Saturday, June 25, 2005

Temple Reflections

I’m sitting by the reflecting pool just east of the Salt Lake Temple. It’s twilight, and there are a few whispy shadows of clouds around the lighted spires. I can look into the reflecting pool and see the inverted building against the growing black of the night sky. I think about the phrase “Holiness to the Lord” and realize that no matter how hard I try, I can’t be holy enough. That thought gives me shivers as I realize that’s what the atonement is for.

My thoughts to go to a time almost 18 years ago when Jodi and I came to this sacred place and were sealed together. I can still remember many images of that day, many of them in the courtyard around the building as our two dissimilar families joined together for laughing and photographs on the steps of the building.

I remember my grandfather, my mom’s dad, being there. His wife had died a few years before. He, himself, would only last a few years more. I remember Bev, Don’s wife, herself childless, she had fit herself in so completely as the family grandma, and later took such good care of my own children. It fills my eyes to think of her, also now gone.

I remember playing on the temple lawn with my new nieces and nephews, all young children. One by one, they’re all getting married, one in less than two weeks in this same temple.

I can remember that day surprisingly well, but it’s a sharp kind of sweet memory because Jodi and I are temporarily apart. We speak daily, sometimes two or three times. I’m grateful that she’s so patient with me and my quirks and weaknesses. She says I’m patient with hers, too, but I really think I’ve got it easier on that one.

I came downtown tonight to hear a performance by my good friend Sam Payne. A line from one of his songs sticks out in my mind as I think of Jodi and our marriage: “This has changed me forever, I’m a far, far better man…”

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Musical Testimonies

The more I think about how cool that meeting was last Sunday, and the more I read the responses that some of you have written, the more I want to get to know your songs and your stories.

So, everyone that reads this, take a moment to think of your favorite hymn, or spiritual song, and thing back to a time when it touched your life. If that alone makes you smile, then that’s good enough. But if you’re up to sharing that moment with us, post it in a comment, or if it’s longer, you can post it in your own blog, and come back her and tell us about it in a comment.

I’ve asked people about their favorite and least favorite LDS songs before, but this time I’m probing a bit deeper. Don’t just pick a tune that’s got a cool melody or a happy rhythm, tell us about how a hymn touched you.

We won’t laugh, I promise!

Mark Hansen

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Really Cool Sacrament Meeting

Today, after the Sacrament was passed, our bishop stood up and commented that we might have noticed that the speakers for the meeting weren’t sitting behind him on the stand. He then made a general call out to the congregation to make sure that they hadn’t arrived during the early part of the meeting, and then said, “Well, if the speakers aren’t sitting up here behind me, then that only means that they must be sitting out there in front of me!”

He then told us all to get a hymn book and open it up to our favorite hymn. Then he started calling out the names of people in the congregation and asked them to come up, read or sing a verse or two of that hymn, and then tell why that hymn was a favorite.

What followed was one of the most powerful testimony meetings I’ve ever been in. One by one, people (as they were called up) went to the podium and through their tears (often) read or sang the hymn and bore testimony of how that music had touched their lives.

One woman told about “I Stand All Amazed”. I used to think that song was the draggiest and dullest hymn in the book until I learned what it was about. Now, as I was hearing her read it, my eyes teared up along with her.

Our cross-the-street neighbor chose “How Firm a Foundation”. How can you go wrong with that one!? “Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed. For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand!”

I got called up, too. I chose “Sweet Hour of Prayer” for mine. I have such fond memories of singing little baby Brendon back to sleep with that one, when he was only a few months old. In some ways, too, that song inspired “What’ll Save Ya”, from my CD, even though the songs sound soooo different.

I don’t know, though, when you slow “Sweet Hour” down, and really let go with it, it has a kind of gospel-blues-y swing to it that just settles in really nice. Just don’t tell my bishop…

Mark Hansen

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Everyone's a Critic...

There’s been some interesting discussion about reviews in my LDS Musicians email group. It’s very interesting to me, because I’ve been thinking so much about my own reviews.

I get some really mixed feelings when I review a CD.

I like reviewing CD’s in my blog (and at because I get to hear lots of new LDS music. It keeps me aware

I also like helping keep others aware. It’s been cool to get some feedback comments from some of you kind folks out there that have appreciated the reviews. Some have sparked some other conversations, too, and that’s cool. I want to see the LDS music scene grow, and so one good way I know how is to share news of new music.

I get really nervous, though, when I start judging the “quality” of a CD. It feels very strange to me that I would somehow have the right, or the authority to tell someone else how good their work is. Especially someone like Greg Hansen (I reviewed a CD he produced recently). He’s been working in LDS music as a full-time job for years. He’s got awards and credits all over the place. What about me? Do I have the right to judge his work?

Well, on one level I do. As a listener. The bottom line is that everyone who listens is judging it. With or without technical expertise. Someone buys it and listens to it, and judges whether or not they like it. On that level, I am qualified to express my own opinions.

Another reason I get nervous is when I review someone’s work from the opposite end of the spectrum. Someone who’s just beginning. I worry about saying things that could hurt someone and damage their progress. I keep thinking of how I reacted to some of the reviews and comments I received early on in my “career”. I keep thinking of the Harry Chapin song, “Mr Tanner” That song can still make me cry when I read the last verse.

I remember attending a presentation at one of the lds film festivals, where someone presented a paper and talked about the lofty and noble role of the critic in improving art.


History remembers artists, and forgets critics. How often do you read an interview with an artist and he or she will say how they have to train themselves to ignore the critics, both good and bad? How often have you heard an academy award winner give an acceptance speech and say, “…And finally, I’d like to thank all the critics who panned my work. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be half as good an actor as I am today…”

So, With all that baggage, why do I write reviews?

Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I’ve come up with two big reasons why I’m going to keep on doing reviews at Mo’ Boy:

1. So that you, the reader, can decide what you might like enough to buy. That means that I’ll approach my reviews not so much from the point of view of: “Is it any good”, but rather, “If you listen to it, you’ll hear this kind of music”. Whether or not it’s any good in your ears will be up to you. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep my own opinions out of it, but I’m hoping that you’ll be able to sort through it and arrive at a conclusion about the music.
2. So that you, the reader, can be exposed to the wide variety of the undercurrent of LDS music. Songs that aren’t in the mainstream. CD’s that aren’t being heard in Deseret Book. Music that is fresh and new, made by people who’s names are fresh and new.

That, plus, I get a lot of cool music in the mail!

Mark Hansen

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Songs of Zion

Chad Woolner, “Hymns Made of String”

Hymns Made of String is a wonderful CD to put on while the family is relaxing on Sunday afternoon. It will help bring some peace and tranquility to a home. If that is what this CD is designed for, it succeeds, and succeeds quite nicely. Spiritual background music. I found it to be difficult to focus on it, however, by itself, as a whole.

Each one of these songs is well performed and extremely well-recorded. All of the songs, especially “God Be With You ‘Till We Meet Again”, and “Come Come Ye Saints”, would be marvelous works of recorded music if I hadn’t just heard ten other songs just like them. Song to song, the tempos rarely varied, and the arrangements were similar (one guitar playing broken chords from the root on up, two guitars harmonizing the song’s melody line). On their own, any one of these songs would be beautiful, touching. Taken as a whole, it all blended into sameness.

There were some moments that almost broke out, however. There were some strummed parts in “Master The Tempest is Raging”, and the intros to a couple of songs, like “If You Could Hie To Kolob” and “Come Come Ye Saints” that caught my ear for a moment or two, before each one returned to the same broken chords and the same tempos with the same arrangements.

Chad picked his material well. All of the Hymns are very familiar, allowing us to follow they lyrics in our minds as we listen. The two that I didn’t know, “Mary’s Shoulders”, and “Tree of Life” were written Gayle Walker (Chad’s in-law) and by Chad himself. Their melodies were tasty and pleasant.

Three stars… We have the themes, it just needs more variation…

His website,, as I was writing the review, didn't come up. It might have been a temporary outage. Perhaps you can try it and see...

Mark Hansen

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Tribute!

The last week has been a very interesting one. Monday and Tuesday were spent in Tucson, setting my wife and son up in an apartment.

Before anyone panics, Jodi isn’t leaving me. Not yet anyway. She’s down there with Jacob (my 5-year old with cerebral palsy) at a summer camp/class of a program called Conductive Education. You can learn a bit more about it at That camp will last until the end of July, when we’re bringing it up to Salt Lake for another month beyond that.

But in the meantime, Jodi’s living in Tucson, and I’m living in Salt Lake.

The last time we did this, in February and March, she lived in a spare room with an elderly couple. So this time, it felt totally different. She’s in an apartment complex, with a two month lease. We had to go out to thrift stores and buy pots and pans and silverware and lamps. It felt like we were setting her up in a residence, and that residence was apart from me. That hit home pretty deep.

A few days earlier, I had been in Vegas, doing a symposium for my work. Another one of the presenters there had apparently just gone through a pretty ugly divorce. He seemed to enjoy making the audience laugh at her expense: “I just lost about 130 pounds! (audience applauds) Of course, she took half my stuff with her…” It was pretty clear that, laughter notwithstanding, he was pretty bitter about the whole thing.

It makes me realize how lucky I am that my wife puts up with my nonsense, my quirks, my weirdnesses. We’re going to have our 18th anniversary this summer. And each year, I’m more and more amazed at the things she accomplishes for our family. What a lady!

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Kirby Responds

I recently got an email from Kirby about the review I wrote. A very nice guy. We started exchanging some emails, and I got a chance to get him to respond to my comments about “Stay With Me”. It was very enlightening. He also gave me permission to post his comments here:


“Thanks for your email. I didn't intend for "Stay with Me" to be taken as a sexual song. I wrote it about reaching a level in a relationship where you never want to say goodbye. I wrote it as a "wooing tool" for my wife. She is so amazing. Somehow, she can be both dangerous and sweet at the same time. We have spent many nights laying awake in bed until the early hours of the morning talking about life and how we met and how we feel. Although I get tired and want to go to sleep, I love listening to her. I love my life with her. It is a song about how much I love our life together.

“With all that said, I certainly understand how easily it could be to interpret the song the way you did. It actually makes me excited when people email me or send me a letter letting me know what a particular song means to them. I really do appreciate you taking the time to listen to the songs and see what they mean to you.

“Thanks again,


So, there you have it, straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. I’d really like to meet him face-to-face sometime, when we both have a little more time than just shaking hands at a Deseret Book signing.

But in the meantime, I’m going to keep track of his appearances, and I’ll definitely go and get his autograph! The more I listen to the tunes the more they grow on me, and I liked them from the start, too!

Mark Hansen


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