As most of you know, a major focal point of this blog is the intersection of ancient and modern in worship, with a particular eye toward dialogue between mainstream modern worship and historic hymnody. Several months back, I highlighted a preview of the album, Love Divine, which, as a compilation project of mainstream modern worship leaders singing re-tuned texts of Charles Wesley, is a significant achievement toward the end of the coming together of these two worlds. Since that time, the album has been released (check it out on iTunes), and I’ve had the privilege of becoming “web-buddies” with John Hartley, who, along with Chris Eaton, re-arranged these hymns and commissioned the various artists to be a part of the project, which falls under the Kingsway label–a major player in modern worship. I fired off a few questions to John, and here is the record of that dialogue.
For lead sheets, chord charts, and other resources for this album, you can go here.
How did Love Divine come about?
The album came about when Kingsway asked if I would write with Chris Eaton an album to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley.
What drew you to the hymns of Charles Wesley as a source of subject-matter for the album?
When we started reading the lesser-known hymns it was like opening up a treasure chest of jewels. Chris and I have been professional writers all our lives, but doing this project was a totally new way of writing for us. We felt very honored to be given a chance to write music to these timeless hymns.
Why are these old hymns worth “re-giving” to the church today?
For me, it’s a bit like reading the same Scripture a 1000 times, and then the next time you read it somehow it speaks to you. It applies to what you are going through in a way that you’ve never noticed before. The Holy Spirit is stirring things up inside and the Scripture has power and life to it!! It’s always been there, but i never noticed it before. It’s the same with the hymns. We’ve sung these hymns so many times, but by putting new music to them, somehow it makes the lyrics speak in a new way!
How did you get these mainstream contemporary worship artists to contribute to this project, and what was their reaction to the task of re-setting and/or recording these hymns?
That’s the hard part. All these guys are busy and don’t have much time. But, thankfully, with a little bit of pestering and arm twisting, we managed to get them.
Are there any other hymn-writers and/or hymns which you would like to highlight in a similar future project?
I’m just finishing a hymns project with Leigh Nash, singer from Sixpence None the Richer. It has some really beautiful old hymns set to new music. I would really like to put together a small resource that would give people new tunes to many of these anointed old hymns…and not just the Wesley’s but of many different people.