Tony Cummings reports on Dutch singer, songwriter, pianist and worship leader KEES KRAAYENOORD
As any Netherlands-based reader could tell you, Kees Kraayenoord is up there, in his homeland worship scene, with the Tim Hugheses and Chris Tomlins. Now his latest album 'Letting Go' is being distributed in the UK through Integrity-Provident along with a two CD package 'The Early Years' featuring the albums 'This Is My Cry' and 'Broken'. 'Letting Go' features 13 new songs penned with such luminaries as Graham Kendrick, Noel Richards, Chris Eaton and Dove Award winning songsmith Henk Pool (co-composer of Avalon's "Testify To Love").
For the last five years Kees has been a worship leader and pastor at De Meerkerk, a fast growing church near Amsterdam. Recently he and his family (his wife Nicole and three daughters, Reni, Sanne and Naomi) moved to Veenendaal in central Netherlands. Kees, a son of a fisherman, grew up in the Dutch 'Bible Belt' in Katwijk aan Zee (a traditional fishing town) and was introduced to Christian music at an early age. His parents encouraged him to make music and sing. After a stormy period in Kees' life during which he turned his back to God and the church, he came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. He soon started leading worship in the youth group of his church. Through this, his passion and heart for worship was stirred up again as he led worship in the attic of his home church.
At 17 Kees attended a Youth With A Mission worship leaders course where he met worship leader Belinda van Loo who encouraged him to further pursue his gift. Kees and his wife Nicole decided to study theology at university. He commented, "Just as church pastors and missionaries prepare themselves for ministry, it is imperative that worship leaders also prepare themselves for their particular ministry."
In 2002 the renowned Flevo Festival invited Kees to lead worship for three of the services. The following year Kees was again invited to Flevo but this time the worship services were recorded. These recordings became Kees' first CD, 'This Is My Cry', which was released by Ecovata Records in October 2003. In the months that followed, the album became the best selling CD in the Dutch praise charts.
One of the most popular songs on the album was "God Of The Moon And Stars". In 2007 Kees, in cooperation with Scarlet Cord, an organisation that aims to help women escape the grip of prostitution by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, released a single of "God Of The Moon And Stars" with copies of this release handed out to the prostitutes to give hope and Good News.
In 2005 Kees recorded his first studio album, 'Broken', in Switzerland. Just like its predecessor, it reached number one on the Dutch praise charts. Kees spoke about the theme of 'Broken', "Worship is not about getting over your brokenness so you can be close to God, but rather getting close to God even in your brokenness. He wants you as you are, so we can meet and worship him, because God knows what brokenness is."
In 2006, Kees was invited to play a showcase during Gospel Music Association Week in Nashville. Kees and his band have subsequently opened for such acts as Michael W Smith, Third Day and Delirious?. Also in 2006 Kees released his first Dutch-language album, 'Het Is Volbracht' where old Dutch psalms and hymns were modernised and the following year released a Dutch language Christmas album, 'God Met Ons', which also featured Cardinal Simonis (former Archbishop of Utrecht, the Netherlands) reading from the Gospel of Luke.
Now 'Letting Go' brings this talented and anointed worship leader to international church attention. Produced by award winning Henk Pool, the album was mixed and mastered in Nashville by Shane D Wilson and Richard Dodd and with its punchy pop rock arrangements and some delicious violin work courtesy of the Prague Orchestra, this lives up to the high standards one would expect from an album featuring such co-composers as Noel Richards, Paul Field, Graham Kendrick and Chris Eaton. No doubt destined to be a huge seller in its homeland it remains to be seen whether 'Letting Go' will establish Kees in the crowded international worship music scene. But it deserves to.
Kees commented on some of the album's outstanding tracks, such as "Let Me Lead You", penned with Graham Kendrick. "I started leading worship at the youth group at the age of 13, up in the attic of our church. In those days I dreamt of becoming a worship leader such as Graham Kendrick. I listened to his music, translated his songs into Dutch so we could sing them in church. He was such a role model for me. So writing with him was such a thrilling experience. Before the actual writing I shared what was going on in my life. I shared my doubts and fears about moving to another part of the country, even though we felt led by God to do so. It meant we had to leave good friends and family and the church where I had been working as a worship pastor for years. Talking about 'letting go' and 'giving up' resulted in 'Let Me Lead You', a song about following Christ and trusting him along the way."
Another outstanding track on the album is "For The Letting Go", written with Chris Eaton and Henk Pool. "We actually wrote this song for Chris' new album. I loved it from the very beginning. Even though the lyrics come straight from the heart, I thought the musical style wasn't worshipful enough to be on this worship album. I couldn't have been more wrong. It turned out to be the song which gave the album its title. Maybe not a song for the congregation but definitely one to worship in your quiet time. Think of what Jesus has done for you, everything he let go of. Let that help you to surrender everything you need to let go of."
The opening song on the project is "Who Will Not Bring Glory (Great And Marvellous)". Said Kees, "This song I wrote with my friend and young Dutch worship leader Matthijn Buwalda. Our goal was to write a song that would help us to focus on the greatness and endlessness of God. The Bible was opened up to Revelation 15 on the piano while we were writing this song. I hope it will help listeners to remember that whatever is going on in their lives, whatever the issues they have to let go of, God was and will be on the throne forever, never changing, always the same, in control."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.