Songs of Zion
“Songs of the Seers”
The Arizona Mormon Choir and Orchestra
One of the problems I have with music that I’m supposed to listen to on Sunday is that most of it doesn’t seem to have the depth that I like. Either it’s musically or lyrically shallow. I don’t just like to listen to music as background noise. I like to pay attention, so I need to have some music that wants my attention. Too much church music, especially Sunday church music, is written just to be peaceful. As a result, I have a hard time finding stuff I like for my Sundays.
That’s why I’m very glad I got a hold of Songs of the Seers, by the Arizona Mormon Choir and Orchestra.
Don’t get me wrong. This music is peaceful. It is relaxing. It’s not a pop album. But it’s not fluffy, either. In fact what struck me most overall about this recording was that the arrangements were innovative, unique, and varied. I think that, as I listened, my favorites were the orchestral numbers. “An Angel from on High”, which starts the CD, is one of the best of those, too. “Lead me into Life Eternal” is good, too.
Many of them were more straight-ahead hymn arrangements with organ and choir, of the sort that you hear Mo’ Tab’ do at conference time.
One of my favorites was “Our God is a God of Love”. This was different than the others because it felt more like prose that had been set to music, rather than a traditional hymn. As a result, it had an “art song” kind of feel, which added a unique flair.
Another unique approach was “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth”. The piano that starts this one is full of enticing Debussy-esque dissonance. Very ethereal and almost jazz-like. The choir enters and sings the traditional melody, but with some very non-traditional harmonies. A flute descant at the end gives it some extra flourish. It’s not something I would have even considered for a hymn like this one, but it worked. Very tasty!
I was also impressed overall with the performance of the choir. I never struggled to understand the words, and they were consistently on in their pitch and dynamics. An excellent performance.
It was also nice to see that so many of our respected leaders over the years have felt the creative muse, and done so well putting their testimonies into lyric. I also thought that, even though these were all prophets of the restoration, most of these works could easily be appreciated by a general Christian audience. In fact, these songs might well go far in showing the general Christian world just how Christian we Mormons really are.
Shameless plug: Sam Payne's "Big Time" is one of the featured songs over at LatterDaySongs.com, as well as tunes by Pianist Lisa Powell, and GEM!