Tony Cummings reports on a unique scheme where local church worship composers get a chance to have their songs professionally recorded and released on an album series.
In a church era of million-selling worship song composers and leaders it's easy to forget that for every Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin there are a thousand gifted worship songwriters and musicians ministering away in the obscurity of the local church. Over the last three years, Lincoln-based dB Studios have recorded and released a pioneering set of albums which endeavour to address the lack of exposure for songsmiths who don't have a Soul Survivor or a Passion behind them. The 'Re-leased' albums feature songs from a wide range of worship song composers plucked from the obscurity of British local churches. The recordings on the 'Re-leased' albums (of which there are now four volumes) are sometimes sung by the composers themselves though on occasions dB Studios have drafted in well known figures like Andy Bromley or Carla Ellington (neé Hayles) to provide the vocals.
The series is produced and arranged by Hd Productions, comprising of Dan Bowater and Howard Williams, with executive producer Chris Bowater overseeing the whole project. I asked Howard what was the 'Re-leased' albums' vision. He said, "There really are several aspects to it - to facilitate a release of songs written by writers from local churches around the nation - we need to hear the songs from the grassroots of the Church; to provide top class arrangements, musicians and singers, recorded to a high production standard; to use those recordings to introduce songs into the Christian marketplace via well known publishing companies; and to provide each composer represented on the albums 50 CDs for personal distribution or sales."
I asked Howard how dB set about finding all these grassroots composers? "Throughout the year the studio runs a number of training days for songwriters, vocalists and musicians," he explained. "We are also closely connected with a two year course for worship leaders, the Central Worship Academy, run by Chris Bowater and Andy Bromley. We have connections with many churches around the country and have contacts with many bands and songwriters that have built up since the studio formed. Each project is made up of all of these connections. We also have articles on our website www.db-studios.co.uk that have led songwriters to us."
Continued Howard, "The 'Re-leased' albums are innovative projects showcasing new writers of worship songs, giving much needed exposure to new worship music talent. The songs represent a wide range of musical styles, influences and church backgrounds though clearly all are born out of a sincere desire to worship God."
To find out more about the grassroots worship revolution Cross Rhythms quizzed 11 different composers whose songs have been featured on the 'Re-leased' albums. Here are their stories.
"God Breakthrough" on 'Re-leased 4' (2006)
"I'm a 37 year old Scotsman, happily married to my wonderful wife Dorothy and father of five children. We live in Paisley in Scotland (close to Glasgow airport) and worship at Renfrew Christian Fellowship where we have been for 15 years now. I gave my heart to the Lord when I was 14 years old, then I fell away through peer pressure at 16 years. I didn't come back to the Lord until I was almost 21 years old. I trained as a chef. I was working in Aviemore over the Christmas and returned to God in December 1989. Dorothy and I met at Easter 1990 and married summer 1991. I've been songwriting since I was in high school although perhaps those songs are best forgotten! When I realised that "church music" was as varied and talented as secular music I was inspired; Dave Bilbrough, Graham Kendrick along with Petra and Ian White were among the first material that I listened to. I started writing music to poems my mum had written and my own songs soon followed. Our church is an independent fellowship grounded in God's word, lively in praise and open to Gods gifts through the Holy Spirit. We reach out to the local community of Renfrew Town.
"The song 'God Breakthrough' was inspired by a conversation with my wife who said, 'Praise breaks through walls and I'm sure there's a song in that somewhere'. Having read Psalm 67 and been inspired by the revelation that when all the people praise him (God), 'then the earth shall see her increase' (Psalm 67: 6), the song was born. God had already supplied the words and then God supplied the music.
"I heard about dB Studios after my wife came back from the Worship Experience Conference in Eastbourne 2005. Dorothy had attended Chris Bowater's seminar on spontaneous song during which he mentioned the worship academy. I had been recording 'God Breakthrough' on my computer and when she came back I got the link through Chris's home page, contacted Mark and Howard and sent the MP3 file off."
"Put Me On The Road" on 'Re-leased 4' (2006)
"I'm married with three children and live in Tamworth, Staffordshire. I work for a manufacturing company as a sales and operations planning manager. I became a Christian in 1990, following a chance meeting with a friend whom I hadn't seen for about two years. After meeting up again a few times he invited me to a church service. There I learned about a God who was not just awesome, holy and powerful, but who loved me, was interested in the things I did and would provide meaning and purpose to my life. Not only that, he would release me from my troubled past through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus, and be my future guide. All I needed to do was accept this and follow him. A few months later I did just that.
"I've been a member of Tamworth Elim since becoming a Christian and about six years ago joined the church music group (I play guitar and sing). In 2003, we released an independent album 'From The Heart'. This featured two of my songs, 'It's Alright', about the second coming of Christ, and 'Our Father', which is based upon the Lord's Prayer.
"I began writing songs about five years ago as a way of expressing what I believed God was saying to me whilst reading through the Bible. 'Put Me On The Road' is one example of this. Isaiah 35:8a says, 'There will be a highway there, called 'the road of holiness'.' He goes on to explain that those who put their trust in God and follow his (God's) way will be made righteous. This really spoke to me and, after further reflection, I decided to develop this revelation into a song. I am totally convinced that the music I write is God-inspired, as songwriting is not something that comes to me naturally.
"In 2004 I attended a national event called RE:NEW, which is for Elim worship teams up and down the country. On this particular occasion, Chris Bowater was a special guest there and during one of the seminars I learned about the 'Re-leased' project. About 12 months later, I was invited to submit a song for consideration for 'Re-leased 4' and this was subsequently accepted."