“Wand’ring Pilgrim” Now Available!

LifeofBrainerd_MP3cov FINALa_1600x1600[Post updated 1/17/15]

The wait is over! Download “Wand’ring Pilgrim” today. Then keep up with us on Facebook and this blog!

Available from these stores: iTunesGoogle Play, and Bandcamp (includes full preview, any-format download, and accompaniment tracks).

NOTE: Make sure your song/album title search for “Wand’ring Pilgrim” includes the apostrophe (or search by artists: “Paul Keew” and/or “Jon Horton”).

This song is part of a larger project that 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).

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.

Facing a Task Unfinished

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I’m writing this mainly to pass along some info to my church, but this is a rich hymn text. Worth taking a look, even if you’re not participating in the global hymn sing!

This Sunday, February 21, 2016, our church (Colonial Baptist Church, Virginia Beach) will be joining churches around the world (nearly one million believers in 63 countries and in 10 languages, so far) in singing the hymn, “Facing a Task Unfinished.”

If you’re interested in registering your church to join in, click here.

Please take some time to give attention to this hymn and be prepared to really join in as we sing this together on Sunday. I’ve attached links to some resources that may be helpful to you as you prepare. Even if you can’t read music, you can meditate on the lyrics or listen to the audio. And below is an excerpt from the Getty Music press release with some background information to the hymn.

Half-page Hymn Insert (melody only) | 2-page Full Hymn | Official Lyric Video (YouTube)

“Facing a Task Unfinished” was originally written by China Inland Mission (CIM) worker Frank Houghton in the 1920s at a time when persecution and even martyrdom of Christians in China was extremely severe. In the midst of this darkness, the CIM issued a call for 200 new missionaries over two years, and Houghton’s hymn galvanized the challenge in song. By 1931 there were 203 new missionaries on the field, and the number of Christians now in China is estimated to be well in excess of the millions.

OMF International (Overseas Missionary Fellowship, formerly China Inland Mission) recently celebrated its 150th anniversary and invited Keith and Kristyn Getty to re-visit and re-write Houghton’s much-loved and still timely hymn. The Gettys have given the hymn a new chorus of response to help serve a new generation of congregational singing. Royalties earned by the song from all sources and uses will be donated to OMF International in support of their continued work.

“Songs have the ability to unite and move us…” says Keith Getty. “Frank Houghton understood this… ‘Facing a Task Unfinished’ provided inspiration to a generation of missionaries when it was first written, and it urges us on still, even as we also live amid persecution and martyrdom… Into these situations the call of Christ and His Kingdom is our only hope. His gospel is the window of light pouring into the darkened corners of this world. He is the good news we must sing and bring.”

 

New Hymn Collaboration with Chris Anderson: “God Supreme”

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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!

3 Errors of Corporate Musical Style

Congregation-blurThis is an excerpt from a worthy post I read yesterday at Challies.com:

It is ironic that music, an element meant to draw Christians together in mutual love and service (see Colossians 3:16) has become a force for significant division within the church. It just goes to show, I guess, that we can make a mess of pretty much anything. In their book The Compelling Community, Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop point out 3 common errors of musical style can stifle local church community:

Music that’s difficult to sing corporately. When you shape your musical style with the entire congregation in mind, you battle a consumerist mind-set that wants music that “appeals to me.” And you emphasize the breadth of community we should expect to find in a local church.

Music with limited emotional breadth. Much of church music is happy music. But if that is all we ever have, we substantially dilute the Christian experience.

Music that feels like a performance. Little can build a feeling of congregational unity more than hearing the whole church sing their hearts out in passionate praise to God. We should design our musical style with this in mind.

Above all, we must teach our congregations that congregational worship requires sacrifice [emphasis added]. If we’re serious about displaying the diversity that the gospel brings to a local congregation, then each of us will make sacrifices in the type of music we sing. But through that small sacrifice, we enable congregational unity that sings a much more profound note of praise than any individual could ever produce on his own.

My experience as a church musician and director resonates deeply with this. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the entire post.

Into the Night

I have always admired the cello playing of Sharon Gerber. I just heard about her new album Into the Night and this video in which Sharon shares about the personal tragedy that drove her to the Psalms with cello in hand. The 2nd half of the video is a beautiful excerpt from one of the tracks!

“This album is all about clinging to hope and light through times of darkness. I wrote and arranged the music to minister to my own heart during some especially dark times over the past few years. There have been many times when I didn’t have words or my mind was just a jumbled mess. But music has given me a way to communicate with God on a deeper level while preaching truth to myself in a way that I can remember. Preaching truth to myself has been and continues to be key. God’s truth is our only hope and light when we get overwhelmed by the darkness of our circumstances or feelings. It is so important to cling to what we know rather than what we feel!”

This quote is part of an interview with Sharon by Andy Nasseli. Read more.

“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” Music Video

Mitch Silvius (Silvius Motion Pictures) did a fantastic job creating this music video for our new song “Wand’ring Pilgrim!”

Mitch was also the Director of Photography for the soon-to-be-released documentary “The Life of David Brainerd” (available now for preorder).

“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).]

Go Behind the Scenes on Facebook

[Updated 2/19/15]

Now is a great time to start following Watchsong on Facebook, where I’ll be adding pictures, videos, and stories from our recording sessions, as well as other extra little tidbits about the song.

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Picture caption: Jon Horton setting up tracks during our initial recording session in the “cavernous-sounding” entry hall of Colonial Baptist Church, Virginia Beach, VA.

So go ahead and give us a little “thumbs-up” by clicking our “Like” button, and you’ll be included in every juicy little update! While you’re at it, sign up for email updates for this blog, too!

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Update: I found out that just “Like”-ing a Facebook page does not necessarily mean you’ll get updates (gasp)! Click on “Liked” at our FB page and check “Get Notifications” to keep up with the latest news.

“Wand’ring Pilgrim” Coming Soon

I’ve been working on a collaborative song project this fall with Joe Tyrpak of ChurchWorksMedia. Joe has written and produced a documentary, “The Life of David Brainerd,” the most popular book published by Jonathan Edwards, a book which draws heavily from the private diary of David Brainerd, 18th century missionary to the Native Americans.

Brainerd’s diary contained two brief poems–the only poetry known to have been written by Brainerd. Joe wanted these poems set to music so they could be shared and sung and made known. He adapted the poems to match metrically and then commissioned me to set them to music.

I took the idea to Jon Horton, a friend and fellow musician at my church, and one of the most talented musicians I know. Jon helped me finish the song, arrange it for recording, and then record it. It has turned out to be one of the most unique and creative song projects I’ve ever worked on, and I’m very excited to release the song as a single later this week!

Song/Album: Wand’ring Pilgrim (from “The Life of David Brainerd”) [Preview audio]

LifeofBrainerd_MP3cov FINALa_1600x1600“Wand’ring Pilgrim” will be available for digital download on Bandcamp (in any digital version), iTunes, Amazon MP3, and Google Play. It will also be integrated with the soon-to-be-released documentary “The Life of David Brainerd.”

Sign up for email updates and Like “Watschsong.com” on Facebook to keep up with news about the new song release; get behind the scenes with photos, videos, and followup posts taking you deeper into the making of this unique project; and be the first to get your hands on the free lead sheet! Oh, and did I forget to mention that we made a music video?!