ESR Alum Adam Webber shares a bit about his new CD project - how it developed during his studies at ESR , and how it fits into his pastoral ministry now:
My new CD, "As a Deer Longs", should probably have been subtitled, "A Soul Slogs through Seminary". I wrote most of the songs on it while I was working on my M.Div. as an Access student at ESR, between 2007 and 2011, and I recorded, mixed and mastered six of the songs during my Supervised Ministry project with Stephanie Crumley-Effinger. The artwork for the album (including the 12-page booklet insert) is the inspired contribution of my dear seminary friend and fellow graduate Rob Pierson. So maybe the album should have been subtitled, "Two Souls Slog through Seminary". But Rob can speak for the artwork himself, if he chooses. Here’s my rundown on the music, track by track.
The first song is called “Longs for You”. I think this song is my elevator pitch for God. What I don’t know about God is a lot -- Master of Divinity, indeed! -- but the diamond core of the little that I do know is in this song: the intensity with which God loves us and longs for us. I wrote and performed this song for a day-long retreat I led as part of my supervised ministry project.
Next, there’s “Me and Joe and What’s-His-Name”. This is in more of a folk-song style, and you can hear a bit of the English folk ballad “The Three Ravens” here. It tells, from a different perspective, a story from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23.
Then there’s the “Prophet’s Lament”. This is an autobiographical, comical song about my recent change of career. I used to listen to my parents’ Tom Lehrer records, and I guess his influence on my songwriting is pretty clear.
The fourth cut is an instrumental version of my “Rider’s Lament”. I originally wrote this for an a capella vocal trio. Fans of Tolkien will be able to guess what the words were, laden with the sadness of mortal life. (I’d publish the sheet music for the vocal version but, sadly, one can’t get rights for the lyrics.)
The fifth track is “Clear Fountain”. The beautiful background vocals are by my wife, Kelly Autrey-Webber. My French Canadian grandmother used to sing an old folk song, “Ã la claire fontaine”, well known to French-speaking people the world over. I don’t suppose anyone else thinks of that as a religious song at all, but for me the clear fountain long ago became an image of God. My song “Clear Fountain” expresses this.
Then there’s “I Don’t Believe in You”, a blues ballad. I wrote this song to share the story of a man I met, a Vietnam veteran who was camping, or perhaps living, under a highway overpass not far from Richmond. When I told him that I was a seminary student, he told me that he didn’t believe in God -- and he told me why. My brother Ben helped with the piano arrangement for this. He’s a jazz genius.
Track seven is “Fear Not, Said the Angel”. It’s the only song on this album that I’ve recorded before. It’s about some of the experiences of God’s presence that I had as a child. I used to find these very frightening, and I didn’t tell anyone about them at the time. I didn’t want people to think I was crazy, and I didn’t want them to be right. In fact, writing this song was the first time I shared any of these experiences with anyone but my wife. Kelly and I sing this one together.
Next is another reflective instrumental number: “One Needful Thing”. It’s part of a song cycle about the six-day creation story from the Book of Genesis. This is Day One -- let there be light -- and the last cut on this album is Day Five -- the creation of the animals. I wrote these as part of my work for a class led by Bethany professor Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, a class on Celtic Christianity that took us to the island of Iona in Scotland. My blog at adambrookswebber.com has links for downloading sheet music for the choral versions, as well as more information about my CDs and other works.
Track 9 is my “Treesong” -- a choral/instrumental anthem as sung by a tree. A worshipful tree. It’s hard to explain, but my wife says it’s her favorite.
Next is “Love Small”. This is a sort of alternative-country song in praise of my little home town of Princeton, Illinois, and in praise of small things in general. I couldn’t decide whether to include this one on the album or not. Sometimes, when I listen to it, it seems too corny. Other times, I think that corny was just the right note to hit for Princeton.
The final cut is “Come to Me” -- an over-the-top, wall-of-sound take on the creation of the animals, complete with animals.
I am currently an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, serving for 30 hours a week as the sole pastor of a small UCC church in Clare, Michigan. I enjoy the work of pastoral ministry: making pastoral visits, planning worship, preaching, and so on. But even as I enjoy the work, I know that there are many people I will never be able to reach with it -- many people who will never set foot in my church, or in any church. For me, music is another channel, a further way of answering my call to ministry. It certainly isn't a money-making activity. I'll be very happy if I can sell enough copies of the CD to cover the costs of production. But it satisfies my restless heart, my need to share with other people what God shares with me. And it was a great blessing to attend a seminary where this and many other forms of ministry are valued and supported.