Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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Music Reviews
The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
****

The Greatest Showman is a very entertaining and well-made musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, featuring excellent new songs by the Oscar winning lyricists from La La Land. The film includes eleven new songs written by Oscar (La La Land) and Tony (Dear Evan Hansen) Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Below are a few comments on each song:

The Greatest Show – The film opens with the title song performed in a big song and dance production number. Jackman, with his Broadway experience, is excellent in his portrayal of Barnum. He is joined on this song by Zac Efron, Zendaya and Keala Settle.

A Million Dreams – This song is initially sung by Ziv Zaifman as a young Barnum and then shifts to the adult Barnum with Jackman and Michelle Williams singing.  In the film, the song is sung as we see a flashback in which Barnum, a young and impoverished tailor’s son, played by Ellis Rubin, first meets the privileged but sweet Charity, played by Skylar Dunn. We see them fall in love, but Charity’s father tells P.T. to stay away from his daughter, who is then sent away to a boarding school. But we see them stay in touch through letters. The film moves forward a dozen or so years, with Jackman portraying Barnum and Michelle Williams portraying his now wife Charity.

A Million Dreams (Reprise) – This short song is sung by Barnum’s daughters Caroline (Austyn Johnson) and Helen (Caroline Barnum) and Jackman.

Come Alive – This upbeat song is sung by Jackman, Keala Settle, Zendaya, Daniel Everidge.

The Other Side – In this song Jackman as Barnum convinces the socialite playwright Phillip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron to become his business partner.

Never Enough – This powerful song is performed in the film by Jenny Lind “The Swedish Nightingale”, the best singer in the world.  While Lind is played in the film by Rebecca Ferguson, her singing is actually performed by Loren Allred.

This is Me – This powerful song has received an Oscar nomination. It is performed by Tony nominee Keala Settle, who plays the bearded lady in the film.

Rewrite the Stars – This song is performed by Zac Efron and Zendaya. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember their powerful scene in the circus ring about their love that has so many obstacles.

Tightrope – This beautiful song is sung by Michelle Williams as Barnum’s wife as she sings that she risks it all to be with Barnum and the life they’ve chosen.

Never Enough (Reprise) – This is a short reprise of Loren Allred’s powerful rendition of “Never Enough”

From Now On – This song starts slowly with Jackman’s vocal over piano and builds powerfully as the celebratory closing song of the film.

I’m not usually a fan of movie musicals, but I really enjoyed The Greatest Showman. It is a film that the entire family can enjoy. If you’ve seen the film, you’re most likely going to want to check out the movie soundtrack.

Echoes (Deluxe Edition) – Matt Maher
****

After seeing eight-time Grammy nominee Matt Maher open for Toby Mac a few years ago he quickly become one of my favorite artists and songwriters. His previous album Saints and Sinners was my top album of 2015.
This is Maher’s sixth studio album, and perhaps his most personal one to date. After writing most of the songs for the album, Maher lost his father. He has stated that for him this album is a declaration responding to the dilemma of suffering. The album answers the question of how we echo our faith, and whether it is possible to have hope and joy that is not governed by fear. He stated that many of these songs, in particular the worship songs, were inspired by hymns written in or around some personal experience or bout with suffering – suffering of all different kinds: personal, physical, mental, and spiritual.
Below are a few comments on each of the songs on this excellent album:

Echoes One – In this short opener, he sings of hearing the sound of a voice, or echoes, inside that keeps him awake in the middle of the night. The voice/echoes are telling him to make the wrong things right.
Clean Heart – This song was written by Audrey Assad and Maher. In a world where everyone is yelling, in all this division, may we be known by our love. May we follow Christ’s direction to love our enemies. This mid-tempo rocker has themes of forgiveness, mercy and compassion. Let it start with us with a clean heart. Key lyric: When everybody’s looking for another fight, when troubles on the rise, no end in sight. Oh Savior, won’t You come and make the wrong things right.
What a Friend – This song was inspired by the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph M. Scriven, who wrote it in 1855 to comfort his mother in Iceland while he was living in Canada. The song speaks to God’s faithfulness even in the midst of personal sorrow and devastation. The songs is driven by a good drum beat, hand clap and backing vocals. We all have fears and worries, but we can lay our burdens down.  Key lyric: What a friend we have in Jesus, east to west my sins are gone, I see grace on every horizon, and forever and ever His heart is my home. 
Holy
–  This song is written by Chris Tomlin, Hank Bentley, Jason Ingram, Mike Donehey and Maher. It is a song of worship to God that begins with keys, and builds in the chorus with drums and backing vocals. Key lyric: Holy, You are holy. There is none beside Thee.
Your Love Defends Me
–  This was the first single released a few months before the album was released. The song was written by Hannah Kerr and Maher, the song originally appearing on her 2016 album Overflow.  The song features excellent backing vocals. Key lyric: Surely my God is the strength of my soul, your love defends me, your love defends me.  
Just as I Am –  This song samples the well-known hymn written by Charlotte Elliot in 1835. We come to Jesus in our guilt and shame. He welcomes us and takes us in His loving arms through his amazing grace and shed blood. We’ll never be the same again.  
Awake My Soul (A Thousand Tongues)
– This song is written by Jonas Myrin, Laura Story, Matt Redman and Maher. It is inspired by Charles Wesley’s 1739 hymn “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”. This worship song is piano driven and features some excellent backing vocals. Key lyric: Awake my soul to sing, the glories of my God and King, arise and praise the One, worthy of the songs of a thousand tongues. 
Faithfulness – This song is written by Jacob Sooter, Stephen McWhirter and Maher, originally appearing on the 2017 album God That Saves by Iron Bell Music. The song features vocals from Steffany Gretzinger, who serves as a worship leader at Bethel Church in California. This worshipful song begins with piano and builds slowly. Great is the faithfulness of our God, always and forever.
Echoes Two – This short song is driven by acoustic guitar. He asks the Lord to bind us together as one, to find the greater good and search for the common ground.
Picket Sign
– Using language from today’s news “protest, stand, march, walk, justice”, this song begins with piano and builds powerfully with a memorable chorus. Key lyric: The cross leapt in like a picket sign, You carried the weight for all mankind, You gave Your life just to give me mine. 
Won’t Let Me Down – This song is written by Bryan Fowler, Jason Ingram and Maher. This song speaks to the faithfulness of God. He is not surprised by our suffering. There is no fear in His eyes. In the midst of suffering, through the night His love won’t let us down. He will hold us up. Starting with piano, the song features a good drum beat and backing vocals. Key lyric: Your love won’t let me down. You always find a way somehow.
The Least of These
– This beautiful song is written by John Tibbs and Maher. It is simple musically, opening piano and includes strings. The song includes the recurring theme of echoes. He sings of the refugee, using Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”.  Key lyric: When love became a refugee, He became my refuge
The Cross Forever Speaks – This song is written by Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury and Maher. It features a good drum beat. This song addresses questions about suffering. Even if everything is taken from him, he knows he is not forsaken. He will still lift his hands up in praise. Key lyric: You may silence me, but the cross forever speaks.
Into Your Hands
– This song is written by Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Trevor Morgan and Maher. This song samples the 1896 hymn “I Surrender All” by Judson W. Van DeVenter. It features some excellent piano playing, as well as guitar and organ. Key lyric: You have all my heart, all that is broken. I surrender all, My life into Your hands.
As Good as It Gets – This song is written by David Garcia, Francesca Battistelli and Maher. This beautiful song is driven by acoustic guitar. It is about God being real in our struggle. Key lyric: You take my eyes off of the future. You lead my heart out of the past. You are the promise here in the moment, where I find my rest.
Your Love Defends Me (Solo Piano Version)
– The Deluxe Edition ends with a beautiful stripped-down version of this excellent song. Day and night, God is with him in the fight. He is not alone.

  • New Ashley Cleveland Album. Can’t wait for the new album, One More Song, which releases February 2. Watch the video for “Way Out of No Way”.
  • New Andrew Peterson Music. What’s better than news of a new Andrew Peterson album? News of two new Andrew Peterson albums!
  • The Little Things That Give You Away. Watch U2 perform a stripped-down version of their Songs of Experience song “The Little Things That Give You Away”.
  • Resurrection Power/Chris Tomlin/New Song Café. Watch an acoustic performance of “Resurrection Power” by Chris Tomlin, hear the story behind the song, and learn how to play the song.
    Jon Foreman Acoustic Videos
    . Watch Jon Foreman perform an acoustic version of “The Patron Saint of Rock & Roll”, the first in a series of five acoustic performance videos.
  • Get Out of Your Own Way. Watch the official video for U2’s new single “Get Out of Your Own Way”
  • Live it Well. Switchfoot’s song “Live it Well” is featured in the new film, I’ll Push You, the incredible story of two friends, one-wheel chair and an amazing 35-day journey on foot from the south of France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Watch the music video here.
  • Neil Diamond Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. On January 22, legendary singer-songwriter Neil Diamond announced his retirement from touring due to his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease.
  • New NF Song. Watch the video for “No Name” by NF.
  • All My Hope. Watch this video of Crowder playing his song “All My Hope” at the recent Passion conference in Atlanta.
  • Sing! 2018 Conference. I’m really excited about the Getty’s worship conference to take place in Nashville September 10-12. Speakers including Alistair Begg, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, John MacArthur and Tim Keller (via video). Musical artists include Trip Lee, Andrew Peterson and Phil Keaggy. Nuff said? Register now!

  • Love is not a feeling in your chest; it is bending down to wash another’s feet. Andrew Peterson
  • A hunger for beauty is at its heart a hunger for God. Michael Card
  • Who are we? We’re not perfect but we’re not worthless. Scripture tells us that we’re beautifully made, but broken. Trip Lee
  • Christ used death to destroy death. Matt Maher
  • In the end, worship can never be a performance, something you’re pretending or putting on. It’s got to be an overflow of your heart…Worship is about getting personal with God, drawing close to God. Matt Redman

He Will Hold Me Fast by Keith and Kristyn Getty

This week’s song of the week was included on Keith and Kristyn Getty’s excellent 2016 album Facing a Task Unfinished. I’ve been hearing the song a lot recently. The song was written by Matt Merker. Read about the song from the Gettys and Matt Merker:

From Keith and Kristyn Getty:
From the first time we heard this song written by Matt Merker, we felt it was a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death. It reminded us of the Spirituals and also of the hymn, “We Rest on Thee” (which inspired the missionary Jim Elliot and the title of his biography, “Through Gates of Splendor”). Interestingly, the Finnish melody, “Finlandia,” is also the melodic basis of the hymn, “Be Still My Soul,” that was the favorite hymn of Eric Liddell, famous Olympic gold medalist who retired early from Sport to return to China, home of his birth, and serve as missionary.

From Matt Merker:
A member of our church had sent the original words to “He Will Hold Me Fast” to me and our senior pastor, suggesting that this could be a good song for us to learn as a church. I forgot about the song for a while, but later pulled it out again when I was walking through a difficult personal season of doubt and uncertainty. I was wrestling with the hard questions of the faith and struggling to place my trust in the enduring power of God’s preserving grace. John Piper’s sermon from Together for the Gospel 2012 on Jude vv. 20-25 was a lifeline for me, and Jude 24 became an anchor for my soul in that trying time: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…” It was at this time that I was beginning to try my hand at writing new tunes for old texts, mainly as a personal devotional exercise to help aid my own soul in seeking Christ. I pulled out “He Will Hold Me Fast” again and the words ministered to me deeply. I wanted to see the resurrection and return of Christ featured in the lyrics, since our hope is guaranteed by the reality that Christ has risen and is coming again.
I first shared the song with my wife and then with our pastor, and he suggested we should try singing it as a congregation. We introduced the song to Capitol Hill Baptist Church early in 2013 and the church quickly owned the song and began singing it with joy (and really loud voices!) For anyone who is discouraged by the enormity of the work or by the apparent lack of fruit in any particular missions context, it reinvigorates us to know that God is in control and He will preserve us to the end!

 Watch Keith Kristyn Getty perform this beautiful song.

When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

Chorus:
He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so
He will hold me fast
Those He saves are His delight
Christ will hold me fast
Precious in His holy sight
He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost
His promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost
He will hold me fast

Chorus
For my life He bled and died
Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied
He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life
He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight
When he comes at last

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 37 years, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, a manager at a Fortune 50 company, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and Colossians 3:23 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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