…and why I appreciate the music of Chris Tomlin.
It could definitely be argued that Chris Tomlin is one of the most prolific worship song writers of our time. Throughout the years there have been a great many individuals who contributed to the body of music that the church uses. From the great choral and organ works of Bach, to the hundreds of hymns by Charles Wesley – while some folks were “one hit wonders” others were cranking them out left and right. Chris Tomlin is definitely on that path right now. Since the late 1990s, Chris has cranked out a considerable number of songs, and of those, I would say most of them are suitable for use in worship by a congregation.
When you’re that prolific, of course you’re going to have some that work better than others. And, because of the nature of modern worship songs, some of them have a longer shelf life than others. While 7-10 years ago I was regularly using songs like We Fall Down, Be Glorified, they have fallen out of use lately. However, songs like Not to Us, Holy is the Lord, How Great is Our God and Indescribable were around at about the same time and we’re still using them.
Two new ones that we’ve been introducing are Our God and I Will Follow.
We introduced Our God a few weeks ago and it’s really gone over well. People seem to love it and the worship team really likes it (and the congregation picks up on it when the team is really into a song). One thing that I really like about the song is that it doesn’t act like a standard song. What I mean is, the song is 110 BPM or what I consider a Medium Tempo song. However, instead of beginning at full intensity like most songs would it starts very simply: Quarter notes on the high hat, simple guitar picking and a light pad for the intro and first verse. Then in the second verse, where most songs would kick everyone in full, it stays the same. Then the chorus is, you guessed it, the same. Then the second verse is (again) the same. And the chorus after that. All the while building a sense of anticipation that grows every time you reach a new point in the song where your brain thinks it should finally change. Then after the bridge which starts to build even more it finally breaks into the groove you’ve been waiting for all along. The song creates an experience not just in lyrics but in arrangement as well.
We introduced I Will Follow a couple of weeks ago. It had just been released as a single that week and we were on top of it. It’s another one that breaks some of the typical “rules”: the verses and even the chorus are, in may ways carried by the drums. Yes there’s a light pad and some simple bass and guitar, the majority of the sound you hear is the drums, and they are even simple (very little cymbal or fills).
I love when artists get out of the regular patterns that seem to be established (although that’s usually because they work, so why mess with it) and challenge us to fight our expectations of what a song is going to do. And thanks, Chris Tomlin, for continuing to crank out some great tunes that we enjoy using in worship!