and spiritual songs

a quiet search for the great psalms hymns and spiritual songs of our times

Posts Tagged ‘pentecostal church songs

I Stand In Awe – Mark Altrogge, 1987

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As far as good songwriting goes this one’s a beauty.

In googling the details for the song I came across an article on ccli’s website that is so good I figured I’d just copy and paste it over here…except that it’s probably best if I just send you over there. You can read the story behind this song and the life of Mark Altrogge over here.

Rather than just repeat it all over on my blog I might just discuss some of the features of this song that really stand out to me.

The sentence ‘I stand in awe of You’ is to me, a pretty obvious Christian worship cliche and I would go as far as to say that contemporary songwriters should avoid it along with words like ‘Capture’ and ‘Amazing’.

It’s a fine line walked by worship writers because you are working in many ways, with a restricted vocabulary and will therefore inevitably reuse certain phrases and expressions. I don’t mind the reuse so much, but I think – as with any art form – when you start to string together well known idioms, adjectives and sentences as filler to go with a pretty melody you can start to lose a bit of impact and people stop engaging with the end product because all they see are the mechanics of how it was put together.

Don’t you ever hear a song lyric and think – couldn’t they have come up with a better way of saying it than that?

Anyway back to my point – I would certainly place the sentence ‘I stand in awe of You’ in the do not use pile.

So why does it work so perfectly in this song?

I believe it’s a testament to the skill of the writer that he has crafted such a perfect train of thought in his lyrics that justifies the use of the expression.

Here’s how I see it (haha since you all must want to know what I think…)

The verses use a string of words that you don’t often find in songs. Things like ‘beautiful beyond description’, ‘too marvellous for words’, and ‘too wonderful for comprehension’ are all directly pointed toward God and have an elegant poetry to them in a number of ways (such as the aliteration of ‘beautiful beyond’, the three syllable adjectives…not that chucking grammatical analysis on a worship song is common practice but you get what I mean)…the words are unusual enough that people singing them don’t tend to mindlessly go through the motions – you are at all times aware that your’e singing a song that actually means something. and then comes the next part.

Having described the attributes of God in three different ways, Altrogge then develops his train of thought…having articulated those things that he can put in words, he then asks questions. If you want to get technical about it, this as a device is great because up til now we’ve had the attributes of God more or less articulated for us, but in asking questions we are left with a sense of open ended wonder.

And again there are words like ‘grasp’ and ‘fathom’ that may seem simple but their very presence elevates the vocabulary above just conversational poetry.

The questions point to the infinite and eternal nature of our beautiful, wonderful, incomparable God, before returning to the first line ‘You are beautiful beyond description/Majesty enthroned above’

To me there’s something quite dramatic about the progression of this opening section (the big words, poetic imagery and expressions) that builds along with the perfect melody line to the point where you end the verse quite literally bursting with the sense that God truly is magnificent beyond our comprehension.

If you really engage with the song you find yourself so excited closing that verse that you quite honestly can’t say much more than to repeat the line ‘I stand, I stand in awe of You!’

Written out in prose it would conclude something like ‘Having said all that I can, I’m left stunned at the thought of such a God and can do nothing but stand and marvel in amazement’.

Cliches become so because of mindless overuse, but even a cliche in the right context can be engaging and illuminating.

And we haven’t even talked about the music side of things!

I believe this song is a wonderful example of what a worship song should be. The chorus is so simple that when you sing it it’s so easy to engage with God and forget that you’re singing words that somebody else wrote. You truly do stand in awe of God.

There’s another song by Mark Altrogge called I’m Forever Grateful that I’ll put up on here one day. Hmm. I dont know much about him but mate he is a great writer.

I Stand In Awe Of You is one of the very best.

Ahh God is good ey.

Hope to chat again soon.

B

Jesus It Is You

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Another one of mine.

I confess I feel a little conceited putting my own song on a blog that is dedicated to ‘finding the great hymns’ of our time. I promise it’s not by any means an attempt to put myself in the same category as the Don Moens and Isaac Watts of this world.

I figure if I’m out there scrutinising people’s lyrical content I should at least be vulnerable enough to show my own songs.

So here is one.

It’s called Jesus It Is You and it was written in a time of great frustration.

Growing up in Pentecostal Church culture has brought with it many great experiences and challenges to my faith – not least the cold truth that trusting in man will only lead to disappointment.

Faced with the opportunity to let go of everything and walk away I sat down one night and started writing this song. I figured if nothing else I had Jesus – or at least He had me.

Of all the worship songs that I’ve written, this is certainly the first time I’ve written one so personal and out of my own experience and perspective of God.

Anyway here it is as sung by my little sister :D

She’s great.

B

Written by andspiritualsongs

May 30, 2010 at 1:56 am

In Christ Alone – Shawn Craig and Donald Koch

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Perhaps not the easiest song to sing as a congregation though Integrity music did record a worship album featuring the chorus only which seems to work beautifully.

That aside – this is easily one of my favourite Christian songs written in modern times.

The song by Andrew Shawn Craig and Donald A Koch is a humble acknowledgement that the our life is lived only by the grace of God as purchased through the life and death of Christ.

Pentecostal Christianity tends to spend so much time celebrating the blessings of God particularly in the music culture.

The beauty of this song is in how it is both a celebration of these things but a deep confession that living this life cannot be ascribed to our own strength but to the work that Jesus did and continues to do in us.

Furthermore, lines like ‘these trophies could not equal to the grace by which I stand’ demonstrate that even with the great blessings of this world, this grace that all who believe have received is the greatest treasure of all.

Christ centered songs are unfortunately few and far between these days – especially ones written so directly and deeply.

This is a moving and important song.

Written by andspiritualsongs

May 29, 2010 at 1:55 am

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