Readers will be captivated by this exclusive look into Steven's childhood and challenging family dynamic growing up, how that led to music and early days on the road, his wild ride to the top of the charts, his relationship with wife Mary Beth, and the growth of their family through births and adoptions. In addition to inside stories from his days of youth to his notable career, including the background to some of his best-loved songs, readers will walk with Steven down the devastating road of loss after the tragic death of five-year-old daughter Maria. And they'll experience his return to the stage after doubting he could ever sing again.
Poignant, gut-wrenchingly honest, yet always hopeful, Steven offers no sugary solutions to life's toughest questions. Yet out of the brokenness, he continues to trust God to one day fix what is unfixable in this life. This backstage look at the down-to-earth superstar they've come to love will touch fans' lives and fill their hearts with hope. Includes black-and-white photos throughout.
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|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
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Between Heaven & the Real World
By Steven Curtis Chapman, Ken Abraham
Baker Publishing GroupCopyright © 2017 Steven Curtis Chapman
All rights reserved.
Carnegie Hall Y'all
The sun was turning the freshly fallen snow to slush under my feet as I walked the familiar sidewalks of New York City on a clear February day. As a boy running through cow pastures to my favorite fishing spot, I never imagined I'd stroll the streets of the Big Apple someday, much less have so many memories come flooding back as I did.
"There's the intersection at Times Square where we did an outdoor photo shoot for The Great Adventure album" ... "There's Radio City Music Hall, where I won my first Grammy" ... "There's the famous deli where one of my musical heroes, Ricky Skaggs, introduced me to another musical hero, Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers" ... "There's that Italian restaurant that doesn't take credit cards where I had to leave my wife, Mary Beth, waiting alone as collateral while I went to get cash to pay for our meal" ...
Then I turned the corner and saw something I'd never seen, and never in my wildest dreams thought I would.
"Tonight in Concert ... Steven Curtis Chapman on Stage at Carnegie Hall."
Carnegie Hall! Are you serious? I'm really playing Carnegie Hall tonight? This is crazy!
A few minutes later, I stepped onto one of the most prestigious stages in the world for a sound check prior to my performance later that evening. I walked over to the edge of the stage to get a feel for the room and gazed in awe at the five tiers of red-velvet seats in front of me. The main floor was surrounded on three sides by four ornate, golden balconies. Each balcony was lined with decorative lights, with a rotunda-style ceiling illuminated in a circle of lights shining like stars inside the theater. The iconic concert hall was somewhat smaller and more "intimate" than I had anticipated, but everything about it felt majestic.
I took a deep breath and thought, Pavarotti has sung here! What in the world am I doing standing on this stage? How does a boy from Paducah find himself playing his music at Carnegie Hall, in the legendary Isaac Stern Auditorium, where incredible artists such as Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and Liza Minnelli have performed? The first person to conduct an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, way back in 1891, was none other than the world's greatest composer at the time, Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky!
Although I was far from a Tchaikovsky, I wasn't exactly a newbie either. By the time I walked onto that famous platform in February 2014, I had been working in the music business for more than thirty years. I'd been singing professionally from my solo debut at a gathering around a swimming pool, to sold-out concerts in arenas around America and on stages around the world, giant music festivals with tens of thousands of people out under the stars, and even performances on platforms with Reverend Billy Graham before massive crowds. I had performed thousands of concerts. Yet despite my years of experience, performing in Carnegie Hall was certainly a pinnacle in my career and an experience I would remember for the rest of my life. I was very excited ... and very nervous!
Part of the reason for my nervous excitement was the fact that not only would most of the twenty-eight hundred seats in the venue be filled that night but the stage would also be filled with a fifty-piece orchestra and a three-hundred-voice choir behind me. Over the years of my career, I had occasionally performed a song or two live with an orchestra, but my band and I had never done an entire concert accompanied by a full symphony and a choir, the orchestra playing my songs with arrangements I had never performed in public before. The whole idea was a bit intimidating.
I had rehearsed with the choir the day before, so I knew what that felt like. I was scheduled to rehearse with the orchestra later that afternoon; then it would be lights up and let's go!
As a performer, playing a major venue in New York City always produces added tension because of the many stipulations strictly enforced by the theaters. If ever there was a place where "time is money," it would be a concert hall in the Big Apple. Our show was scheduled to run no longer than 120 minutes ... not even one minute longer. If I happened to talk too much — as I've been known to do on occasion — or play a few minutes overtime — which I'm somewhat famous for — an additional few thousand dollars would be added to the cost of the night. Still, I knew that staying within my preestablished, ironclad time frame was going to be a challenge for me. This was bound to be a very emotional evening, with my set list full of songs that had special meaning to me and an opportunity to perform them live in a way I never had before. Added to that, my wife, Mary Beth, and my entire family would be sitting in the audience cheering me on for this milestone performance.
Most major New York auditoriums are staffed by professional stagehands, sound and lighting staff, and crew members whom artists are required to use to cart their equipment and merchandise in and out of the venue. All of these pros are union workers who tenaciously guard their areas of responsibility, and may God help the naive musician who decides to move his own microphone or amplifier!
"Hey, put that down! That's my job," a hard-nosed union hand will shout forcefully.
"Um, yes, sir," is the only correct response.
Dressed entirely in black, the union guys are typically not too concerned with trying to be our buddies. Their attitude is, "We'll do our job, and you do yours, and we'll all get along fine and make this work." Some of them can be downright scary as they hover around offstage, checking cables, resetting lights, or otherwise setting up for the show.
My band members and I began our sound check before the orchestra arrived, and I started to play and sing "Spring Is Coming," a song that wasn't typically in the set list for my normal concerts but one I was particularly excited about performing that night. Already the emotions started to well up inside me as I blinked back the tears, partly because I was singing onstage at Carnegie Hall and could imagine what it was going to sound like with three hundred voices and fifty orchestral instruments joining me in just a few hours, but mostly because of the significance of the song and what it meant to be standing on this stage singing it.
We planted the seed while the tears of our grief soaked the ground
The sky lost its sun and the world lost its green to lifeless brown
Now the chill in the wind has turned the earth as hard as stone
And silent the seed lies beneath ice and snow
And my heart's heavy now but I'm not letting go
Of this hope I have that tells me
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appear
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
It won't be long now, it's just about here.
Almost six years had passed since the events took place that had led me to write that song.
It was May 24 of 2008, three days after our youngest daughter, Maria, had passed away as the result of a tragic accident in our driveway. My family and I had arrived at Williamson Memorial Gardens in Franklin, Tennessee, and walked to the spot Mary Beth and I had selected just two days earlier to be the place where the body of our little girl was to be buried. You could smell the fresh dirt as we took our seats. Our hearts were so heavy that we could hardly breathe.
Many of our friends gathered around, and our pastor, Scotty Smith, began to speak. He talked about this day being a day of planting ... planting a seed that was the body of Maria. He read 1 Corinthians 15, verses 42 through 44.
What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
He talked about how a seed first falls to the ground and dies in order to come back to life ... how we must plant a seed and wait. He reminded us that because of Jesus's resurrection from the dead and His promise of our coming resurrection, this perishable seed of Maria's body that we were planting is going to be raised imperishable. He talked about the promised "Spring" that is coming when all things will be made new according to God's own promise. He reminded us of the hopeful words of Revelation 21 and the coming day when God will wipe every tear from our eyes.
Somehow we were able to grasp God's promise not fully — not even close to fully — but just enough that we were able to drop handfuls of dirt on the casket that day believing that the story of Maria's life was far from over ... that there is in fact a Spring that is coming when we really will see her again ... more alive than ever. That day we were able to catch a glimpse of heaven in our very real world, a glimpse we desperately needed, and the hope it gave me inspired the song "Spring Is Coming."
Now during the sound check at Carnegie Hall, after singing through an emotional verse and chorus of that song, I noticed a commotion on the side of the stage. Several big, burly stage crew guys were gathered around a man who was down on one knee on the floor. They had their hands on the back and shoulders of the man who had knelt down, and he appeared to be crying.
We cut short the sound check, and I went over to the men, thinking that perhaps somebody was hurt or something else was wrong. "Is everything okay?" I asked. I looked at the man on his knees, his face still wet with tears. "Are you all right?"
He looked up at me and quietly said, "I have one of those stories." He slowly stood to his feet. "My wife and I lost a little girl too," he explained.
Right in front of his fellow crew members, he and I hugged.
His name was Scooter, and he was the main house sound guy at Carnegie Hall. He began to tell me about the hard struggle he and his wife had endured since they had lost their daughter several years earlier. Even with their strong faith as Christians, the hurt and grief had been agonizing. I knew all too well what he was talking about.
"My wife and I went to your concert at Nokia Theater in Times Square a few years ago," Scooter said, "when you did the tour with your wife speaking and your sons playing in your band. That night your wife shared how she was afraid to let go of the grief because, if she did, she would lose that connection with Maria. Hearing another grieving mother share that was a real breakthrough for my wife, and that concert had a profound effect on us."
He explained how at the Nokia concert they bought Mary Beth's book, Choosing to SEE, and my album, Beauty Will Rise, which they listened to on their way home that night. When they heard "Spring Is Coming," they were moved to tears. That song in particular, Scooter told me, was instrumental in helping to bring some deep healing to their hearts. Later, his wife read Mary Beth's book, and that too was a huge step toward helping them heal. He said he felt like God had orchestrated this concert at Carnegie Hall as a gift to encourage him and to help him continue the healing process.
I put my arm around Scooter, prayed with him, and thanked him for sharing his story with me. Then both of us went back to work.
A few minutes before 7:00 p.m. I took my place on the side of the stage and listened as the orchestra began its preconcert tuning ritual. My heart was racing, and I peeked out to see a full house as well as a full stage of singers and musicians. This is really getting ready to happen! While the orchestra was filled with professional musicians who had been hired for the concert, the choir consisted of singers who were fans of my music and had come from all over the country to be a part of this night. They were almost as thrilled as I was to be there, which only added to the excitement!
I took my place at center stage to an enthusiastic ovation from the crowd and the choir, and with a small wave of the conductor's baton, the orchestra launched into the prologue from "The Great Adventure." Here we go!
The concert that evening was amazing. Maybe it was the adrenaline rush, or maybe talking to Scooter had put me at ease and reminded me of what really mattered, but for some reason, despite the emotional moments and all the artistic tensions, I was like a little boy filled with wonder and joy onstage. The sound in the room was incredible, and I easily understood why the impeccable acoustics of Carnegie Hall are legendary. I had never imagined hearing my songs with a live orchestra and choir — on recordings, maybe, but never onstage like that. Mary Beth said later that I looked like a twelve-year-old Steven having the time of his life — probably because that's what I felt like.
We performed a "greatest hits" type of concert as well as a few songs I had seldom, if ever, performed live. One such song called "Savior" was particularly powerful because of the beautiful orchestral and choral arrangement. I was overcome with emotion several times but was somehow able to hold it together and resist the urge to have a full-on breakdown.
One of the most emotional points in the show for me was when I got to sit down on the piano bench at center stage and just listen. I didn't play or sing. I simply sat and listened along with the audience as the orchestra and the choir filled Carnegie Hall with the melodies and lyrics of two of my best-known songs, "His Strength Is Perfect" and "Be Still and Know." It was truly a "taste and see that the Lord is good" moment to get to hear my own songs like that. Many of the people in the choir had been singing my songs for years. They had journeyed with my family and me through good times and hard times, mountaintops and valleys. It was like a gift from them to me as they sang their hearts out to show me how much the music had meant to them.
I sat in the middle of the stage and listened in awe. It was as though the choir singers and the members of the audience were saying, "This is a celebration of your life and your music and the impact they have had on our lives." It was a heavenly moment for me, and the best was yet to come.
Near the close of the concert, as I often did, I performed the song "Cinderella" and then followed it with "Spring Is Coming." As I began to sing that song, I looked back at the sound-mixing console and saw my new friend Scooter standing with his head back and both of his hands raised high in the air, singing along on every word and worshiping God.
Just above where Scooter was standing, in the front row of the first balcony, I could see my family. Mary Beth, Shaoey, Stevey Joy, Will Franklin, Caleb, Emily, and her husband, Tanner, were all there to celebrate this moment with me, and as incredible as this whole Carnegie Hall experience had been, nothing could compare with seeing them there ... together. It was a beautiful picture of hope and a powerful reminder to me that God had carried us through the cold, hard winter of our grief. Even though our hearts still ached for the little girl who wasn't there with us, the healing had begun and we were beginning to feel joy again and experience the first signs of what we knew to be true: Spring really is coming.
The concert ended with an emotional standing ovation, and I took a bow and looked around the room one last time, trying my best to take it all in. After the concert, several people asked me if playing at Carnegie Hall was a dream come true. I had to answer honestly, "No, a boy from Paducah doesn't think to dream that big."
Excerpted from Between Heaven & the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman, Ken Abraham. Copyright © 2017 Steven Curtis Chapman. Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsPrologue: The Wild Mouse, 11,
1. Carnegie Hall Y'all, 19,
2. Unresolved Chords, 29,
3. A Transformed Family, 47,
4. Showtime!, 67,
5. A Little Tribute to George, 79,
6. The Call, 91,
7. Red Lobster and a Blue Speedo, 97,
8. Fifty Dollars and a Green Ford Pinto, 113,
9. The Cool Kids and a Country Boy, 129,
10. Divorce Is Not an Option, 143,
11. More to This Life, 155,
12. It's an Honor Just to Be Nominated, 167,
13. Tears for Cheers, 179,
14. Breakdown, 187,
15. His Strength Is Perfect, 199,
16. A Road Called Adoption, 211,
17. Tuesday's Child, 223,
18. Two Trips to Prison, 231,
19. God Follower, 243,
20. The Tattoo, 253,
21. With Hope, 263,
22. Never Say Never, 281,
23. Maria, 289,
24. Cinderella, 299,
25. Does God Really Have a Big, Big House?, 311,
26. The Ladybug That Lost Its Dots, 319,
27. The Accident, 325,
28. Clarity, 339,
29. The Land of the Living, 353,
30. Waiting and Watching for Beauty to Rise, 369,
31. Maria's Big House of Hope, 379,
32. Step by Step, 391,
33. Together, 403,
34. New Beginnings, 413,
35. A Glorious Unfolding, 425,