Say the word, “Hymn,” and a stained-glass sanctuary of wooden pews will most likely come to mind. But sing a Hymn, and whatever your state of mind, it will be melodically transformed into a personal sanctuary of serenity.
That’s the power of music.
Noting the results of these timeless compositions, platinum recording artist Mark Schultz selected eleven of the most inspiring, and set off to
re-imagine them for another fresh century of listeners.
His just-completed CD is simply titled, “HYMNS.”
With a musical finesse that’s garnered multiple Dove nomination and awards, Mark has fashioned a collection that introduces today’s generation to the oldest of standards –while at the same time honoring today’s elders with a Schultz-twist on their most fondly remembered classics. Teaming up with producers Craig Swift and Chris Bevins, Mark has enhanced the timeless quality of each composer’s original hymn, by both rephrasing their insightful words and melodies – and on some tracks – even penning additional verses of his own.
From the atmosphere setting ‘Doxology’, and the Irish rhythms wafting through ‘Blessed Assurance’, to the driving harmonies declaring ‘It is Well’, Schultz’s signature voice and keyboard are transporting. Each lyric, each phrase compels the listener to strive for their own spiritual sanctuary.
Mark’s anthem-like renditions of ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ and ‘Before The Throne of God’ are heart-pumping declarations that will persuade your feet to move. And the collection’s only medley, ‘Nothing But The Blood/I’ll Fly Away’ will set your already-dancing-feet down in the deep South – where country-flavored vocals and a breathy harmonica are all the music necessary to commence an old fashioned “Amen” service.
Although the classic, ‘How Great Thou Art’ is affective with a mass choir and a full orchestra, Mark Schultz makes the familiar lyric personal, intimate with a simple strumming flattop and smattering of harmony. And the often overused, ‘Amazing Grace’ — just fits! It’s as if the over 200 year old composition was specifically written for this 2014 collection. Likewise, Mark’s prayerful, ‘Give Me Jesus,’ is as moving today, (in its digital form), as when the melody first reverberated off the stained glass windows of a church, decades ago.
And when Schultz reprises the old standard, ‘This Is My Father’s World,’ he sings as if it were a lullaby between a parent and a child; reminding us all that we are simply children of The Father.
Ironically, when he played this track for his parents, Mark’s mother, Ronita, sighed, “This is my favorite one.” With a smile of recollection she let the hymn’s simple melody carry her back to her childhood; back to a hardwood pew, a Summer Bible Camp, and the pleasure of harmonizing the song with her friends.
The image of his mother humming along with the recording, revisiting that serene “sanctuary” in her mind, was overwhelming for Schultz; for standing next to her, holding onto her leg, was Mark’s own two year old son, Ryan. The sight of his boy listening to his grandmother sing a song that he, too remembered from his own childhood, gave purpose and a fresh, full-circle meaning to his new collection of old classics.
Mark Schultz’s “Hymns” are not just re-imagined compositions. They’re our reconnections to the past, our reminders in the present, and our rekindled reason to keep the music alive for the next generation.
They’re the songs we sing for serenity…They are the Hymns we still hum.
~ Barton Green