Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TUESDAY REVIEW: Indelible Grace - The Hymn Sing

Indelible Grace - The Hymn Sing
"Indelible Grace," may have started out as humble hymn-remake songs of the Reformed University Fellowship at Belmont University in Tennessee, but over the years, the musicians and records have become the very public face of the ministry.

After 15 years and six full-length albums, RUF hosted a live "hymn sing" at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for a sold-out crowd. The result is impressive.

Beyond the success of creating a compelling musical work that's pleasing to hear, this record proves two important things for those of us who lead worship.

The Indelible Grace catalog is full of memorable, creative, theologically rich songs. However, the albums have historically had the feel of a "sampler" project that might feature 10 different musical groupings to present 10 separate songs. This seemed to make it hard to find songs that work corporately because the songs have historically been arranged for studio purposes. As an example, lots of these hymns are lengthy and many of the studio versions seem to ignore the use of dynamics to keep the songs engaging.

That's why I find this new record so encouraging. Since it's recorded in front a live audience, the musicians and singers and producers have obviously worked many of the songs to make use of dynamic build and to make them easy to sing for the people. In fact, almost every one of these songs that I've thought, "Hey, we could do that at my church" are songs that I used to pass on when they were studio versions! Weird, huh?

I haven't read through any liner notes, but it also seems as if the folks at IG used the same band for every song. That sort of consistency also put the music in a context much more like what we have in our churches on Sunday morning.

Obviously, the music is fantastic, but the record also features Kevin Twit, the director of Reformed University Fellowship, hosting the event. Throughout the project, Twit shares background of the specific hymn or comments on the songs effect at RUF. But what's even more impressive is the way that Twit gives proof and support for using these sorts of songs.

I challenge any "modern" worship leader to listen to Twit discuss these hymns and try to ignore the value of hymns. He really does a good job of outlining the pastoral effect of songs like this.

So far, this has been one of the best worship projects I've heard in 2011. It's done well, it's encouraging and easy to implement and it provides us with songs that we need.