Jackie François has released her anticipated second album. Divine Comedy is a follow-up to her debut album, Your Kingdom is Glorious. Jackie, a multi-talented Catholic artist and speaker, is well-known for her work with young people and her advocacy of the Theology of the Body. She is a young woman dedicated to the Gospel and through words and actions is a role model for young people, especially girls. If you happen to follow Jackie on Facebook or Twitter you’ll know that she is not only deeply dedicated to Christ and His Church, but she is also downright funny. If you’ve had the chance of seeing her in-person, you’d also note that Jackie Francois is an authentic and humble human being–unafraid to speak her mind, but does so with compassion and understanding.
Divine Comedy is an expression of who Jackie François is and of her profound trust and faith in God. In this eight-track album, Jackie has gifted the Church with a blend of ballads and upbeat compositions that remind the listener of the joy of living in Christ’s love. There is much to love about this album, including the title track, which SpiritandSong.com describes as “bear[ing] profound testimony to the theology of the body.” My favorite tracks include: “Everything You,” “From Glory to Glory,” and “New Creation” –all fantastic songs for worship, adoration, and meditation and all songs that I have played over and over again in the past few days. I can easily see these songs being use at retreats, prayer services, and liturgies.
Wondering about that title? Ever read Shakespeare? As I remind my literature students: tragedies end in death, comedies end with weddings. Hence, Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy (the star-crossed lovers died) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy (two simultaneous weddings!). Ever read Dante’sThe Divine Comedy? The three-part epic poem ends in Paradise where Dante encounters “[t]he Love which moves the sun and the other stars” (Canto XXIII, Line 145, Longfellow trans.). Before he makes it to paradise, however, he has to go through hell and purgatory. My students often ask, “what’s funny about that?” Ah, there’s joy–unobstructed pure joy when Dante meets the triune God and his soul unites with Him. As a literary nut, I couldn’t help but love the title of this album. According to SpiritandSong.com: “Jackie François presents our lives as a divine comedy that concludes with the happiest of all endings: the salvation we find when we, as the Church, are finally married to Christ at his return.” Awesome, right? I love it.
Divine Comedy is a great new album from Jackie François and I hope that you’ll take the opportunity to check it out. The album is available on iTunes and at SpiritandSong.com (you can find the enhanced CD here AND sheet music! Score!).
On a personal note I can’t end this post without saying that as a teacher of young women and as a young woman myself, I find it refreshing that there are young female role models that are living out their faith in the public arena. Jackie François is certainly one of them. The Church is blessed to have her following her call in service to God and His people–speaking and living out the Gospel in her ministry. I’m looking forward to seeing what else God has in store for Jackie and will keep my eyes peeled for album #3.
Looks like UK-based Ooberfuse will, once again, lend its talent to an important event. The Catholic Church, in the UK, has called upon the successful electro-pop band to write the soundtrack for its new nationwide vocations framework. Father Christopher Jamison, OSB, Director of the National Office for Vocation, commissioned the band following the global success of Heart’s Cry, the Church’s Youth Anthem for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK in September of 2010.
“Call My Name” is another fantastic and high-spirited single from Ooberfuse. Be sure to check it out at the end of this post.
From the press release:
Father Jamison hopes the universal call to holiness in Christ will be highlighted and amplified through the medium of pop music which for the first time is being used by the Church to help promote a culture of vocation. The song, Call My Name, is released on Monday 28th May 2012.
Hal from ooberfuse says: “It was a challenge to write a song that captures the essence of something as sacred and as intimate as being spoken to and summoned by God in the deepest recesses of our hearts. When God speaks to us he does so in a strange and other worldly language that it is sometimes hard if not altogether impossible to render into intelligible words. His gentle yet persistent call cuts through the clamour and roar of contemporary life treading as softly as dove’s footsteps. For some pop music is part of the noise that drowns out the sound of divinity, desensitizing us to the transcendent. On the face of it, it seems incongruous that pop music, especially dub-step, should be used to heighten our awareness of God’s call to each one of us.’
Father Jamison says: “What a wonderful gift ooberfuse has given to the Church in this song. We thank them most sincerely for responding so creatively and generously to my suggestion. The words are poetic and inspired, worthy of the psalms!”
Cherrie, front-woman of ooberfuse adds: “Shortly after submitting our song to Father Jamison we discovered that Cheryl Cole plans to release a song with the identical name! This is a weird and uncanny coincidence. Whereas her song is about her lover calling out her name, our song is about God calling out our name summoning us to a higher life in which we fulfil our holy and God-given destinies. Our song Call My Name is a single in our upcoming album Seventh Wave which will be out in August 2012.”
Catholic singer-songwriter Josh Blakesley released his newest album, You Are The Light, to a warm reception on both the Christian Radio Weekly Adds Chart and the iTunes Gospel/Christian charts early last week. This comes as no surprise to this writer who has followed Josh Blakesley’s rise as a leader in Catholic music ministry and a songwriter and recording artist for the past several years.
You Are The Light is an album deeply rooted in an understanding of God’s redeeming love and the beauty of communion with God in daily life. Joined, in songwriting, by other well-known Christian artists and composers (Sarah Hart, Audrey Assad, Ed Cash, and Marc Byrd), Blakesley delivers a seven-track album that blends pop and rock into a beautiful mosaic that is both praise album and prayer.
The first single off the album is the upbeat title song “You Are The Light”, co-written with Grammy-winning producer, Ed Cash. The song is an acknowledgement of the power of God’s love to conquer any darkness—the proof of which lies in the conquering of death through His resurrection. The song says:
Light of the world in the cover of the night; glorious star, in the shadows you are shining. Hope for the lost, salvation for the sinner, you conquered the cross, oh, with the brightness of your rising!
(Bridge) Tear the veil and rend the heavens; let the darkness burn away! Tear the veil and rend the heavens; let the darkness burn away!
The song is both a song of praise for the wonders of God’s revealing power, but it is also a prayer (as noted in the bridge’s allusion to Isaiah 64:1) for God to continue to come through the darkness with His power in order to destroy it, so that only the light may prevail. The song is a beautiful expression of a knowing faith that God is present here and now and continues to shine the light and truth of his resurrection upon His people.
The album kicks off with “Restored”, a song co-written by Grammy-nominated artist Sarah Hart and the very talented Marc Byrd. Listening to this song I am reminded of the gift of redemption that is continually offered at the Eucharistic table—the gift of being transformed by God’s saving grace. The beautifully worded lyrics only enhance this image of surrendering ourselves to the gift of redemption—to being changed, transformed:
Here is the altar of your mercy; I bring the offering: ashes of Eden laid before you, all of the worst in me.
Seeing the things I lay before you, beautiful in your hands; turning the ashes into beauty, turning my heart again to you, to you!
This song makes me think of each time we walk to the altar during communion. We are truly united with each other, but also united with Christ in his life, death, and resurrection. More importantly, we come to the altar with all that we are and all that we can give—all of ourselves with our imperfections, joys, suffering, sorrows, and pain. We approach the altar with the trust that God’s love does restore us and fills us in the broken places. The images of Eden, ashes, and laying down ourselves as an offering all make this a deeply poetic song and a great way to begin this album.
Building off of the first song, comes the second track, “I Will Give Thanks.” Co-written by Audrey Assad the song is a song of gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s love and faithfulness. But, it is also a song of trust—the trust that God knows us and that, in His care, we will always have what we truly need: “Grateful for your enduring love,/ when I call your name you answer faithfully./True, Lord, to all your promises;/so I’m trusting in the plans you have for me.”
“We Are Yours” is the next track in the album. Co-written by the fantastic Sarah Hart, “We Are Yours” is that loud “YES!” that we should be singing from our hearts at His call to serve:
We are workers in your vineyard, we will labor for your kingdom, we will follow where you send us, God!
(Refrain) We are yours, we are yours, for your glory, we are yours! We are yours, we are yours, for your glory, we are yours!
I could easily see this song being sung at a retreat for youth, as a closing song, or as part of a prayer service before or after a service activity. I am particularly taken aback by the way these songs are positioned on the album. If “Restored” is about accepting the gift of redemption and “I Will Give Thanks” is about gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s infinite goodness, then “We Are Yours” is clearly the response and the living out of gift wrought on the cross and offered anew at the Eucharist. I couldn’t help but think of how true the song is to what Blakesley and other Catholic musicians do for God’s Church and its people; they are among the workers in the vineyard bringing the good news to where it is needed. What a great song whose message Blakesley (and Hart) fulfills in the very singing of the words. Beautiful.
I strongly believe, as many other Catholics do, that we cannot separate the resurrection of Christ from the His life, His passion, and His death. We proclaim the mystery of faith at the Eucharistic table and it is there where the living God becomes present as the risen Christ, but also as the Christ who suffered, died, and lived for us. “That We Might Live” (penned by Blakesley, Hart, and Byrd) is a lovely communion song that recalls the events of the Last Supper, the Passion and death, and the Resurrection of Christ as we take in the presence of God in bread and wine—simple gifts with a profoundly transformative truth for us and for the world: “You are the bread broken for the world,/broken for us all that we might live./You are the cup emptied for our sins,/filling us again that we might live.” This deep reflection continues in the Blakesley and Hart-penned “At The Name,” which rejoices in the triumph of the cross and resurrection, reminds us of His sacrifice, and reminds us of the beauty and power of His name.
Perhaps my favorite song on this album is the deeply moving “All of Me.” I’ll admit that I teared the first time I heard this song and have stopped myself from doing the same every time since. This song is a prayer in every sense of the word and it is a prayer that, I venture to guess, many of us have uttered before. I certainly have. It is a prayer of full surrender. The beauty of this song is in the music, in the lyrics, but most importantly it is in the heart and faith of Blakesley as he infuses this song with pure emotion. It is a prayer of surrender, of letting go when one realizes that God is one’s strength and is willing to bear one’s burdens and mend the brokenness:
Take all of me. Take all of me. I’ve been holding on to brokenness and empty promises. Take all of me. Take all of me. Take the love that I don’t have the strength to give, all of me.
Simply put: in the brokenness God is there. Not only is the song beautiful in a number of ways, but Blakesley certainly showcases the clarity of his voice and his natural ability to move between musical styles.
You Are the Light is a beautiful work by a rising Catholic artist. Blakesley is a fan favorite at Catholic retreats, Steubenville conferences, and youth days around the country (and even the world!). This album leaves no doubt as to why this Louisiana-native is inspiring the hearts and minds of people, with the Gospel message, wherever he goes.
I highly recommend you pick up a copy of You Are the Light, available now on iTunes and available in CD-format in early summer. It is a blessing to the church, indeed.
Here’s a moving and beautiful sneak peek of what we’ll be hearing in Audrey Assad’s Heart, her second studio album, set for release on Valentine’s Day.
If this is any indication of what we’ll be hearing come Tuesday then I believe we’re in for a treat. I’ll be sure to have a review of the new album next week! If you can’t wait for more, please be sure to visit Audrey at www.audreyassad.com for a few more sneak peeks.
The Christmas season is my favorite time of the year. It’s the season where San Francisco’s skyline is lit up in millions of tiny bulbs, our church’s altar is decorated with poinsettias, and a time where I can bring out my Christmas music collection and sing along to familiar carols and the occasional new tune. I love the sounds of Christmas, but rarely find new songs that add anything more to such a blessed season. Cute songs of elves and Santa Claus can do much to put a smile on my face, but this music lover needs more. Christmas is about so much more than commercialism, nice displays, pictures with Santa, mistletoe and my occasional splurge on an eggnog latte (don’t judge!). Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus—the birth of our Savior and the beginning of our redemption. In these times when Christmas displays appear in August and the meaning of Christmas seems lost amid the seasonal sales and product launches, it is refreshing to hear words that bring us back to what should be at the top of our minds and in the center of our hearts.
Sarah Hart has once again given birth to songs that touch the heart and lift the spirit. In her first Christmas album, This Winter’s Eve, Hart has again gifted her listeners with a work that comes from the heart and explores the deep beauty and mystery of Christmas without compromise. To say that this is another fine work from a deeply reflective singer-songwriter is to be saying very little. Hart can do what few artists out there can do these days: write meaningful lyrics and sing them in such a way that the emotions of the listener are moved towards prayer, contemplation, authentic joy, and new or revisited understandings. It is no surprise, then, that Hart is a well-recognized songwriter in the Christian music industry.
This Winter’s Eve begins with “Prayer for this House,” a song based on a poem by Louis Untermeyer (1885-1977). For those of you not familiar with Untermeyer, he was a well-known American poet, critic, and anthologist. In fact, he’s responsible for creating many of the anthologies that have introduced students to poetry since the early 20th century. Hart beautifully sets the poem to music and sets the tone of the album. I think of “Prayer for this House” not only as a prayer offered for the listener, but as a preparation for our homes and hearts to receive anew the hope, peace, and love of the Christmas season: Strengthened by faith the rafters will/Withstand the battering of the storm/This hearth, though all the world/grow chill, Will keep you warm. Taken metaphorically, we are reminded that with Christ at the center, lighting our way, we can withstand even the cruelest of storms.
“On A Night Like This,” co-written with Chris Lockwood, is a beautiful song that reminds us that the son of God was born into the most humble of beginnings and into the chaos of a darkened world. In doing so, the world and our lives were changed forever. As Hart sings:
On a night like this,
under the same dark sky
Into a quiet world of slumber
From a mother’s womb
into the breath of life
Came the cry of heaven’s wonder
On a night like this
With no welcoming,
no one to notice you
Only the arms that held you closely
Oh King of Kings,
you took upon our flesh
Touched the earth to make it holy
More importantly, the song recalls that Christ did not come to us in the most perfect of times, but came to us in our most pressing hours of need—no different from today: “This is a troubled day,/ours is a desperate hour/Just as it was when/you walked among us/You knew our deepest need, took on our poverty/Beautiful mercy born to save us.” If that isn’t one of the clearest expressions of faith and deep theological understanding of what Christmas truly is, then I’m not sure what is. And, in one of the most beautiful lyrics (and images) of the entire album is the expression of what we should be longing for at Christmastime and always; “On a night like this,/under the same dark sky/Into a world that needs a savior/Jesus, come and be born/in the heart of me/And let me be your manger/Oh, let us be your manger.”
Co-written with Jonathan Lee, “This Winter’s Eve” made me long for snow during Christmas. For a minute or so, I pined for snow hitting my windows and the stillness and silence of snowy winters to envelope San Francisco. Then I realized that I was completely forgetting to listen to more than the first few lyrics (although, this writer still wants a white Christmas in San Francisco). One of Hart’s strengths is creating beautiful images in her songs—images that almost always pave the way to some deeper meditation. In “This Winter’s Eve,” much like in “On A Night Like This,” images of silence and stillness, of snow blankets and beauty lead to images of the true and intangible. In the first few lines the listener can picture snow softly falling and changing the earth below in only a matter of hours. A world once bare is now covered with snow and suddenly everything about the earth has changed; the ground and trees and even we are changed. There is silence, there is stillness, and a blanket of white covers the landscape and it is beautiful. These images are juxtaposed with images of what we can only see and experience through the eyes of faith. Much like snow changes the landscape forever, so did perfect love change us: “Love came quietly into the noise/Of us, the ruin and the dust/And in the wee small hours/covered everything/In a stable as he slept/The world was wakened into life again/And in a few small hours, everything has changed. […] Beautiful, so beautiful/The quiet of this falling love.” Indeed, God’s divinity chose to enter our humanity and our relationship with Him was forever changed. God entered into our humanity with all its noise, despair, and chaos and transformed it in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. As another of the album’s tracks, “All Is Well,” so beautifully states, “All is well and ere shall be/Here in Love’s eternity/Son of God and son of man/Has come to dwell, and all is well.”
One of my favorite tracks on this album is “Let It Be So.” I have often reflected on Mary’s experience as a young girl being asked to welcome the son of God into her womb and to give Him to the world. How extraordinarily courageous and faith-filled was her “yes” and how different would we be if she had doubted. Hart, and collaborator Kate York, capture this moment perfectly. It is a gentle and reflective song with Hart’s beautifully soothing vocal and equally lovely accompanying background vocals. As I heard this song, I thought of how the words could be Mary’s, but they could (and should) be our words as well: ”But if you ask, let it be so,/let it be so/And if you will, let it be so.”
Last year, Hart was nominated for “Better Than A Hallelujah” which garnered the attention of the Christian music industry when Amy Grant recorded the song for her most recent album. This time around, Grant lends her voice to backing vocals on Hart’s “What Love Has Done”—a gorgeous song, co-written with Kate York, that speaks of the joy and wonder of the birth of our redemption: “Chains are breaking; burdens are/lifted/By this son the Father has gifted/Come, oh come/Sings the Song of Redemption/Come, oh come/And see what love has done.” Listeners will appreciate the nod to a popular Christmas tune and the overall feeling this song exudes.
I love a well-told story and Hart knows how to tell a story beautifully—not only in the lyrics and music, but also within the track placement of her albums. In this case, the album begins with songs of expectation, move into songs about the birth our Savior and its effects on humanity then and now, and then moves us to what it should all mean to the individual. In other words, how we should react. “Peace Be,” co-written with frequent Hart collaborators, Marc Byrd and Jeremy Bose, urges us to allow peace and love in to our hearts and to let peace flow back outward. Isn’t that the very message we need today? In the midst of chaos and hard times, the message of peace and love is one that we need to hear and heed today. And what better way to express love than to write songs for and about the ones you love? “Bethlehem,” co-written with Joe Pangello for Hart’s husband, is a song about people gathering together in the love of God and rejoicing in the joy of Christmas. “Snow Angels” recalls the joy of just being in the moment and enjoying life, love, and laughter. I’ll take a wild guess and say the song was written for her daughters. It definitely made me want to make snow angels (something I’ve never done)!
The album began with a prayer of preparation and ends with a song of realization, “Epiphany (I Will Not Forget),” that reminds and challenges us not to forget the gift of Christmas. On one night, so long ago, a child was born to light the world and so: “I will not forget you love/And how you saved my heart one night.” But, The album does not stray completely from traditional Christmas songs. “The Light of Christmas of Morn” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” are two traditional Christmas songs that make a welcomed appearance on This Winter’s Eve. “The Light of Christmas Morn” is based on “Light of Darkness” by Irish-born Scotsman Norval Clyne (1817-1890), a 19th century poet and lawyer. With Sarah’s added lyrics and its early-bluegrass/Appalachian feel this song leaves the listener with the same calmness and peace that the lyrics convey. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is one of my favorite Christmas carols and the first that I recall singing in my grammar school choir. While I’m a big fan of leaving what is as is, I’m also a fan of adding a bit of oneself to every artistic endeavor no matter how many times its been done before. After all, isn’t that the experiential conversation we should be having with all we encounter? There’s a bit of Sarah Hart in her rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”—that bit of an artist taking an old tune and making it new and uniquely beautiful again.
There is an authenticity in Sarah Hart’s music that is a rare gift for listeners today and of which I have long been an admirer. Whether she is writing a worship song, songs for her husband and daughters, songs for a musical, or Christmas songs, it is clear that the music and the lyrics flow from the heart of an artist that prayerfully and reflectively lives out her gift. This Winter’s Eve is yet another beautiful collection of songs that touch the heart and feed the soul. From start to finish, this album is pure Christmas.
If there is one Christmas album that you pick up this Christmas season, make it This Winter’s Eve by Sarah Hart. The songs are great for worship, for reading by the fire, listening while watching the snow fall outside (if you’re lucky enough to have some snow), or while enjoying lovely gatherings with those you love. Most importantly, if you’re looking for a Christmas album that captures the essence of the Christmas season and does so in more than just a surface-level way then this album is for you. I highly recommend it.
The album is now available for pre-order from www.sarahhartmusic.com and will be available on iTunes on November 8th.
The new Coldplay album dropped today and it is worth getting your hands on. Until you do, check out this video for Paradise. Because it’s not everyday that you get to see an elephant moonwalk and…well, just watch and see:
There were a few memorable performances last night at the VMA awards. Adele certainly comes to mind as does today’s Music Monday selection, Beyonce. I’m dedicating today’s selection to another future mama I know, my best friend. Beyonce stunned the audience with her announcement and with those amazing vocal pipes. Congratulations to her and to my bff, two good lookin’ future mommies!
There’s less than a month to go until the release of Matt Maher’s new album, The Love In Between. In June, Matt gave an In Between The Songs look at his new single “Turn Around” (now available on iTunes). In this recent behind-the-music video, Matt shares the thoughts behind his new song, “The Spirit and the Bride.”
Revelation 22:17: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
The Love In Between hits stores on 9.20.11. It is now available for pre-order on iTunes.Looking forward to bringing you a review of this album in a few weeks.