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Album Review – Jeremy Moore, “Pillars”

Jeremy Moore, David Calvert, Congregational Song

The Context:

“Pillars” is the second album from singer/songwriter Jeremy Moore. This album is a rearrangement of several hymns with pop, indie rock, southern rock, and folk sensibilities. Moore’s previous album is more in the intersection of jazz and singer/songwriter genres, which still manifests in moments on “Pillars.” Moore is based in Birmingham, Alabama, and has collaborated with Zac Hicks and other worship leaders in the Birmingham area (Advent Birmingham) for the album “Our Strivings Cease.” This album is a self-described effort to maintain the “ethos, tone, and structure” of what would appear in a hymnal, yet arranged with “updated” musical choices.

 

The Content:

Moore has chosen an interesting selection of 18th through 21st century hymns to rearrange, from “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” and “Rejoice, the Lord is King” by Charles Wesley to “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” by Stewart Townend & Keith Getty. The hymn melodies are largely preserved, although Moore makes some dynamic alterations and some small adjustments to serve a song’s new musical setting. The consistency in melodic movement may help congregations who are generally familiar with the song to sing it in its new form, but congregations who are intimately familiar with these melodies and their rhythm may find it difficult to adapt to some of the changes. The first listening experience draws fresh attention to the songs but does not necessarily invite participation, and in this way is more conducive to personal rather than corporate worship. The instrumental choices may also preclude some smaller local churches from directly representing these songs, as Moore adds layers of strings and ambient sounds to the hymns. Generally, the songs are pitched well for intergenerational participation, though it seems some songs have been adjusted to allow for Moore’s tenor voice to make an octave jump or other performance moment.

Notable songs include “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” and an intimate arrangement of “Give Me Jesus” in addition to the aforementioned Wesley hymns.

 

The Conclusion:

“Pillars” combines a 21st century indie/pop instrumental palette with the lyrical content (and mostly-intact melodic content) of a variety of well-loved hymns. The album is very appropriate for personal worship, and a few of the arrangements may be reproducible in local church contexts in which skilled pianists serve. This album is an example of a conscientious attempt to contextualize hymnody for a specific musical space.

 

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Review provided by David Calvert, who is the Creative Arts Director for Grace Community Church in rural North Carolina and a PhD graduate in Theology and Worship from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

 

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