24 March 2013 by Adeline Lum CM -
Geoffrey Woo, singer and songwriter of 30 years, is a mild-mannered and soft-spoken man. But when he talked about the next big project that God directed him, he could barely hold back his excitement!
“I will be launching a new kind of worship music. It's like the secular songs we have today… you know like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Beyonce,” said Geoffrey.
Geoffrey received his music calling while he was an Engineering student in Melbourne, Australia. To date, he has released 6 albums and 3 singles, where the newest album was GEOGENY.
“During our time, Hillsongs was very popular. But for the younger generation now, what is known as the 4/14 window, Hillsongs no longer defines who they are… an archive like their grandfather’s or father’s music,” said Geoffrey.
His inspiration was ignited while he was ministering in a Sydney youth group. Most of the boys were sitting at the back, plugged into their headphones to hear hip-hop and techno music, before the worship began.
“When the worship started, I heard the girls singing but the boys were not singing anymore, because it’s not cool. Why? Because the music is not cool,” said Geoffrey. “They’re also embarrassed to bring their friends to church, at least this is what I see in Australia.”
“God is looking at the next generation worshippers. During my time in the 70’s, we memorize bible verses through scripture in song, because songs made it easier. And Christians then identified with the lyrics because they knew the Bible,” he added. “But now, we have a generation that is not familiar with the Bible.”
Although he anticipated a mixed response to his new songs, he felt that rooting the song in the Bible verses word for word is a good reason in itself for new music.
“The lyrics got to be deep, meaningful and full of theology like the lyrics of hymns, and beyond shallow Christian jargon such as ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Praise the Lord’, said Geoffrey. “At the same time, the songs have to be bouncy and lively for the new generation to get into!”
Indeed, if many Christian songs were to be placed side-by-side, you could hardly tell the difference of each song, just looking at the lyrics.
An instinctive composer who could sense whether the bible passages would work as a song, he enjoyed the challenge of composing a catchy song beat while preserving the word verbatim in the bible.
“Andrew Llyod Webber is an amazing composer of theatrical plays such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera and Cats. In Cats, he took the poems of T. S. Elliot and turned them into songs word for word,” said Geoffrey, who intended to do the same in composing the worship songs.
And the book he picked to be the lyrics is none other than the book of Psalms.
He also recognized that writing a song based on the original Hebrew is far easier due to its inherent rhyme. But when it is translated to English, the structure is broken down, which posed a challenge to write a melody.
“It takes a lot of experience to write. It’s an artistry to enable the bible verses to fit into the melody structure without changing the words, which can be tricky,” said Geoffrey.
How does he choose which Psalms to write? Based on his experience as a composer for over 30 years, he could recognize structure by reading the passages and see if it fits. And also, he depended on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
“For example, Psalm 91 is long with many words. I thought that putting it into a slow song would make it last for ten minutes, which may be too long for a song. The lyrics didn’t jive as well. So, I gave up and shelved it,” said Geoffrey. “But a few days later, when I woke up, the Holy Spirit inspired a quick-beat melody to it. And after that, it became a Beyonce-style song; a fast song!”
So far, he has completed 10 songs and he is awaiting God to provide him for the completion of the album.
“It’s for the young, so we’re gonna have a young band to sing it- a group of boys and girls cause it’s worship. And worship is not meant to be solo,” said Geoffrey. “The look and appeal of a young group can have an immediate effect, with a simple choreography added to it.”
A singer himself, he tested the waters by debuting a few of the songs in a Sydney Korean church. The boys stood up even without being told! And in an Overseas Christian Fellowship convention, cheers came all the way from the back to the front.
“We need songs that make you want to stand to your feet and worship God. This is how you reach out to the 4/14 window. One of the biggest parts of a young person’s life is music, besides sports and education,” said Geoffrey. “And music is powerful.”
This is it! It could be the next Hillsongs!
Although Geoffrey Woo is taking on such an immense project, he prefers to stay out of the limelight. Ultimately, he hopes that his efforts would start a wave of new Christian songs that is in step with the current times.
“I just want to start the ball rolling for other people to pick up composing songs for the new generation now,” said Geoffrey.
And I say to him, “Amen brother!”
Are you interested in composing songs? Feel free to contact veteran composer Geoffrey Woo for advice and lessons at firstname.lastname@example.org
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