Give Us Rest

I don’t write a lot about music. Why? I don’t know a whole lot about music. The only thing I can  ever really comment on in music is the lyrics. I don’t know anything about keys or chords or notes and all that. However, music moves me just like it moves the rest of you, and I couldn’t keep the music to myself today.

(No, I’m not going to sing for you. You don’t want to hear that, trust me.)

For weeks, I have eagerly awaited the arrival of one particular album. Now, it worries me when I anticipate something that long. Inevitably, it cannot be as good as I expect. I was pleased to discover yesterday that I was actually not disappointed.

I pre-ordered a copy of the David Crowder Band’s last work, a set of thirty-four tracks entitled, Give Us Rest or (a requiem mass in c [the happiest of all keys]). When I heard that Crowder and company would be doing a Mass several months ago, my interest was piqued. A Protestant, one group popular among evangelicals in fact, doing a Mass? The concept seemed odd and foreign.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis//Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Ierusalem//Exmudi orationem; ad te omnis caro veniet//Reqieum aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Introit

Not only is Give Us Rest a Mass, it is a Requiem, or the Mass for the Dead from the Roman Catholic tradition. Naturally, I found such a combination of influences fascinating given my interests.  Regardless of how complex and interesting I find the idea itself, however, I think this work deserves the attention of the Church and all Christians because it does several things.

(1) It’s good. From where I’m sitting, it just sounds like quality music. It’s sweeping, diverse, and engaging. It’s just interesting to listen to. It is no secret that a lot of contemporary Christian music, including a lot of contemporary Christian worship music, is not very good. You can slap together the same seven words and a couple of the same basic cords and produce the next big worship song. Almost everything sounds the same and everyone almost writes the same. You have to get outside of the mainstream worship music, usually, to find something of unique substance. However, David Crowder and friends have always raised the bar for our music, in worship and otherwise.

I lift a knife to the thing I loved most//Praying You’ll come so I can have both//What I need is You to touch me//What I need is for You to be the thing I need.

From Let Me Feel You Shine

The writing is superb, intricate, and possesses extraordinary depth. I can’t really comment on the goodness of the quality of the music from where I sit, but, hey, sounds good to me. Someone else can chime in on that point.

(2) It’s ecumenical. David and his traveling minstrels are Protestants. That much is obvious from the venues at which they play and the other musical acts they accompany.  However, Give Us Rest is not an exclusively Protestant project. First of all, it’s based on the Requiem. There is a heavy dose of Catholic liturgy present at different points. One track is almost entirely in ecclesial Latin taken from the Sequence, or Dies Irae.

Tuba mirum spargens sonum//Per sepulchra regionum//Coget omnes ante thronum//Mors stupebit, et natura//Cum resuget creatura//judicanti responsura//Liber scriptes proferetur//In quo totum continetur//Unde mundus judichetur

From Sequence 5.

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth//through the earth’s sepulchers it ringeth//all before the throne it bringeth//Death is struck, and nature quaking//all creation is awaking//to its Judge an answer making//Lo! the book, exactly worded//wherein all hath been recorded//thence shall judgment be awarded.

Translated into English (W. J. Irons, 1849).

Yet, you don’t just hear the words of the Catholic Mass. There are plenty of new songs, all based on the themes and movements of the Requiem. Too, there are some classical Protestant songs like ‘Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus which makes it in near the Paridisum.

Moreover, the project was not just done by Crowder and his Protestant friends. Matt Maher (e.g. “Christ is Risen”) contributed to the work on a number of tracks. Maher is a practicing Catholic who was once asked to lead worship when Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States.

If the Church is to be one, music  is a good place to start. Any interactions that get Protestants and Catholics (and Orthodox) working together is worth it. In this case, the project is worth whatever countless hours men and women of both traditions put into it. I’d love to see more of this happen in the future. (Maher is a good example of it happening on the Catholic side of things, having performed with a number of evangelical musicians.)

(3) It treats grace and judgment well. Rarely in North American Christianity is this balance maintained at all. Either, the message is all grace and everything is permissible and you can do whatever you want or all judgment, which means you are a worm who should always be hated and despised every day of your life.  For the record, I’d rather go all grace than all judgment, and my sermons tend to lean heavier toward grace (which I think is the safest way to go). Crowder walks the line perfectly. Grace is readily apparent all over the place.

Your river of grace flows endlessly//You won’t turn your back on me//Oh, I am a seed//Oh, I am a seed//I’ve been pushed down into the ground//But I will rise up a tree.

From I Am a Seed

But judgment is not neglected. It is cast in the light of being a reality, yet not a reality cast on others. Judgment is in the hands of God and it is the duty of the Christian to pray for grace. Blessedness of Everlasting Light puts it all so well:

Oh, Lord forgive//Oh, Lord forgive//The faithful we’ve outlived//Oh, Lord forgive//God, hold back Your hand//Oh, God hold back Your hand//Stay Your wrath again//Oh, God hold back Your hand//Blessedness of everlasting light//No more pain//No more night//Oh, Lord forgive//Oh, Lord forgive//Free from chains of sin//Oh, Lord forgive//God, reach out Your hand//Oh, God reach out Your hand//Full of grace again//God reach out Your hand//Blessedness of everlasting light//No more pain//No more night//Blessedness of everlasting light//Oh, what light//Oh, what light

The work acknowledges judgment and spends a great deal of time with it (on both discs), but in the end, God’s character is one of love and grace and the final plea is for Jesus to lead us to his healing waters, to “take me up and set me free.”

Of course, the theology is good most likely because it’s based on a historic piece of liturgy. That always helps, but Crowder & Co. have always been very knowledgeable of this balance and great effort to speak to the importance of grace shines through all their music, in Church Music and elsewhere.

On a whole, this album is a great last one for DC*B. I think all of us would love for them to stick around (and I don’t exactly count any of them out when it comes to continuing to influence contemporary sacred music), but this was a great final effort. I would absolutely love to hear the whole thing played live. It’d be probably around a two-hour affair, but it would definitely be worth it. That said, I hope bits and pieces of it begin to find their way into our communities, Catholic and Protestant. It would do a lot of Protestants a lot of good to hear some ritual mixed into their music and oftentimes it would do nicely to liven up a Catholic atmosphere that may have become stale (obviously, it can’t really be done at Mass, necessarily , but other gatherings might find the work useful).

So, I technically don’t know a whole lot about music, but I know Give Us Rest is phenomenal and needs to find its way into the Church in whatever way possible.

About Wesley Spears-Newsome

Wesley Spears is a student of religion currently enrolled at Duke Divinity School and a graduate of Samford University. Read more: http://wp.me/PzOSl-si

Posted on January 11, 2012, in Church, Ecumenical and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I only recently heard about David Crowder and his merry minstrels (incidentally, it was through a Catholic blog who was also discussing this album), but I really appreciate how you pointed out how unifying this music is, that it should be enjoyed by all Christians.

    I had done a google search to see some of the reactions this album was getting, and one protestant blogger filled every other phrase with “idolatrists”, “romanists” and “heretics”, denouncing Crowder for having given an interview to Life Teen, a Catholic media company. I saw that post before yours, but it was yours that helped restore my faith that good works can be recognized as good works without skewering the Christian brother or sister who produced it.

  2. To write a Requiem, is a huge project. Considering who has already written a musical version of the Requiem Mass: Franz Liszt, Johann Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brams, Antonin Dvorak … one can only fail.
    Add to this that the language of the requiem mass is very powerful and confronts the listener with the whole tension of the Christian life. It is not easy to transfer that into music.
    I’ve been listening to the album and I was surprised that the band follows the traditional form of a mass. On the other hand, for me, it lacks much of the tension that the traditional texts bear within themselves. It is good music and a laudable attempt to approach the themes of the Requiem Mass, but for my requiem I’d choose Mozart or a schola.
    B/c is there a better answer to the cry: Deliver me, O Lord!
    As: May Angels lead you into paradise;
    may the Martyrs receive you at your coming
    and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
    May a choir of angels receive you,
    and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

  1. Pingback: Bad company corrupts good morals | Elevate Christian Network

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