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Sunday, Aug 19, 2018
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Co-founder of Liturgical Folk: ‘We want our music to be a fire starter’

Ryan Flanigan, co-founder of the Anglican music project Liturgical Folk, writes songs with two groups of people in mind — the old and the young.

"When I write or sing in front of a church, they are who I am looking at," Flanigan, 38, said. "If a song really connects, if it really engages people, you will see the older people start tapping their feet and the children getting into it, because those stages — the beginning and the end of life — are when we live the least cluttered, when we are the most accessible."

In 2015. Flanigan, music director for the Texas-based church All Saints Dallas, received an email from a parishioner containing a poem. The parishioner, retired priest Father Nelson Koscheski, asked Flanigan to consider turning it into a song. The resulting hymn inspired Liturgical Folk, and the two men have since written more than 50 tracks together. Flanigan released two albums under the name.

On Saturday, the Liturgical Folk mini-tour (as Flanigan calls it) stops at Church of the Resurrection in Odessa. Flanigan, Koscheski and accompanying singers will perform at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

I spoke to Flanigan about merging tradition and modern music to make something new.

Liturgical Folk isn’t exactly a band name. Can you explain the meaning behind it?

I had a good friend of mine in Nashville who back in 2014 listened to a solo project of mine. He wasn’t really sure how to categorize it, and just in conversation he called it liturgical folk music. I had been doing it for a while, but didn’t have a name for it. It’s a style I fell into after trying different styles for 15 years. What I love about folk music is there is this rootedness to it that engages people. It connects souls.

My goal from the beginning, since Father Nelson and I launched this project, was two record five or six volumes of music to introduce this style. Then, the hope is that people will start writing and identifying themselves with Liturgical Folk as a category of music. Then I will go on to my next project as Ryan Flanigan.

Your style combines the old with the new? How do you keep the music relevant?

That’s where writing new songs really comes into play. Some of the language in the old hymns, even hymns written 30 or 40 years ago, can seem distant or archaic. It may not feel applicable to our modern lives. I write about what’s happening in our culture.

Traditionally, as artists and songwriters, we are the ones who feel the issues a bit differently, and then we create something to speak about a better vision for the future. I take that responsibility very seriously.

One issue is the racial tension in our country. One song on Volume 3, Lord Lord Lord, I wrote it write after Ferguson when Michael Brown was killed. I was very disheartened by the responses of my white evangelical friends on Facebook who were saying outrageous things, in denial of systematic oppression or just turning a blind eye to it. The emphasis behind the song is the need for confession, the need to do better. It says, ‘ Lord Lord Lord, please restore our trust.’

What do you want people to take away from hearing Liturgical Folk?

We want our music to be a fire starter. Someone called it a re-imagining of the hymnal. We want people to relate to the music, to latch onto it and make it their own.

Church of the Resurrection is at 7509 Van Dyke Road. For more information, visit www.liturgical
folk.com/liturgical-folk.

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