The original intent of this series was to reproduce, to the extent possible, given the limits of time, budget and logistics, the sound that you’d hear in many a small church in the South and West. Live recording of such venues is always difficult, and seldom done well; with our other limiting factors, we had to make do in the studio.
I mentioned the extended family aspect of the Virtual Choir earlier; the other ”virtual” aspect is that this choir never really sang together anywhere (although that’s not true of those of us who sing together at reunions and such).
We have a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Presbyterian singing along with our core church of Christ singers, which occasionally pointed out certain songs that were unfamiliar within denominational groups.
Except for Art Greenhaw, none of us are professional musicians; we’re just regular folks who love these great old songs, who have sung them on and off for 30-plus years in the case of the younger set, and 60-plus years for the older members.
We never had the luxury of getting in the same room and practicing, and since a large studio with 10 or more microphones was prohibitively costly, we did the recording a track at at time. With little or no practice, they simply walked in and started singing, more or less as we’d do in a weekly church service.
To the extent we’ve reached a reasonable representation of what you’d hear in that small country church somewhere, we’ve succeeded in the original design. This is by way of saying that the relatively raw sound is intentional.
If any of it is any good, it’s more because of the songs, the love of God of the writers and their inspired work than because any of us are great singers. We’re not.
A special note about “Heaven Holds All to Me”: this was one of Uncle Guy Scruggs own choices for his funeral service. I would have chosen “Blessed Assurance,” for him myself, since only a few of us are so happy and blessed in their life and their work for the Lord.
We include a couple of Southern Gospel classics: ”Farther Along” and “I’ll Fly Away,” which I have grown to love as an adult, both of which promise better things on the other side of life, and an eventual understanding of what’s really going on. God does have a plan.
“Old Rugged Cross” is perhaps so well loved, and so widely used that it’s suffered by its popularity in that we very seldom sing it in church anymore.
“Rock of Ages” is itself a piece of the bedrock of sacred music, another of Thomas Hastings classic contributions to the genre; we include his version of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” as well.
Again, we hope this effort is seen as respectful and reverent of the great gospel tradition it represents, and perhaps it will help some person find the Lord. These songs have helped me, and I thank God for the opportunity to share them with you.
Ernie Wylie Harkins June 10, 1997
Copyright © 1998 Adama Music. All rights reserved.
This list was compiled by Ernie Wylie Harkins (we provide the traditional title and the familiar or first line )
“I Know My Redeemer Lives” word arranged by Fred. A. Fillmore and tune by Fred A. Fillmore, 1917.
“Old Rugged Cross” (On A Hill Far Away) by George Bernard, 1913.
“Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” by W. Williams, 1745 (words), and Thomas Hastings, 1830 (music)
“Take Time To Be Holy” by William D. Longstaff (words) 1882, tune Holiness by George C. Stebbins, 1890.
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts (words) 1707, and tune Hamburg, based on Gregorian Psalm Tone, Mode I, Lowell Manson 1824.
“Almost Persuaded” by P. P. Bliss
“Heaven Holds All” (Earth Holds No Treasures) by Tillit S. Teddlie, 1932.
“Rock of Ages” by Augustus M. Toplady (words) 1776, and tune Toplady by Thomas Hastings, 1830.
“Come Thou Almighty King” words possibly by Charles Wesley, Anonymous, 1757, and tune Italian Hymn by Felice de Giardini 1769.
“Farther Along” W.B. Stevens, 1911
“Be With Me Lord” by Thomas O. Chisolm (words) and Lloyd Sanderson, 1935, copyright 1963, renewed by L.O. Sanderson, owner, by permission
“I Know Whom I Have Believed” (I Know Not Why) by Daniel W. Whittle (words) 1883 and tune El Nathan by James McGranahan 1883.
“Night With Ebon Pinion” by Love H. Jameson (words) c. 1892 and Joseph P. Powell (tune) 1883
“Marching To Zion” (Come Ye That Love The Lord) by Isaac Watts (words) 1707, and Robert Lowery (tune and refrain) 1867.
“I’ll Fly Away” by Albert E. Brumley, copyright 1932 in “Wonderful Message” by Harford Music Co. Renewed 1960 by Albert E. Brumley and Sons / SESAC (admin by ICG). Used by permission.