Robin Mann, one of the LCA/NZ’s most well-known and best-loved songwriters and musicians, will next month mark 50 years of worship and praise music with a special concert.
The ‘Robin Mann – 50 Years of Song’ event on 24 August at Concordia College in suburban Adelaide, will raise money for Australian Lutheran World Service’s GRACE Project, which supports schooling for refugee children.
A pastoral musician and a former teacher, congregational layworker and student chaplain in the LCA/NZ who is 70 this month, Robin has contributed hundreds of songs to the worship life of the church over five decades.
While he is best-known in the LCA/NZ for the 114 songs he has contributed to the all together series of songbooks and as the guitarist and lead singer – along with wife Dorothy – of groundbreaking church rock band Kindekrist, Robin said neither of those projects resulted from his instigation.
‘One of the curiosities of my life is that I’m not an initiator’, he said. ‘The only things I initiate are songs.’
The interdenominational group Kindekrist was formed in 1971 at Scots (then Presbyterian, later Uniting) Church in Adelaide by a pastor there, Rev Rod Jepsen, who was the band’s original drummer. The band played in churches across the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Salvation Army, Catholic and Anglican denominations as well as for Lutheran services.
From 1972, Kindekrist led the music for the packed-out monthly student worship services at St Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Adelaide. Started by then LCA student chaplain Pastor John Sabel, along with student services at other Adelaide congregations which weren’t long-lived, the St Stephen’s evening services ran until 1998, which Robin described as Kindekrist’s ‘last hurrah’.
‘It was an accident of history because it was new and also because we were, in fact, cross-denominational’, Robin said of Kindekrist’s popularity with young Christians. ‘It just caught people’s imagination at the time. I think a large number of the traditional hymns just didn’t speak to people anymore. I have to say that was true for me, even though I grew up in the church.’
Robin said while young people today wouldn’t necessarily connect with his songs, due to the shifting nature of popular culture, it was important for the church to ‘continue to speak to younger people’.
‘The church is seriously shrinking, so obviously we’re not speaking, we’re not communicating very well with lots and lots of people’, he said. ‘I think there are all sorts of good reasons for that, especially from the Lutheran perspective, we have always been a family-based, community-based church and have found it very, very hard to adjust to the kind of culture we live in now.’
The all together worship songbooks were initiated by then LCA youth pastor Ted Prenzler, with the first collection, all together now, published by the church in 1980. While Robin was ‘a late addition’ to the team which put the collection together, more of his songs appear in that first book than in any of the subsequent six that were published up until 2014. As well as arranging recordings of the songs in the all together books, Robin took on curating the collections from the third edition, all together everybody.
He described music ‘as a very important gift’. ‘Undoubtedly a central reason for the gift of music is to praise and tell the story of God’, he said. ‘Music is a way of communicating that is different from anything else. We can communicate with music when we’re unable to communicate with just words. And one of the interesting things with music and songs actually more than just music – songs use both sides of the brain. So that, in fact, it’s both an emotional and a reasoning thing. It’s one of the great gifts, part of creation, and music is everywhere.’
Robin praised the role played by Dorothy – his high school sweetheart from Immanuel College and spouse of 50 years – over his musical career. ‘Dorothy has been my companion in performing songs but she’s also been the person with whom I share songs. And she’s been my editor, critiquer, helper and suggester.’
Robin expects that next month’s concert will be an emotional time, with those playing on the night including people who have been important parts of his musical life over the years. Among them will be one of the early members of Kindekrist Doug Petherick, Robin and Dorothy’s son Thom, who was the drummer with the band for 10 years, and some leading lights of the Christian music scene in South Australia, including Kathie Renner, Leigh Newton and Monica Christian.
Go to www.robinmann.com.au for more details and to book for ‘50 Years of Songs’.
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