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CHRISTIANMUSIC.COM - Sarah Hart - SaintSong


GOAL: 

To present encouraging, hopeful praise and worship songs, songs of petition and uplifting anthems, whose lyrics are based on the writings of the great Christian thinkers in the church's past, and Sarah's and her co-writer's own experiences in life as well.

This collection of songs will encourage closeness with the Lord, as they express themes that we all can relate to and embrace, and will inspire praise and worship of the Lord.

JEFF THOMAS; Producer of SaintSong; "May our Lord continue to bless the lives of those who seek Him by the inspiration manifest in the life and death of these saints, who were willing to look past humaneness to discover what humanity was made for."

PEOPLE INVOLVED WITH THE MAKING OF SAINTSONG:

Produced and Mixed by: Jeff Thomas
Album mastered by: Richard Dodd

Texts, text adaptation and music:

OUR BLESSING CUP - PSALM 116, Music by Sarah Hart
LOVE MOVES YOU - Text by St. Catherine of Sienna, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart.
SPIRIT OF CHRIST(Anima Christi) - Text by St. Ignatius of Loyola, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart
TODAY - Text by St. Therese of Visieux, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart

ON THE WAY - Words and music by Sarah Hart, Marc Byrd, Elizabeth Hunnicutt
REFLECTION - Text by Mechithild of Magdeburg, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart & Marc Byrd
YOU ARE THE LORD - Text by St. Ambrose, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart, Marc Byrd, and Jaime Jamgochian
RENEW - Text by Julian of Norwich, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart & Marc Byrd  

O SACRED BREATH-Text by St. Hildegard of Bingden, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart, and Dwight Liles
COME TRUE LIGHT- Text by St. Symeon, the New Theologian, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart & Dwight Liles
RESTLESS - Text by St. Augustine, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart and Dwight Liles
GREAT AND WONDERFUL LORD - Text by St. Francis of Assisi, text adaptation and music by Sarah Hart and Dwight Liles

VOCALS:

Lead vocals: Sarah Hart
Back-up vocals: Jeff Thomas, Joshua Blakesley, Audrey Assad, Alyssa Bonagura, Rebecca Feder, Sarah Hart

MUSICIANS:

Individual musicians came up with their own individual parts for the songs, contributing  in the musical accompaniment; "in fresh and beautiful ways," comments Sarah Hart.)

Drums and Percussion - Ken Lewis
Bass - Matt Pierson
Acoustic and Electric Guitars - David Cleveland, Scott Dente, & Mike Payne; RENEW
Mandolin - David Cleveland; ON THE WAY, & Brian Button; ON THE WAY & RESTLESS
Piano - Jason Webb, & Jeff Roach; RENEW
Wurlitzer - Jason Webb
B3 - Carl Herrgesell
Synthesizer - Jeff Thomas
Strings arranged by Tim Lauer; REFLECTION, and Jeff Thomas; SPIRIT OF CHRIST
String players: David Angell, John Catchings, David Davidson, Jim Grosjean, Pam Sixpin

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Themes found in these LOVE LETTERS TO THE LORD

The great faithfulness, mercy and love of the Lord, despite our imperfections, follies and mistakes:

ON THE WAY * LOVE MOVES YOU * REFLECTION


Our need of the Lord to be whole, to be loved, to be healed, to be inspired for Him, to have peace, and to praise His name in thankfulness:

SACRED BREATHE * RESTLESS * TODAY

The Lord is the source of power and life, and everything glorious:

YOU ARE THE LORD * GREAT AND WONDERFUL LORD 

Lord Jesus is the light of the world, our Lord and Savior:

COME TRUE LIGHT * BLESSING CUP * SPIRIT OF CHRIST * RENEW

sarah


SaintSong Review:

Need a collection of songs that calms the mind, yet invigorates and inspires the spirit, creating a thankful and grateful heart?  SaintSong more than fits the bill!  SaintSong is a moving, uplifting collection of songs that are sure to shift our focus off our worldly troubles and issues, and onto the Lord with grateful, thankful hearts; Truly a most enjoyable musical treasure for your Christian music collection, sure to bless you as it has this reviewer.

There is truly something for everyone, making it a versatile album, that can be used for private praise/confession/ worship/ prayer time, for services of various congregations of worshipers, choirs, music worship teams  or even for religious education classes.  For, these songs cover basic  spiritual needs of people wanting to be close to the Lord and stay in His will for their lives, in the form of music.  We all need to confess our blunders, failings in faith, trust, obedience and not doing or saying the right thing, to ask for forgiveness, strength, healing, the right heart attitude, and guidance for ourselves and others; to be able to step out in faith in service to the Lord. Most of all, we need to praise and worship the Lord, for who He is, what He has done for us, and for all of His wonderful qualities; no matter the circumstances of our lives.
 
These love letters to the Lord take the form of ballads, praise and worship anthems and confessional & petition hymns, presented in a variety of tempos, meters, musical accompaniments, all with glorious melodies, that all wonderfully support the mood and message of each song, besides being most enjoyable to listen to and absorb!

Six years in the making, this collection of songs was truly a labor of love for Sarah, her talented friends and all involved in the assembling of this album. A lot of musical elements came together in such a creative, memorable way, as many people in the Spirit gave their talents and gifts to bring the music and lyrics to life. This album truly was a team effort!  Sarah Hart, who had a lot of creative control, enlisted the help from talented musicians whom she has worked with throughout the years. These talents folks definitely know their way around their instruments, bringing their own touches of creativity to the songs they were involved with on this album; offering the listener interesting musical accompaniments, that add so much to the melody, spirit, mood and presentation of the lyrics found in each song on the album.

Let's dive into the musical accompaniments and vocals first, as they presented the spiritual meanings of the texts in such creative and inspiring manner, reflecting the talent involved in the making of this album.  Everyone who was involved musically was well accomplished in the elements of musical presentation, especially in the use of dynamics, keeping the underlying energy intensity, and spirit of the compositions, in a variety of tempos, adding so much to the moods and presentations of the songs.

While the acoustic sound, whether lively or poignant, is a delightful musical quality that is present on various levels throughout the album, the well-done contributions of the acoustic ensemble; (mandolin and guitars), is most enjoyable in the spirited songs; ON THE WAY * RESTLESS * TODAY.

ON THE WAY - This rousing ballad of testimony, ON THE WAY, starts this collection of songs off with an energetic, lively acoustic ensemble, and light percussion, that get the ball rolling on both the irresistible melody and tempo, making great use of the considerable talent, heard by the listener in the lively guitar contributions, a wonderful mandolin, and the percussion that is a subtle presence, yet provides umph to the tempo, upon which the acoustic ensemble sits on top of nicely. Vocals are well-done, expressing and presenting the lyrical message with spirit and energy.  Love the lively acoustic interlude that is the cherry on top at the end of the song.

RESTLESS - Another lively, very pretty acoustic ensemble keeps this perky anthem that praises the Lord, moving along with spirt and spunk, providing an interesting accompaniment to listen to, as well as doing a perfect job in supporting the inspiring vocals.

TODAY - Propelled by a dynamic acoustic ensemble with piano, strings and synths in the background. Verse accompaniment is delicate and tender, building to the refrain, offering perfect support for the poignant vocals. Lots of intricate inner-voices add so much to the melody. Most enjoyable interludes, featuring a well-blended ensemble of instruments.

In other songs, this strong acoustic force provides an energized base that stabilizes and motivates the rhythm and spirit of such praise and love letters to the Lord, songs such as: YOU ARE THE LORD * GREAT AND WONDERFUL LORD; eliminating the need for the strong, sometimes obnoxious, overpowering drum beat, sometimes heard in contemporary worship music. Percussion is subtle and used only when needed,.

YOU ARE THE LORD - Catchy, irresistible, peppy love letter of praise and worship, that would fit into any service of worship, as well as individual worship time with the Lord. Begins softly with synths and murmuring guitar sound, crescendos into a lively acoustic rhythm guitar accompaniment, joined with background piano, and light drum beat, with the enthusiastic vocals, that carry the melody beautifully. Lovely little counter melodies are in the background of verses.

Love the bridge especially as it is the crowning point of the song; both musically and message wise.  Musically, the bridge excels in excitement and celebration, reveling in how great our Lord is!

GREAT AND WONDERFUL LORD - Broad anthem of praise and worship.  Delicate, blend of acoustic, piano, B3 and synths and drums, that dynamically begins softly and builds throughout the composition, reaching its peak in the chorus, full of praise to the Lord.  Just the right amount of drums is heard, that blends in with the other rhythm instruments, disappearing in the 3rd verse altogether, reappearing gradually until very much present in the swell of sound in the chorus.  Ends very quietly, matching the beginning.  Another impressive composition, perfect for the mood and spirit of the vocal presentations.

The use of these McPherson acoustic instruments also was skillfully utilized in setting a peaceful, solemn  mood in several pieces as well, along with piano, strings, synthesizer, and B3 in some pieces, creating a beautiful musical compositions such as:  O SACRED BREATH * SPIRIT OF CHRIST.

O SACRED BREATH- Begins softly with a catchy rhythm, using drums and guitar, B3 and piano join the intro. Guitars join the accompaniment ensemble, that cooks along, throughout the song, keeping the energy and spirit pumping  throughout the verses and chorus.  Bridge is more solemn in mood, but segues back into this worship song's original spirit and tempo. Add the vocals and backup voices - WOW!

SPIRIT OF CHRIST(Anima Christi) - Favorite worship/ prayer anthem of this reviewer.  Beautiful 3/4 metered piano-based anthem of petition, that flows along, starting soft and poignant, with just a piano and vocals, with touches of strings. Dynamics and intensity builds as strings, flute sound, synthesizer and choral back-up all eventually join the piano accompaniment. Creates a memorable prayer hymn, sure to sweep the listener into a spirit of prayer.  Anthem ends softly, like it began.

Especially loved the use of the synthesizer, and B3 along with other instruments that resulted in creating not only a reverent, prayerful aura, but offer strong to subtle support for such songs as COME TRUE LIGHT * REFLECTION * OUR BLESSING CUP; songs that encourage prayerful worship and petition.   The mixing of the tracks is superb; the best that I've heard in a very long time!

COME TRUE LIGHT - Lovely dynamic blend of synthesizer, and guitar in the intro, as it really sets the mood of awe and thankfulness, that flows through the entire hymn of petition and worship. Lovely, smooth acoustic ensemble is heard in the interlude between the 2nd verse and refrain.

REFLECTION -This inspirational, memorable love letter of commitment to the Lord, has a beautiful melody that matches the equally beautiful  spiritual message. Begins with a ensemble of B3, piano, rhythm guitar and strings that again dynamically flows throughout the song.  What sounds like slide guitars in the interlude before the last time through the chorus is probably the B3 or synths.

OUR BLESSING CUP - (Psalm 116) This contemporary Communion song has a catchy rock beat, that offers a variety of instrumentation and dynamic changes to the composition; quieter piano, and guitar ensemble is perfect accompaniment for the heart-felt verses, while the refrain is more joyous, and full of celebration, with a rockin' piano, spirited drums and guitars and organ, B3 which also cook along with gusto; all involved getting into the spirit. Drums don't come in until the chorus.

The second verse is performed by one of Sarah's duet partners, who has a strong, melodic voice, offering a change in sound, bringing some vocal variety to the song.  Lovely duet  is heard beginning the 2nd time through the refrain.


Also most memorable are the BEAUTIFUL piano-led anthems/ hymns, such as LOVE MOVES YOU, and SPIRIT OF CHRIST;(already reviewed above),  as they really inspire the listener to sing along and worship the Lord!

LOVE MOVES YOU - 3/4 metered, flowing piano and strings carry this gorgeous anthem. It begins with a touching piano intro, followed by a wonderful blend of other instruments, and vocals.  Strings and other instruments complement the melody support.  Dynamics and vocals from the heart really encourages the listener to sing along and worship with the music.

RENEW -A most beautiful prayer anthem, with a fabulous melody that flows into the heart and spirit, carrying with it a truly heartfelt prayer of petition, asking for renewal of heart attitude to love and serve the Lord. Offers a beautiful blend of piano, guitar, strings and a touch of synths., a most inspiring song to end this album!  Begins with a memorable melody introduction with synths and piano, setting the mood and prayerful aura. Sound begins softly and builds to the chorus, that is melodious, expressive, the perfect accompaniment for the poignant, well-presented vocals of Sarah Hart.

Equally as effective and inspiring are the expressive, moving, dynamic lead vocals, by Sarah Hart, who sings from her place in faith in her heart and spirit, as she truly believes what she is presenting vocally and musically. I especially love her vocals in SPIRIT OF CHRIST * RESTLESS * RENEW * LOVE MOVES YOU.

The supportive vocal parts by her back-up talented vocalists, were always on key, expressive, and are blended well with the lead vocals, offering a fullness and completeness to the vocal presentations in some of the songs (YOU ARE THE LORD * LOVE MOVES YOU * REFLECTION * TODAY ). Thanks to the talents of Sarah and her male support vocalists; Jeff Thomas, Joshua Blakesley, three songs have beautiful duets:(O SACRED BREATH * OUR BLESSING CUP * SPIRIT OF CHRIST:(Chorus).) The results are that it is very hard not to sing along with the vocal presentations, as it is irresistible. The spirit flows through all their voices, and the music as well, inspiring the listener to let go of worries, and talk to the Lord through prayerful song!

While evaluating the songs on this album, it sounded to me that Sarah and her crew were giving a live performance in my office; Just the right touch of inner-voices, and melody support, mixed just right with great recordings of the spirit inspired lead vocals, and support vocals. No overbearing use of drums, synthesizer, B3, Wurlitzer, in this collection of songs!  It is obvious to me that this album, SaintSong is also blessed to have Jeff Thomas, producing and mixing the soundtracks, and Richard Dodd, who mastered the entire album.  It takes great skill and musical instincts to mix and blend instrumental tracks that not only support;(without overwhelming) the vocals, but also allow the listener to hear the various, softer inner voices of other instruments and back-up vocal support.  The lead vocals are clearly heard on top, and the support vocals are clearly present in a supportive role, and not buried in the instrumentation.  The various instrument voices that provide support and counter-melodies are in the background, but still can be deciphered by the listener.

Evaluation of the themes found in this collection of songs:

Let's take a look at the spiritual messages found in these well-done compositions that draw the listener closer to the Lord through these inspiring themes.

The inspiration for the compositions, vocals and spiritual meanings found in the lyrical messages of these songs, however began with studying the writings, poems and liturgy of devout people, who were passionate for Jesus Christ, in the early years of the Christian faith. As they inspired the people of their various times, so they are still able to inspire Christians today, thanks to Sarah and the people who worked so hard to create the music and lyrical messages on this album.

These songs reflect the spiritual wisdom and thoughts, gleaned from some historic, meaningful worship poems and texts of Christian saints of long ago, as well as an old testament hero, King David;(OUR BLESSING CUP; Ps 116), who God loved.  After soaking in and absorbing this collection of songs, it is evident to this reviewer that Sarah and her co-writers;(mainly Marc Byrd, Dwight Liles) as well, have chosen some very relevant texts/writings authored by people dedicated to the Lord despite trouble and persecution, and perhaps their own struggles; (or struggles of other people around them), with their human nature;something we all have issues with as we progress along on our spiritual journey.

From their writings that share what they have learned, witnessed or experienced, one can conclude that these devout worshipers of the Lord were aware of the struggles common with human beings; the same issues we have today. Depending and having faith in the Lord, remembering to praise and thank Him with a grateful heart, remaining faithful, obedient, putting self second, and making mistakes of omission have been the struggles of the human race since the beginning of time. These saints always encouraged turning back to the Lord, praising and thanking Him, confessing, asking forgiveness and depending on Him for help in one's spiritual walk with the Lord. Through their writings, they offer a positive model of what we should do to avoid sin and stay in His will for our lives; walk closely with Him in prayer, faith and dependence.

Three songs that promote praise and worship of the Lord for his faithfulness, love and mercy, despite all of our struggles with faith, and trusting in Him, with obedience and with our tendency to do the wrong thing are ON THE WAY, LOVE MOVES YOU, and REFLECTION.

ON THE WAY (Hebrews: 13;5-6)  This lively acoustic anthem of thankfulness and gratitude for the faithfulness and mercy of our Lord, who sticks with us, despite our failings, troubles and weaknesses, being a source of strength and comfort as we face the challenges of life, as we learn to step out in faith, depending on Him, along the road of our life in this world.

Inspired by the faithfulness, mercy, and love of God, a theme that flows throughout this album, Sarah, Mark and Elizabeth wrote the lyrics to this one themselves, as they reflect on their own spiritual walks, and of those around them. Perhaps inspired by the readings of the saints, their personal reflection on how they and others around them are learning as they step out in faith, like a little child, as they face bumps/pot holes in the road, disappointments, consequences of foolish choices we all make, surely does inspire a meaningful spiritual message for the rest of us. It is a message that inspires a grateful attitude for what the Lord has done for us all; staying with us, ready to pick us up after a fall, that is bound to happen, sooner or later.

Chorus:"Still I fall and You reach/ I am foolish, so You teach/ I wander, but You stay/By my side all the way/By my side all the way//.
LOVE MOVES YOU  (1 John 4:16,19) - Inspired by the text of St. Catherine of Sienna, it celebrates how great and perfect the Lord's love is for us. He is willing to call us, pursue us, to draw us near to Him.  This gorgeous hymn of petition and thankfulness relishes the Lord's love for us, and confesses our human tendency to have hard hearts and unloving attitudes, and thanks the Lord for reaching out to us anyway, because love moves the Lord.

"Dear Lord, it seems to be /that you love us madly./You have given us these lives to live;we have turned away.//

O Lord, how can it be/that for all our turning,/you should call us to yourself again/and with grace redeem?"//

Refrain: "It is love alone, love alone./It is love alone, love moves you, /Love moves you."

REFLECTION - Inspired by Text by Mechithild of Magdeburg. A love letter to the Lord, declaring love and dedication to Him, marveling at the Lord's love that pursues us.

"You desired me before the world began./You breathed and I became./You longed for me as only love can do/and called for me by name./You desired me when time was but your dream,/and you desire me still./With love perfected when I come to you,/you know I always will."//

Refrain: "Lord, you are my love,/you are my longing,/you are my river; I am yours./ Lord, you are my love,/you are my longing,/you are my river; I am yours./Your reflection. Your reflection."//
Three songs that remind the listener how much we need the Lord to be complete beings, meeting and exceeding our needs for love, wholeness, inner peace, joy,and strength and inspiration to continue on in the tasks He plans for us; SACRED BREATH * RESTLESS * RENEW

SACRED BREATH - Inspired by the Text from St. Hildegard of Bingden. Worships and praises God's Holy Spirit using lovely poetry, revealing all the great qualities of the Holy Spirit. "O comforting fire of Spirit, /Life in the very life of all creation/Holy are You, giving life to all/ so holy as You anoint us/ We who are torn apart/ Restore our wholeness/ Holy, You cleanse every shameful wound//

"O comforting fire of Spirit,/life in the very life of all creation,/ holy are you, giving life to all./ So holy as you anoint us,/we who are torn apart;/restore our wholeness./Holy, you cleanse ev’ry shameful wound".//

Chorus: "O sacred Breath / O fire of love/ O sweetest Spirit/ Fill our hearts/ O sacred breath."//
RESTLESS - Inspired by the Text from St. Augustine.  A perky anthem that petitions the Lord for help in staying focused on what is important. It is the favorite song on the album of Sarah Hart, because she can relate to it.  So can I, as well as most people caught up in our way of life in this world, where one can be tempted by being overly busy, pressures of work and family, and the tendency to put other things before the Lord, still remaining restless in our soul and spirit. The only cure for this restlessness is finding rest in the Lord.

"Show us, Father, lift our eyes,/let our vision be renewed./Speak to us and heal our ears,/open us to hear from you,/ you alone, our only good./In the midst of our unrest/let our wanting spirits be/your holy witness."//

Chorus: "You have made us for yourself, and we are restless until we rest in you."
TODAY - Inspired by the Text from St. Therese of Visieux.  A beautiful love letter, telling Jesus of personal devotion, realizing that none of us are not promised tomorrow, and only have today to praise, worship Him and show His love to others.

"Oh, how I long to see you/ without the veil of clouds between./Though for now exiled from you,/ keep not your holy face from me./But reveal it, Lord, through mine,/that the world may see the saving light./ I only have today./For to love you here on Earth, I only have today / today."//
Two glorious, spirited, inspiring praise and worship songs, sure to blow away negative thoughts and energy, while promoting a thankful, grateful heart as they proclaim who our Lord is and his eternal qualifications that He blesses us through and with great love and mercy:

YOU ARE THE LORD - Inspired by the Text from St. Ambrose.
This enthusiastic love letter of praise and worship would fit into any service of worship, as well as individual worship time with the Lord.

"You are the wind that sings in quiet praise./You are the fire that sets our hearts ablaze./Living water washing us with grace./You are the Lord."//

Refrain: "You are the Lord./You are the Lord, our God,/and we adore./You are the Lord."//

Love the bridge especially: "You're everything miraculous,/everything mysterious,/Everything glorious. You are."//

GREAT AND WONDERFUL LORD - Text by St. Francis of Assisi.  Well done, broad anthem that worships the Lord for all his love and mercy, and who He is as our Lord and Savior.

Refrain: "You are great and wonderful, Lord / You are great and wonderful, Lord/ You are great and wonderful, Lord, /wonderful, Lord."//

"You are beauty, You are friend, our protector, You defend. You are hope and faith, our Savior."//
"You are mercy, You are love, all we need, more than enough, for in You is life everlasting." //

Celebration and testimony to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and the light offered to all mankind.

COME, TRUE LIGHT -Inspired by Text from St. Augustine.  Another beautiful love letter to the Lord, praising him for his eternal qualities and the hope and love He brings to all who believe. Another one of the worship songs that lifts one up to the presence of the Lord.

Refrain: "Come, true light!/ Come, true light!"//

2. "Come, raising of the fallen/ Come, hope of all the saved/ Unmoving, unchanging you remain./Come, our friend, come, God almighty/ Alone to the alone/ whose nature we cannot say or know."//
3. "Come, our rest, our consolation/ our longing soul’s desire/ our joy and our endless delight."//

OUR BLESSING CUP (PSALM 116)- Modern communion song that is inspired by King David's Psalm 116, bringing the spirit of celebration of Jesus Christ to the act of communion, and re-dedication to His service. It is interesting how the songwriters tied Psalm 116 into a Christian communion song.

Refrain: "Our blessing-cup, is a communion/With the Blood of Christ/Our blessing-cup, is a communion/With the Blood of Christ."//

Verse 1:(Psalm 116: 12-13)- "How shall I make a return to the Lord/For all the good that He has done for me?/The cup of salvation I will take up/And I will call upon the name of the Lord."//
SPIRIT OF CHRIST (Anima Christi) -Inspired by Text from St. Ignatius of Loyola. The words of petition shine with such a wonderful musical accompaniment.
This prayer of petition asks for sanctification, illumination and cleansing of sins, protection from the evil one, and that Christ will call him when he dies, so he can eternally praise Him.

Refrain: "Spirit of Christ, sanctify me./Body of Christ, save me./Blood of Christ, inebriate me./Water from the side of Christ, wash me.//

1. "Within your wounds hide me./From evil protect me,/that my heart may never be/separated from you,/from you.//
2." O, close to you draw me,/and in my death call me,/that my heart eternally/ may sing praises to you,/ praises to you.//
RENEW - Inspired by text from St. Symeon.  Truly beautiful, uplifting hymn of Worship and petition for renewal of hearts for Jesus. First verse petitions God, second verse petitions Jesus and the third verse, petitions the Holy Spirit, covering the different parts of the Trinity.

Refrain, sung between the verses: Renew your people, renew your promise,/renew our hearts for you./Renew your people, renew your promise, renew our hearts for you, Lord, renew.//

 2:" Lord Jesus, Son of God who sits at his right hand,/Perfect Love that became man sacrificed for us,/Pure Redeemer: into our iniquity come;/Let forgiveness sweetly fall,/have mercy on us all.//

Reviewed by Julie Carr for ChristianMusic.com

 


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