California: House Concerts, Mega Churches and Sore Muscles

SteveAs I write this, I’m heading south on Hwy 99 from Sacramento en route  to Los Angeles where I’ll be performing and teaching for the next few days.  If it weren’t for the loved ones left behind in Winnipeg  it would be easier to celebrate this sun and the warmth here compared to the sub-zero freeze back home.

Nance and Luca
Nance and Luca

My daughter Sarah, her husband Steve and our two grandsons Luca and Pax were in Winnipeg for the last several days on unexpected visit. By the time I return home they will be gone, and Nance and I will settle back into the tender sadness that marks the life of long-distance grand-parenting. Love is such a profound ache. A “sorrow for connoisseurs” one might say.

But that’s ok. I’d rather live with the ache than not. And for the moment I have a smooth highway ahead, a glorious sky above and California vineyards to my right and to my left – there are worse jobs than this.



My manager, Dave Z, and I arrived here for a house concert in Sacramento on Saturday night. The concert was in the home of a wonderful acquaintance of mine Jud Riggs and his wife Kim.  I’m always fascinated by architectural space and how it acts on us. This home had a restful elegance about it reminiscent of the feel one gets from the  architectural genius of Frank Lloyd Wright.   About thirty of their friends came over for magnificent hors-d’ouevres lovely wines and some folksy tunes from yours truly.  I really enjoy house concerts; the immediacy, the celebration of friendship and neighborhood –  music in the home.

This work is so richly varied; from concerts in private homes to small rural churches,  theatres, concert halls, big city churches  – solo, with band, with orchestras. I can’t say which of these I prefer as they all do such different things. The language of song has as many dialects as the language of speech and takes on unique nuances according to the colours each framing environment highlights.  It’s fascinating really.

Megatron SteveSaturday night I sang in a private home. And then Sunday morning I sang  three services at a church that seats more people than the Winnipeg Concert Hall  back home.  Mega church!  Megatrons!  Mega celebration with choir, full band (including horn section), outstanding soloists  – all under  a canopy of high-tech lights and orchestrated by a masterful music director. The opening song was an electrifying gospel R&B blast that made you want to jump and shout.  And although my modest Canadian sensibilities tend to be shy of such mega-ness, these folks were about as down-to-earth, friendly, hospitable and welcoming as any I’ve met.  The pastor, Rick Cole, had more the demeanor of a wise and goodly neighbor than the suited power-pastor one would expect in such a place. In short… I had a riot.

Lonely SteveIn the evening I sang a concert for the 3-400 folks who had nothing better to do on a Sunday night. It was a strange concert for me. I went into it well rested and energized, but almost the minute I got on stage I had trouble getting it together. It felt like I was whisked away, bound and caged in the wings,  helpless to come to aid of the poor bloke left floundering on stage.  Weird. At the end of the concert the response was surprisingly enthusiastic which meant that what-ever was going on for me internally, happily didn’t translate out front. Perhaps God chose to bless his people despite the miserable efforts of his humbled servant.  I’m not sure if I should be depressed about me or awed by a good God.   Hmmm….. I choose awed.

Not my real arm :)
Not my real arm 🙂

I woke up this morning quite sore. I’ve not made a lot of mention of this up to now, but am becoming rather alarmed at the growing pain in my left arm resulting from repetitive stress injury after 40 years of guitar.  My massage therapist is confident my condition is fixable  – but not quickly. I was hoping the month off at Christmas would be enough for the muscles to heal but  now, as  I head into a full season of concerts, it is almost worse than before the break; searing hot pain from shoulder to wrist with particular hot spots in the triceps, elbow and top forearm.  I mention this because I know some of you are praying-types and it would be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that resource.  I’ll do my rehabilitative work and keep you posted, but I would sure appreciate a few crumbs from the table of your prayers.

In n OutThe coming days are rather pleasant. Tomorrow and the next day, I sing and teach at Biola University with a house concert at the president’s home (of the University, not the country). Tuesday night will be a dinner with my songwriting hero Bob Bennett and guitar maker Kevin Ryan and their sweethearts Elena and Barb respectively.  Somewhere in there will likely be a visit or two to IN-N-OUT  BURGER, the only bright light in Schlosser’s otherwise apocalyptic Fast Food Nation. Thursday I have a concert with Bob Bennett in Mission Viejo and then I drive back north to San Francisco for an evening concert Saturday in Foster City  with  morning services at Menlo Park Presbyterian on Sunday. As it turns out, there is no gig Sunday night and so I’ll spend it with dear friends watching the Superbowl!

Micah and his momma
Micah and his momma

On Monday I will return home to my son Micah and my most excellent wife Nanci whose teary voice on the phone yesterday indicates she feels about the same way as I do about saying bye once again to our grandsons – which brings us full circle. So I’ll leave you with a song I wrote several years ago that borrows from the narrative of Jesus’ mother, whose grief was prophesied by the elder Simeon, but who embraced the sorrow for connoisseurs none-the less.

click song title to listen:

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”A Sorrow for Connoisseurs” dl=”0″]

Music by Steve Bell / Lyric by Steve Bell and Jamie Howison

Maria I’ll tell you right now
My old heart is finished and full
This child that you bring
That my eyes have seen
He’s the glory of Israel
He’s gonna tear your heart out
After you’ve loved so well

Love is like a fine wine that you take by the fire
It rolls on the tongue and it gladdens the heart
But what we’ve learned from the reckless
Who can’t get enough
It’s gonna break your heart
You know there’s such a fine line of comfort and pain
Love criss-crosses over it again and again
But your options are loveless so don’t be afraid
Just know before you start
Lady that’s how it works
Love is a sorrow for connoisseurs

You may not believe it right now
I don’t understand it myself
But an old man can make
Mysterious claims
Some things we just know
So we tell
He’s gonna tear your heart out
Even after you’ve loved so well

Oh don’t you get it
I’m trying to explain
Sorrow is not the saddest thing
Don’t be offended
Let it sink in
Sometimes the best is hidden in
This strange, strange cross
Love is gain and love is loss

Album: Waiting for Aidan
Album: Waiting for Aidan

The song A Sorrow For Connoisseurs appears on Steve’s album Waiting For Aidan. To view, sample songs or purchase, click HERE.

For details on any of the concerts mentioned above, click HERE




15 thoughts on “California: House Concerts, Mega Churches and Sore Muscles

  1. Steve, I have enjoyed your music and been privileged to attend several of your concerts over the last few years. I have been touched at various times by particular songs or entire CDs that have spoken to whatever I was going through at the time. I have to say, though, that if I had to choose only one Steve Bell song to keep with me on a desert island (I know it sounds silly), it would be this one.
    I have quoted this song to my kids (who know and love it as well) as they go through the trials of teen and young adult years. I have hummed it tearily as I have had to let my kids leave the nest and go off on their own…even after I’ve “loved so well”. And hey, it is just a really good song to listen to. I always thought that Simeon’s comment to Mary was weird, and never got the point of it until your song.
    So, thanks Steve!

  2. What wise and amazing lyrics, Steve! I’ve always loved the wording to that song, and it’s been an inspiration to me in my own journey with love! And the melody is one of my favorite of yours (that whole cd is, actually!). Sarah’s voice adds beautifully to the song!

    Praying for your healing, and for a safe return back to your family next week, from the sunny south!

  3. Steve..your so close to Sin City (aka Grace City) and not passing through. You have a place to hang your hat here when you do.

  4. We loved having you Steve! I know you had a tough night Sunday night, but your right, nobody except you knew the details. The feedback our team has been exceptional! We loved you to death!

  5. I’ve just started reading “This is Your Brain on Music,” fascinating look at many different aspects of what music is and what it does to us.

    Thanks for the update – enjoy the California Dreamin’!

  6. Hi Steve, sorry to hear about your arm. You know we’re so human and I find the mind is willing, but the body doesn’t always want to co-operate , we can relate! May you keep trusting and believing. When you’re weak you’re strong! We’ll be praying for you. Maybe you will have to take some time off from playing and more time for cuddling! It might not pay the bills but relationships will grow. Enjoy the superbowl and God’s grace and peace to you and Dave and your families. We hope to see you soon if not playing , we’ll enjoy your stories. Keep the faith, perservere. James 1

  7. The sorrow of absence is more difficult for the heart to hold when loved ones who once included you in their lives no longer choose to open their lives & hearts to you. Rejection is a profound sorrow, there is no reconciliation; it is worse than saying goodbye to a beloved. (The loved one died in Christ, which makes the sorrow more sweet, it bears up with a hope & expectation of being reunited.)

  8. This is one of my favorite songs! Love it, Love it! Love. It.
    I’ll be joining those so inclined to keep you covered in prayer. May our Lord bless you with His strength and endurance. May His grace abound.

  9. You have such a way with words and lyrics, and of course music making — that blesses and touches so many of us. Praying for relief from pain and safe travels uuntil you are home again.

  10. Hey Steve. There were a few moments on Sunday p.m. when you looked like you were trying to regroup, but it also led to a deliberate intensity of focus later in the evening as (I think). It was great to hear first hand some of the background from some of the songs (Burning Embers, Here By The Waters). Each of my kids (16, 14, 9) have also spent a great deal of time listening to your albums and could sing many of your songs with you. It was a treat to have you in Sacramento. Enjoy your time with Bob, who I had the privilege to meet at Spirit West Coast right after Bright Avenue came out. God bless. Tim

  11. Dear Steve this is your Mom,We love you as always, and are looking forward to your coming to Summerland to sing for us old folks.Fresh and green! –Try going to bed with something hot on your arm –like A535 and a warm sweater. bless you!

  12. Well, I was at the Sunday night weird concert and there was nothing weird about it…just sweet Steve Bell goodness. I was with the transplanted Canadians and brought some Californians along with me. We loved it. Hope to see you around these parts again. And had I known about the team up with Bob Bennet, I may have made plans to drive south!

  13. Hi Steve…. your song choice you shared touched me very deeply….. I can well relate
    to having to live separate from my children
    (very difficult circujstances).. I too am so very thankful for the wine of love instead of being “loveless”. I will keep your injury in my prayers and actually have been since I attended your Regina December concert. when I noticed you having a little challenge playing. Some physiotherapists are specialists in treating musicians… do you have access to one? Please keep this option in mind as necessary. I work as a physiotherapist in Regina so couldn’t help but bring that up with you. Blessings to you, Brenda B.

  14. As a “twanger” myself I know what it is like to have sore muscles (and fingers) when playing the git box. I am praying for you and your health and strength. My Christ grant you all and more than you need to serve Him and those you minister too. Eph. 2:10 for 2010. Eldon

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