“Yes, and…”, Marc Martel, and Queen

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The first rule of improvisational comedy, as I understand it, is as simple as it is profound. The rule is summed up in two modest words—three letters each–that together form a key that can open a door between heaven and earth. The words?

“Yes, and . . .”

Here is the basic gist paraphrased from wikipedia:

In order for an improvised scene to work, the performers involved must work together responsively in a process of co-creation. It begins when the first performer makes what’s called an offer, throwing out a word or phrase that defines some element of the reality of the scene. It is the responsibility of the next performer then to accept the offer that their fellow performer makes; to not do so is known as blocking, negation, or denial, which usually prevents the scene from developing.

Having accepted the offer of the first performer, the next performer then adds to it, building on what was offered, contributing to the scene while being shaped by it. And thus he or she makes a new offer to the next performer, who repeats the cycle. This is a process improvisers refer to as “yes, and…”–I say yes to what you offer me, and I add my part to it–and it is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique. Every offer accepted (yes) and every contribution to the offer (and) helps the improvisers to refine their characters and progress the action of the scene. Next time you watch reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway watch for it.

I’ve been thinking about “yes, and…” lately and the way this simple idea can invite the Kingdom of God into my daily life. In any given moment am I blocking or negating God’s offer and thus preventing the scene, or the ways that heaven breaks into my world, from developing? Or do I humbly accept what comes my way as an invitation to add my part and thus progress the action—his work in and through my life.

By the time you read this we will have wrapped up the Called To Love Fall tour (but don’t worry if you missed it, we’re taking it out again in the spring) featuring Downhere, Aaron Shust, and yours truly.

All of us are on the same label—Centricity Music—and released new albums within a week of each other, so it seemed like a good idea for us to take our new songs on the road together. When the tour began, Aaron’s song “My Hope Is In You” was already climbing the charts to become the #1 song in the nation (and still holding as I write this) and my own dark horse in the race, “Remind Me Who I Am,” was just beginning to find its stride.

And then something remarkable happened. After years of being told how much he sounded like Queen’s Freddie Mercury, fate caught up with Downhere’s Marc Martel.

Earlier this year Roger Taylor of Queen decided to put together a special tribute band to celebrate their music for a summer tour called the Queen Extravaganza and announced they were taking auditions on YouTube. So at the urging of all of his friends, and after much consideration, Marc threw his hat in the ring and uploaded his rendition of “Somebody To Love.” What followed was more than anyone—even Queen—could have predicted. Marc’s audition went viral with four million views in only a few weeks. With the internet buzzing, Marc became an international media phenomenon, even landing a spot on The Ellen Degeneres show during the first week of our tour. Queen fans felt like they got Freddie back.

And it’s true – Marc’s vocal and even physical resemblance to Freddie Mercury is uncanny. In fact, I have an MP3 of Marc doing his version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that you can hardly distinguish from the original (and as good as his Mercury is, you should hear his Michael Jackson, George Michael, and even Bono). Marc is easily the best singer I know, whether he’s singing rock, pop, or even opera (check out this video of Marc singing “Nessun Dorma”). Whether or not the kind of music he sings is your cup of tea, it’s hard to deny that the boy can sing.

Even Queen’s Roger Taylor mentioned him in an interview, strongly suggesting that he’s a shoe in for the Queen Extravaganza tour–which is exciting! And kind of surreal. And even a little disconcerting. It raises a lot of questions: What does all this mean?  If Marc wins, what does it mean for Downhere? Can Marc, a gifted songwriter, be content singing someone else’s songs (even if they are some of the most beloved songs in rock’n’roll history)? If he wins, will Marc have to wear a unitard when he sings “Bohemian Rhapsody” (I won’t lie, I kind of hope so. I want pictures.)

There isn’t a clear roadmap for an adventure such as this and there are more question marks than there are signposts. But I’ve been grateful to have a front row seat for it all, and I’ll tell you this: I’m daily impressed with Marc and the rest of Downhere—Jason, Glenn, and Jeremy—for their humble, God-honoring, and faith-filled response to all that’s happening.

I see Marc and his band mates saying, “yes, and…”—prayerfully receiving these events as though they are from the hand of the Lord—with courage, respect, and humility as they wonder what part they’re supposed to add to it, trusting that though a man “plans his way, the Lord directs his steps.” This is where the rubber meets the road (forgive the cliché) of how you work out your theology of God’s sovereignty with fear and trembling.

And here is where I see the beauty of “Yes, and…”

To say “Yes, but…” is an argument and is to stand in judgment of a moment, to hazard measuring it by our own self-righteousness and risk blocking the scene from developing. “Yes, but…” is conditional and is something that I and so many of us in the Christian community are often guilty of. It is fundamentally defensive, fearful, and reactive. “Yes, and…”, however, is the fearless and humble acceptance of the offer of an adventure.

“Yes, but…” kills the moment before it even has a chance to come to life. “Yes, and…” is pregnant with possibility.

But it can also get messy. Or maybe I should say and it can also get messy.

To walk the line of being sensitive to his church audience and his own Christian convictions while at the same time honoring Queen music lovers is a delicate balancing act that I see Marc and co. walking out with grace, kindness, and a generosity that imbues the conversation with the aroma of Christ.

The question that usually comes up in interviews from Christian and non-Christian media alike is how Marc as a Christian feels about singing the songs of a renowned hedonist. Marc replies by gracefully bringing the conversation back to the heart of the matter (as well as the heart of the man) by reminding them that some of the best of Queen’s songs, like “Somebody To Love”, are born out of the same spiritual longing that is common to all of us.

My favorite moment is one that I understand might offend the sensibilities of some, but for those who might see it, as I did, as inspired, funny, and gracious, I’ll risk sharing it.

For whoever wants to seriously engage it, Marc doesn’t dodge the question, but one interview required a different kind of sensitivity. A shock jock seemed to want to corner Marc by asking him how he, a Christian, felt about singing the songs of a celebrated bi-sexual. It was, of course, a no-win situation and a question sure to stir up trouble and degrade the conversation into fruitless controversy. Marc, a French-Canadian, answered, I believe, with an inspired and artful Chestertonian dodge perfectly tailored for that audience: “Well, I’m bi-lingual, do you think Queen fans will have an issue with that?”

Well-played, Marc.

But wherever there has been an opportunity for fruitful and dignified dialogue, Marc has graciously engaged the question. Whether he’s talking with a secular deejay or a Christian news outlet, it’s been inspiring to eavesdrop on Marc’s many interviews. I’ve been grateful for how he represents Christ and my faith. I’m proud of him.

With all of this attention, clearly the tour had to respond, and so our “Yes, and…” took the form of adding “Somebody to Love” to the set as a way of honoring the curiosity of those who might attend the shows after discovering Marc on YouTube.

Some churches have cancelled future Downhere dates because of Marc’s association with Queen, which I think is a shame. It shines a spotlight on one of the failures of a particular segment of the Christian community. We have the unfortunate reputation for naming people for what we see as their sin and brokenness, as though that were the whole of their identity. To see Freddie Mercury, or anyone for that matter, solely based on their sexuality (or any one thing) is to miss seeing what God sees, which of course is the heart of a person and the story that shaped them. And let’s not forget that every heart is filled with enough hurt and disappointment to ruin the best of us. Compassion should always be our first instinct. Isn’t that what we hope for when our own brokenness rises to the surface of our own lives? Are we only ever the sum of our failures, brokenness, sin, or other’s worst estimation of us?

I think of Jesus and the woman at the well. I think of the way that Jesus gave her dignity by receiving her and asking her for a drink of water, breaking with the cultural mores of his time and acknowledging her as a fellow human being. It was only after this that he helped her to see her own story and then invited her into a better one.

There are other churches who, in the spirit of “yes, and…”, made use of Marc’s notoriety by advertising our tour on local classic rock stations. One of our shows was made up of about one third of people who may not otherwise have set foot in a church. Jesus was proclaimed, God was worshipped, and the scene progressed. Ah, the fruit of “yes, and…”

Some people are concerned about Marc and ask me if all of this attention has changed him. I’m grateful to be able to say that from where I sit he’s the same Marc I’ve always known. In fact I’d say he’s as in touch with the moving of the Holy Spirit as I’ve ever known him to be, with a heart at the center of him that is increasingly humble, kind, and hungry for God’s leading.

Which brings me to the part of the story that I most want to tell.

The most beautiful moment of the tour put Marc’s heart front and center. You see, there was one night when a young man with Down’s Syndrome was in the front row, beside himself in fits of enjoyment, dancing ecstatically through all of our sets. It was delightful. During the final song, an anthemic worship chorus where we all took the stage to close out the night together, this young man was overcome with joy and stormed up the steps to take center stage with Marc.

These kinds of moments are precarious and require the most careful and caring touch. As the artist, you’re the captain of the ship in a sense and you have a responsibility to manage any factors that threaten to throw the evening of course. But you also don’t want to hold the wheel so tight that you choke out the chance for God to walk through the room.

I was standing right behind Marc when the young man took to the stage and it happened. It was a small thing, and yet a gesture so pregnant with grace that it still moves me to remember it. Marc kept singing and gently put his arm around the young man—his hand on his back—drawing him in, assuring him. Marc’s arm around him said this:

“Yes… I receive this moment from the hand of God, I receive you. You are a gift of God and have a place here.”

“And… Sing with me, let’s sing together. You have a voice! And you should sing with it, you so alive with your love for your heavenly father that you couldn’t stay in your seat!”

Yes: An acceptance of the offer of a potentially awkward moment, an adventure. And: A contribution that progressed the scene, a beautiful scene that looked like Kingdom come. In a moment like that, it’s hard to tell who the first or the last or the least among us is, isn’t it? I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

If you’re concerned about how Marc will navigate this unlikely adventure he’s in, pray for him. But when you do, don’t pray out of fear, suspicion, or judgment. Remember the heart God has given him, and pray that the same God who is shaping the heart within him will also guard it.

 

Check out this video, Marc’s second round audition of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”

His brother David is an amazing artist, too, whose music is reminiscent of Fleet Foxes. This is his audition of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”:

And why shouldn’t Glenn, Downhere’s bass player, join the fun? Here’s his bass audition for “Another One Bites The Dust”:

And don’t forget to check out Downhere’s website

UPDATE: Marc and David are proceeding to the final round! You can watch or listen to it live this Monday, Dec. 5th at http://www.queenextravaganza.com/

UPDATE #2: I was just made aware of a great piece that Jeremy, the drummer of Downhere, wrote as the father of a son with Down’s Syndrome. Beautiful: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150432691026355

 


63 Comments

  1. Paula Shaw

    I’m loving this contest. We have a personal friend, Brian Gresh, who is in the running for the guitarist. He’s in LA as I right this waiting for his shot . He’s as talented on the guitar as Marc is vocally. It would be so cool if they both won their perspective positions in the band. I love Marc’s voice. It stood out to me a few years ago when I first heard them sing “A Better Way”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs by Downhere.
    Good luck to both Marc and Brian. 🙂

  2. Jen

    Paula, that’s so cool! And how great would it be if they both got it? Best of luck to Brian too…. I’ll have to look up his audition video.

    I love downhere, and it has been so fun watching this adventure unfold. I also love that the whole thing started during Hutchmoot because it made seeing Jason Germain at the concert Friday night especially fun. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I asked him about it. He kept laughing while he told he story. 🙂 It was really sweet actually.

    Best of luck to Marc, David and Brian!
    And yes, I love Queen and would totally go see this tour.

  3. Chris Whitler

    My good friend Aaron went through all the Second City improv training in Toronto. In fact, he was so good, he got fast tracked through the program as he was outshining his classmates. He was in the middle of making the decision to keep pursuing comedy or to come and join me in a nowhere town in California to work with the homeless…he chose to come to California. The day after he made his choice, Second City called him and offered him a place in their touring company. He still came here.

    I’ve seen Aaron use “yes and” as a kind of guiding principle in his life. He is Canadian so he recently was required (due to visa restrictions) to spend a sabbatical year out of the US. “Yes and” was the theme of his year and it took him to Thailand, Malaysia, Israel, Holland, a native reserve in Canada, Rome and Assisi! Talk about adventure.

    So here’s the shameless plug part of my comment…Aaron and I and some other friends like the Rabbit Room idea so much that we made our own…imitation is, in this case, a high form of flattery. It’s a group of friends that blog topically and creatively. It’s called The Fire Bowl and Aaron wrote a piece about his adventures of saying ‘yes’ around the world. It’s here… http://thefirebowl.blogspot.com/2011/10/yes-aaron-alford.html

    Thanks for this post Jason. The pieces here often leave me in tears and this is no exception. I hope to follow the progress of your friend. As Samwise knows, being with and supporting friends on an adventure often means going on one yourself.

  4. James Witmer

    We have the unfortunate reputation for naming people for what we see as their sin and brokenness, as though that were the whole of their identity.

    We don’t just have the reputation – we have the tendency.

    I know I do.

    But it was Jesus who embraced the ugliest sinners, and the Pharisees – “Whitewashed tombs”, He called them – who named them and avoided them.

    And let’s not forget that every heart is filled with enough hurt and disappointment to ruin the best of us.

    I’ll raise you one: Every heart is filled with enough sin to ruin the best of us. And the best of us has been so ruined. That’s why Jesus’ work is described as redemption, isn’t it? We’re not just being kept out of hell, but bought back from our existing slavery to sin and death.

    “He who is forgiven much loves much, but he who is forgiven little loves little.”

    My heart is darkest when I forget this, but brightest when I embrace it. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Clay

    “Yes, and…” That’s kingdom theology in a heartbeat–intake “Yes”, outgo “and”. That preaches.

    The churches that cancelled remind me a little of Jesus’ words in Matthew 10: 1-15 when he sent his disciples out to preach “the kingdom heaven is at hand” to God’s people, the “lost sheep of Israel” (roughly equivalent to preaching in the church today). If their “yes” was met with an “and” they were to stay; if met with a “but” they were to “shake the dust off [their] feet.” Sometimes I just have to shake my head at the state of the church, not with condemnation but with sorrow. Those churches missed a blessing.

    I don’t own any of Downhere’s recordings, but I know I’ve liked their music whenever I’ve heard it (but then, I like all of Centricity’s artists). I’m off to buy some new music now. Thanks for a great post, Jason. Go Marc and David.

  6. Jenn C

    Beautifully spoken Jason. Thanks for it all. I’m loving watching the Extravaganza – what an awesome chance to engage the world! And what fun, to boot!

    Thank you for your perspective on the young man with Down’s Syndrome who joined you all onstage. I have a young relative with Down’s Syndrome, and I have a child of my own with other special needs. Thank you for, in a way, welcoming all of them in that moment. This mama’s heart is grateful.

  7. john willingham

    I’m not sure how much he was being embraced by christian music anyway, oh No! they might lose the empire that was built in Christian Music Industry! I kind of thought their talents were being overlooke in that genre anyway, CM likes cookie cutter music for soccer mom’s, no offense to soccer mom;’s. maybe this will get people to notice the genius of the band, downhere, they are everything that is good about music, humble and honest, that is why I love them and support them all I can, they are all very talented, their music has absolutely drawn me closer to the one and only Jesus Christ!, I am so happy I stumbled upon them 3 years ago. If you think he shouldn’t do the Queen thing, the make sure that you are consistant in your own life, do not watch, listen to , go eat at, drive a car by, wear clothes by, ect.anything that isn’t 100% Christian!

  8. Kaitlyn

    Beautiful post, Jason! It has been so neat to see how Marc has handled all of this. I don’t even have a front seat to the whole thing, but as someone who is sitting in the middle of the theater, I can truly see his heart for God. So encouraging. This was just delightful to read.

  9. Sarah

    “If he wins, will Marc have to wear a unitard when he sings “Bohemian Rhapsody” (I won’t lie, I kind of hope so. I want pictures.)”

    This genuinely made me laugh out loud – enough that my mum asked why 🙂

    Wonderful article. Thank you.

  10. Nick and Susan

    Jason,

    I’ve been enjoying Downhere’s music for the past 7 years and what has been embarrasing to me regarding the Queen Extravaganza, is that not too many years ago, I too would have been horrified at a ‘Christian’ band member pursuing such a role. I would most certainly have said a hearty ‘Amen’ in agreement with those churches that cancelled the band.

    My heart has been changed considerably over the last 18 months or so, in part by being challenged by various posts here – including many of yours, particularly that ‘Halloween’ one and the ‘Lie, Hide…or Love’ one (I’ve been hiding and trying to fit in, wrestling and doing more hiding for almost twenty years!). And again reading your post today has reminded of how gracious Marc Martel has been this past few months – it has been a beautiful thing to watch

    I commented to a friend just yesterday that “You only need read the words of their song (or any of their songs for that matter) How Many Kings and it will move you deeply”. Add to that their music and singing ability and you can’t help but tap your feet at the rock songs, or find a lump in your throat when you hear ‘Little is Much’ for the first time. They’re probably not everyone’s cup of tea – which is fine, but even my dad (he’s in his 60’s and a Queen fan) was blown away by Marc Martel’s audition – he’s just got a stunning voice.

    Looking forward to watching the finals in a few minutes

    Susan

  11. Aaron

    Thanks for this. I’m in the middle of a frustrating part of this “year of exile” from the US, needing to be reminded to say “Yes” to the place I’m in and the people I’m with. “Yes, and” can make every moment a small adventure.

    (Yes, and I will be looking up Downhere’s music.)

  12. Marie

    Yes, and….I’m praying that Marc and David are chosen for the Queen tour ’cause I believe the Lord will do mighty things through that!

    Thanks for the wonderful post, Jason.

  13. Jeannie

    I was thrilled at the mention of the Called to Love tour returning in the spring! Any chance you can put the St. Louis, MO area on the roster?

  14. Gina

    Thanks for the post Jason. Yes, and…applies to so many areas is our lives. I am facing a change of vocation and your post reminded me not to look at the scary aspects, but at the amazing things God may have waiting for me! Thank-you for the reminder and God bless Marc and the rest of Downhere as their journey continues.

  15. Carrisa

    This is just so beautifully written. Thank you for saying all the things that needed to be said. I could not agree more. Good luck Marc and David! And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Called To Love tour will find its way to Tulsa. And to a venue who welcomes you all with open arms.

  16. Dawna Zuch

    WOW!! I LOVED THIS POST!! Honestly it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen written about Marc and the Queen tour and all the craziness surrounding it. I love the idea of taking the “Yes, And..” out of performance and into relationships; with people, situations and God! Simple, unexpected, concrete, emotional…this will stick with me and make me think for a long time. Am I saying yes, and or yes, but?
    Thank you, Jason!

  17. Grant

    Jason, what an excellent article. I am so happy to hear about Marc’s allowing himself to be Spirit-led. My very first thought when I first heard Downhere’s ‘Here I Am’ was, “Dang! That dude sounds like Freddie Mercury!” I have been a big fan of their music ever since. The whole band is hugely talented. Speaking of talent, I think you, Jason Gray, are one of the best songwriters in the industry today. Your albums are like a window pane into your soul. God bless and I will be praying for all ya’ll. Any chance of the Called To Love tour coming to Alaska!? Please.

  18. Erin

    I love this post. I wondered how Marc was addressing the moral issues. As expected, he is doing so with tact and true Christ-like love. I can’t wait to hear how the contest turns out.

  19. Jill S

    Well said as ALWAYS I find you. It is out of ignorance we are so divided. We should ever look for ways to unify our beliefs and strengthen one another in the body of Christ. For this opportunity to go passed would be tragic. I believe a difference can be made when we reach out beyond our safe little borders. Love is never hiding in the corner. Love dives in headlong to save us with eyes wide open and knowing the risk. He knows the pain that will follow, but saves us anyway. And yes, Love has carved our name into His hands. Speak on sir. The world is waiting to catch your every whisper.

  20. Paula Shaw

    Just found out that Marc and our friend, Brian, are in the same try-out band. I am so excited! Go Marc and Brian! I was hoping they’d get to at least meet, too!

  21. Laura Gautier Spence

    Thank you for this beautifully written piece. I only pray that I can respond 1/4th as eloquently as you. I have heard the same gasp when I was so excited for Marc that I do understand your “yes, and…” and the “Yes, but…” issue. We are ALL sinners and NO ONE is excluded from hearing about Christ. The only “But” is what you do with what you hear. I love the way you tell of Marc’s Bi-Lingual response! LOL This IS a very sensitive subject for alot of people for various different reasons and we should LOVE them through the questions not condemn them for having them. Praying for God’s will in Marc’s life as well as many who contend these various questions. May we all find God’s comfort in searching for Him…Seek and ye shall find!

  22. Kim

    Brilliant article. I can’t say enough good things about the words you wrote or the heart you displayed in your words, Jason. I am a fan of Downhere, of you and of Aaron Shust, because the music you all play is so good (it is!) but, even more than that, I can see the heart for God that you pour into it. It is evident in the music, the lyrics and in what is said in interviews. There’s no mistaking that passion to follow God’s lead and take others right along with you.

  23. Tim Lin

    Jason, I always appreciate the honesty with which you write your songs and posts. I just have a few thoughts regarding the “Yes, and” and “Yes, but” lines of thinking.

    1) Is this idea of a “Yes, and” reaction biblical? In one sense, it absolutely is. We are to accept the good and bad as both from the Lord, and respond and react with faith in Him, regardless of the circumstance, following His lead as the drama plays out. But in another sense, I think this approach will have limits and cannot be a wholesale approach to life. This leads me to…

    2) Are there times when the “Yes, and” approach will be inappropriate? I think so. Surely you will agree that just because the opportunity exists for a Christian to steal or commit adultery or cheat, he or she shouldn’t answer “Yes, and… let’s see where this goes!” In those cases wouldn’t “Yes, but” be the appropriate response? YES, the opportunity is there, BUT, based on what I know of God and His Word, I shouldn’t pursue it. This leads to…

    3) Is the “Yes, but” always wrong? You are correct to say that it would be an argument which represents a judgement, but would all “Yes, but” responses be a judgement based on “our own self-righteousness”? Would it be proper to judge certain situations based on God’s word? Are there not certain situations, certain scenes which shouldn’t be developed? Certain possibilities which shouldn’t be pursued? Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife comes to mind. That was certainly an appropriate “Yes, but” moment. Imagine if he had responded to her offer with a “Yes, and!” 🙂

    I am not here to judge Marc’s motives or his person, but his actions do have an impact, whatever his motives may be. He IS making a statement about Christ and Christianity.

    For myself, I think the shock jock’s question is a valid one that many people may genuinely wonder about. One that is more than just fruitless controversy. How DOES Marc, as a Christian, feel about singing the songs of a celebrated bi-sexual? How DOES he feel about singing lyrics like “Lord what’re you doing to me? I have spent all my years in believing you but I just can’t get no relief, Lord!” or “I’m a sex machine, ready to reload.”? More than that, how does he feel about ENDORSING these lyrics as a Christian by his public performances of them? (I love Queen btw, and these are two of my favorite songs. But fortunately I don’t have the weight of deciding whether or not to perform them publicly as a Christian, as Marc does.)

    We all have to decide whether the benefits to the minority who “might attend the shows after discovering Marc on YouTube” is worth the statement that Marc is making about Christ and Christianity to the vast majority who will only know him from this association to Queen.

    As imperfect followers of Christ’s example, we are always in a constant tension between grace and discernment, truth and love. But what we can’t avoid is the clear call for us to exercise both grace AND discernment; to speak the truth with love, but speak truth nonetheless. Christ openly engaged the woman at the well, defying culture and prejudice, but he also clearly (and cleverly) called out her sin without endorsing it. He lovingly, graciously rescued the adulterous woman from death by stoning, but he also cautioned her to “go and sin no more” without condemning her (John 8:1-11).

    It is a fine line, and only Jesus practiced it perfectly, but we have to ask ourselves these hard questions and not avoid them. In the mean time, my hope is that Marc will let the word of God guide him in his decisions and to shine brightly for Christ in every opportunity.

  24. Aaron

    Yes, and just to be clear… This has nothing to do with the Helen Mirren film, correct? Cuz that was a great movie. There should be a The Queen Extravaganza.

    But I don’t think Marc would do as well in that.

  25. Jess

    I’m excitedly following Marc’s journey and clicked a link on Facebook to this article … wonderfully written with great things to say about his situation along with truths relevant to each of our lives as believers. Thank you for sharing your insights sir!

  26. Louis Gagnon

    Jason I appreciate your point of views and how you wrote about Marc and David and the possible challenges that they will face singing for more of a secular group of individuals. I look forward to you coming to Ottawa Canada and getting to hear you in person….Love your heart and your honesty in your songs.

    God opens doors and closes them and we may never know why but I believe that those picked out and christian for this journey will have a heart for witnessing and will be prayed for by many with fervent and diligent.

    At one time in my life I used to listen to and sing songs from many secular artists and after seeing a few of the other individuals I tough that I could also try and pull it off but I quickly came to the conclusion that I no longer could sing those songs so I did not pursue but for those who could and did without feeling convicted for doing so I assure you they will be used by God in the big picture.

    Accountability – both brothers know how important that is in his Christian walk and I believe that they have a strong groups of support from friends and family to keep them real on this journey.

    So Go and make make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

  27. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Tim Lin,
    Thanks for bringing all of that up, I agree with you and recognize the tension. It is very messy! And I think it’s impossible to make hard and fast rules, as always we need to be discerning. As a guiding principle, though, I find the idea of “yes, and…” properly applied to be helpful in my own life, though as you point out it’s not infallible. Thank you for bringing that up.

    The pertinent question is whether or not this opportunity did in fact come from the hand of the Lord. The answer: I don’t know. But I see Marc and Downhere wondering the same thing and taking great care.

    One of the things we talked about on the bus is where Marc will draw the line with Queen’s management. There are some songs that he is absolutely uncomfortable with singing. There will be a total of 6 vocalists, I believe, and so I imagine that it will be possible for Marc to avoid singing songs that would compromise his convictions.

    All I know is that I’m grateful that I’m not in Marc’s position! It is messy…

  28. Cathy Payton

    Thank you Jason for an extremely well-written post. It’s easy to tell from your words, and having seen you perform together, that all of you on this tour care deeply for and respect each other.

    I wondered how Marc felt about singing the songs of Queen and if (well, not if, but how often) he is asked about the content of the songs and Freddie’s sexuality. I’m very happy to hear that he both doesn’t feel the need to defend his choices, and is also thoughtful about his choices.

    I’m so sad to know that there are churches that would cancel Downhere performances because of Marc’s run in this competition. They are missing the beautiful praise of God that you all bring with your music.

    I consider myself lucky to have seen Queen live in concert in their hey day. I was a fan before I became a Christian and I’ll be a fan forever. So, good luck and Godspeed Marc, David, and Glenn! Your fans are rooting for you.

  29. Tim Lin

    Hi Jason, thanks for your response, and your honesty. Like I said, I’m not here to judge Marc, I just wanted to bounce some ideas that came to mind after reading your post. As you said, this is a messy, exciting opportunity, and I’m glad that you shared some of your inside view of the situation. What you shared now is actually very reassuring, especially with regards to song selection and lyrics. As someone who has been immensely blessed by Downhere’s music (and yours as well!) I absolutely hope for their success as musicians, but even more so as ambassadors for Christ. Thanks for taking the time to reply!

  30. Gregmckinney

    The Queen audition came to my attention on a political blog I was reading. The headline boasted of a singer who sounded ‘just like Freddie!” I was curious and clicked to watch it. That moment began my discovery of Downhere. I was in a near-suicidal frame of mind from almost 2 years of unemployment, pending home loss and depression. I watched Downhere on YouTube perform several incredible videos and soon ordered their latest 2 CDs.

    Their music brought me back from the brink of despair, giving my old faith a shot in the arm and a renewed focus on the Lord. It was a rediscovery of what really matters.

    None of this would have happened without the Queen audition. God works in mysterious ways, and I send all of my love and support to Marc and the rest of Downhere… thanks for taking that risk, Marc.

    And to you too, Roger Taylor.

  31. Angie Ogburn

    Wow! That was an amazing post… you write sooo well. I am a huge downhere fan and Queen was one of my favorite bands growing up in the 70s. You are so spot on about what you said. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I feel and believe but never would have been able to communicate so clearly.

    I saw you for the first time on the Call to Love tour near DC, and I just want to say, you have great music and you’re wit/humor throughout your time on stage was probably the highlight of the night for me. You just really made it fun! 🙂

  32. Lisa

    Thanks Jason for this great article! I love hearing about God working through people in unconventional situations. (or situations we sometimes don’t consider) It so reminds me that God is sovereign. God can do anything. How cool would it be to see God working through Marc as he sings with Queen! I will try to be more aware if my “Yes” is a really a yes or if it is a “Yes, and…..” after reading this article. I also love hearing your new song on KTIS! I have prayed for you and your family after you stayed at our house after a small church concert in Chanhassen, MN. (We are one of the many friends of Josh Peterson) May God bless you all richly!

  33. JanO

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for posting this… All of us at Cup O Joy are so proud of Marc. One never knows how God will use this opportunity:-) jan

  34. Brightie

    I know that I have listened, sometimes, to the “Yes, but”s about Marc+Queen. At the same time, though, I don’t want to be a wet blanket. I look at this, and I do think it’s beautiful that Marc gets a chance to maybe do a tribute to the music of somebody whose music he loves–and that more people are being brought to listen to Downhere, and to God in Downhere, because of that. I just hope that this continues to go well, as it has gone so far, and that Marc’s fans do not allow themselves to stumble over their objections to it.

    God bless the Hammer-Warrior (or Axe-Warrior ;)) and his efforts.

  35. PaulH

    I understand the whole approach and am really glad for Marc’s chances. I am stunned at his voice comparsion to Freddy’s.

    But it raises so many flags for me.

    It is not for me to judge or say it is good or not so good to do this, however, what will be the conversation be like when the rehearsal set list comes across and “Fat Bottom Girls” is next on the list? Will he really sing the lyrics:

    “Hey I was just a skinny lad
    Never knew no good from bad
    But I knew life before I left my nursery – huh
    Left alone with big fat Fanny
    She was such a naughty nanny
    Heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me
    Hey hey!
    Wooh!!”

    If I were a fan (Not so much with Queen) and paid to see this and learned that a song was omitted because the guy singing is a Christian and won’t be comfortable singing “that” song, I would be like, “Really?!””What is up with that?!”Hard to ignore one of the greatest hits by the band. Marc will have to do it all or none of it, and I am glad I am not him.

    What about the fact that the front row will NOT be the youth group from First Baptist? No, they will be men and women grabbing, exposing, and throwing all kinds of things in front of Marc and the band. Rock n Roll, ya know.

    Again Marc, if your gonna do this, do it all, or none of it. Then live with your decision.

  36. Jenn C

    @ Pete Peterson: Priceless, thanks! I’m going to burst into laughter now every time I try to use the “yes, and…” concept!!

  37. Laura W.

    Wow.
    I need to be delivered from my “Yes, but-” ness.
    How Many Kings, what an awesome declaration…
    So blessed by the story of the interaction of Marc and the Down Syndrome boy that I can barely gather my thoughts.

  38. Stuart Buck

    as good as his Mercury is, you should hear his Michael Jackson, George Michael, and even Bono

    I’m already impressed with someone who can do opera, and who can sing Freddie Mercury and Keith Green songs that sound more like the original recordings than either of those guys sounded themselves when singing live.

    Is there any way you could persuade Marc to put up some YouTube clips of Michael Jackson, George Michael, and U2? That would be amazing.

  39. Jenn C

    Thanks for that link, Jason. I’m going to send it along to a relative who’s child has Down Syndrome as well. Beautiful. Beautiful!

  40. Kiki

    Jason, I really love this post. Mostly what I see as the heart of it, which is where you talk about how God sees us, and how we so often pick one little part of someone to see. So well said. Hope you guys make it to Houston in the spring. 🙂

  41. Emma

    GREGMCKINNEY, thank you for sharing your story. I too suffer from depression and have been drawn back to God’s Word as a result of the Queen audition. Downhere’s music really ministers to me. And as a result of following the Called To Love Tour online, I’ve discovered some very encouraging music from Jason Gray as well. It feels good to be hopeful again.

  42. Loren

    I’ve been following Marc and the Queen auditions second-hand through my sister since she got to go to your Called to Love concert in Lancaster, PA, the other month. Decided I’d rejoice with her and hear all about it rather than be completely bummed that I was 400 miles away! …Some other time, perhaps….

    “Yes, and…” vs. “Yes, but” is a reminder I needed right now. I am great at coming up with “buts” and more so recently as my husband and I start the path into a possible new ministry. I want to say “and” and let God lead us where He desires. No other path is worth following. But sometimes, like Marc on his road, it’s a little confusing to know exactly what that direction should be. I’ll be praying for Downhere and their decisions!

  43. Loren

    Oh goodness! Just watched the Moran Cerf clip you posted, Pete. Too funny! One never know what will happen in a day to get one to say “yes” to dreams 🙂 .

  44. Nicole

    Extremely well written. What a thoughtful, kind musing to offer on the whole experience. I’m an example of a gay woman, complicated believer, and Queen fan, who became very interested in the challenges and joys of Marc’s journey into this foray. I’m wowed by the depth of Marc’s talent, impressed by Downhere’s music and interviews, and encouraged by the preponderance of reactions I’ve seen from the Christian community.

    I do find myself wishing for more meaningful conversations about sexuality. For many of us, being gay or bi-sexual is not on the list of things we think about when examining the myriad of sins and failings we strive to do better with, or the hurts and disappointments that break our hearts. Rather, it’s a foundational part of our identity–what forges the bonds of romantic love and our cherished families. So much more integral than a lifestyle and not a question of choice. Yet also but one part of a complex whole.

  45. john

    One last comment, it has occured to me that downhere is actually a better band in my mind than Queen was, and that what we judge is the outward, the record sales the filled up concert halls, the talent of Marcs co- writer and lead singer, Jason, is just as great!, these guys have been playing in relative anonimity, for years, they are way to Jesus centered for any mainstream play and I cannot understand why the Christian radio stations in NC, don’t give much radio play, and why other bands seem to get everything they put out on, but I have personally turned at least 100 people to the and w/o fail they all come back with why have I never heard thes guys before? So anyone reading this, go back and check out; ” So Much for Substitutes”, Wide Eyed and Mystyfied” not just “Ending is Beginning” which is as strong as any music out or “Altar of Love” which is beautiful, these guy’s are the real deal in every way.

  46. Laura Peterson

    Just saw (thanks, Under the Radar) that Marc WON! (And Paula’s friend Brian!) Wow. Prayers for them and this crazy and fun experience.

  47. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    You’ve all been so gracious in your comments, even those who don’t see the story the same way that I did. I want to say again that I’m no authority and this is just one way of looking at a complex story that involves my friend whom I know and love. For me right now this is the most redemptive, fearless, and generous way I know of coming to it. I get that there are concerns, and that some will see it differently, and that’s good. Part of what draws me to talk about this kind of thing is how messy it is and how it resists answers that might come too easy. Disarmed of easy answers we have to learn what else to bring to the conversation. What I hope I brought to it are faith, hope, and love.

    And it’s official: Marc is the winner of the Queen Extravaganza! Congratulations Marc, you have been and will be in my thoughts and prayers. The adventure continues…

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