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Wednesday
Jan212015

Why I Will No Longer Be Updating the Hymns Movement Page

When Strivings Cease

It is with great pleasure that I announce that I must cease my striving. When this blog began almost six years ago, one of its primary objectives was to herald, champion, promote, persuade, propagandize, coerce, ramrod the burgeoning retuned hymns movement. In addition to retuning hymns myself, especially on my first (The Glad Sound [2009]) and second (Without Our Aid [2011]) albums with Cherry Creek Worship, I wanted to highlight all the church musicians and independent artists who were taking seriously the movement to re-gift old hymns to new believers.

Along with others, I wanted to help turn the tide of contemporary/modern worship by undertaking the massive project of backfilling its gaping holes with the songs of the past. I consulted and networked with inspirational forerunners like Indelible Grace and Red Mountain Music, and I discovered some new partners in the vision, who would over time become great friends--Cardiphonia, Sojourn, and others. 

So I launched a page that would chronicle the movement by cataloguing the artists and pointing to their work. As I heard about more projects, and as they found my home base, the list increased, and I watched before my very eyes the spread of this movement to more and more places in the United States.

The Propaganda Campaign

At the same time, I began a concerted propaganda campaign to highlight these churches and artists and observe the "infiltration" of the vision in the contemporary/modern worship mainstream.  The following highlights track some of that campaign throughout the years (notice I hit the gas hard in 2010-2011). Just glance through the titles to get a glimpse of what we were thinking and doing:

The Effect

Somewhere along the way, as the conversation widened and the rehymning multiplied, I think we can say that this became a bona fide movement. The artists and churches became more aware of each other, and as networking possibilities increased through the saturation of Facebook and Twitter, conversations led to collaborations, and influence multiplied. With this spread came a diversification of styles, too. Retuned hymns went beyond the Southern, country, bluegrass, folk, and Americana roots of Indelible Grace and Red Mountain into the new waters of funk, blues, indie rock, pop, gospel, EDM, and experimental. In other words, the hymns began to take on more indigenous clothing as they were retuned in the accompaniment of their local contexts and influences.

Why I'm Shutting It Down, and a Vision Forward

As you can see, the retuned hymns movement is at the point where I simply can't keep up. If it is to be chronicled and catalogued, it's going to take efforts (and probably algorithms) that I don't have the bandwidth to generate. Thankfully, though I can't share much now, I know some people who are in the middle of a kind of cataloguing project and I'd ask you all to pray for its success. 

I'll no longer be updating the hymns movement page, but I will leave it there in the meantime as a kind of mile-marker and time capsule. 

The retuned hymns movement was never a be all and end all. There are deficits to the church's worship if all we do is recover a previous generation's hymns to the exclusion of the "new song" of other generations/cultures and our own. (I point out one of those deficits in a post about traditional worship here.) I gave heavy influence early on because I felt that a thick injection of hymnody would serve as a kind of "gateway drug" to other important worship reforms and correctives: historical connectivity, theological depth, gospel-centeredness, thoughtful cultural engagement--things that this blog is deeply committed to. I still believe that this strategy is an effective one at the local level, so if you're a worship leader whose church doesn't sing many songs except those of the present, I'd encourage you to slowly incorporate some historic hymns (retuned or restyled to suit your context) to begin broadening the doxological appetites and sensibilities of your flock.

I'm grateful that the retuned movement is at this point, and I cheer on its continued growth. Recovery and retrieval of this sort can only be a good thing. In fact, throughout history, recovery and retrieval were at the heart of every reform-movement of God's people, from Bible times down to the present. So, let's keep digging up these old gems, polishing them off, and casting them in new settings and display cases for the sake of Christ and His Bride!

Thursday
Dec042014

A Modern Trinitarian Confession Song, with Some Tradition Sprinkled In

In my chapter, "The Worship Leader and the Trinity," in Doxology and Theology, I try to give feet to how the people of God encounter Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in worship. Sometimes, as church leaders we think too narrowly about the ways in which people can learn of and actually know God more deeply. We can think that our only recourse for people understanding and engaging God as Trinity is didactically, in the wooden sense of imparting knowledge and ideas through teaching and hearing. "Here, let me teach you that God is Triune, and let me unpack what that means"...kind of like a textbook, a chapter in a systematic theology, or a catechism. Classroom-style teaching like this is wonderful, but it is not the only way that people learn of and experience God as Triune. 

I began to wrestle with all of this several years ago, and it led me to several questions, including: 

  • What would it look like for the people of God to confess our sins in a Trinitarian shape?
  • Are there qualities of the Three Persons worth highlighting in the moment of confession?
  • What would three-ness-in-oneness look like in our confession?

My friend, Bruce Benedict of Cardiphonia, and I began answering those questions in the form of a song. It became a confession that pulled in some historic words that the church has used in moments like these, as well.  It's called, "Father, Only in Your Power." We sing it all the time at Coral Ridge, and it's always powerful. Listen here, and allow me to explore the text.

Confessing to God the Father

1. Father, only in Your power
Can we ascend to You.
Help us, Father, we are helpless
To pay our righteous due.  

Among other things, God the Father is Law-maker, Law-articulator, source of Justice, and (along with Christ) Judge. He sets the standard and shows us the bar. As Father, he sets the pace for His household of kids (us). It makes sense, then, to highlight the helplessness which is immediately exposed when we encounter God the Father.

Confessing to God the Son

2. Jesus, only in Your weakness
can we your kingdom claim
Help us, Jesus, we are reckless
in self-destruction’s chains

Jesus, as Son, is our picture of Divine humility. He demonstrates God's love and power as self-sacrifice and submission. In His ministry on earth, Christ turned our concepts of power upside-down (well, really, rightside-up), exposing that we go about life all the wrong way. He gave us a vision of THE Kingdom that looks completely different than all the kingdoms we erect and admire, both in our individual hearts and in our corporate institutions. Our recklessness in seeking our own kingdom's gain is ultimately self-destructive, and it is the antithesis of the "abundant life" of the Son's Kingdom. We are exposed, again.

Confessing to God the Spirit

3. Spirit, only in Your presence
can we true union find.
Help us, Spirit, we are restless
Our soul’s divisions bind.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of peace and unity. He joins and unites the affections of the Father and Son (think about the fact that when Jesus prayed His most intimate prayer to the Father in John 17, he did so in the Spirit; or think about how at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, the Spirit descended when the Father declared His pleasure in the Son). He joins us in union with God the Son that we might have fellowship with the Father. He unifies the Church as the Spirit of Truth. His presence exposes our discord, factiousness, barriers, and walls. He reveals our penchant for division with the other members of Christ's Body, and He casts a spotlight on all our internal division and self-conflict. We are internally and externally restless. We confess these things and more to the Spirit who is actively working to pursue the opposite in our lives and in our Church.

The Kyrie and Agnus Dei

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy 

Lamb of God,
Who takes away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us
Lamb of God,
Slain before the dawn of the world
Have mercy on us 

The Church, historically, had one very simple response to the problem of sin...the ancient cry, "Lord, have mercy." It's a cry that acknowledges helplessness, and it is the soil in which sola gratia (the doctrine of grace alone) grows. It is translated from the Latin, Kyrie, eleison.

Then, sung three times, the historic Agnus Dei (Latin for "Lamb of God"), which builds off Revelation 5 & 13, intensifies the plea of the Kyrie.

The Unifying Solution: The Blood of Christ

4. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Our ancient curse we own
Broken in the blood of Adam
The blood of Christ now show

As the song finishes, we "own our curse" by acknowledging we are culpable as blood-heirs of the first Adam, yet seeing hope in the blood of the Second, Greater Adam. As a true confession, it does not offer the words of God's gracious pardon to us (many modern songs of confession go there), but anticipates and demands them. This song needs to be followed up with God's gracious Word. We often sing "Nothing But the Blood" after a song like this.

"Father Only In Your Power"
Words & Music: Zac Hicks & Bruce Benedict, 2013
©2013 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP) / Cardiphonia Music
CCLI song #7006730
Wednesday
Nov122014

The Only Two Albums You Need This Christmas

Sovereign Grace, Prepare Him Room

The music of Sovereign Grace always has to be included among the top content out there being written for the modern church. They've been doing it for years, and they've been committed to engaging lyrics, profound theology, and a dogged Christocentrism. Their new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room, does not disappoint their legacy. In fact, I think the production on this record is some of the finest to date. The instrumentation and melodies are beautiful, the arrangement of some traditional carols and hymns are fresh and fitting (I love what they've done with the underlying structures of "O Come All Ye Faithful"), and the new texts are incredible contributions (ones that I hope are lasting) to the hard-to-expand corpus of Advent and Christmas songs. If you read the credits, you become very aware that the albums sound and style is largely due to their producer, Neil Degraide, who seems to know how to play almost every instrument, and play each well. Every part is tasteful and purposeful, and the choices are unconventional but not jarringly quirky. The arrangements are sophisticated and creative. I love listening to this album, and I will love introducing these songs to our people.

Really, all the songs are excellent. Here are the ones that keep jumping out at me:

Come All Ye Faithful: Again, I love the arrangement and progression choices underlying the classic melody (esp. the ii-vi under "behold him"). They expand/elongate the final line, "O come, let us adore him..." and while I think it's awesome, if I were to lead this congregationally, I'd be inclined to shrink it back so that people don't trip up. I don't think it destroys the integrity of the arrangement to do this.

God Made Low: Unless things change, I'm planning on introducing this fabulous new song to Coral Ridge this Advent. It's an epic song, and the chorus summarizes the song's explication of the incarnational paradox:

Emmanuel has come to us
The Christ is born, Alleluia!
Our God made low to raise us up
Emmanuel has come to us 

Who Would Have Dreamed: Wow. Powerful. The Chorus:

Who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands
The Giver of life was born in the night
Revealing God's glorious plan
To save the world 

There Blooms a Rose in Bethlehem: I have always desperately wanted the traditional hymn "Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming" to be a little easier for congregations to sing, not many Advent songs say what it says. Neil Degraide has rewritten its words and melody but kept the essence...and I think the song is actually better. This song is nice for congregations and choirs...very lyrical.

The Unbelievable: A perfect way to begin a Christmas service...an invitation to come and see the One who will "Heal the unhealable" (what a line!). I love this song.

Cardiphonia, Songs for the Incarnation

Church music is always in need of needle-movers and boundary-pushers. Cardiphonia continues to be one of these entities with its eclectic output, exemplified in its latest, Songs for the Incarnation. Music which sounds unconventional often causes us to think and emote differently...it's one of the great gifts of how art takes the soul places it wouldn't normally want or think to go. In this anthology, Cardiphonia has gathered 20+ artists and commissioned them with re-setting a bunch of forgotten gems of Advent hymnody. Not all songs are congregational, but they're all edifying and a great way to engage the season this December. In Cardiphonia's post on the album, they thank the artists for "stretching even their own conceptions of what constitutes music of the 'season.'"

Songs I'm really digging:

JG Hymns' "In the Night a Heavenly Song Came Down": Nothing on this track sounds copied or imitated. Everything from from its swung groove, to mixed meter, to its minor-to-major shifts, to its glassy vocals, to its space-age FX, to its swanky horns: it's just simply awakening, like smelling salts for the soul...which is, well, what the incarnation was!

Holy City Hymns' "Love Came Down at Christmas": I love this simple arrangement of a great hymn, and it is supremely singable for congregations.

Jered McKenna's "Hark a Burst of Heavenly Music": I'm a sucker for groove. And I'm a sucker for slap-happy crisp, disco-pop electrics paired with strings. Takes me to a a Jackson-Fiveian place of innocence and freedom. :)

Coastland Commons' "In the Bleak Midwinter": I love this very haunting arrangement of this now classic tune to a classic Christmas poem. 

Michael Van Patter's "Jesus Came, Jesus Comes": The text of this song is incredible, paring Christ's first advent with the "personal Advent" of our experiencing of His coming to us in salvation.

Also check out the many different versions and twists on the Magnificat...music has a way of refreshing old meditations.

My Contribution: "Come See a Child of Low Estate"

Being in South Florida, the land of EDM, I've been listening to a lot of dance music. I've also been in conversation with a new friend, Alf Bishai, a NYC-based artist and composer who is taking a serious stab at exploring the intersection of EDM and worship music (support his work here!). The sum total of all of this is my own desire to see how the genre's strong suits can speak into how the church sees, understands, and expresses her worship. And I believe EDM has something to offer (I've offered some theological reflection here). So...this song was my attempt at melding an Avicii-inspired style with a riveting old text. My friend, Dan Diaz, mixed it. Hope you like it! 

Even if you don't care for the recording or style, it's flexible and could be done it a bluegrass or rock format with a lot of integrity, I think. Set down a step or two, and it's in the congregation sweet spot. 

One final thought: A great experiment in what songs can do to the character and affect of a text would be to listen to my version alongside Karl Digerness' equally wonderful (but different) version of the same text. Ask how the nuances of the text and its message change with the musical setting. Answering that question starts to poke at how music joins text to create (not just accompany) meaning.

 

 

Wednesday
Oct292014

Luther's Case for Psalm-Singing

Ligonier on Luther and the PsalmsWorship leaders and thinkers who stand in the Reformed worship tradition emphasize the importance and necessity of Psalm-singing. In fact, there are several smaller Reformed denominations who are chiefly known as "psalms-only" worshipers, meaning that the only songs they sing in worship are tuned translations and versifications of the Psalms. John Calvin, the father of the Reformed tradition of Protestant Christianity, was an outspoken champion of the supremacy of Psalms in worship. He encouraged Psalm-singing in the Genevan Church of his day, and he commissioned well-known artists to craftily set Psalm-versifications to rousing, rhythmic tunes.

Though Calvin was by far the most outspoken of the Reformers on this subject, it's worth bringing up the fact that Luther also had a very high view of the Psalms. And though he would never argue for a Psalms-only approach in worship, we can derive from his emphasis on Psalms that he would have thought that Psalm-singing would be a healthy, centering practice for the Church. I was reminded of all this as I plod my way through a very dense book on Luther's theology, Oswald Bayer's Theology the Lutheran Way:


In Luther's opinion, the Psalter contains the whole Bible in a nutshell and can therefore be called "a mini Bible." He lets it stipulate the "manner" and "practice" of his relationship to God, the world, and himself, not only in general but also in particular, as in the development of his concept of meditation. It is no accident that Psalm 119, the very psalm that teaches Luther the true practice of meditation and its true understanding, is also the psalm that teaches him how to understand theology as a whole.*

One of the things I'm learning about Luther's understanding of theology and the Christian life (those two are one and the same for Luther) is that the Psalms were central. If we have any thoughts of Luther's theology, we immediately think that, for Luther, his biblical ground zero would be Galatians, Romans, or some other Pauline epistle that distills the essence of the whole of Scripture in the concept of justification by faith alone through Christ. And while this is fair, we could equally say that, for Luther, the Psalms are where this theology is done, practiced, and lived.

It would make sense that the only inspired songbook for Christians (and Jews) would very much be a "mini-Bible." And though not direct, enclosed in this emphasis is a case from another reformer besides Calvin for Psalm-singing. So let me point out a few choice resources/avenues:


  • For more traditional, hymnbook-oriented congregations, check out this great one-stop-shop, Psalms for All Seasons.

  • For contemporary/modern stuff, check out this wonderful post at Cardiphonia, cataloguing both specific psalms and then some collections/projects at the end.

  • Write your own: there's nothing like a local worship leader setting Psalms for his or her own congregation. Google search "metrical psalms," look up Isaac Watts' psalm-settings, and add tunes to them!


*Oswald Bayer, Theology the Lutheran Way (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 52.

Tuesday
Apr152014

Just Some Indie Electro-Pop Neo-Anglican Meditations on the Great Litany, that's all

I am currently listening to an impossible sound. It's a beautiful collision of two things that don't normally go together: liturgy and pop-electronica. Charles Wesley would probably have no categories to what has been done with his "Hymns for Our Lord's Resurrection" from 1746. In it is a nine-stanza hymn, "Jesus Show Us Thy Salvation," which Cardiphonia describes as Wesley's riff on the lengthy Anglican prayer, The Great Litany. Cardiphonia has chosen to set each stanza apart in its own song, creating a nine-track record of meditations that aren't meant to be sung by congregations but heard and pondered. The album is called, To Heaven Restored: Songs for the Great Litany.

The production is marvelous, and the songs are creative and diverse. I hear tinges of Sufjan ("7. By the Pomp of Thine Ascending"), Odelay-era Beck ("6. From the World of Care Release Us"), 8-bit Nintendo jazz ("8. Glorious Head, Triumphant Savior"), Postal Service ("3. Unkempt Untempted," "9. By the Coming of Thy Spirit"), and then many other things that defy categorization and association. 

If you're looking for a different angle on preparing and nourishing your heart this Holy Week (or any time, for that matter), go get Cardiphonia's latest gift to the Church. If you're just streaming it on bandcamp, you'll notice that they're releasing a new song every day of Holy Week, but you can get the whole album immediately just by purchasing it there or in the widget below.  And go read more about it over at Cardiphonia!

Thursday
Jan092014

Singing the Bible - Cardiphonia's Canticles

Astounding. They just keep getting better. A little before Christmas, Cardiphonia (that influential blogging and resourcing site that is in my top three go-to worship destinations online) released Canticles. A "canticle" is just fancy liturgical language for any song actually pulled directly from the pages of the Bible, more or less. Read more about it in my post here

There's a lot of talk out there about "biblical worship." It means a lot of things. I've posted before about the difficulty and complexity of the question, "What is Biblical Worship?",  Because people answer it in a varirety of ways. It is not cut and dry. Well, certainly within the sphere of "biblical worship" must be included songs directly from the Bible. Not songs inspired by the Bible (which hopefully every worship song is at its least), but the actual capital-"I" Inspired songs of the Scriptures. People don't realize, outside the Psalms, how many songs there are in the Bible. Well, Canticles' 26 tracks help us see a glimpse into this.

As I listened through the album, I was reminded of the raw power of God's Word, sung. It's like worship songwriting 101...ground zero for the Church's sung prayer. I was reminded how rich the Scriptural songs are, how multi-faceted, how challenging, how unconventional (compared to our typical worship categories). I was reminded how I need the Word. And I was reminded how I need music to help me know the Word.

It's funny. We evangelicals are hardcore Bible studiers. We have Bible studies on how to study the Bible! And yet, for the biblical canticles, one cannot just sit down, read the text through the proper "historical-grammatical lens," and mine the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. The best way to know these texts is to hear them and sing them, for they are songs. 

So, Canticles is not only a killer gift of ancient-modern worship songs for the Church, it's a vehicle for knowing and experiencing Scripture and its Author more fully.  Listen to it below.  But to whet your appetite, here are some of my little observations.

I just love how this song sounds. From Isaiah 60:

 

Check out the sweet vocoder psychedelia in the middle of this one. From Isaiah 38:

 

I love the piano style in this one, reminiscent of Tupac's "Changes" (or, more accurately, Bruce Hornsby and the Range's "The Way it Is"). From Luke 1:

 

I am always on the lookout for singable lamentations that translate well to my context. This is one of them. Beautiful. From Jonah 2:

 

This one has a great melody. Very singable. From Revelation 15:

 

This is one of the more joyful songs on the album, and it would work great in an up-beat more full-on rock style. I love it. From Isaiah 60:

 

This is one of my favorite prayers of scripture, and it's the inspiration for the name of my publishing company. From Habakkuk:

 

Go get the whole album!

Friday
Apr052013

Hallel Psalms - A Joyful New Worship Compilation

Cardiphonia offers up yet another album full of great music, chiseled from the stone of liturgical history.  And this time, the liturgy is not just ancient.  It's from some of the earliest songs of doxological antiquity.  Psalms 113-118 are often called the "Egyptian Hallel":  "Egyptian," because these psalms as a body were used by ancient Jewish singers during Passover, which took place in Egypt; "Hallel," because that is the Hebrew word for for "praise," and these psalms in particular are full of joy and praise.  

Cardiphonia has focused on these songs to aid in the Church's sung vocabulary for this past and all future Holy Weeks.  What I love about Hallel Psalms (March 2013) is that, because the disciples themselves used these psalms during Passover (and therefore during our Holy Week, the last week of Christ before His crucifixion), here the church has a way to more fully rehearse the life of Christ in the Christian Calendar.  I've written more fully elsewhwere about what having a worship-oriented sense of time does to you, but here we have a way to dive even more deeply into holy week, putting on our lips the very same psalms that were on Jesus' and the disciples' lips during those fateful final days.  

Artists from across the Western world contributed to this flash mob project, and I'd encourage you to get it and support this worthy endeavor.  Some of my favorite "ear candy" songs are Nathan Partain's groovy, rhythmic "None But God (Psalm 113)," Rebekah Osborne's quirky, fun-loving "Praise the Lord with Glad Thanksgiving," Bruce Benedict's "When Jacob Out of Egypt Came (Psalm 114)," with its western-meets-70s vibe, splashed with Latin-style horns and Cake-esque guitar riffs, and Castle Island Hymns' electronic, ethereal, "How High (Psalm 113)."  One of my favorite tunes that I hear quite easily transferring into a simple contemporary context like mine at Coral Ridge is Jered McKenna's "Praise the Lord (Psalm 117)," which I could hear at a fast, driving tempo in addition to the mid-tempo version McKenna has recorded.  

Check it out, and support the great local artists and worship leaders who are faithfully serving their local assemblies of Christ's Church.  Finally, be sure to check out Cardiphonia's post about some of the artists, with a few helpful pieces of explanation.

 

Sunday
Nov112012

Cardiphonia's Songs for Liturgy and Our Contributions

As I grow deeper in kinship with Bruce Benedict of Cardiphonia, one of the preeminent gifts I recognize in him is hospitality.  Over a year ago, I enjoyed room and board in his home and an inordinate amount of time out of a busy week in the life of a worship pastor in a growing young church.  His hospitality extends to the way he administrates Cardiphonia, an outfit dedicated resourcing the Church's hymn revitalization and liturgical renewal. Benedict draws artists, songwriters, and liturgical misfits into a holy heap, and Cardiphonia continues to resource the Church with faithful words to sing to our Maker.

Why the Album Exists

Songs for Liturgy, out last week, is an exciting move forward for Cardiphonia, and it probably represents a pivot-point for those of us on the path of theological depth, historical connectivity, biblical fidelity, and gospel centrality in worship.  Our journey on this path led us to fall in love with the rich, forgotten treasure chest of historic hymnody.  But, unbeknownst to many of us, heading down this road took us into the theological contexts which shaped these hymns, and the theologians who shaped these contexts.  We discovered that the Reformation--from whence many of our Protestant heroes came--was equally a reformation of worship as it was of doctrine...but this reformation wasn't a doxological overhaul as much as an attempt at refining by getting back to the sources of the early church and her fathers (this was most notably the quest of John Calvin).  As soon as the mystique of pre-Reformational worship practices was brought to more clarity, we found much value in understanding how the Church worshiped between the time of Christ and the time of the Reformation.  And we, in turn, fell in love with liturgy.

Philip Majorins, Co-Director of Liturgical Arts at Christ Church in Davis, CA, describes this journey in much the same way in his great introduction to the album's accompanying songbook:

This album is evidence that many Protestant church musicians have been reawakening to the deep and simple truths of the gospel that have been a part of Christian worship (in the East and the West) for centuries. It may sound odd for some of us to admit, but the shape of the gospel is tied up in the form of the historic Mass. Even more puzzling is that many of us steeped in the charisms of the Reformed tradition are “re” discovering that the historic mass was shaped by Scripture. The truth is, the Reformed tradition has never really rejected the shape of historic Christian worship. It has just been neglected. Consider these tunes a basic primer for those of us interested in going back to the sources from which faithful worship is apt to spring. The earlier rediscovery of hymnary, by these same musicians, has naturally lead to an uncovering of church music with even deeper roots in Holy Scripture and historic catholic faith.

Okay, so some of you are wincing right now.  The Zac of five years ago probably would have done the same.  But before your five-sola-vaccination starts preventing the invasion of the "catholic" virus, consider reading a book like Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Worship.  For me, it gave me a new appreciation for my (small "c") catholic (which means "universal") Christian faith when it came to the gospel-shaped worship practices that characterized the Church for centuries.

How Can Non-Liturgical Modern Worship Contexts Use this Resource?

The Doxology & Theology conference a few weeks ago has convinced me that a rising generation of young worship leaders is hungry for the gospel to be embedded more deeply into the life of the worship service.  The irony is that the historic Christian liturgy from which many of us modern worship leaders have departed is deeply Trinitarian and (therefore) gospel-saturated, and I'm convinced that many of these short songs could be quite effortlessly woven into a block-of-songs-style worship set, amplifying the gospel-story:   

  • McKenna's "The Brightness of God's Glory" (one of my favorite songs) works great as both a soft opening to worship, focusing us on the majesty of Christ or as a set-ending, helping us revel in the gospel
  • The several versions of the Kyrie, which is in its essence a confession, work well in the middle of a worship set to provide people, after encountering the greatness and holiness of God, some space to say with Isaiah, "woe is me."
  • The "Glorias" and Doxologies work to round off a time of singing about the gospel of Christ
  • Many of the songs, like versions of the Sanctus, work well during communion and actually put ancient worship words into the mouths of modern worshipers.
  • Many of the benedictions can be used at the end of a service (especially if the sermon went long and you need a short song :))

Our Contributions to the Project

For those of us on the journey, Songs for Liturgy is evidence of our attempts to give voice to the broad, historic Christian liturgy in our local contexts.  I was blessed to contribute two songs.  The first is a version of the Lord's Prayer, which contains echoes of Malotte's famous version, sans the huge operatic vocal range.  The melodic line is comparatively flattened out for ease of singing, but I preserved the values of held notes and phrasing, because I find them prayerful and meditative.  You can grab my lead sheet for it here.

The second contribution is what I call a "Benedixie."  It represents a bit of a journey in worship pastoring for me.  Every worship leader feels the pressure to squeeze their church's musical style into whatever the majority like best.  For many evangelical churches, this means a pretty set rock sound.  I love that sound, personally, but I find God always pushing my boundaries wider with the musicians He brings my way.  How am I supposed to fit a trombone and clarinet into an arena-worship rock ensemble?  Well, I can't.  But I can respond to God's providence by connecting what we do to styles that are both gripping for congregational music and fitting for the instruments provided.  Hence, New Orleans Dixie.  We'll see if it takes off in Denver.  :)  So here's our clap-happy benediction, "Lord Dismiss Us With Your Blessing," by John Fawcett.  Here's the lead sheet, and here's the clarinet and trombone score.  

And, I must give credit where credit is due.  This was very fun to record.

Austin Hogan - clarinet
Dave Strunk - trombone
Connor DeFehr - tuba
Cathie Detwiler, Paige Wilson, & Strunk - vocals