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This article was published 1/4/2020 (289 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As Canadian churches sort the ins and outs of taking services live online, one of the big challenges is music.

How do they replace choirs, worship bands and congregational singing? Unless they purchase a licence from the major Christian music copyright companies, they can’t play recorded music online.

To the rescue comes Winnipeg Christian singer-songwriter Steve Bell, who announced Tuesday he is making his songs available to any church in North America for online services — free of charge.

In a Facebook message, Bell wrote he was starting to get requests from pastors about whether they could use his songs for online worship services.

"The answer is yes. Use away," he said, providing links to his Soundcloud page and YouTube channel.

In an interview, Bell indicated letting churches use his songs (www.facebook.com/stevebellmusician) just felt "like the right thing to do."

For one thing, he recognizes churches are scrambling to find music to accompany services — it is his way to help out. "I want to do what I can to help during this unprecedented time," he said.

For another, "It’s because they don’t really feel like my songs."

"My music making has been supported by so many people for such a long time. My music belongs to everyone," he said, recalling his first concert with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 2007.

"I looked over the audience and I saw all these people who had helped me get to that stage," Bell said. "People who had donated money, lent me a car. I had such a feeling of joy at what we had done — not what I had done."

Among the songs churches can use for Zoom gatherings, livestream and pre-recorded services are his popular ones such as Wings of an Eagle, Here by the Water, Holy Lord, and Deep Calls to Deep.

As for which of his songs might be appropriate for this time of COVID-19, he cites Comfort My People, God Our Protector, Wouldn’t You Love to Know, and, from his new album, Hunker Down.

Bell is also planning to create some new packages of resources for churches that feature scripture, songs and prayers. "I’ll put them all up online," he said.

As well, Bell is offering 30-minute livestream concerts every Friday at 12:15 p.m. CDT. The first one, which was recorded, has been viewed about 11,000 times on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stevebellmusic) and YouTube.

As for the future, like all other artists, Bell’s concerts are cancelled or postponed until fall.

"I’m not panicking yet," he said, but if the cancellations continue through fall, it will be a problem. "We earn 80 per cent of our revenue from September to December."

faith@freepress.mb.ca

John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.

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