Saturday, June 28, 2003

The Pearls, part II

One thing I enjoyed very much about this last Pearl Awards program was just how many award recipients remembered to thank the Real Source of their talent, skill and success.

That is, of course, Our Heavenly Father. A few years ago, when I went, I was shocked at how few remembered. I suppose at the time that with the surprise of winning the award, that they fumbled in their minds, because I’ve met many of them, and they are all very spiritual people.

See, as a musician, I see there are the three elements I mentioned above.

Talent, to me, is the raw, natural ability that the Good Lord blessed you with before you even arrived here on earth. Everybody has it, but we all have it in different areas. We say, we have a “knack” for this or that. I have felt a definite knack for playing string instruments, and for songwriting. That part always came very easy for me. It’s part of the cards that were dealt to me at the beginning of the game.

Skill is what we here on earth do with that talent. It’s when the Lord tells us to “magnify our callings”. Practice, instruction, effort, discipline. It’s what we add to what the Lord has given us.

In spite of all my gifts in instrumental music, as well as recording and arranging, I’ve always struggled with my voice. I’ve had to work very hard at getting even the minimal level of skill that I now have.

I can’t take full credit, though, because with that effort came a lot of prayer, and with that prayer came a lot of guidance and blessings from heaven.

And even with my knacks, I’ve invested time, study, and effort in improving the talent with skill.

Remember when the master gives out the talents in the parable? The servants were expected to build on those and multiply them. That’s skill

Finally, you have success. This is, in my book, how you go about promoting yourself and sharing your music with others. This is effort, too, and blessing, yes. This is the one area where you get the praise of the world. And in LDS music, it can be tricky.


Because you want to share. The whole point of music is to communicate a feeling or an idea to your audience.

But at the same time, you don’t want your notoriety to overshadow the message. You can get real wrapped up in yourself, and the music and the message suffers.

That’s why, to me, it’s always gratifying when the winners of the Pearls acknowledge where the real awards will be coming from, when He says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…”

Mark Hansen

Friday, June 20, 2003

The Pearls

I just had a great evening! My wife and some friends all went to the annual Pearl Awards Gala.

Now, I’m sure that most of you are scratching your heads about now, wondering what on earth the pearl awards are. It’s a wonderful event that they do each year for us Mormon musicians. I know it’s not much, but in our little world, it’s a big deal.

It’s kinda like a Mormon Grammy show. No, it IS the Mormon Grammy show. All the big LDS musicians vote to see who they think is the best in the various categories, and then we all dress up in our best and have a major hob-nob party.

Great fun.

This year’s awards had some way cool things happen.

One was a couple of really refreshing “upsets” or at least pleasant surprises. The first was Fiddlesticks. They’ve been nominated every year for the last four years, and this year, they finally won one! I’ve been hoping for that day for a long time, and I’m sure they have, too. They were up against some very popular groups, too, and still came out ahead.

Another was Stephanie Smith. She won for New Artist of the Year. I had the chance to promote a concert for her last year, and she was a lot of fun to work with. She is one of the more innovative young writers I’ve ever heard. But she, too, was up against some more popular acts in her category, and came out ahead.

Also, neither of these two have big, or even small label support.

Some of the perennials were there, of course. Tyler Castleton was listed as writer, producer, or artist in just about every category. Kenneth Cope won his 9th and10th award. It’s not like these guys don’t deserve all the accolades. They really are that good. But as the LDS music world grows, there’ll be more equally good people to share the wealth around a bit.

The best part of the evening, is introducing my friends to the people I’ve met as I’ve been a part of the industry. It’s just a lot of fun.

The reality is, that the LDS market is still very small. And winning a Pearl won’t mean a dime in additional sales, like a Grammy would. But at the same time, it’s a fun time, and a really cool event.

And a chance to hear some great new music.

Mark Hansen

Saturday, June 14, 2003


As a Father’s Day present, my wife took me to see a touring production of Les Miserables today. What a show!

I’ve been pretty familiar with the story. I read almost all the way through the book (and THAT’s a project, let me tell you), and I saw the movie starring Liam Neeson. Even still, it gets me every time. It truly is one of the great achievements of western lit.

There are sooo many layers of messages. The fact that a man can change, the fact that compassion and mercy sometimes take precedence over earthly justice. That a life lived in service is valuable beyond measure and can change so many lives.

I wonder if the priest at the beginning, such a minor character in the musical, not much more in the book, ever realized just how major a role he played in so many people’s lives when he gave the poor convict the silver candlesticks and rescued him from re-arrest. And to think he lost his fine silver over it. But what an impact it had.

I think ultimately, this is the story of true Christianity and how a pure Christian can win out in the long run. And I think that’s why I love the story so much.

So then we come home from our date, and my little five year old, Brendon, asks me if I liked the show.

Yes, I liked it a lot.

“What was it about?”


How do you explain Jean Valjean and Javert and Cozette and everyone else to a five year old!?

So, I fumbled through a really short father’s digest version. When I was done, he said, “I like that story, tell it again!”

So I did, with just a little more detail.

And I will many more times.

Tell it again.

Tell it again…

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The LDSMusic IV Festival

I’m very excited.

The email group I’m in (for LDS musicians) is again sponsoring a music festival, currently in our fourth year, and I’m in charge of it again this year.

Here’s a press release I wrote for it:


For immediate release has announced that Maren Ord will be headlining their fourth annual festival of LDS music this August.

Ord began writing songs as a hobby at an early age, and at 15 entered four songs in a song contest in her home town of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “Edmonton has about a million people and I was a little nervous about going up against thousands of other accomplished artists, ...I think at this time I had only written five songs, ...and they needed me to enter four, Ord explained, “So, I sat in my room with this old eight-track recorder and just sang my songs with my guitar (I was 15 at the time), ....and when I got a return phone call that I had won along with five other artists, I was ecstatic!”

One of her songs was chosen as a single from the compilation album that accompanied the contest, and soon it was getting airplay all over Canada.

She then joined the Lilith Fair tour, and signed with Sarah McLaughlin’s manager. “Soon after signing with Nettwerk records and Capitol EMI records, I was off recording in New York and London, England. Now THAT was a neat experience!”

Recently, after getting a few songs placed on soundtracks in locally produced movies, she had a chance to do some acting as well, appearing as Sariah Phelps, Jared’s sister, in Halestorm Entertainment’s “The RM”

“Shooting the RM was something I never want to forget,” says Ord, “I still do not claim to be an actress, but it was such a fun and different experience for me. I think I enjoy more of the ‘behind the camera’ stuff more than being in front of it.”

The festival will be held at the park amphitheatre at 800 E on 700 N in American Fork (just west of the Mt Timpanogos LDS Temple) on Saturday, August 30. While events and performances are scheduled there throughout the afternoon and evening, the headliner showcase will start at 7:30 PM.

This is the fourth year for the festival, showcasing budding and rising stars on the LDS music scene. It arose out of a email group started by Brad Thompson, now of the folk duo Border Crossing, in an attempt to find friends that shared his passion for uplifting, well-crafted music.
“We’ve got a wide variety of sounds and styles performing this year,” says Mark Hansen, performer and festival organizer, “And it should be a great show. There are performers that are traditional and folk and rock musicians as well. Some really break the mold!”

In addition to Ord, Stephanie Smith, Rich Bischoff, David Edwards, Sam Payne, and Wayne Burton are also slated to perform, among many others.

While Ord’s music appeals to church members, it also has a broader audience. “Yes, I've played EFY's, ...but I have also played Lilith Fair. I don't think I am one side or the other. I play a lot of shows to a lot of different people, and I think everyone sees the same person on stage. I still have values, ...and people see that whether they are LDS or not.”


So, mark your calendars! It’ll be a great show.

Mark Hansen

Monday, June 09, 2003

You go, girl!

A long time ago, I said that the LDS music world was poised for a renaissance, if it hadn’t already begun.

Well, here’s some more evidence:

At The Deseret News there’s a story of a new mormon choir. One that takes LDS hymns and gives it a little soul. And who could come in with just the right blend of experience and sweetnes to show us stodgy mormons how to do it right? None other than Gladys Knight, recent convert, and genuinely adopted into the fold.

A quote from the article: “She said once when she was singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, church President Gordon B. Hinckley "expressed a little concern that I may not feel very excited about our hymns.

"I do love the music of this church," Knight told those gathered. "I just think that some of it could use a little zip!" she said, to applause from the audience.

I knew that when I heard of her baptism, that she would make waves in the LDS Music world. It just didn’t happen like I’d expected. Funny how the Lord has ways of making things work out better than they would have if I had been in charge.

Another cool thing about this is that she’s using it as a way to broaden some people’s perceptions of how things are in the church.

“Knight thanked President Hinckley and other church leaders for their encouragement and urged the audience to widen their embrace of the cultures, music and customs of all people. Using her love of ice cream as an analogy, she said as she visits congregations around the world, she's noticed that "some congregations are mostly vanilla, some are mostly chocolate, according to the makeup of the immediate community.

"But the most enjoyable sight for me to see is a congregation made of fudge ripple, that vanilla and chocolate blended together."

“She emphasized that the "face of this church throughout the world is changing" fulfilling the prophecy by the apostle John that the gospel would go to "every nation, kindred, tongue and people." She spoke of the Book of Mormon account following Christ's visit to the Americas, where people of different ethnicities were no longer divided and there were no more manner of "ites" or divisions among the people based on race or culture. "I like that."

One of the things I loved about my mission is how people from a totally different background, different situation, different color and culture could treat me with such kindness and welcome. That was the first time that I truly experienced the brotherhood of the gospel.

And yet, I was also saddened to see that so much of church culture had been transplanted from Utah. In directing the fledgling congregations, missionaries had unintentionally taught their own traditions, which became as ingrained as the gospel. There are many righteous traditions of the people that can be embraced. The gospel is constant, but the people and the cultures are rich.

And rather than start a noisy revolution, Sister Knight is starting a musical one. And that will accomplish FAR more in the long run.

Mark Hansen


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