BurylRed Since the word came that Buryl Red passed away, facebook pages, emails, and phonelines have been ablaze with “Buryl stories,” and reflections of encounters, special moments, and of course, music-making with Buryl.  While Buryl was one to avoid calling attention to himself, something about his soft gentlemanly demeanor coupled with the enormity of his musical prowess made “Buryl stories” stand out as the stuff legends are made of.  His music and musicianship spoke for itself, and left open the necessary space for others to call attention to the greatness therein.  The humility just made the greatness seem all the more. (a lesson much needed in today’s self-grandizing culture that allows us to facebook and tweet experiences as we want them to be seen, whether as they actually are or not)

I have engaged in a few Buryl stories myself, and given that I will join a tribute concert in New York that will include our Centurymen, I feel certain there will be many more days of reminscent tellings.  There are so many things I feel I gleaned from Buryl over 26+ years of singing with the Centurymen under his direction, and also spending rare opportunities to visit in New York, or see him in Nashville.  In the meantime I wanted to at least post partial text from a presentation of the 2004 W. Hines Sims award to Buryl that I had the distinct privilege to prepare thanks to then Southern Baptist Church Music Conference President, Joe Fitzpatrick.

 The individual who receives this award tonight is someone who has demonstrated dramatically what it means to color outside the lines, or to work outside the box, if I may use those clichés.  Within the church music world this individual has served up numerous published and recorded offerings.  Several works are considered landmarks in the church music genre, containing a timely and relevant style, yet seeming to have a timeless quality about their ability to communicate gospel.

 The individual who would be worthy of the W. Hines Sims award would need to be someone who had pioneered to new territory applying the power of music to applicable medium of the day….something that would likely be out of the pervue of the average church musician, yet well within the grasp of the craft and concept of the missional visionary.  To earn the respect and even admiration by those within the professional musician and recording world this person would have to possess impeccable credentials, obvious superior talent, and a genuine transparency.

 The recipient of the Sims award would be expected to have an impact outside the church itself.  The use of giftedness to influence and serve educational development, the entertainment community, and broadcast media helps to elevate awareness and respectability for the whole Christian enterprise.

 This year’s recipient personifies vision without calling attention to himself, or for that matter without calling attention to the vision itself.  Humble in spirit, yet commanding an adherence to a standard of excellence that often exceeds even the finest musician’s understanding.

 Singers, players, co-producers/arrangers and recording engineers who have worked with this man are quite familiar with the phrase, “One more time,” which they all are well aware probably does NOT mean, “ONE more time.”

 He is well-known and respected in his adopted home of New York City, where he has worked with the very best in the fields of recording, music education, and composition.  He has also worked with stars of stage and screen.  Yet, the relationships he seems to cherish the most are with young, developing talents for whom he seems to take delight in providing opportunity that will unleash their budding talents, or with fellow artists who are of diverse background and ethnicity, particularly African-American for whom he has obvious respect and admiration, and finally for his beloved recording and concertizing phenomenon, The Centurymen.  It is the latter that has given me the privilege of relationship with this musical giant.

 I can tell you that for a local church music minister, or a state denominational music & worship leader, or an educator to be walking the streets of New York, catching a cab, or traveling the world with this man is a great honor, but also a lesson in proper perspective.

 I will never forget my first experience riding in a car with my hero and mentor.  We had sung a concert in the church I was serving as Minister of Music.  It was a wonderful night.  As we traveled in the car I fretted over what to say.  After 30 minutes of near total silence other than the hum of the road, he spoke up, “uh……that was great bar-b-q tonight.”  Bar-b-q?  I was traveling with an idol, and we were talking bar-b-q?  For the next 30 minutes we tossed back and forth places we had experienced the southern cuisine.  We compared beef to pork, Texas to Tennessee to his home state of Arkansas.

 Since that time I have come to know him more than what we put in our stomachs, though that is still a subject of which we may speak.  I have had opportunity to observe his interaction with professionals, and commoners, and find him to be a Christian gentlemen in the best sense.  I have had the privilege of introducing him to my family, and seen him take interest in them.  I have been introduced to his family, and have heard his quiet affirmation and sense of pride of their accomplishments.  Perhaps best of all, I have experienced the witness and nuance of his marvelous music.  I discover much about him there, for his quiet and sometimes shy manner is not to be found in the profound musical expression.  There are surprises at every turn.  In making that music together with my fellow Centurymen over the last 17 years of my participation I have found God frequently and often.

 Some of us speak our music to the Church, and call for the saints to proclaim His praise in worship.  This man has also found ways of utilizing the intrinsic mysterious beauty of music itself to speak to the soul of Christians and non-Christians without deserting the essence of both subject and form.  God has granted me the privilege of knowing him, and making music with him.  Because of that my life has been made richer, and so has the musical expression and experience of Baptists and church musicians everywhere.

 Paul Clark, Baptist Church Music Council and former Centurymen President  — Upon the Occasion of Presenting the W. Hines Sims Award to Buryl Red, June 29, 2004

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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