This is another in a series of albums that the Word of God put out featuring their worship songs and the music group that led them. It has an interesting mix of songs, including some of the community’s own (Psalm 8, Psalm 18,) non-Catholic choruses (Therefore the Redeemed, Our God Reigns) and an ancient Catholic hymn (Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.) It also includes Pauline Mills’ Thou Art Worthy, which is performed by the composer elsewhere on this channel.
I keep getting heat about my opinion of the musical style and performance on these albums, but I really think that, as was the case with other groups, from a creative and performing standpoint, this album is not up to the standard of the earlier ones.
The cover depicts an angel blowing a trumpet — but not just any angel.
It’s the Mormon Angel Moroni, who is the unofficial symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and who frequently appears on the cover of the Book of Mormon:
I’m no fan of OCP as an organization and have said so repeatedly when talking about their music. The trads trash them regularly, in part because some of their music is questionable theologically (although they had people like this to prepare the way.) Much of their music is banal and explains why, after the initial rush, post-Vatican II Roman Catholic liturgical music has gone downhill.
Using the Angel Moroni is especially questionable, but they did it anyway. I’m glad they’ve been called out for it and have retracted the cover.
“Best Of”/Compilations weren’t unknown in the “Jesus Music” era but they weren’t common either. This is an interesting one, selected from the extensive offerings the ministry had in the 1970’s. It includes many of their best known artists (and some lesser known ones) as follows:
I’m not sure whether this album was ever commercially distributed; based on what’s on the album cover, it may have been intended as a promotional effort for parishes to adopt their music (which many did.) It’s not quite like “The Cry of the Poor” but it’s a nice selection from probably the strongest distributor of Catholic music in the NOM/Vatican II era.
It’s something of a departure from our usual offerings, but this is a vinyl phonograph documentary of Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land at the time of the Epiphany in January 1964. First, however, some explanation of the medium is in order.
Until the advent of video disks and ultimately the VCR, there was no convenient way outside of a television studio for people to do “video on demand,” and thus phono documentaries like this one were very common in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was the best way that people could relive events like this one.
Paul’s visit to the Holy Land was described as historic, and in the context of the time it certainly was. To begin with, none of the occupants of the See of Peter had come back to the homeland of the first one until that time. (Kind of reminds you of Brother Andrew’s remark that Jesus told his followers to go, he didn’t tell them to come back!) It was also the first time in 150 years that a Pope had left Italy, the result in part of the Vatican’s sixty year “imprisonment.” To visit the Holy Land then and now required that the Holy Father visit the State of Israel, something dicey given Roman Catholicism’s penchant for replacement theology. Last but not least the Pope met with the Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras; a Pope and Patriarch hadn’t met since the two branches of Apostolic Christianity angrily parted company in 1054.
The centrepiece of the recording at least is the Pope’s Mass in Nazareth. Although Vatican II had been recently concluded, it wasn’t until 1970 that the Novus Ordo Missae was promulgated. The Mass was thus conducted both in Latin and in what is now called the “Extraordinary Form” but was then the ordinary one. That should warm the hearts of Trads who usually use this pontiff’s picture as a dart board, but this Mass was not elaborate. Then as now media types didn’t understand religion very well; the narrator proclaims the conclusion of the Mass only to have the Pope begin his recitation of the Creed. (I’ve been to Masses like that, but…)
Outside of the Mass, the Pope addresses the President of Israel, the crowd at Nazareth, and the Patriarch in French. At the time French was the language of diplomacy; our world has come a long way since then. He also invited the Patriarch to recite the Lord’s Prayer; good thing he didn’t use the Creed, with the still-ongoing “filioque” controversy, that would have blown things up again for another 910 years. It wasn’t until he returned to Rome that he addressed the crowd in his native Italian.
The world has changed a great deal in the nearly seventy years since this visit and recording, but the historic nature of the visit–and the way it was disseminated–are both worth remembering.
This album comes from the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was done by the Episcopal Young Churchmen under the direction of the Rev. Edgar E. Shippey. As the name implies, the album’s inspiration came from their retreats in the Arkansas mountains, with musical arrangement assisted by James A. Pence, Jr.
Chronologically it comes between Gere and Williams’ Winds of God and the beginning of the epic God Unlimited albums under Tom Belt. That’s a nice place to put it too; it goes “beyond” some of the Episcopal formality of the first but doesn’t quite hit the folk “spark” of the early efforts of the second. It has some narration, which was de rigeur at the time (and would also appear in albums by Ian Mitchell and Sister Germaine) although some of them are readings set against the songs rather than explanatory material. It has some interesting selections. The song “Turn Around” is secular and had been featured on Kodak’s ads a few years before. “Were You There” was a staple for albums like this in part because it was one of the few spirituals Episcopalians were familiar with (it was in the 1940 Hymnal, #80). There are some other interesting songs and a couple of Hebrew ones as well.
It’s a nice album, well done, better technically and in muscianship than most of its Roman Catholic contemporaries, doubtless reflecting both a stronger musical training and better budget. The group went on to achieve some fame, performing at the National Cathedral in Washington after this album was produced. Things were starting to move very quickly in the world of Christian folk music, and this album was very much in the middle of that.
The songs and recitations (with performers):
Introduction (The Rev. Edgar E. Shippey)
Hana Ava Babanot (James A. Pence, Jr., and Craig Wells)
Reading (Jennifer Brewer)
Mary Had a One Son (Sylvia Hawley)
Turn Around (The Retreat Singers)
Reading (Jennifer Brewer)
Reading (Paul Thornton)
The Battle Hymn (The Retreat Singers)
Readings (James A. Pence, Jr., and Paul Thornton)
Hallowed be Thy Name (Beth Saunders)
Jesus Loves Me (The Retreat Singers)
Reading (Paul Thornton)
Reading (Craig Wells)
Look Ye Jerusalem (The Retreat Singers)
Reading (Ida Vaughan)
In Remembrance of Me (The Retreat Singers)
Were You There (The Retreat Singers)
Reading (James A. Pence, Jr.)
O Lamb of God (The Retreat Singers)
Reading (Paul Thornton)
My Master (Sylvia Hawley)
Song of the Resurrection (Sylvia Hawley)
Reading (Richard Boles)
Avodim Hoyinu (The Retreat Singers)
Produced by Earl Fox and John Hannon
Recorded at E&M Studios, Little Rock, Arkansas
Recording Engineer: John P. Hannon
Until last week, Gary Garrels was senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). He resigned his position after museum employees circulated a petition that accused him of racism and demanded his immediate ouster.
So why is this noted here? Two of my favourite albums in my music offerings are those of Sister Juliana Garza. It wasn’t easy to get information on her for a long time; one of the first places that it turned up was on the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s website. Unfortunately I’ve lost the link to it, but it helped in reconstructing her life and the origins of her music.
Although I’m not sure Garrels had anything to do with this, it should not be held to his charge by anyone, because Sister Juliana was delightfully Hispanic.
Received this comment on my YouTube posting of the Word of God’s New Life album:
I am so grateful that you put this up. I honestly wept when I listened to it. I was all of 10 years old when I first heard this. I make no comments about the excellence of the music (it’s not) nor of the style of worship, but it is very evocative of a time in many lives when this sort of thing represented a hope for great things from God. I only wish that all of these could be found still.
In spite of some of my reservations about the Word of God’s music style, there is no doubt this worship style was moving and spiritual, and there was a hope of great things from God. The whole movement, however, and indeed the whole “Jesus Music” era of the 1960’s and 1970’s got derailed by two things: the effects of authoritarianism through the Shepherding Movement and covenant communities, and the commercialization of Christian music in general in the 1980’s and beyond.
It’s hard to describe to any side in the “music wars” these days what this style of worship meant to those of us who experienced it; we find ourselves alone on the sides. Fortunately we are not alone, as this comment shows. And with God we are never alone.
I have always been entranced by this work, as you can tell here. But tbh I never thought this would be one of the more popular albums I posted there. I was wrong, but not for the best reason: Daniel Fernandez, who was one of the writers and performers for the group, passed away recently, which sparked the interest.
I’m glad I made it readily available for all those who appreciate (and even those who were part of) the group. It’s a fabulous example of Continental folk music, Christian or secular, and shows that Christians can certainly do “artsy” type of music when they really want to do so.
There are actually two of their productions featured here: the other (sort of a composite) can be found here.