All posts tagged: hymnody

Review: “O Emmanuel” by J.J. Wright

An album of Advent and Christmas music incorporating chant, hymnody, and jazz, performed by a children’s choir, a quartet of adult singers, traditional chamber instruments, and a jazz ensemble. On paper (or on screen), this combination is perhaps more suggestive of avant-garde performance art than reverent sacred music. But the new album O Emmanuel brings this unlikely ensemble together in a spiritually edifying and musically thrilling way. Featuring music written and performed by Grammy-winning composer, conductor, and pianist J.J. Wright (along with the Notre Dame Children’s Choir and Fifth House Ensemble), O Emmanuel is an exciting demonstration of the ways in which sacred music can bring together seemingly disparate styles not only from the Church’s long musical tradition but also from more recent developments in Western music, as Wright describes here in his interview with Church Life Journal. Like the Advent season itself, O Emmanuel is full of surprises. The album begins with “Gabriel’s Message,” an Advent hymn narrating the Annunciation event that deserves to be much more broadly known than it is. Here, Wright’s …

An Interview with Audrey Assad

Soon after the release of her latest album Inheritance, Catholic singer-songwriter Audrey Assad graciously provided the following interview describing her inspirations and her aspirations for this project and for her music in general. We are grateful to Audrey for sharing her thoughts with us as a complement to the review of her album featured here at Church Life. CP: You’ve demonstrated an incredible depth and facility as a songwriter on your previous albums Death, Be Not Proud, O Happy Fault, Fortunate Fall, Heart, and The House You’re Building. Yet, with this latest album, your own songwriting takes a backseat, and you’ve offered listeners instead a collection consisting mostly of familiar hymns in original arrangements. What is it about hymns in general and these hymns in particular that has not only drawn you to them but has also made you want to share them with your listeners? AA: First of all, thank you so much for the kind words on my songwriting. I knew I was indeed shifting my focus a bit in doing a hymns project—I did …

Review: “Inheritance” by Audrey Assad

In a response to U2 frontman Bono’s criticism that Christian music lacks honesty, a recent piece at Aleteia named Catholic singer-songwriter Audrey Assad as one of five “real” Christian singer-songwriters, citing her latest latest album Inheritance as the reason behind their choice. What sets Assad apart from the other four artists named in the article provides the focus for this review of her aptly-named album: nearly every track is an arrangement of a hymn or text that has been part of the musical tradition of the Church for decades, or, in some cases, centuries. Assad has recorded an array of repertoire that played a significant role in her own spiritual life and development—from the time when she sang hymns with the Plymouth Brethren community in which she was raised, to her faith life now as a convert to Roman Catholicism. While there are perennially familiar and beloved hymns like Holy, Holy, Holy and Be Thou My Vision and How Can I Keep from Singing, there are some surprises too. Assad’s inclusion of I Wonder as …