Energy, Unity and Creativity
The story behind the NCYC praise album, "Hand of God".
On June 6th, 2023, Bro. Levi Myers (Cambridge, ON) and Bro. Levi Gelineau (Simi Hills, CA) spoke with Sis. Hayley Dangerfield (Gosford, NSW, Australia) and Bro. Gideon Ryan (Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia) about their youth group’s energetic musical project, creating a brand-new album titled “Hand of God.”
The four discuss the initial project goal of reenergizing the CYC post-lockdown and the continuing impact this unique project has had in unifying young people and whole ecclesias through teamwork, cooperation, and praise. The full version of this conversation is featured in Episode 9 of the Good Christadelphian Music podcast, available on whatever platform you use for podcast listening!
Levi M: You’ve all done a great job on this project. Give us some background on how it came into being.
Hayley D: The idea came about at the end of 2020. As we all know, the world was in lockdown for a lot of that year, so that definitely impacted our youth group. Gideon and I are from Newcastle CYC (NCYC), and around sixty to eighty young people attend. It was tricky for the youth group to be in lockdown—not being able to socialize and having everything on Zoom.
Being on the committee for that youth group, I was brainstorming a few ideas of what we could do over the next year once the lockdown lifted to reignite the passion in our youth group and bring everyone back together. The Brisbane CYC had done an album, “Stand Firm,” which came out at the end of 2020. We thought that was a really good album, and if they could do it, we could do it. So we pitched the idea to the committee, and the committee was on board!
We then formed a subcommittee and got the idea going. It was a bit of an easy decision to go with music, as our youth group has always had a talent in that area. We’ve always been passionate about our music and our songs. None of us had composed much before, but it made so much sense to use the talent in our area and go down the music track.
We wanted to emphasize distinctive styles.
Levi M: That’s great. And Gideon, what was your involvement in all that?
Gideon R: I was young when the idea started, still in high school. I joined in on the project straight away cause I thought it was an awesome idea. At first, I didn’t have much involvement apart from making a song for the album “Man of Dust.” But then, once it got to recording, which didn’t happen for a while, I was the guy in the chair for the couple of weekends that we did it, at Heritage College Lake Macquarie. Then I worked on a bunch of post-production as well, with Bro. Joe Cheek, who was our producer on it.
Levi G: There are ten tracks. How many different writers are there?
Hayley D: Every song is a different composer, and some of the songs have multiple composers. Our youngest composer was 14, and our oldest composer was 26. There was a good range of ages.
Levi G: That makes sense then that the styles are a little different through the songs, which also makes it enjoyable by the way to listen to them. It’s not the same thing over and over. It’s amazing there are over ten different writers for the ten tracks!
Hayley D: We wanted to emphasize distinctive styles. We wanted a range of congregational music and also some meditational pieces. We wanted to encourage lots of different instruments as well. For most composers, it was the first spiritual song they had ever written. So we wanted to drop the expectations and say, “We’re not aiming for perfection. Just give it a go.” It ended up working out well because it meant we had a great variety of styles and many different people contributing.
Levi M: It’s such a wide range of different sounds and styles that it became a complex album. I think that’s kind of the beauty of it; trying to be easy and simple with it, you turned it into something unique. The range of voices also adds to the beauty of the resulting product.
Gideon R: We also didn’t give anyone a theme to go on. So, the prompt was just to make a praise song you are passionate about. We didn’t produce a theme or the title of it until all the songs were recorded. “Hand of God” is a vague, broad term that could apply to anything. Still, it just meant that people sought out the opportunity and made something they were super passionate about, and I think that worked well and didn’t constrict anyone.
Levi G: How much communication was happening during the writing process? Or was it more like ten people went away, and ten people came back with finished songs?
Hayley D: We had a night where we got everyone to come together and brainstorm ideas. Then we just said, it’s up to you if you want to compose a song. We’ll leave it in your hands. Go away, write it, and then let us know, and you can play it live on one of our NCYC activity nights. So we had one of the songs played at our bonfire night. One of the songs played on our praise night, for example. Then, if we liked it and wanted it recorded, they submitted it to be reviewed for recording.
Levi G: Who was reviewing it?
Hayley D: We had some older, more experienced musicians and composers in our area get together one night, and they listened to all the songs. And they also reviewed the lyrics, just making sure that the song was Scriptural, and sent back some feedback on what needed editing. We also had a night where those older, more experienced musicians met up with the composers and actually gave them feedback in person as well.
Levi G: And then when did Bro. Joe Cheek get involved? Sorry, I’m getting so technical. I just think it’s fascinating!
Hayley D: That was in February or March 2023. So we didn’t give him a lot of time! The Adelaide Youth Conference was coming up and we wanted our album to be released when a lot of people could hear it all at once and there would be good hype around it. He smashed the songs out in time for the conference, which was awesome.
We have an Australasian Youth Conference every two years, and it changes cities in Australia. So it was pretty big. About 450 young people were there from all around Australia and the entire world! We got to announce it on the conference’s final day and then released all the songs on the album that same day. A lot of people were stoked about it.
Levi M: I saw some of the videos on Instagram of the Youth Conference singing the song “Armour of Light,” which sounded so good. What better way to launch an album than to have that many young people singing a song all together, all hyped from Bible School. Then that’s like your track to go download for the drive home!
Hayley D: Yes, that was exciting, releasing “Armour of Light” at the Conference. We sang it there as a meditation, and then later on, we sang it in the congregation, and everyone picked it up straight away. Sis. Annie Ryan, the composer of that song, even surprised everyone with an acapella part; everyone still sang it right, and it sounded amazing. It was an easy one to pick up.
Levi M: I was curious, Hayley, about your initial vision of the project: uniting the youth group and bringing everyone together around a project. Do you feel it did achieve that goal? Do you feel the result of that has been positive? Have you seen that in the youth group?
Hayley D: Definitely! I think it has helped unite our youth group, especially with the number of people that ended up being involved in the album. Not only with over ten composers but also all the musicians involved. And also the album art, for example, was done by a young person. There were a lot of different areas of talent that were all involved in the album, and that was exciting as well. Gradually, throughout the year, we’d have a new song sung live by our youth group, which brought a lot of excitement.
Levi M: That’s great. I think there’s something to be said there for other CYCs and youth groups where they’re trying to think of something to kind of bring everyone together. Doesn’t necessarily have to be an album, but having a big project like that where everyone can kind of participate in some way. The album art by Sis. Eden Dangerfield is so cool. Clearly a lot of detail and time went into putting that together.
Hayley D: And the images for the singles are zoomed-in images of the actual hand of God. So that’s also another creative element that she put into it. It nicely depicts God’s hand and all of His creation because God is the ultimate Creator. At the end of the day, He’s also the ultimate musician. He’s given us all of our musical and creative abilities. We’re made in his image and can give back to Him with our talents through music. Young people have a lot of energy to give, and a lot of young people are extremely creative. I don’t necessarily think our community promotes creativity as much as it could. It’s vital to give creative young people avenues to channel that creativity and that energy in a healthy, positive way and give back to God the talents that he’s given us.
Levi G: The point of our podcasts is to encourage more music. We hope that this story inspires people to make more music. This is such a delightful story because it is about including as many people as possible. It sounds like an encouraging process for a songwriter from the beginning, especially with people who were doing this for the first time.
Levi M: It was a great strategy to set up advisors to go to who have done it before. You’ve done a fantastic job of inspiring people to go out and try something. What would you say are some of the lessons you’ve learned throughout this process?
Hayley D: With the planning side, having a good subcommittee is important. On future projects, maybe I would suggest meeting more regularly just to discuss plans moving forward. Also, putting it to prayer, giving it to God and being patient. Having the mindset of, we are going to get this done no matter what. Giving up is not an option. Not being too perfectionistic, and remembering the ultimate aim of this is to unite our community and praise God. It’s a positive thing and not something we should get too worried or stressed about.
Gideon R: I think there’s a reason God has made it so enjoyable to harmonize and sing together. There’s a physiological thing there. I’ve felt like I’ve almost shied away from feeling the energy when singing praise songs. But definitely, in the past couple of years, it’s become more apparent in my mind that the words and the sound together are there for a purpose. It’s good to feel the energy, and it’s good to feel that connection to God.
You know, there was a time when it didn’t feel like the project would happen. Someone said this to me, I forget who it was, but they were reminiscing about the album and how it had finally come out. They were like, “Isn’t it so great that even though this album was pushed back so far from when we wanted to do it, it’s now getting released at a time of the highest energy at possibly one of the biggest youth conferences in Australia, and getting the widest reach and the highest possible amount of energy and praise?” And this person said that was almost like the hand of God, literally, working so much just to have the biggest impact.
Levi M: Love it. Thank you both and your entire CYC so much for your work on this album. It has benefited us personally and spiritually, and so many ecclesias worldwide will benefit from this for years to come.
Gideon R: Thank you, guys, for having us. Do you mind if I finish with a quote? This is what inspired the “Hand of God” title and the artwork.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:9-10).
Levi M: That’s a great way to end it. Thank you both.
Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA
Listen to the Hand of God album on all major streaming platforms, or on the
Chord charts for the songs are in the process of being made available on