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Album Review – The Porter’s Gate Worship Project, “Volume One: Work Songs”

Center for Congregational Song, Isaac Wardell, Urban Doxology, Wendell Kimbrough

The Context

The Porter’s Gate is a collaborative effort between many songwriters and artists, spearheaded by Isaac Wardell. Their stated goal is “… to build an ecumenical community that invites conversation and collaboration in an exploration of faith.” This “sacred arts collective” desires to provide a welcoming and deeply moving soundtrack for the Church’s presence in the world. This specific album focuses on the labor of God and labor of the Christian, thus the title, “Work Songs.” Participating artists on this project include Audrey Assad, Josh Garrels, Latifah Alattas, Liz Vice, Paul Zach, David Gungor, Joy Ike, Madison Cunningham, Aaron Keyes, and Urban Doxology.

 

The Content

The diverse voices of the participating artists are each given a moment to feature on the album. The joy and lament of the gospel genre of music are manifest in the songs performed by Urban Doxology, the folk genre is well-represented by Paul Zach and others, and classical music shines through in string arrangements and certain moments from the piano. Historically, one of the ways that the world has been invited to consider the gospel is through goodness and beauty. This album seeks to reclaim this invitation through goodness and beauty represented in song. The natural reverb of the church in which this album was recorded is a subtle reminder of the resonance of congregational singing and the organic beauty of musicians worshiping together. Notable songs include “Wood and Nails,” “Establish the Work of Our Hands,” “In the Fields of the Lord,” and “Father Let Your Kingdom Come.” Although songs are generally pitched for the voice of the performing artist, the strong melodies could be easily re-set for congregational singing. Similarly, although arrangements may include instruments not common in some smaller churches, the strong melodic movement and simple yet profound lyrical content could be rearranged for different contexts.

 

The Conclusion

This album is an important resource for personal worship—one would be hard-pressed to listen through this work and not be moved to consider the majesty of our merciful God. The variety of musicians who participated bring a refreshing eclecticism to the flow of the album. Although the arrangement of the songs may limit its use for congregational singing in smaller churches, several strong melodies and some rearrangement may help adapt these powerful songs for the participation of the local church. The focus on vocation and the Christian life is an important supplement to hymnody in the American church, especially.

 

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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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