“The Watched” – a refreshing take on traditional fantasy themes

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Charles Dickens. Arthur Conan Doyle. Murray Pura. Lisa Hall-Wilson.

This is a short list of authors who began novels as a serialization. For Lisa Hall-Wilson publishing her novel The Watched as an on-line serial was a matter of reclaiming a work she felt strongly about, but couldn’t find a home among traditional publishers. To paraphrase Larry Norman’s famous line, her novel was too worldly for Christians and too Christian for the world.

In The Watched Hall-Wilson creates a fantasy world in which good and evil are personified and belief in a omnipotent, omnipresent and all-loving God had been reduced to a small handful of faithful followers. Complete with its own language (for which she has thoughtfully included a glossary), the novel tells the story of Edric and his task to save Aralyn, whose gift of prophecy marks her as her race’s last hope.

From the first paragraph the reader is immediately transported into Hall-Wilson’s world and is riveted by the events which unfolds.

I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy reader since my teens and The Watched was a refreshing take on an old theme. The world Hall-Wilson creates is as real as C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth or Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Land. From the first paragraph the reader is immediately transported into Hall-Wilson’s world and is riveted by the events which unfolds.

Into this world Hall-Wilson places characters the reader soon identifies with and cares about: Edric, the doubting protector; Aralyn the young prophetess who’s looking for love; and Barric, her father who is wracked with guilt. Each must overcome their own faults and failings as they strive to reach their homeland while staving off a relentless enemy.

The serialized format of The Watched over the space of three-plus months, led to short chapters (at a guess, averaging between 700 to 1,000 words per installment). This led to the novel’s one weakness: truncated narrative and character development questions. Either a longer serialization or longer chapters would have allowed Hall-Wilson: 1) to further build the novel’s universe by creating fuller word pictures; and 2) more fully develop the characters by adding more backstory. Hopefully this will be taken care of in subsequent sequel(s).

Cudos to Lisa Hall-Wilson for persevering and finding a way to get The Watched into the hands of readers. The result is well-worth reading.

Clarification: Lisa Hall-Wilson sent the following to me via Facebook: “I didn’t create the ‘old language’ used in the book. I took a class in etymology in university and studied Old English (pre 1066) so that’s the language I use.” My apologies and thank you for the clarification.

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For more information about Lisa Hall-Wilson and The Watched check: http://lisahallwilson.com

To listen to an Art Connection interview where Lisa Hall-Wilson talks about The Watched check: http://artsconnection.ca/content/arts-connection-monday-october-3-2016-lisa-hall-wilson-new-e-novel-watched

“Shelter Me” – everything you’d expect from two seasoned performers

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When I first heard Hamilton, Ont. guitarist/singer/songwriter Jacob Moon was teaming up with Niagara region keyboardist/singer/songwriter Joel Parisien I was excited about the prospect.

Moon uses looping technology to sound like a one-man band. The video of his cover of Rush’s “Subdivisions” has over half a million hits on YouTube and garnered praise from the trio itself. Parisien had fronted Newworldson, whose CD Rebel Transmission earned four 2012 Covenant Awards including Folk/Roots Album of the Year.

Juggling performance schedules and other projects, the pair performed as the yet-to-be-named band at last year’s Supercrawl in Hamilton, found time to begin recording and started releasing videos of the work in progress. By the end of 2016, The Commissionaires were launched and the band’s debut CD Shelter Me was released.

Shelter Me is everything you’d expect from a band fronted by two seasoned performers

Shelter Me is everything you’d expect from a band fronted by two seasoned performers who have surrounded themselves with solid backup musicians. The CD’s eight songs are a showcase of rhythm and blues/soul/gospel songs from traditional classics like “His Eye is On the Sparrow” to Stevie Wonder’s 1970 hit “Heaven Help Us All.”

Parisien has earned the nickname “Soul Joel” for a reason. While researching some of the tracks on the CD, I happened to come across a YouTube video of singer/songwriter Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free.” Listening to it and then the Commissionaires version back-to-back, I found little difference between the two vocalists.

Two tracks stand out for me:

“None of Us are Free,” an R&B song first recorded by Ray Charles in 1993 which was also covered by Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1997 and Solomon Burke in 2002 (with the Blind Boys of Alabama providing backing vocals).

The title track “Shelter Me” is a perfect opening to the CD showcasing both Moon’s guitar, Parisien’s keyboard and both of their vocals in solo and harmony sections.

I grew up listening to R&B giants like Earth, Wind & Fire, the Commodores, Chicago (all before the days of disco and pop popularity) and, of course, the Blues Brothers who reminded us of the power of the blues and R&B. Listening to Shelter Me takes me back to those days. The only thing that could be added to make the Commissionaires’ debut CD better than it already is, is a horn section.

I’ve always said the sign of a well-produced CD is the number of times I play it. With the Commissionaires Shelter Me, I’ve lost track.

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For more information about the Commissionaires and Shelter Me check https://www.thecommissionaires.band/

For an Arts Connection interview where Jacob Moon talks about the Commissionaires check http://artsconnection.ca/content/arts-connection-monday-october-31-2016-jacob-moon-new-band-commissionaires

Two new books to get your year started right

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Two books crossed my desk last year I thought would make great start to 2017.

As The Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers is a compilation by five writers who connected with each other through The Word Guild: Glenda Dekkema, Melony Teague, Carol Ford, Claudia Loopstra and Marguerite Cummings.

A finely crafted book, As the Ink Flows comprises 90 devotions which touch on every aspect of a writer’s or speaker’s life in a variety of categories: The Craft (with the most devotions), Inspiration, Know Yourself, Well-Being, Personalities and Faithfulness.

Each devotion follows the traditional format: scripture, devotional, prayer. Then As the Ink Flows adds a unique twist: at least two writing prompts. Instead of just giving the reader something to think about, it encourages them write about what they read. Not only do they read the word, they’re given ways to act upon it.

The book works for both experienced and new writers/speakers. For veterans, some of devotions (including the prompts) will be a reminder and refresher of lessons learned long ago. For newer writers the book will help them grow in their craft, identity and calling as a writer.

Two books crossed my desk last year I thought would make great start to 2017

Elma Schemenauer’s YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure will get you in the mood to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial.

I’m a Canadian history buff and expected to have read most of the stories in this book. I was surprised to find there were probably less than half a dozen stories that I’d read before. The majority of the 30 tales were tidbits of Canadian history I wasn’t aware of and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

The stories are quick reads but packed with a lot of information. If there was one shortcoming to YesterCanada it’s the shifting of viewpoints from one story to the next. Some were written from a first-person perspective, others from a third-person perspective. I found the switching back and forth somewhat off-putting and, at times, confusing. I would have preferred if Schemenauer had chosen one point-of-view and stuck with it.

That said, YesterCanada is well worth reading to find out more about this great land of ours that turns 150 this year.

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For more information on As the Ink Flows check http://www.sperlingschurchsupply.com/product_info.php?cPath=2_88&products_id=4247

To listen to an Arts Connection interview with As the Ink Flows contributor Melony Teague, check: http://artsconnection.ca/content/arts-connection-monday-december-26-2016-melony-teague-ink-flows-devotional

For more information on Elma Schemenauer and YesterCanada check http://elmams.wixsite.com/elma/books-ive-written

To listen to an Arts Connection interview with Elma Schemenauer check http://artsconnection.ca/content/arts-connection-monday-january-2-2017-elma-schemenauer-yestercanada-historical-tales-mystery

Latest Steve Bell CD a treat for the ears and food for the soul

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The first thing that hit me, when I listened to Steve Bell’s Where the Good Way Lies for the first time, was a warmth to the sound that I hadn’t heard for a long time.

I grew up listening to music recorded, edited and mixed using 2″ reel-to-reel tapes. There was always a warmth to those records which has yet to be replicated by today’s digital technology.

For Where the Good Way Lies, Bell and his fellow producers Murray Pulver and Dave Zeglinski pulled out, refurbished and used Signpost studio’s now “ancient” analog equipment. The result is a CD which is a treat for the ears.

But Where the Good Way Lies is more than an aural treat. Bell is a master craftsman when it comes to songwriting and his lyrics are food for the soul.

While much of Bell’s music falls within the folk/roots category, the CD takes a few musical chances

Where the Good Way Lies opens with “Bring It On,” co-written by Murray Pulver which includes verses like “Fumbling forward on the way/Why regret, just journey on/In the end it’s all okay/Bring it on, bring it on.” The song’s lyrics affirm Bell’s comment in the CD’s notes: “We wanted to write something lighthearted to celebrate the wide swath of extreme weather that is the Canadian experience, as it mirrors the bracing depth and complexity of our lives.”

Bell finds inspiration in everything from the Shoal Lake 40 First Nation isolation (“Freedom Road”), the Church calendar (“Bethany in the Morning” and “Ash Wednesday”) and the words of Robert Louis Stevenson and N.T. Wright (“Let Beauty Awake.”)

While much of Bell’s music falls generally within the folk/roots category, the CD takes a few musical chances. “Bring It On” has a more upbeat vibe than some of his latest works. Adding to the enjoyment of this song are the trumpet parts, played by Bell (who was well on his way to being a jazz trumpet player before turning to guitar). Listeners will hear the influences of bands like Chicago, Lighthouse and the Tower of Power in the trumpet arrangements in both this song and elsewhere on the CD.

Another surprise is the title track, “Where the Good Way Lies,” which combines the stylings of First Nations vocalist Co-Co Ray Stevens and rap artist Fresh IE in a jazzy little number that takes some of its lyrical influence from a “hand-stitched quilt…that memorializes the seven sacred teachings of Indigenous wisdom.”

Where the Good Way Lies successfully straddles that dangerous ground between providing the music fans look forward to and recording music that stretches the artist’s creative muscles. And that makes it worth listening to over and over and over…

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For more information on Steve Bell and the Where the Good Way Lies CD check: http://stevebell.com/

To listen to the Arts Connection interview where Steve Bell talks about recording of Where the Good Way Lies check: http://tinyurl.com/zfgjrmz

Top 2016 posts feature artists, musicians, playwrights and authors

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This past year has been a busy year for Christians in the arts, complete with new works by new artists to new works by veteran artists. My personal favourites include: Faye Hall’s ART begets ART (which combined text and art), Mike Janzen’s Nudging Forever CD, Lost & Found Theatre’s production of Pocket Rocket, Barrie Doyle’s latest novel The Lucifer Scroll, the debut of the CBC comedy series Kim’s Convenience base on Ins Choi’s award-winning stage play and artist Josh Tiessen’s first monograph: Josh Tiessen: A Decade of Inspiration.

While these posts were my favourites, a few others gained the attention of my readers and became their favourites. So, in chronological order, here are the top read Arts Connection blog posts of 2016:

February 9, 2016

More “Hot Apple Cider” to warm the soul

Like a cup of hot apple cider warming the body on a cold day, the Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon anthology will warm the soul.

The fourth in the Hot Apple Cider series, the latest volume contains 67 stories – some true, some fiction and a few are poems – all based around the theme, and subtitle, of “finding love in unexpected places…

 

February 17, 2016

Artist’s book a visual look at her inspirations

When interviewing artists for the Arts Connection radio show, I usually ask them “where do you get the inspiration for your art?”

Winnipeg-based artist Faye Hall’s new book ART begets ART is a 40-page answer to that question….

 

March 15, 2016

Film will move viewers close enough to hear God breathe

With the words “We waited until the last of my children arrived before taking my father off of life support…” Jason Hildebrand’s portrayal and Mike Janzen’s piano breathe life into Greg Paul’s words in Breathe…

Breathe… is a film version of the stage play co-created by Hildebrand and Tom Carson with music by Janzen. Inspired by Paul’s award-winning book, Close Enough to Hear God Breathe, the play explores the “story of a man who never heard ‘I love you’ from his father, searching through the characters of his life to find – ‘I love you’.”…

 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Singer/songwriter Ali Matthews plumbs the depth of her spiritual experience for new CD

“I have travelled this road/I have wrestled these fears/I have carried this load/And cried a sea full of tears/Though I may rise, though I may fall/You are my hope, You are my all/Forever this be my song and my story/To God be all of the glory.”

With those touching words, and equally touching keyboard backing, Ali Matthews opens her latest CD: So Shall We Love: Songs of Worship and Faith

 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Young artist chronicles a decade of work

Artist Josh Tiessen has packed more into his 21 years than some of us have packed into two, three or four times as many.

The Stoney Creek, Ontario resident was born in Russia to missionary parents, moved to Canada and has traveled internationally…

 

Young artist chronicles a decade of work

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josh-tiessen-a-decade-of-inspiration-coverArtist Josh Tiessen has packed more into his 21 years than some of us have packed into two, three or four times as many.

The Stoney Creek, Ontario resident was born in Russia to missionary parents, moved to Canada and has traveled internationally.

He began creating art as a pre-schooler under the tutelage of his Russian nanny. After moving to Canada, Tiessen, mentored by a retired wildlife and pet portrait artist, created his first significant wildlife work at 10: a chalk portrait of Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A year later, “Aslan” and other works were displayed the Artway on Two in Burlington’s Joseph Brant Hospital.

Tiessen how has a decade of exhibitions under his belt, along with a number of national and international accolades: at 15 he was mentored by esteemed Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman in a Master Artist Seminar, at 17 he was the youngest person juried into the International Guild of Realism (IGOR) and at 19 received IGOR’s “Creative Achievement Award.” With these accomplishments and a number of requests from friends and fans, Tiessen has put together and published his first monograph: Josh Tiessen: A Decade of Inspiration.

Josh Tiessen hopes people looking at his art will feel the sense of ‘wonder and awesomeness’ that is in the natural world all around us

About half of the book is an intimate and detailed biography which includes family photos, samples of his early work (including “Aslan”) and photos of Tiessen working at his craft or out in public. While someone might think this would be self-indulgent for a 21 year old, in Tiessens case it isn’t. I’ve had the chance to interview Tiessen on a number of occasions and reading through the book found myself learning even more about his life than I had in the interviews. By the time you’re finished reading these chapters, you find yourself amazed by a competent, intelligent and professional young artist.

The second half of the book chronicles Tiessen’s art from some of his early still life images, beginning wildlife paintings (his specialty) to his latest works which combine realism, fantasy and metaphor. Tiessen accompanies each image with a note about it’s development and, in many cases, the spiritual meaning that can be drawn from it. As he states at one point in the biography:

“Although Josh’s art is not necessarily religious in subject matter, he tries to illustrate the beauty and diversity of creation and the image of God in human creativity. He sees his artistic ability as a gift from God. As a contemporary artist in the 21st century, he would like to be a positive and uplifting presence in the art world. Josh says that he hopes people looking at his art will feel the sense of ‘wonder and awesomeness’ that is in the natural world all around us.

As he begins each painting Josh prays, asking God to work through the process. As a result, just like the little penguin family, metaphorical and spiritual meaning seem to be infused into his paintings and people often comment on the analogies they draw from them.”

While I only had a chance to view an electronic version of Josh Tiessen: A Decade of Excellence, I can only imagine what the print product will look like. I’ve watched, through social media and his e-mail newsletters, the progress of some of Josh’s works. This monograph is a fitting tribute to the life of a young artist who has just begun a lifelong journey.

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For more about Josh Tiessen and A Decade of Excellence go to http://www.joshtiessen.com/

To listen to the latest Arts Connection interview with Josh Tiessen, go to http://tinyurl.com/hyjcmez

 

 

The Honour Drum: a children’s book with a grown-up message

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the-honour-drum-cover-tn-jspIn the first two books of the Compassion Series, author Tim Huff looked at homelessness and the disabled. The third book in the series, The Honour Drum, explores Indigenous peoples’ issues and was co-authored with speaker, teacher and singer/songwriter Cheryl Bear.

The pairing of Huff and Bear is neither inconsequential nor accidental. In the introduction they write of their shared values of home, the Creator’s goodness and Canada’s beauty and diversity, but note that:

“The history of our lineages surely tells a different story. The sacred bloodline of an Indigenous woman from Canada’s west coast and the branches of a Toronto-born Anglo-Canadian man’s family tree cross at complex intersections. Canada at-large knows this uneasy kind of reality from east to west, north to south, only too well.”

Out of these shared values and complex intersections, though, comes a beautiful book that uses images, story, commentary and discussion questions to, as the subtitle states, share “the beauty of Canada’s Indigenous People with Children, Families and Classrooms.”

The Honour Drum hits shelves at a critical time in the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The Honour Drum hits shelves at a critical time in the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Events over the past few years – the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the establishment of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and a renewed focus, thanks in part to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, on the residential school abuse and runaways issues – have brought the themes presented in The Honour Drum to the forefront of Canadians’ minds.

While classified and promoted as a children’s book, The Honour Drum reaches people of all ages. As Bear and Huff explain in a note to parents and teachers, the book can be approached on a number of levels. An initial reading of the rhyming stanza, accompanied by Huff’s inspired illustrations, introduces the book’s content and themes.

An understanding of the book’s themes is enhanced by the discussion guide and questions which provide depth and context to each stanza. For example, in the discussion guide accompanying the stanza “Pow Wow is a time to gather and meet/To sing and remember, to dance and to eat” readers discover that pow wows are “a time for the communities to gather, sing, dance, socialize and honour and celebrate their cultures.” Discussion questions ask readers What kind of “all are welcome” celebrations they’ve been to.

The Honour Drum is an important and integral book for those Canadians grappling with the issues it raises. As Christians it’s even more important because past actions of those associated with the church have been the source of some of the hurt that needs healing. As I read The Honour Drum and thought about the themes it raised, I became more and more convinced of God’s hand in its collaboration and timing.

Everyone, whether they have children or not, needs to read, study and meditate on The Honour Drum with this question in mind: what is God calling me to do?

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For more information about The Honour Drum go to http://tinyurl.com/zvcor7g

Enter the Worship Circle brings fresh sound to worship

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down-here-and-up-above-cd-coverEnter the Worship Circle’s new EP, Down Here and Up Above, grew from the seeds planted by two music ministries.

High River, Alberta singer/songwriter Karla Adolphe found herself fatigued after surviving the 2013 flood (which severely damaged their new home), taking care of a growing family and meeting the needs of an expanding music ministry. This led to her taking a break from music as she sought God’s direction.

Enter American singer/songwriter Ben Pasley who Adolphe had worked with as part of a previous version of Enter the Worship Circle. Pasley also found himself searching God’s direction and the path of the pair’s spiritual journey led to a new incarnation of Enter the Worship Circle and an EP of worship songs with their roots in the Psalms.

A fresh sound to worship with songs that have lyrics strongly rooted in scripture

Enter the Worship Circle brings a fresh sound to worship with songs that have lyrics strongly rooted in scripture: “Every knee will bow, every tongue confess, both down here and up above” (“Down Here and Up Above”), “bring the robe and bring the ring” (“Tie Me Down”) and “Every hair on my head a number/You’re counting once again” (“You Will Remember”).

What stands out for me is a theological depth in the lyrics that I often find missing in some of today’s worship songs. “Tear the Veil” talks of the things that get in the way, the noise of the world and the voices “that want to be heard,” all of which prevents us from finding a deeper fellowship, leading to the chorus that expresses a heartfelt cry for intimacy: “Tear the veil, reach on through/Take my hand and lead me to/A quiet place with you.” And that’s only one example of the deep places Pasley and Adolphe plumb in this EP.

Musically, Down Here and Up Above is simple without being simplistic. While instrumental arrangements are bare and laid-back they’re exactly what the songs need. This is refreshing because it means small worship teams won’t feel intimidated in trying to incorporate the songs into their sets

There’s also a freshness to the sometimes raw vocals of Adolphe and Pasley, especially in their harmonies. And for music that was recorded in Pasley’s home studio there’s no lack of quality in the production. In fact, it seems to add an ambience to the EP that would be missing if produced in multi-million dollar facility.

Down Here and Up Above, as a six-song EP, is a treasure. I hope it’s also a harbinger of more to come.

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For more about the Down Here and Up Above EP go to: ttp://entertheworshipcircle.com/#down-here-and-up-above

To listen to an Arts Connection interview with Enter the Worship Circle’s Karla Adolphe, go to: http://tinyurl.com/jt5otuj

“A Secret Music” – a tale of music, mental illness to become a classic

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a-secret-music-cover-515uybx3xl-_sx331_bo1204203200_“Lawrence Nolan decided to become a famous pianist on a bright cold Saturday in March when his fingers ached with pain. He was about to turn six.”

These two sentences, which open Susan Doherty Hannaford’s award-winning novel A Secret Music, takes the reader on a journey with Lawrence as he tries to cope with the pressures of music competitions while staying silent about his personal circumstances.

Set in 1930s Montreal, A Secret Music melds two of Doherty Hannaford’s interests – music and de-stigmatizing mental illness – into a cohesive whole. A musician herself, Doherty Hannaford has also served as a board member of the Royal Conservatory of Music. And, according to a May 9, 2015 Montreal Gazette feature, Doherty Hannaford discovered, while researching the novel, many of the great European composers, “suffered from various aspects of lifelong mental disorders — depression, mania, OCD, even schizophrenia.” (http://tinyurl.com/zjjz7rf)

A Secret Music, transports the reader to a Depression-era Montreal complete with its ethnic and linguistic enclaves.

The book introduces use to Lawrence, a child prodigy, whose music-teacher mother honed his natural gifts. Two key factors see Lawrence introduced to other teachers and, eventually, a prestigious music school. The first, and primary one, is his mother’s illness which, today, would be diagnosed as post-partum depression but is called, at the time, “flattened anxiety.” The second is her recognition her recognition that Lawrence’s talent exceeds her ability to continue to teach him.

For Lawrence, though, the music becomes the doorway to his mother’s attention as she battles with mental illness, often staying in bed for days at a time, neglecting Lawrence and his brother and sister. Other times, music becomes the only solace he has in a private world that seems to be falling apart.

Beautifully written, A Secret Music, transports the reader to a Depression-era Montreal complete with its ethnic and linguistic enclaves. The reader can become invested and involved so deeply in the lives of the characters that when a tragedy hits the Nolan family, the reader will feel just as devastated.

A Secret Music was this year’s winner of Grace Irwin Prize—Canada’s largest literary prize for writers who are Christian – an honour it more than deserves. The book’s intricate plot, more-than-realistic characters and timely message of a better understanding for mental illness will make it a classic.

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To listen to an Arts Connection interview with Susan Doherty check: http://artsconnection.ca/content/arts-connection-monday-september-5-2016-susan-doherty-secret-music-grace-irwin-prize

For more information on A Secret Music or the author: http://susandohertyhannaford.com/

Singer/songwriter Ali Matthews plumbs the depth of her spiritual experience for new CD

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ali-matthews-so-shall-we-love-cd-cover“I have travelled this road/I have wrestled these fears/I have carried this load/And cried a sea full of tears/Though I may rise, though I may fall/You are my hope, You are my all/Forever this be my song and my story/To God be all of the glory.”

With those touching words, and equally touching keyboard backing, Ali Matthews opens her latest CD: So Shall We Love: Songs of Worship and Faith.

Musically So Shall We Love is a slight departure from Matthews’ previous works, relying more on a ballad style. That’s not to say every song is sombre or slow. An experienced songwriter, Matthews knows how to vary the tempo and timbre of the songs and her ability to match words and music shows a songwriter at the peak of their craft.

Ali Matthews’ ability to match words and music shows a songwriter at the peak of their craft.

On the intro page of the CD’s crowdfunding campaign, Matthews wrote: “My life journey has led me to the top of mountain peaks and the bottom of deepest valleys. Throughout every experience, the glue that kept me together was the ever-constant, faithful presence of God. His grace has blown my heart wide open.” The lyrics of So Shall We Love are a testimony to this:

“I am not my fear/I am not my failure/You tell me that I am a child of grace/Forgiven and loved…” (“Story”)

“Here in the stillness/My heart is at rest/Alone in the silence/That’s where I hear You best/In the rush of the river/Like a song in the breeze/It’s here in the stillness/You speak to me…” (“In the Stillness”)

The two songs which really stand out for me are “We Remember,” which I predict will soon be a standard song used before, during or following communion in many churches, and “I Saw Jesus,” which recounts Matthews’ emotions and experiences during a trip to Ecuador with World Vision.

Matthews also gives her own take on a few traditional songs: “It Is Well” (paired with “No Curse of Life”), “Abide” (which begins with the scratchy, vinyl album sound for the first verse of “Abide With Me”) and “Come Thou Fount.”

In the past, Matthews’ has relied on the strength of her songwriting and simple musical arrangements with a modicum of backing musicians. So Shall We Love producer Andrew Horrocks brings a rich, lush sound to the song arrangements which often feature a host of exceptional musicians, strings and background vocalists. A treat for listeners are the guest musicians Matthews includes: Tim Neufeld (Starfield and Tim Neufeld and the Glory Boys), Jacob Moon, Kevin Pauls, Joel Auge, Dan Macaulay, Matthew Grieve and her daughter, Jo Matthews (on “Love Like You” which they co-wrote).

So Shall We Love is the second CD I’ve heard this year that comes from a musician’s experience of a brokenness which finds solace in God’s grace. Whether this is a trend or not, singer/songwriters seem more willing to plumb the depths of their own spirituality and listeners seem ready to hear about it. No matter where you are on your journey So Shall We Love: Songs of Worship and Faith will be a CD you’ll want to have accompany you the rest of the way.

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To listen to the latest Arts Connection interview with Ali Matthews, where she talks about her new CD, go to http://tinyurl.com/habxcju

For more about Ali Matthews and the So Shall We Love CD, go to http://alimatthews.com/