Bart Reardon lives in Singers Glen, Virginia. Though he doesn’t sing anymore, certainly enough of the folks who come to his studio to record live up to the name. “I used to sing a lot in my days as a guitar accompanist,” he tells ChristianMusic. “But I couldn’t help noticing that every time I sang, raccoons would chew their legs off and cattle would run toward a slaughterhouse.”
Though that’s mostly modesty, Bart more than makes up for his lack of singing talent with his virtuoso guitar works, as his recent album, “Once Upon A Guitar,” attests.
“Music offers a turn to speak, telling stories in ways that are more worthwhile for the listener. It’s also fairly open-ended in that the listeners can reshape the story and mood of a song into something that matches their personal experience or interest,” Bart explains. “Having my turn to speak inspires writing music.”
Bart grew up not far from Singers Glen, in Staunton, Virginia. “I was shy and completely lousy at sports. I found guitar was something I could actually do, and it opened the door to some circles of high-school life,” he says. Inspired by the British Invasion bands of the ‘60s, he played with dance bands throughout high school.
Bart describes his playing as “a serious hobby” until one night in 1967 at a concert. “I saw this guitar player named Jim McCarty. I was lifted off and carried into another realm, I was so overwhelmed by this fellow’s performance,” says Bart. “After that, I just couldn’t imagine being anything but a guitar player.”
Since his parents didn’t go to church, Bart says, it took him a little while longer to become a Christian. “In the mid-seventies, I was working in a music store. People coming in would invite me to their performances or to prayer meetings.”
Bart eventually joined the Mennonite Church. “I found the people there had an unusual ability to be genuinely interested in other people.”
He also became aware of Christian music, particularly Phil Keaggy. “I found myself in the company of Christian musicians who introduced me to the life of Jesus,” Bart says. “Phil Keaggy became my musical and spiritual ‘imaginary friend,’ so to speak, and I sat down with his records and tapes, learning to play most of the songs on his albums.”
In addition to playing, Bart became infatuated with the recording business from the first time he set foot in a studio to make an album. “Working in a music store, we carried multi-track tape recorders. We were selling some of the first home-recording equipment. That was when my interest began,” he says. “But the first time I was in a full professional studio, I looked at all that stuff and said ‘I want to do this.’” He worked in that studio doing maintenance and repairs, and learning the business. In the early ‘90s, he became a recording engineer.
“I sometimes call this position my personal observation tower for life, music and the intricacies of human behavior,” Bart laughs. “Artistic personalities at work… what makes a recording or song work well, or not work well, and even what might make an entire project an embarrassing fiasco, or set up a band breakup.”
Though Bart’s studio handles all kinds of music, much of it is Christian music. “God gave us music to relate to him. I believe that God truly must love music. It’s our chance to make God happy with something we do,” Bart exclaims. “It makes it more of a reciprocal relationship when we can do something that makes God happy as well.”
As an example, Bart tells about a concert he recorded of the pianist Janina Fialkowska playing Chopin.
“The power, authority, and bell-like tone and clarity of the first note nearly took me out of my chair. There was a cascade of notes that soared so luxuriously, and captivated my imagination so completely I felt as if a child playmate had suddenly rushed into the room and shouted, ‘Quick, come outside, there’s a miracle happening in the sky! It’s a thousand white birds, soaring and arcing through the air!’ Nothing like this had ever happened before!
“It makes evident that, despite the fallen nature of the world we live in, somewhere exists a very powerful spiritual force for beauty and good.”
-- Julie Carr and Nate Lee.