I’m not trying to sound crass, here, but Communion often feels like a memorial service for a deceased loved one. I remember growing up in my (wonderful, life-giving, Christ-shaping, God-exalting) church back at home in Hawaii. The Lord’s Supper came once a quarter, and up front would be a table covered with a large cloth. When it came time to receive Communion, the church leaders would come forward. I remember a lot of them wearing black suits. Two gentlemen would ceremonially lift and fold the table’s cloth, revealing the elements beneath. The suited men stood reverently in a line, hands folded in front, as the pastor would talk seriously and somberly about what we were about to do.
Cardiphonia has produced a feast for the ears to strengthen the Feast of Christ in the modern church’s worship. Not long ago, Justin Taylor, when posting about our song, “Lord, I Believe,” commented: “I’m not aware of many hymns that are specifically designed for celebrating the Lord’s Supper.” This observation is typical and appropriate for those of us (myself included) reared in the modern evangelical church. Our tradition, by and large, has downplayed Communion. We speak of its importance. Some … Read More
When I heard the first Bifrost Arts album, Come, O Spirit, a few years ago, I was excited to hear the wedding of the emerging Seattle-esque, pop-orchestral song style (perhaps made most famous by one of the album’s producers, Sufjan Stevens) with historic Christian hymnody and liturgical service music. It is a truly unique venture. When I heard Bifrost’s commander in chief, Isaac Wardell, share from his mind and heart at the Bifrost Arts conference earlier this year, I came away … Read More
Some have said that historic Chrisitian hymnody is largely, if not exclusively, white and Western. Notable exceptions notwithstanding, this is probably true. The majority of churches and entities that I am aware of which participate in the rehymn movement by and large fit that description. However, I’m not convinced that this has to be the case.
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.
Without Our Aid is the second full-length release of Zac Hicks + Cherry Creek Worship, out of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver, CO. Their debut album, The Glad Sound, was their first hymns project, released in 2009, and between that time and the present, Zac has contributed to three other compilation projects with Cardiphonia: The Psalms of Ascents (March 2010) , Hymns of Faith: Songs for the Apostles’ Creed(October 2010), and Pentecost Songs (June 2011).
Without Our Aid is an experiment in songwriting for the sake of building bridges between two current camps in modern church music—the so-called “hymns/rehymn movement” and mainstream modern evangelical worship. The album’s aim is to combine the energy and vitality of the modern worship sound (made most popular by groups like Passion and Hillsong), with the depth, theology, and historical connectedness of Christian hymnody across time. From a songwriting perspective, the two do not easily go together: hymns are usually written in through-composed verses, while modern worship songs tend to have three and sometimes even four unique sections (verses, choruses, bridges, and “surprise” refrains or endings). Though hymn purists might decry the liberties taken in bending and arranging the original hymn-texts, and though modern worship connoisseurs may consider the texts too verbose and archaic, our passion for greater growth and unity convinces us that Without Our Aid is a unique and worthwhile project.
STYLE & PRODUCTION
The goal of Without Our Aid was to create an album which sounded live in order to capture that more tangible “moment” of corporate worship. It is not a live album in the true sense, mostly because our current setting does not have the bandwidth to be able to pull off a live recording. However, the recording was pieced together in the “live” setting of our reverberant, 900-seat, traditional sanctuary, employing ambient mic techniques for all the major instruments. A backing choir of approximately 20-30 voices sang through the album multiple times; those sessions ended up being powerful times of worship themselves. Stylistically, Without Our Aid is best characterized as a “modern arena-worship” record—big drums, driving electric guitars, layered synths, crowd noise, and a live “congregational” sound.
Hello, Readership. In an effort to drum up support for our new album, Without Our Aid, we’re asking you to pass this link along to anyone and everyone you know (tweet it, FB it, email it). We’re giving away one of our best songs on the album, “Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus,” absolutely free…we just ask that you tell others about it.
“Hail” is probably the best all-in-one representation of the musical, philosophical, and theological aim of the Without Our Aid. It has a live feel, energetic rhythm, great drumming, layered electrics, modern worship-styled vocal melodies, and unbeatable lyrics (I can brag, because I didn’t write them).
GO GET THE SONG HERE (this link will only be available until Tuesday, September 13, so get it while you can!).
When I began cataloguing the growth of the hymns movement several years ago, I had no idea that its growth would be this rapid. Even using just one metric for growth and expansion—the production of albums—the number of artists and churches setting old hymn-texts to new music is much greater than it was five years ago.
The rootlessness of contemporary Christianity is starved for remembrance, but the vacuum of historical connectivity has finally turned on. And the sucking sound is getting louder and louder. For years now, Cardiphonia has been on the leading edge of liturgical renewal in evangelicalism. Before it was “cool” to talk about liturgy and historic practices in Christian worship, Cardiphonia was carving its path in this direction on the world wide web. Its mastermind, Bruce Benedict, I have watched from afar in … Read More