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Relaxed and Re-tuned: Scott Chard’s album, Sanctus

Author – Ginny Chilton Maxwell is Music Minister at Church of the Ascension in Norfolk, Virginia, where she serves as organist, choirmaster, and elementary music teacher.

 

I tried to pay attention to the music at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this year, which took place in Austin. The worship planners did a good job of blending the old and the new, and of the new I noticed–by reading through the bulletins, which are available online– that the name Scott Chard came up several times. Much of the music was written by him and he was the artistic director for worship. A quick Google search reveals that Chard is the Praise Chorus Leader at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City. There is surprisingly little else to be found about Chard on the internet, except that he has one studio-length album that you can purchase online or stream for free on YouTube. The album, which was released in 2013, is called Sanctus and includes re-tuned hymns as well as fully original songs by Chard himself.

 

We haven’t talked about re-tuned hymns yet among these blog posts. In the church music world, a hymn is called “re-tuned” if it is an old text with a new, contemporary-style musical setting. Everyone knows the tune to “Amazing Grace,” for instance, but Chard has written a completely new tune to go with this text. Many listeners find it jarring at first to hear such a familiar text set to a new tune. The idea behind any new tune, though, is for the timeless words to hit the listener’s ear in a fresh way. Re-tuned hymns always use a modern, popular style of music, so as to appeal to listeners whose tastes tend more toward rock-n-roll than classic hymnody.

 

Chard’s re-tuning of Amazing Grace is reminiscent of the 90’s band Guster, with its light percussion, acoustic instruments, and relaxed pace. “Crown Him with Many Crowns” has acoustic guitar played with a Spanish flair, backed by Guster-like percussion. “God Himself is There” reminded me of Sixpence None the Richer, also a 90’s band.

 

Deliver My Soul” is my favorite track. It has a driving beat and highlights Chard’s gentle southern accent. The whole album is very gentle. I would even call it chill. CD Baby, Chard’s label, says you will like Chard’s music if you like James Taylor and I would agree with that. Now that I’ve heard the album a few times I would say it stands out mostly for its inoffensiveness. Like Guster or James Taylor, Chard is very relaxed. Relaxed is good. I enjoyed listening to the album and found myself humming the tunes throughout the day. Nothing really stood out to me, though. I was hoping to find something new and irresistible. I was hoping to be inspired, or at the very least, I thought I’d find something catchy. I didn’t find it on Sanctus.

 

Relaxed and Re-tuned: Scott Chard’s album, Sanctus

Album: Sanctus by Scott Chard

Label: CD Baby, released December 2013, produced by Erick Alexander

 

Author – Ginny Chilton is Music Minister at Church of the Ascension in Norfolk, Virginia, where she serves as organist, choirmaster, and elementary music teacher.

Welcome to the fourth entry in the Center for Congregational Song blog: Centered in Song. I’m Ginny, a 30-something organist and music minister living in Tidewater, Virginia. I’ve worked mostly for Episcopal Churches in my 13 years in church music, and I’m a cradle Episcopalian, so I was excited to be able to attend a conference at Virginia Theological Seminary two weekends ago, and I’m excited to share a few tidbits with you. The conference was called “The Once and Future Hymnal;” it was two days of lectures and conversations about the possibility of compiling a new hymnal for the Episcopal Church. Our current hymnal is from way back in 1982. “Was that a long time ago?” asks the girl who was born that year. Yes, yes it was.

Here are three takeaways from that conference that I want to talk about briefly: uncertainty, diversity, and community. Uncertainty was the word buzzing in my head after the first day of the conference. In 1982 we were coming out of the cold war and Vietnam War. The economy was recovering after a downturn in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Things were much more stable than they had been in 60 or 70 years. In contrast, things are vastly more uncertain in 2017. Globalization and rapid changes in technology have changed our world and our environment, such that, as we look ahead to the next 30 years, we are much less sure what to expect. That makes it difficult to compile a hymnal that we hope will last a long time!

Some of those gathered for the “Once and Future Hymnal Gathering”

 

Diversity and community are the other two subjects I have been mulling over since the conference. The Rev. Dr. Frank Wade made a wonderful point in his plenary lecture — and perhaps he’s not the first to say this — that diversity is the raw material, but the end goal is community. Currently, we are in a place as a church, and perhaps a society as a whole, that is more diverse than ever but has a crisis of community. That creates quite a challenge for us as we try to compile a hymnal, or simply lead a community in song each week. In a world that is so uncertain and diverse, how do we bring people together around shared song? What does that look like in 2017, as opposed to 1982, or 1882?

I can see how much things like uncertainty and diversity affect my work here in Virginia at my Episcopal parish. Many of us cherish our Episcopal hymnals because they formed us, while those who are new to the community bring songs from other cultures and denominations. Some want to delve into music that addresses imminent societal issues; others wish to anchor ourselves in the words that sustained our mothers and grandmothers. It sounds like a congregation in conflict, and we have our share of that. But really, all these things are good and we need them all as we work towards being God’s diverse community! We want to address hunger in our song while also singing songs that have knit us together for generations. We want to cherish our denominations’ hymns while also asking how we can reach out and include more.

As I reflect on it here, I realize my church’s diversity is beautiful, but the day-to-day work of planning worship is still really tough! How are all of you dealing with uncertainty and diversity as you lead your communities in song? Those of you who have been doing church music a long time — do you find you face more or fewer challenges now than in the beginning? Those of you who are new to song leadership — is it what you expected? What excites you about the next 30 years of congregational song? Share your ideas in the comments below. Let’s support and inspire one another as we sing our way into the future.

 

For more information on the gathering, you can see the Facebook page of The Center for Liturgy and Music at Virginia Theological Seminary, where they have posted some Facebook Live videos such as this: https://www.facebook.com/626388844083451/videos/1472359306153063/