Michael Hart: Songs From The Mountain Top

Tuesday 1st August 2000

Eschewing industry needs and formats, Canadian singer/songwriter MICHAEL HART brings something fresh to worship as Mike Rimmer found out.

Michael Hart
Michael Hart

Canadian singer/songwriter/psalmist Michael Hart has an affinity for the UK as he lived here for 12 years and it was whilst in the UK that he became a Christian. He cites British artists like John Martyn, Yes and Van Morrison as influences as well as Canadian artists like Bruce Cockburn and Joni Mitchell. Listening to his fifth album, lord Of The Mountain, many different sounds combine to create his rootsy style.

He makes beautiful worship music that has been honed by years of recording and playing live. He explains, "I played primarily for youth events and rallies for the first six to seven years. Back then I used to use a lot of midi gear, and more electric guitar. God seemed to bring me through a period in the early '90s of everything being stripped down to an all live acoustic framework, and from there my ministry seemed to become more transparent, drawing in a wide age range. Looking back, it's more obvious in hindsight that I needed to go deeper in my faith. I sacrificed larger sound for a more transparent show. The element of worship seemed to grow more - my events are very participatory."

As you'd imagine from a man who writes worship songs in the manner of the psalms, Michael's life hasn't always been easy. "Most of the profound lessons have happened through wrestling with loss, conflict, dilemmas and life disappointments. But I've also experienced God on the mountaintops of life too. The temperature range is more extreme in Canada and similarly my life has been one of extremes, and God meeting me in the highs to lows. In 1997, I lost the tips to my second and third left fingers from a lawnmower accident. It was a long process of hand therapy and learning to feel again -let alone pressing down on metal strings. I lost 27 years of hard earned callouses. I had to build up the callouses and nerve endings again!"

Even the 'Lord Of The Mountain' album was created after Michael emerged from a difficult time. He explains, "In 1999, I was sick for six months from, vertigo malaise - dizziness combined with chronic fatigue. It was very debilitating. But when I came out of that we recorded (the album). I've found the Psalms and Scripture overall to be a rock to hang onto, no matter what you're going through. Hence why the Word of God figures so prominently on this new release, and the opening declaration of putting our trust in him."

Michael combines leading worship at events in different parts of Canada, mainly as a solo artist, but this is not the total of his work. He shares, "I lead worship at Canada's largest Anglican church on Sunday nights, in Vancouver city. There are about 500 people attending every Sunday night, and I've been given the part time job of leading the worship and the music team. It's been challenging and as well as an honour. In this latter setting I'm not working with professional musicians so much, but helping to assist a well-established city ministry. I've learnt a lot about leadership and working with others. I've grown as a bandleader and arranger. I've seen God at work in this kind of ministry especially in the growth of the prayer life of the musicians working together in common cause to see Jesus lifted up, myself included."

Like the British Christian music scene, Canada is overshadowed by American CCM. Michael says, "I had someone from Nashville tell me that although in Canada we are lacking industry-wise, we live in one of the better environments to write in. Certainly the environment does affect my writing, as it has on 'Lord Of The Mountain', and my writing is not contrived for industry needs or formats. The joke here is that the Great Canadian Dream is all about 'breaking even'! So Christian artists might struggle more than British artists to actually be heard in their own country. The good news is that they are also very free to follow God's leading as he enables."

It also means that Michael has been able to follow his own musical and spiritual passions when recording the album. He tells me about one of his own personal highlights, "There Is Forgiveness'

(Psalm 130) is perhaps the most emotional moment on the album for myself personally? Maybe it's because I remember the strong sense of God's Spirit when I sang and played along live with the drums, piano and stand-up bass.

Forgiveness is the one thing everyone desperately needs, and it's a free gift. 'Now if you 0 Lord kept a record of wrongs I wonder who could stand, but with you there is forgiveness, that's why I revere and worship you.' It's the deepest and most simple psychology lesson ever - we can continually be set free of our sins, our past, our mistakes and rise up to be a new person - still clay - but fashioned by his favour and mercy." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Mike Rimmer
Mike RimmerMike Rimmer is a broadcaster and journalist based in Birmingham.


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