headshot of Bryan McFarland

Bryan McFarland

LOUISVILLE

Independent folk musician Bryan McFarland is used to asking his friends, fans and family to help fund his albums.

But when he began thinking about recording his third CD, McFarland took a different route. A friend told him about Pledge Music, a company that allows fans to finance musicians through online pledges. The musicians can also designate a charity to which to give a percentage of the funds raised by their fans.

The more McFarland learned about Pledge Music, the more his project began to grow.

“This project was bigger than just my music,” he said. “The Holy Spirit was saying, ‘This is bigger than you. Let it grow the way I want it to.’”

McFarland, hunger action advocate for Salem Presbytery, knew he wanted to involve the Presbyterian Hunger Program. He’s donating 10 percent of the record’s production costs and 20 percent of its profits to PHP.

“Most projects let you know about them at the end of production,” he said. “We’re asking folks to basically be the record label and be a part of the process.”

The pledge campaign runs through the end of May and aims to raise $15,700, which will cover the album’s recording, mastering, design and more. Pledges started coming in March 4, and as of March 17, more than $2,600 has been pledged — about 17 percent of the total needed. “We talk the language of pledges in the church a lot,” McFarland said. “Here’s another way of making a pledge.”

The money from the project can definitely be used by PHP, said Coordinator Ruth Farrell. The program has two long-term partners in Haiti, and the money gived from the CD will help support the increased needs for long-term, sustainable agriculture.

“We were delighted to hear that (McFarland) was going to give a percentage to PHP,” Farrell said, adding that this is the first time the program has been involved in any such project.

Although final song selections are still being made, the album will include spirituals and hymns that evoke the sound of O Brother, Where Art Thou? while displaying the anthem-like universality of “We Are the World,” McFarland said.

And the songs won’t live just on the album. McFarland is designing the track list to follow the order of worship so that churches can use the CD as a liturgical resource. The album will open with gathering songs then move to confessional songs, songs of the Word, Communion songs and sending songs.

The versatility of the album is one example of how the project is about more than just producing a record.

Independent folk musician Bryan McFarland is used to asking his friends, fans and family to help fund his albums.

“There is a way to be both musical and missional at the same time,” McFarland said.

Taking that idea even further, McFarland is working to generate a movement around the project, which he’s calling … until all are fed. That’s the name of a hymn he wrote and of the CD. On the … until all are fed website, fans can view video/audio updates and read blog posts about the project.

Another part of the movement is Jacob’s Join, the band that will record on ... until all are fed. Not a traditional band, Jacob’s Join is still taking shape. Its makeup will likely fluctuate, comprising studio musicians, a one-man band or musicians who live in the towns where McFarland will tour.

Jacob’s Join gets its name from a potluck held in certain areas of England. That ties in with the goal of ending hunger and with another idea McFarland has for the movement. The performances, discussions and events dealing with ... until all are fed will all be called Jacob’s joins. And they’ll all include at least one of the hunger program’s five focus areas: direct food relief, development assistance, influencing public policy, lifestyle integrity and education and interpretation.

Music will play a key role in these events, and it’s also important to ministry as a whole, McFarland said.

“If there’s any way to make a change ... on this or any issues, in this or any culture, it’s through music,” he said. “I’ve never seen that music is just something we do to entertain ourselves. Music is transformative. It’s not about performing.”

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