King of Love – A Review

kingoflove.jpgProduced by Drs. Warren Cook and Dan Forrest, of the music faculty at Bob Jones University, King of Love is a new recording under the SoundForth label featuring 14 anthems for choir & orchestra.  The CD is to be released on March 19, 2008.

The compilation is a mix of old and new, familiar and fresh, prayer and praise.  I have enjoyed listening through the selections several times and will make a few general observations before looking at the specific tracks.

This recording is beautiful.  Most of the pieces have a transcendent quality about them.  They are not hurried or blasted, but well-constructed, performed and mixed.  Many of the songs are characterized by long, flowing melodies.  These are the types of sounds that I enjoy in meditating on God and His works.  They may not be the best choices for the typical revival service, but should be immediately embraced for both choral and congregational worship.  The choral sound is masterful and bears the obvious mark of Dr. Warren Cook, an outstanding choral conductor and church musician.

This recording contains variety.  Praise God for this!  So many of the recordings from publishing houses lack this essential quality.  The recording is varied in many ways.  It showcases a wider diversity of composers, arrangers, and orchestrators than SoundForth has previously offered.  Within the collection, one will find a variety of forms: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs–just as Scripture intends for Christian worship.  About half the album consists of already-written, deeply-loved songs that are freshly arranged.  I will be the first to say that many attempts to re-invent older songs fail badly.  However, each setting in King of Love marries nicely with the lyrics in tone, tempo, and styling.  It is also encouraging to see SoundForth embrace some tasteful syncopation and non-traditional harmonization in a few of the pieces.

1. A Thousand Joys Are Found in Thee, by Sandra Achterberg (orch. by Wehman), SoundForth.

The opening song serves almost as a Call to Worship for the album, inviting the listener to consider the neverending list of reasons for praising God.  Solid choral writing and a beautiful orchestration by Guy Wehman perfectly frame the lyrics by Jonathan Cook.

2. Fairest Lord Jesus, by Mark Hayes (orch. by Forrest), Beckenhorst.

This has been one of my favorite choral arrangements in the last decade.  In my opinion, Mark Hayes is one of the more creative arrangers writing for churches today.  I would like to see SoundForth feature more of his work.  I feel the same way about Dan Forrest.  Although we have never met face-to-face, I know that Dan is not only a wonderfully creative composer and arranger but also is committed to church music.  Consequently, this track is, for me, an ideal pairing of minds, hearts, and talent.

3. Acclamation of Praise, by Allen Pote (with brass and timpani), Hope Publishing.

I personally have only used a couple of pieces by Pote in my church.  Some of his pieces, in my opinion, are not accessible for the average church choir.  I do really like the energy he writes into his music, largely through the use of syncopation.  This is a grand song of praise.

4. Be Thou My Vision, by Dan Forrest, Jr. (orch. by Forrest), Hal Leonard.

I have to be honest: this is not my favorite arrangement of this wonderful hymn or of Forrest’s work.  It’s a fine and beautiful arrangement.  I think perhaps there have been so many arrangements of this particular hymn in recent years, that it has lost a bit of its uniqueness to me as an anthem. 

5. The Holy Heart, by Molly Ijames (orch. by Ijames/Forrest), Beckenhorst.

Ahhhhhhhh!  This gem is worth the price of the entire CD, in my opinion.  Some will object to the message that the crucifixion is “all about me.”  However, I prefer to view songs like this as intensely personal expressions of love to Christ.  This one moved me.

6. How Marvelous Are the Works, by David Angerman & Joseph Martin (orch. by Rasbach), Lorenz.

We used this as part of an Easter Cantata a few years ago.  It is a joyful anthem that every church choir should learn.  I prefer the orchestration by Brant Adams, but Dave Rasbach uses some very nice brass sections in this one.

7. Give Me Jesus, by Howard Helvey (Flute/Oboe obbligato by Forrest), Beckenhorst.

I hadn’t heard this song since singing it in a college ensemble.  Negro spirituals have been often overused, in my opinion, in fundamental churches, especially considering the lack of substance and even doctrinal error in their lyrics.  This one, however, contains a passionate desire for Christ that is worthy to sing.  Helvey does a nice job arranging an oft-arranged song.  Dan’s instrumentation is lovely.  I’m noticing a lot of Beckenhorst songs in this recording…

8. Amazing Grace, by Craig Courtney (with string quartet by Forrest), Beckenhorst.

Craig’s original melody of this famous hymn is wonderful and every bit as good as the well-known tune.  I wish churches would purpose to learn good, alternative melodies to hymns.  I think it stimulates people to think more about what they are singing, than if they are just parroting the same old-same old.  Bravo on a very nice string quartet arrangement!

9. King of Love, by Dan Forrest (orch by Forrest), Beckenhorst.

I love this song!  I have used John Ness Beck’s arrangement of this song for years, but guarantee I will be purchasing this one.  Modern psalms like this are rare today and I relish them. 

10. Hymn of Mercy, by Dan Forrest, Beckenhorst.

This prayer reminds us how precious the mercy of God truly is.  This is another piece I’ll be buying in short order.  In my opinion, this song has the most beautiful piano accompaniment of the whole album, and it’s not distracting in the least but very complementary to the vocals.

11. Free From Guilt and Free From Sin, by Don & Jaree Hall, Lorenz.

From one beautiful prayer to another, the emphasis in this song is the love of God that frees us from our sin.  The oboe obbligato adds to the austerity of talking to the God of the universe.

12. May the Mind of Christ Our Savior, by Dan Kreider, SoundForth.

Yet another beloved prayer gets a musical makeover.  The choral writing is challenging with lots of moving parts.  Probably not one that I would do with my choir, but one I would listen to and meditate on over and over.

13. Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness, by Chris Gilliam (orch. by Forrest), SoundForth.

Okay, WOW!  This one begins rather simply–deceptively so.  You hear a beautiful orchestral introduction with a harpsichord playing steady quarter notes underneath the accomplaniment, almost like the beginning of a ballad. That should have tipped me off that this song would be anything but typical.  As the song progressed, it PROGRESSED!  The use of alternative harmonies, dissonance, and dynamic shifts really kept me listening.  I liked it.  It may be a bit much for some of the more conservative lot; but for those of us who enjoy a bit more modern sound, this is great!

14. Gentle Voice, by Susan & Lee Dengler (transcribed for guitar by Brian Pinner), Harold Flammer Music.

An apt closer for this album, this selection quietly reminds us of the still voice of God, giving assurance and peace and direction.  The guitar/violin accompaniment contributes to the simplicity.  I could hear this song being sung around a campfire after a night of preaching at a Christian camp or as an invitational at the end of a message.  I think this would also be nice with a smaller ensemble, rather than a large choir.

On the whole, I think this recording is an excellent step forward for SoundForth.  The quality, beauty, and variety expressed in these selections is useful for choral, congregational, and personal worship.  In a collection like this, I would typically find 3-4 songs that I would use in my church.  However, in King of Love, I would probably end up using 10-11 of these with my choir and church family.  I applaud the work that Cook and Forrest put into the selection, planning, and recording of this album.

King of Love will be available from the SoundForth website beginning March 19th.  Buy one for your music director.  Buy one for yourself!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. […] already given pre-release copies to several people to review; some reviews/posts can be found here, here, here, and […]

    Reply

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