Monday 25 September 2017

God gave rock 'n' roll to you...

'I'm going to be completely honest here," Sam Scott says. "I absolutely hate it." Sam is a 25-year-old spiritual DJ from Dublin and he is talking about one of music's big growth areas globally -- Contemporary Christian Rock.

"It just tries too hard," he says. "And most of it isn't very good at all. It's naff. Remember the character Graham Norton played in Father Ted, the trendy priest trying to get down with the kids? So much of that sort of music reminds me of that character."

Sam will be one of the key attractions at Youth Space -- the part of the Eucharistic Congress celebrations that is specifically aimed at 16 to 25 year olds. His euphoric brand of electronic music will blast from the speakers each evening in the RDS Simmonscourt.

"I don't want to ram home a Christian message," he says.

"I suppose I want to convey my love of God in a less obvious way so that's why I play upbeat dance music from bands like Groove Armada and Basement Jaxx.

"Some of the stuff I play will be completely instrumental, while other tracks will have a positive message. I'm thinking of something like Rihanna's 'We Found Love' -- a great song about finding happiness in the tough times."

Rihanna is a long way from John McCormack, the celebrated tenor who lit up the 1932 Congress -- the last time it was held in Ireland. Yet Sam believes comparatively new genres like dubstep -- for the uninitiated, it's a slower, ambient version of electronic music -- can "speak of God" just as well as more traditional forms.

"I wrestled with it for a couple of years," he says. "I wasn't sure that turntables had a place, but after taking a creative evangelism course in Manchester I came to realise that there was nothing wrong about celebrating God's love in all kinds of music.

"When the Salvation Army began to use brass bands all those years ago there was an outcry because their sound was so different, but then it came to be accepted.

"And, already, I think people are coming around to the idea of a spiritual DJ."

Today, Sam combines his love of DJing -- he plays non-Christian events too and trains wannabes in the art of the turntables -- with work in the Church of Ireland parish of Rathmichael, south Dublin.

"I don't see any conflict of interest," he insists."For some older people, my DJ and church work might seem incompatible, but I'd hope those my own age and younger can see that there's no reason why the two can't go hand in hand."

It's a sentiment shared by Anna Keegan, a 28-year-old employee with Catholic Youth Care, a division of the Archdiocese of Dublin. Anna is one of the people who put the programme together for Youth Space and feels contemporary music obsessives like Sam Scott can "speak" to a younger generation in their own terms and through a form of entertainment they are passionate about.

"As the Congress is an international event we want the music at Youth Space to reflect that, so -- besides Sam -- we have a brilliant Dublin band called Elation Ministries who will be playing really upbeat, joyful music over the course of the week and we're bringing in choirs from as far as Brazil. There will be Taize music as well."

The latter, essentially, are updated hymns which incorporate singing styles of such disparate influences as the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Anna is hopeful that 2,000 young people will attend Youth Space over the week. Alcohol is strictly out of bounds, and she is confident that attendees "won't need to drink in order to have a good time".

She adds: "I think a lot of teenagers drink because they are bored or because they experience peer pressure. And, often, young people as a whole can be tarred with the same brush.

"I enjoy a drink every now and again, but it's not something I need to do all the time, or to drink to excess, and I think a great deal of people my own age and younger feel exactly the same way."

Sam endorses this view: "There is this idea out there that you need to drink or take drugs in order to enjoy live music, but nothing could be further from the truth.

"Really good music speaks for itself. Stimulants add nothing."

Irish Independent Supplement

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