New Hymn Collaboration with Chris Anderson: “God Supreme”

New_hymn

Several weeks ago, Chris Anderson (who pastors a church near Atlanta) posted a hymn text on Facebook that he’d written in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. It caught my attention right away. At the nudging of one of my own pastors, I decided to try to set it to music. I recorded a little “sketch” of the tune on my phone and texted it to Chris, sparking about a month of back-and-forth tweaking of text and tune until it was ready for release.

I have admired many of Chris’s hymn texts, including “His Robes for Mine,” which my church has adopted with great enthusiasm (especially around the Lord’s table). And though we’ve enjoyed a “hymn writers camaraderie” for several years, this has been our first collaboration.

One of the great joys of working with a pastor-theologian on a hymn is the great depth of the text. Chris writes doctrinal notes for many of his hymn texts, and he wrote one for this new hymn as well. It is well worth reading!

Chris writes: “God Supreme” is a new hymn and my first collaboration with my friend Paul Keew. It’s a lament (as explained below), and Paul has captured precisely the right tone for the song. It’s not angry; it’s somber, almost mournful. But it’s also hopeful. The “folk” feel of his composition is perfect. It’s an honor to finally team up with him on a song we both hope will be a blessing to Christ’s church!

Take a look and hear a piano demo on our music page. The hymn is free for you and your church, as with all our music (the same goes for the music at churchworksmedia.com). We pray it will bless you and your church!

“Wand’ring Pilgrim”: An Interview with Joe Tyrpak about the Song

IMG_0145.JPG - Version 3I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Joe Tyrpak (of Churchworksmedia.com) on our recently released single “Wand’ring Pilgrim.” I asked Joe a few questions about the song from his perspective.

PK: At what point did you decide the poems in David Brainerd’s biography should be turned into a song?

JT: I’ve been considering the musical possibility of these two Brainerd poems since late 2011. I was reading through the Life of Brainerd during that season, and several facets of his example—his longings for holiness, his sufferings for the gospel, his passionate intercession for the lost—were challenging me. Because Brainerd was inspiring me (and because I’ve written some poetry for congregational singing), I desired to put these poems to music. It wasn’t until February 2014 that I considered combining the two poems into one song.

What kind of song did you envision for Brainerd’s words–not necessarily style, but feeling or mood? Did you have any inspiration to which you looked?

My priority concern with the music for “Wand’ring Pilgrim” was that churches could use it. Churchworksmedia.com is all about making freely available music that’s congregationally accessible. Going further, my initial target for the Brainerd song was a sober and meditative piece. It needed to feel like a prayer of “pining”—like the cry of a longing heart. I initially envisioned that it’d probably be in a minor key. When I first sent my ideas to Paul, I told him that I’d like for it to have a folk sound. I suggested the simple sound of Fernando Ortega’s “Just As I Am” (which shifts from minor to major) and the folk classic “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.” As we worked through the first few versions, I specified my concept. I told Paul, “We need to make sure the folk feel is more sophisticated.” I pointed him to R. Vaughan Williams’ tune for “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” as an example of what I meant by that “more sophisticated” folk sound.

Why Watchsong?

I asked Watchsong to consider this project because I wanted it to have Paul’s distinctive sound. For the past several years the congregation I pastor has enjoyed singing some of Paul’s hymns. We love “O God My Joy.” We’ve sung his meditation on 1 Peter 1-2: “Chosen As His Children.” And, his version of Psalm 66, “Shout Out for Joy,” has become one of our church’s all-time favorites. It’s hard for me to enunciate what exactly comprises Paul’s style, but I know that each of those hymns has the sort of musical emotion I envisioned for “Wand’ring Pilgrim.” Finally, for Christmas a few years ago I was given a copy of Paul’s Broadway-like musical, A Christmas Carol. I think the emotion of a few songs on that CD further compelled me to ask him.

As the song began taking shape in someone else’s mind, how did your view of the song change?

Starting any creative project is a bit strange because, at one and the same moment, you have a pretty solid idea of what you want it to sound like, and yet you realize that within those parameters the project could go in a thousand (very) different directions. Between June and August of 2014 the Brainerd song went through about a dozen variations. So, while the song experienced significant development over those two months, looking back I’m not sure that my vision for the song changed all that much. Rather, certain ideas would get closer to the target, so those are the ones we’d further develop.

What do you like about the final version of “Wand’ring Pilgrim”?

I love that the final version of “Wand’ring Pilgrim” is expressive. I love that it feels authentic, even primitive. I love that it pairs substantive text and a sophisticated sound with the old words, “This world is not my home.” I love how the strings and voices synergize in the end to bring the song to its climactic expression. I love that “Wand’ring Pilgrim” somehow captures Brainerd’s experience of, what he called, “pleasing pain.” It captures his holy, yet unsatisfied cravings. And, it captures the message and (I think) the feel of Psalm 73:25 and Hebrews 11.

“Wand’ring Pilgrim” Lyric Backstory

IMG_0145.JPG - Version 3“Wand’ring Pilgrim” was commissioned by Joe Tyrpak as part of a media project at the tail end of his doctoral work on David Brainerd. The following notes by Joe tell the backstory:

On Sunday, April 25, 1742, David Brainerd penned two eight-line poems in his diary (pp. 163-64, The Life of David Brainerd, vol. 7 in The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Yale, 1985]). He wrote the poems a few days after he turned 24 years old, which was only a few months following his expulsion from Yale. During this “wand’ring season” of his life David lived with Jedidiah Mills, an experienced pastor in Ripton, Connecticut. There he engaged in ministerial studies, preparing for a licensing examination in July—which would give him authority to preach as an itinerant in Connecticut. Before the sun rose on this Sunday morning, David had “spent about two hours in secret duties.” He experienced in prayer both agony (to the point of sweat) and delight (to the point of poetry). He begged God to convert unbelievers, to help him forgive those who had hurt him, and to completely conform him to Jesus. He prayed, “O for sanctification! My very soul pants for the complete restoration of the blessed image of my Saviour; that I may be fit for the blessed enjoyments and employments of the heavenly world.” Then he wrote two poems which (till now) have never been put to music:

Farewell, vain world; my soul can bid adieu:
My Saviour’s taught me to abandon you.
Your charms may gratify a sensual mind;
Not please a soul wholly for God designed.
Forbear to entice, cease then my soul to call:
‘Tis fixed, through grace; my God shall be my all.
While he thus lets me heavenly glories view,
Your beauties fade, my heart’s no room for you.

Lord, I’m a stranger here alone;
Earth no true comforts can afford:
Yet, absent from my dearest One,
My soul delights to cry, My Lord!
Jesus, my Lord, my only love,
Possess my soul, nor thence depart;
Grant me kind visits, heavenly Dove:
My God shall then have all my heart.

Within three months of composing these lines Brainerd was licensed to preach. Later the same year he was commissioned to evangelize Native Americans in New England. He spent the next four years preaching the gospel to Indian communities at Kaunaumeek (East Nassau, New York), Forks of the Delaware (Easton, Pennsylvania), Crossweeksung (Crosswicks, New Jersey), Shamokin (Sunbury, Pennsylvania), and Cranberry (Cranbury, New Jersey). During one year of ministry in Crossweeksung David baptized about 130 newly converted Native Americans. Brainerd died of tuberculosis at 29 years old.

Some may justly criticize Brainerd’s heavenly hope as too “Christoplatonic” (to use Randy Alcorn’s term). David mostly longed to be “absent from the body,” and he rarely longed for the experience of sinlessness as physical life in a resurrection body on perfectly remade planet. Yet, Brainerd was only imbalanced, not in error. His weaknesses reflect corresponding strengths. Every believer should learn from Brainerd’s “other-worldliness.” These two poems profoundly express the solidly biblical truths that we are “no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth” (Hebrews 11:13, NLT), that every believer should continually exclaim, “Whom have I in heaven by you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” and that the greatest good in life is “for me…to be near God” (Psalm 73:24, 28, ESV).

[Joe’s project includes a DVD documentary and a devotional based on the book “The Life of David Brainerd” by Jonathan Edwards. Follow the link to find out more about these products (available for preorder).]

New Song Recording: A Broken Vessel

New song_Broken Vessel

My friend and colleague James Harris first sent me this text back in 2009. For whatever reason, it escaped my attention until January of 2012 when I rediscovered it and took a good look at it during a morning devotional time. This doesn’t often happen, but as I read through the words, they sort of sang themselves right off the page! I went over to the computer, sketched out a basic recording and lead sheet, and zipped them over to James (who promptly informed me that his brother wanted the recording as soon as it was available).

Well, Kendall, the long wait is over! Follow this link to download “A Broken Vessel.”

This is also the first song on the site that has a backing track available. Just look for the blue “CD” button with the song resources. Only the original recorded key is available at this time.

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Some of you may be interested to know that all of the recording basically happened in my home studio (which is a Wal-Mart folding table with an iMac and a Yamaha digital keyboard, tucked away in the corner of our all-purpose 2nd bedroom). This gets the geek in me all excited! The only instruments recorded on a live mic were voice, acoustic guitar, and shaker (which were also recorded at home). Currently, I’m using Logic Pro 9 as my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Logic’s built-in piano and guitar patches are very nice. For woodwinds and strings, I use Vienna Symphonic Library (Special [meaning basic] Edition), which in my opinion has the most realistic string patches available. I saved each of the recorded tracks as high-quality wav files, which were pieced together and mixed by Gary Emory at his studio, Brightwater Digital, in Greenville, SC.

If the song sounds familiar, you may remember it from the end credits of our short film.

Lord willing, this won’t be the only song recorded and released this year. Keep in touch, and thanks for your prayers and support!

A Year In Review…Lord Willing!

The Pre-Post

So, I started off yesterday with the goal of sending out a timely “year in review” post, and I finished off yesterday with the disappointment of not sending out a timely “year in review” post. Somewhere in between, the Lord had to deal with my idolatrous heart.

You see, I tend to look at people or companies that seem to be very productive and successful, and desperately want that for myself—so desperately, that I would sacrifice my relationships with God and others on the altar of productivity. That’s idolatry. And that’s what God in His mercy showed me yesterday when I didn’t get this post finished.

A few months ago, on New Year’s Eve, my wife and I were up north skiing as part of our anniversary weekend when she broke her wrist. Not only did this put a damper on some of our plans, but with the soreness of her fresh injury, I had to do just about everything for her. I was utterly shocked at the ugly rebellion and selfishness that rose up in me that first day or two. But as the Spirit helped me to submit my plans and desires to God’s, a real joy settled in. And even though January was one of my least productive months ever for some of my personal goals, it was one of the happiest in recent memory.

Now that my wife’s wrist is all healed up, it appears the cries of my old “productivity idol” are getting stronger again. But my productivity belongs to God, and He has the right to make any interruptions in my life that He wants to. My wife reminded me of something Jim Binney once said when he realized something about all the people that would interrupt his plans in the ministry: “These interruptions are my ministry!” God breaks in through various means to remind us that He and other people are more important than things or goals.

The Post

A year ago [yesterday], Watchsong.com was relaunched with a new facelift and some grand goals! While I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t reach several (okay…frankly, most) of those grand goals, I am thankful to the Lord (now, considering the Pre-Post) for what He allowed me and my friends and fellow-creatives to accomplish.

Added several new songs to the site

This, after all, is the purpose of Watchsong: to share with God’s people the songs that God gives to us. I am grateful for the wonderful people with whom I’ve been able to collaborate, and I’m just as pleased to share some great songs that others have written.

Started Watchsong Blog

You’re looking at it. Thanks for stopping by! As the Lord allows, we’ll bring you interesting, relevant, or just plain fun content. Consider signing up by email or RSS feed!

Made a movie

This short film was originally a creative way to state Watchsong’s mission, but I’ve heard many stories about how this has helped people in their thinking about music, worship, and creating new things for God’s glory. The Lord had bigger plans for it, and I couldn’t be more pleased! It also kind of helped me get a job…but that’s a story for another post…. I’m so grateful to Shane McMullin for making this happen. He has recently experienced some much-deserved recognition for his work!

Made more friends

Thanks again to those who have joined Watchsong’s Facebook page! “Like” us there, and stay informed about everything new at Watchsong. You can also follow us on Twitter. Just look for our handle: @WatchsongMusic.

The Post-Post

So, what will this year bring? Well, I have some goals (several recorded songs, several new choral octavos, several new hymns, to name a few), but I’m going to let God interrupt those if He wants to. May His name be praised and His will be done!

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance” (James 4:13-16). “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Morning Stars

When we were editing the Watchsong film, Shane McMullin showed me a compilation video of stunning time-lapse photography shot by Christian Mülhauser in Madeira. “It would be cool if we could get something like this for your video,” says Shane. “You might try just asking if you could use it…it’s worth a shot.” To my great surprise and delight, Christian responded to my request and graciously let us use some footage for the video. Madeira is absolutely breathtaking and wonderfully complimented by the score from Jonathan Greer. To see more of Christian’s film work, check out his website. And enjoy the film below!

What Is Watchsong? [Video]

Why should Christian artists and musicians continue to create new content? What motivates them to create? Why do Christians need new music? Why do you need Watchsong?

I wanted to find a creative way to share the vision and mission of my website, Watchsong.com, as well as encourage Christian artists that they are vitally important. That’s where this short film comes in.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some more in-depth commentary about the film and some of the themes it presents. But first, I need to give credit to several people who made this film possible.

The “MVP award” goes to my friend Shane McMullin at NINTH HOUR Productions for bringing this project to life with such amazing skill and creativity and for the hours and hours he spent shooting, cutting, and editing this film. He also had to put up with me and all the crazy ideas I had, most of which he magically made happen.

Special thanks to: Christian Mülhauser (chrigu.org), who graciously let me use a few short clips from his stunning film Madeira; Doug Young (dougyoungstudios.com), my good friend, who let us shoot in his very unique studio space; and Fred Coleman, my pastor, mentor, and friend, who helped me think through the historical data and has always encouraged me in my writing.

Thanks also to: my friends, James Harris, Brian Pinner, Chris Barney, and Ben Fetterolf, who proofread my script and were very encouraging in this project; Ken Beale, who lent us his skill and expertise for an entire day in the mid-July heat working cameras and lighting for a Snickers bar and a verbal IOU; and my wife Heather, who also braved the heat to assist us and made sure you couldn’t tell how hot it was when you watch the film.

The end credits song is A Broken Vessel from Watchsong Music. You can find a lead sheet, lyrics, and an mp3 demo on the Music page. A full recording will be available soon on Watchsong.com.

“See the Christ” (our new hymn!)

Brian Pinner and I have collaborated on a new hymn called See the Christ! It’s our first tag-team effort since O God, My Joy four years ago. We also collaborated on this blog post to bring you some of our thoughts behind its creation.

The text for this hymn intentionally follows Philippians 2:5-11. That familiar passage admonishes us to have the same mindset as Jesus, the divine servant who obeyed the Father through condescension, suffering, death, and enjoyed subsequent exaltation. See the Christ moves through this Christology and makes application along the way. For instance, the second stanza presents Christ’s suffering and death not simply as a demonstration of His love for sinners, which it certainly was, but fundamentally as a demonstration of Christ’s love for the Father. Jesus died on the cross because He was willingly obeying His Father, whose design from eternity past was to use the most horrible event in history for the most glorious good! The death of Jesus was the crux of God’s plan to make all things new. Philippians 2 illustrates what happens to those who give their lives to God: there may be suffering and death, but there will also be resurrection and exaltation! “Trust the Father with your life; / He will turn all wrongs to right.” He did it with His Son; He will do it for all those in Christ. In the last stanza, we see this happen in the glorious exaltation of Christ “for the Father’s glory.” The gospel is radically God-centered. At the end of the age Jesus will give the kingdom to His Father, who will be “all in all” (I Corinthians 15:28).

We wanted the music for this hymn to match the majesty of this profound passage while still being very accessible and singable for the average congregation. We also wanted to use harmonies and melodic lines that are refreshing and modern. We hope the result will satisfy on many levels. The added 2/4 measures may be slightly surprising initially, but we really feel that they give the music time to breathe and build.

Obviously, the applications and implications of this Scripture text have great depth and breadth. We hope that you will find it useful and appropriate for many themes and seasons.

Click here to find the demo, sheet music, and lyrics resources on the Music Page.

New “Skin” for Old Truths

With the new songs (see earlier “3 New Songs” post) came some new demo recordings. They were a bit experimental for me, but I wanted to give you a flavor for the dramatic potential of the songs (me trying to play the guitar just isn’t very exciting, as you know!). My plan is to re-outfit most of the songs on the site and then try to put them together into a CD. The one “old” song I re-recorded for the site release is This Day It Is Complete. I’m excited to reintroduce this song, and I hope you find it worth your attention.

Chosen as His Children

This song has gone through some interesting developments. Two summers ago, I presented it at a songwriting workshop with Keith Getty, Steve Cook, and Mark Altrogge. They were very encouraging about the song but urged me to try to rework the chorus. Keith wasn’t sure about switching into 3/4, and Mark wanted to hear one more whoop of the hook. I tried for months to rework it, even sending about 9 different versions of the chorus to my writer/arranger friends Ruth Coleman, Kristin Campbell, and Joey Hoelscher. But we just all gravitated toward the first chorus, awkward as it might be! By this time, Joey was using a solo arrangement on the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team, and he was able to fill me in on reactions to the song…and the reactions were surprisingly positive!

Then, there’s the title thing. Several months ago, Soundforth showed me the proof for a new arrangement of the song by well-known choral writer/arranger Mary McDonald that they wanted to publish (click here for details). She recommended that the title (which I had switched to Born Again) be changed back to Chosen as His Children. This astonished me since Mary moves in much wider evangelical circles! Frankly, I was afraid the title would scare people away (even though the word “chosen” is straight out of 1 Peter 1). Well, it’s published now as Chosen as His Children, so I’ve changed titles around on the site to make everything uniform. Through the process I’ve also tweaked the lyrics just a bit, particularly one phrase in the chorus (”what love and grace” instead of the masculine “a son of grace”). For the hymn version (which is now uploaded; click here to view), I’m calling the tune BORN AGAIN.

As for Joey’s arrangement, it’s published as Chosen As His Children (link includes full demo track) by Heart Publications for solo voice, piano, and cello; and it’s on the new Pettit Team recording, Come Boldly!

More resources for this song available here!