Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

Keep plugging away. Keep your head down. Idiomatically, we say these things when talking about the virtues of working hard. Usually, these phrases, once decoded – do bear meaning. However, it is a strange thing to say when talking about the Denver act, Churchill. For I doubt their heads were ever down. To the contrary, I am certain they kept their chins up and their eyes on the sky.

Tim Bruns and Mike Morter came from other lands, to Denver, to begin the musical project that they would later call Churchill. They started by writing a basket of songs, playing traditionals. Slowly, carefully, they pieced together the sound, then – one-by-one they found the other players that comprise this rising band of stars in the Queen City’s sky (Amy Moyer, cello; Joe Richmond, drums; Bethany Kelly, piano, vocals; Tyler Rima, bass).

Once pursuing a music career in Nashville, Bruns’ sense of song coupled with Morter’s mandolin voicings served as the basis for what Churchill has quickly become. Only a year ago Bruns and Morter began in Denver, playing open stages and putting songs together as a duo. But with the addition of the other players and their chorus of voices and bodies - moving and clapping in symphonic dance to reverberate their sound up and into the heavens – they have now completely supported this exalted idea and this timeless name like Churchill.

While there is a certain sense of pressure if you are the primary songwriter, Tim Bruns has brilliantly distributed that organization diplomatically – to the rest of the band. For while most songs do tend to originate with Bruns, the Churchill chorus is the backbone that gives each song its legs, its spine. For it seems that the serendipity that brought them all together as a band (Rima joined the band only week away from leaving Chicago) – while mysterious, isn’t entirely. For where the mystery is stripped-away, the magic of their unified hearts and understandings about their place in these cosmos has risen to the surface and bound them all together in that space of divinity. Professionally, this kind of profound understanding between the players has given rise to a supreme sense of trust and comfort within their songwriting and, on stage, in their jovial, heartbreaking live performances.

Churchill is a redemptive sound. They can gently sway from traditional gospel cadences to the inner struggle of a melancholy man and woman trying to find their place and their sense of self in a relationship that feels more spiritual than romantic. It’s as though their chosen instruments stand as the analogy to their messages of moving forward, not giving-up. Fighting. Struggling. Standing tall and facing what is before you and who you have become.

Humans have long built cathedrals in an attempt to mimic their great spiritualism. These ceilings have served as symbolic exaltation. But watching Churchill on an outdoor stage, or any stage for that matter, and you can begin to understand how holy music can be – for just as music fills up all those cathedrals and churches with hymn and song – this band of stars can fill-up the entire night sky, or just your physical body, with a simplified sense of joy and hope, duty and reverence.

Churchill is the sound of struggle locking arms with redemption. It is the music of some emulsified end which speaks to the volumes of work and toil that sat atop your shoulders as your dragged your feet forward – with only hope, some clever idioms and the chance to stand in front of something bigger than you. This music is the creation of that kind of hill – that is both personally won and intimately, deliberately built. This is the kind of music that elevates you from the lower ground from which you came, to the higher hope of locating and owning your sense of providence.

By all means, Churchill is a brand new band. And while many of the players have been gigging for years and pushing work – the formation of this new company, this new outfit, has offered a great sense of hope. They all believe that they are exactly where they need to be. They know the hard work that has brought them all together, at this point. And they are also very aware of what lays before them. But while one could see fear, intimidation and only more work – as a collective, they only see the bright light of possibility. As a family, I picture the six of them spending their days in radiant hope, on the great plains of organic achievement.

Be sure to stay up to beat with the Churchill sound: www.myspace.com/churchilltheband