Music Review by Luchae Williams
Grammy-award winning, 280-voice choir, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, celebrates 20 years of worshipping the Lord as an ensemble with an album that is nothing short of majestic! The choir comprises a blend of ethnic and economic backgrounds and boasts members who range from doctors to lawyers to former drug addicts. Choir director, Carol Cymbala shared “When we truly worship, we open our hearts to hear from God.”
She says: “Church praise teams should never perform praise and worship. If we simply perform, our congregations become spectators instead of worshipers, and it is vital that we worship from our hearts in spirit and in truth. Worship is contagious, and when we worship as a choir and praise team, the congregation, in turn, begins to lift their hearts and worship God. I also believe our song selections should be simple enough that young and old, the diverse body of Christ, can lift their hearts in praise and worship together as one.”
Cymbala, who has written 11 of the 14 tracks featured on the album, is the wife of Pastor Jim Cymbala and daughter of the late Rev Clair Hutchins. She has done quite a remarkable job with the choral group and can boast of accolades such as 6 Grammy Awards and 7 Dove Awards, not forgetting to mention their special appearance during US President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony. The theme of this, their latest release, is centred on God being sovereign and worthy of glory and urges listens to engage in conversation and relationship with Him.
Album opener, ‘Praise Him’, is a classic Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir song. It is an upbeat track that comprises (what sounds like) pan flutes and a lot of hand clapping. Of course there is a key change and a really nice build up encouraging the congregation to “Rejoice in the Lord!” And if you enjoyed the opening song, then you will love the following track too. ‘Sing’ speaks about singing a new song unto the Lord and is also up-tempo and praise driven.
One of my favourites on the album is ‘All power’. This song declares that all power, all glory and all praises belong to the King of Kings alone! I love the choral arrangement in this song and particularly appreciate the operatic styled solo in the middle of the song.
‘He loved me’ is a beautiful worship song that is made even more so with the violin as the lead instrument. The chorus says “He loved me/ forgave me/ my life has changed since Jesus came/ and loved me/ forgave me/ I know I’ll never be the same.”
Title track ‘Pray’ is delivered powerfully and with effect! It speaks about calling on the name of Jesus with confidence, knowing He will answer you. The vocals never fail to disappoint and coupled with the amazing lyric, it is definitely one of the powerhouse worship songs on the album. Another powerful moment on the album, for me, was during the track ‘Who will go?’ when the 280 voiced mass choir sings “People everywhere, they need Jesus!” Wow! What a reminder that there is a lost world out there who needs to know of God’s love!
My 2nd favourite track on this album is ‘In Your name’ – it’s one of those tracks that I would love to introduce to my home church choir. The lyrics are easy to remember, the harmonies and vocal arrangements are beautiful yet simple and the music is congregational and easy to listen to. And yes, there is a key change. Oh and did I mention that it speaks about the power of the name of Jesus? That alone makes it a stone winner.
The old school sounding ‘Worth it all’ is a beautiful duet that is a must listen to! It talks about persecution and sacrifice being worth it all, to see Jesus’ face. This one is more focused on solo voices, and wow, do they dazzle!
Album closers ‘Come to Jesus’ and ‘In Your presence’ are both worship songs with the latter being a true gem, in my opinion, because of the simplistic way it has been written and delivered. It features a captivating solo and is one of those songs that you wouldn’t want to sing along to, but rather just close your eyes and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Well, what can I say about the amazing Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir that would do it justice? I do recognize that this style of praise and worship may not be for everyone, but if you appreciate songs that are straightforward and to the point, with catchy hooks and powerful vocals, then this is for you. I love that they have not swayed away from what makes this choral ensemble shine and that they have maintained their traditional sound. I thoroughly enjoyed this album.