Arise CD Review

Looking for new music? Perhaps you’re wanting to expand or change your musical tastes, but feel like you don’t really know what you’re looking for. Maybe you need to be convinced to try new music. That’s why you need to check out the album Arise, recently released by the Tapestry Chamber Singers.

A Word from the Musicians

We’ve seen a number of excellent composers from the conservative Anabaptist community in recent years. Arise showcases at least some of what they’ve been up to with nearly an hour of rich, stimulating, and most of all, fresh, music. Benjamin Good, the man most  responsible for the production of this album, had this to say about it:

The album “Arise,” from Tapestry Chamber Singers, celebrates a recent high point in the volume and quality of newly composed conservative Anabaptist music.  God has gifted some of our own people with the ability to express ideas in music that correlate accurately with lyrics of truth and reality, resulting in beauty and significance.  While “Arise” contains music solely from current Mennonite musicians, the inspirational and musical quality will provide you a happy surprise!  This album confirms again that music in itself carries meaning, even independent of the lyrics.

Worship Music

Music should draw us to worship and reflect on the beauty of God. Our senses are jaded from hearing too much sound, and frankly, from hearing too much mindless music. The caliber of songs and performance demonstrated on Arise puts a definite tally mark on the side of Good Worship Music. This album still draws me to worship more and more after having listened to it in its entirety dozens of times.

I was delighted to realize that half of the songs are either directly from Scripture or slightly paraphrased. Tell me, who doesn’t like a fun way of memorizing God’s Word? I found that phrases and verses of Scripture get stuck in my head because of this album. It is wonderful. I can memorize almost without trying.

The Contents

Arise stands up well to critical and repeated listening, due in part to the strong variety of themes expressed in the songs. “In Deepest Night” and “Blind Bartimaeus” explore the anguish of struggle in the human experience. “My God, How Endless” and “O Holy Angels Bright” offer expressions of praise from a redeemed heart, while “Out in the Fields With God” offers all the dreamy happiness of a summer day. The beautiful twin wedding songs “Alleluia, Gloria” and “Arise My Love” expand the range of emotions further. The fittingly rich “Agnus Dei” gives a nod to the centuries of church music tradition.   

I am impressed how the composers managed to make the music carry the text in all of the songs. The compositional styles of the composers have enough variety to keep this album interesting throughout each of its 19 tracks. I enjoy all except about two of them (no, I won’t say which ones) which is actually a ringing endorsement because I can be quite picky about music. Very rarely do all the songs on an album impress me. All I’m saying is, Arise should appeal at least in part to a wide audience.

Quality Matters

Musically, this album is of a quality that withstands close scrutiny. The level of hard work and commitment required from each singer (as well as the conductor, producer, and others) is simply immense. To those of you who ask, “why does quality matter?” I would say two things:

First, why would you not want quality of music (or any art form) just as you do of say, food or vehicles. Humans enjoy quality. We are made in the image of God. Part of that means we create, and because we are in a sense like God, we should create the best we can.

Secondly, I find it easier to worship when the music is not constantly distracting me with annoying mistakes or inferior quality. A dilemma that trained musicians face is finding a way to look beyond the flaws and see the beauty in many kinds of music. While we can learn to look beyond the flaws, we much prefer not to have to do that. In that respect, Arise is an easy listen. The sopranos are clear and pleasant, and the basses sound like they actually enjoy singing well. The tenors are neither nasal nor annoying, while the altos clearly want to be recognized for more than their ability to peg a Do.

Further Reflections

Projects like Arise show me that there is life and creativity in our Anabaptist people. Our desire to give back finds expression in this remarkable piece of worship art. From the poets who dreamed the words, to the composers who brought the words to life,  to the singers who unlocked the music for the rest of us, this album shows a yearning for perfection. Arise is definitely worth the $15 dollars it will take to make a physical copy your own (you need a physical copy, not just a download—but we’ll save that argument for another day).  It is available from Christian Learning Resource or For the Lamb Studio. Also available for digital download.

Daniel Daniel Yutzy lives near Huntsville Arkansas, where he devotes significant time to his fiancé, construction, and music. He teaches music at a local church school, conducts a church choir, and is as passionate about learning as he is about teaching. In his spare time he enjoys relaxing with good friends and eating food. Alternately, a well written biography, novel, or history will keep him contented for hours. He also loves a good rain and seeing other corners of this marvelous world we live in.

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