Saturday, December 23, 2006

Glory to God in the Highest!

Over the next few days I will be posting various songs that our family put together on a CD that we called Glory to God in the Highest! Most of the selections are focused on the 1st Advent holiday, while others are just hymns that our family has enjoyed throughout the years. Here is the list:

1. Under His Wings (Family)

2. All Praise to Thee (Sandra, Hannah & Maria)

3. Song for Josiah, by Keith Green (Hannah on Piano)

4. Away in a Manger (Family)

5. Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Sandra & Hannah)

6. Once in Royal David's City (Sandra, Hannah, Maria & Micaiah)

7. Psalm 23, by Keith Green (Hannah on Piano)

8. See, Amid the Winter's Snow (Sandra, Hannah & Maria)

9. Silent Night (Micaiah)

I’ll begin with the first song, Under His Wings by Barney E. Warren (pub. 1911). It is based largely upon Psalm 91:4, but here is the broader context of that verse:

Psalm 91:1-4: 1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" 3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

This text and hymn became very important to us as a family, especially when we were going through the darkest trial of our life as a family in the winter of 2001. During that time we learned all the more how it is that the Lord’s encouragement and grace is often most magnified through the dark trials of life - so that we too can learn about the greatness of His refuge and protection for His people. When we first recorded this hymn together (in 2001) it was just Sandra and myself along with Hannah, Maria and Micaiah. Now we have this blessed ensemble to include Ruth (5) and Lydia (2) - you can hear them on the third verse of the hymn...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Paul Le Clair: A Scotts Tune

In 2002, when it seemed that the Lord was going to be moving us from Minnesota to North Carolina, I realized that I needed to sieze the opportunity of recording certain brethren in the area who were musically gifted. I’m very glad that I did this - in fact, I was blessed with so many contributers that I was able to put together a whole CD of their work. One of the men that I was eager to record was Paul LeClair whose giftedness in classical guitar is - compelling. Best of all, Paul is a humble man who loves Christ dearly. The extent of his past training in classical guitar is simply amazing, and is very much a part of his testimony as a believer - however, he is rather cautious when discussing his background, which is a blessed expression of his humility in Christ. Unfortunately, I only have a few recordings from him. Perhaps if I am able to visit the brethren at Twin Cities Bible Church in Saint Paul Minnesota again, with some sort of portable gear, then perhaps I can expand the LeClair library! We’ll see.

Recording Paul was a treat. We didn’t have to do several takes with him - he just played, and it was a blessing. I can’t remember the background on his guitar, but I do remember that it is one that you’ll never find in the average guitar shop. It had excellent craftsmanship and a rich tone that I had not yet heard in a classical guitar (and I had owned and used several myself).

The recording was done very simply. This was an obvious application for the Neumann TLM103 microphone, and the recording was finished with the minimal mastering plugins from Waves Renaissance. The following recording below is simply called A Scotts Tune - the recording of which I have adopted for our Lift Up Your Eyes flash videos:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down

Every now and then I come across a familiar chorus that isn’t bad per se, but is somehow just incomplete. And what right do I have to say that some choruses appear to be incomplete? Would the author of such songs agree with me over such an opinion? Well, in this case I think that I can say - “incomplete.” Take for example this familiar Maranatha chorus: Come Let us Worship and Bow Down -

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

For He is our God

And we are the people of His pasture

and the sheep of His hand

just the sheep of His hand

The incomplete nature of this song is made evident when we read Psalm 95:

Psalm 95: 1 O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. 3 For the Lord is a great God And a great King above all gods, 4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. 5 The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land. 6 Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. 7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 9 "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. 10 "For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways. 11 "Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest."

I have highlighted the text upon which the aforementioned chorus is based, in order to reveal the textual contrast. Clearly, there is a vast context of thought that is utterly left behind in the popular Maranatha chorus. This is one of the reasons why I tend to avoid a great deal of modern choruses. It is not that they are always in error; they just tend to truncate too much truth. As in the case of Psalm 95, there is much more going on than the chorus reveals. Overall, the Psalm has a threefold structure, governed by two imperatives and one final warning. By the structure of the text itself, one could easily argue for three verses, rather than just one. The warning at the end is significant, though it is (perhaps) too alarming for the modern mind: it is a warning against unbelief as was evidenced by the ungrateful attitudes of those Israelites who grumbled against the Lord and tested Him. The threefold development is therefore very important:


2. A Call to HUMBLE WORSHIP (6-7a).


The relationship between these sections should be evident - genuine joy will consist of thankfulness (vs. 1-5); as well as humility (vs. 6-7a). Such attitudes as these reveal a heart that is truly seeking the Lord, unlike the selfish and prideful attitudes of those who fell and did not enter into God’s rest. This is more than a positive call to worship - it is also a great warning and call to self examination, contrition, repentance and to trust in the Lord who is the Creator of all things. Consider the following as a modification of the song (some hyphens are inserted for the reader’s understanding of the flow of the song):

Come Let us Worship and Bow Down (Psalm 95)

Verse 1

Come Let us sing for joy to God; For the LORD, He is the rock of our salvation

Come Let us sing for joy to God; Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving

For the Lord is a great God

All the world does rest upon His mighty hand

He's the King above all gods

Let us sing for joy to the Lord!

Verse 2*

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

Come Let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker

For He is our God

And we are the people of His pasture

and the sheep of His hand

just the sheep of His hand

Verse 3

If you would hear His voice today; Do not har-den your hearts like those at Meribah

If you would hear His voice today; Do not test the Lord as in the day of Massah

For the Lord is a just God

And He tries the hearts of all the peoples

Let us therefore trust in the Lord

Let us rest alone in our God

There are a number of songs that fit into this - “not bad; just suspiciously incomplete” category. In reality, there’s much more theology that can be added to these songs by the simple process of completing the thoughts that they began to express. By this process, many songs like these can be made even more useful in corporate worship contexts - rather than eliminated completely.

* Modified. Words derived from ©1980 Maranatha Praise, Inc. Words and Music by Dave Doherty.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Armoury’s Studio

My dealings with digital recording goes back to 7 years ago. We were in Minnesota at the time and I had been investigating ways to teach our members the many new songs that were in our recently purchased hymnals. I say that they were “new” - actually these hymns were quite old, but they are so unknown in our generation that they often appear to be new. Sandra and I began recording these old hymns and would supply them to others in order to speed up the learning process (most of our members could not read music and so an audio product expedited this process a great deal). This then sparked an interest in others to offer their help, and before we knew it we had a few choral groups making these recordings for the sake of the rest of the flock. This wasn’t a fancy “gig” by any means. The music wasn’t something to publish in the open market - we weren’t a polished choir ready to go on tour. Ultimately, it was a very simple ministry tool that was created for the sake of our flock in order to equip them with a sound hymnody. I only had the time to produce about 25 songs before I had to call it quits (for various reasons). Overall, the experience was quite interesting. I invested a good amount of time and energy in order to learn about digital recording because I was driven by this desire to help others to discover and learn many of the forgotten hymns of the past. Ever since then, I have kept up what has become a small home studio, and we continue to use it in a similar way at Pilgrim Bible Church - though on a much lighter scale. At times I had considered posting some of these songs at The Armoury as a kind of series - an audio series; however, I decided that the scope of posts relating to hymns, digital hardware & software would warrant more than just a series - therefore, I’ve decided to establish The Armoury’s Studio with the design of presenting new hymns (text and audio), some audio hardware and software reviews. This latter category will be a rarity, but as it turns out I am presently testing Cakewalk’s newest audio processor Sonar 6 and hope to have a brief review of this before the month is out. I will try this out for a while. I may choose to nest these posts inside of The Armoury someday, but for now I’ll see how things go. For now, I’ll begin with a simple post which includes the audio Gospel presentation, called: The Story of Amazing Grace. This presents the story of John Newton’s conversion and was created by using the full arsenal of our recording gear - including a Godin Steel Synth Acoustic guitar and a GR-33 guitar synthesizer (which I no longer needed and no longer have).

If you don’t see a wma player above, then click on this link.

P.S. Ironically, there is a professional studio called “Armoury Studio” - but this similarity is not intentional. What I have and do is not to be compared to their operation. Armoury Studio is full blown industry recording studio - and I can assure you that their music genres and business associations are worlds apart from our ministry focus. But it’s interesting and ironic anyway!