Bio: Ryan Flanigan is the Music Director at All Saints Dallas and Founder of Liturgical Folk. His mission is to create beautiful and believable sacred music for the sake of the world. He lives in Oak Cliff with his wife Melissa and three kids.
Hometown: Dallas, TX (originally Chicago, IL)
Favorite Spot in Dallas: Davis Street Espresso
Currently Listening to: Sandra McCracken, Billy Joel, Chance the Rapper
AHD: How did you find your passion in songwriting/music?
RF: I grew up in a musical church with a very good music minister who created all kinds of space for musical creativeness, such as a youth choir, cantatas, and piano lessons. I learned how to lead music mostly by watching him lead. At summer camp when I was seventeen I experienced a "worship band" for the first time. I came home and started a youth group worship band. I immediately began writing my own songs and have never looked back.
AHD: You are the music director at All Saints Dallas. How does this vocation effect your creative process?
RF: As an Anglican church rooted in the historic practices of Christian worship, the well of creative material is deep. The story and colors of the Church's calendar provide a rich palette of prayers, architecture, and liturgical styles from which to draw creative inspiration. The leadership of All Saints expects me to engage the culture, so I have the good fortune of spending about half of my time on music within the church and the other half outside of the church. What that looks like for me is setting aside every Monday to write, participating in Art House Dallas events and the artist community, curating a collection of new poetry and music called Liturgical Folk, and creating space for songwriters to gather and develop their skill.
AHD: You just released two albums under the moniker Liturgical Folk. What inspired this project? Do you have a track that is particularly close to you?
RF: A couple years ago I stumbled into creative partnership with Father Nelson Koscheski, a retired priest and poet. Our hymns were the impetus for Liturgical Folk. At the same time over the past couple years I had been setting many of the historic prayers from our prayerbook to singable tunes. I tested out their singability on my kids and my congregation. With all of these new songs bubbling up, as well as a timely connection with producer Isaac Wardell, I approached my tribe, the Anglican Mission, with the vision for Liturgical Folk. My thought was that we could create a multi-volume music resource for the Anglican Mission and other churches. With the support of the Mission, we raised the money to record the first two volumes of Liturgical Folk. Volume 1, Table Settings, consists of twelve singable settings of historic prayers for churches and families. Volume 2, Edenland, consists of twelve new hymns by Father Nelson and myself. If I had to pick a favorite track it would have to be "Lord, Answer Again," track 5 on Edenland. It is a reflection on Jesus in Psalm 4, sung by Lauren Plank Goans of Lowland Hum.
AHD: This was a collaborative partnership between you and Father Nelson Koscheski. Can you tell us a little about the partnership and how you approached the challenges of this project together?
RF: To be honest the collaboration has come pretty easy for us. Fr. Nelson and I are both contemplatives and work best independently. He sits quietly, writes his poems, and emails them to me. I digest his poems and compose my melodies. If there have been any challenges, it would be making sure my melodies match the spirit of his poems. A couple times my first pass at a melody didn't quite do the poem justice, so I'd try again. In all we've written nearly two dozen hymns. Another challenge might be keeping up with him; he has been sending me about one new poem a week!
AHD: Do you have any plans to continue this project in any way? If so, how?
RF: Our plan from the beginning was for this to be a multi-volume music project. It already is, I guess, but if Volumes 1 & 2 generate enough revenue to self-fund more albums, we hope to record again this fall. The vision is also to invite other songwriters and artists into the project. In addition to Fr. Nelson and myself, there were six co-writers involved in Volumes 1 & 2. You'll also hear six different lead vocalists on the recordings. Right now Liturgical Folk is a project, but we think it's more of a category. Honestly, I don't think it's anything new; there are already many artists that I would categorize as liturgical folk artists. I just put a name to it. My hope is that those artists and many others will begin to self-identify as liturgical folk artists, and that the moniker ascribed to my name will become a genre with a life of its own, of which I'm just a part.
AHD: As an active friend to Art House Dallas, how has being part of a creative community impacted your creative process?
RF: In this day and age, people are too busy to create, too bogged down by American life, trying to make money to survive, that there's no room for them to thrive in their artistic callings. Art House Dallas creates space for artists to thrive, to actually make things, intentionally, relationally. Art House has encouraged and inspired me that if I make space in my life to create, and make space for others to create, then we are all more likely to step faithfully into our callings as artists and impact the world around us with our art.
AHD: What can we look forward to in the future?
RF: Songwriting retreats, Art House Songwriters Feedbacks, Art House Origin, Liturgical Folk, Volumes 3, 4, 5, & 6, Liturgical Folk concerts on February 28 and more to come. But presently you can listen to and purchase Liturgical Folk, Volumes 1 & 2 at www.liturgicalfolk.bandcamp.com, or find it on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify, etc.