Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Review

The Enfield Hymn Sessions - Resolved Music Vol. 1

Found this project through Bob Kauflin's great worship blog, Worship Matters. From the very start, this CD intrigued me. Finding good, singable, relatively "pure" hymns for worship has been a long-running challenge in my ministry. I dig new stuff, but I'm tend to shy away from a lot of new choruses tacked on old hymns.

Kauflin gave a great description of the project, including which songs were consistent with the melodies and which ones contained new variations. As I understand it, Enfield is essentially a "church band." For the past few years, they've been in charge of worship for the Resolved conference, an annual conference based on the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. The band has produced a worship CD for each year they've led and their newest project, Resolved Music, Vol. 1, continues with the team's heartfelt and wise approach to hymns in worship.

I'm probably more 'modern' than 'ancient,' but I'm also know that there's great power within the poetry and poise of hymns. Let's take a look at this new collection:

STRENGTHS: To start, they've picked great songs. Quite a few recognizable tunes "There Is A Fountain," "Crown Him With Many Crowns" and "Be Thou My Vision" are here as well as some classic worship tunes that most would consider hymns already - Ortega's "Our Great God" and "I Will Glory In My Redeemer." Sometimes hymn projects can have a frenetic feel - as if the artists have simply grabbed a bunch of songs on stylistic preferences rather than theological ones. Not so here. Resolved Music, Vol. 1 holds a high view of God's sovereignty and each song seems strongly connected to the others.

Secondly, this band has managed to make the musical settings 'modern' without being trendy. Any of these tracks could be done by decent worships team without suffering for lack of drum machine or DJ booth or choir.

The songs are skillfully arranged. The folks in Enfield most definitely understand pacing and do a great job of it, especially on the longer hymns that can sometimes suffer dynamically.

As I mentioned, this record is excellent. Any weaknesses it has are practical challenges. (Which makes sense - worship records are meant to be UTILIZED!)

The most challenging aspect is the presence of a string section on every song. The orchestration most definitely gives these songs a width and depth that will stick inside your head, but not that many of us have full orchestras to compliment our worship teams. It wouldn't matter so much, but the orchestra has key parts in almost every song. Most worship teams could probably survive having a keyboard player cover some of the string parts, but for smaller teams, the string section might be a deal breaker.

The other weakness is range. Many of these songs are very "high" vocally. Of course, teams can adjust the key, but more inexperienced worship teams might struggle with maintaining the energy in lower keys. I realize, of course, that many hymns have been too high for hundreds of years and the church hasn't imploded yet. Heck, maybe these higher hymns were the precursor to the screaming arena-worship that's taken root in the American church!

This is one of the few records that would probably receive mutual appreciation from both 'traditional' and 'contemporary' churches. It's really an astounding work. Worship leaders in praise-band settings would do well to work to find a way to work these into worship as soon as possible.

I strongly recommend it!