Pictured, left to right: Stephen Lamb (copyist), Steven Curtis Chapman (artist), Brent Milligan (producer), Russ Long (engineer), Carl Marsh (arranger)
This was first written in June of 2013
Reminiscing a bit today: 12 years ago, I was living in Argentina, a student at a fundamentalist Bible school just outside of Buenos Aires, and I heard from a friend that Steven Curtis Chapman had a new CD, “Declarations,” coming out.
I had only begun listening to CCM two or three years earlier, starting to suspect that maybe God didn’t hate drums and syncopation and electric guitars as much as I had been taught growing up. When my brother John bought Steven’s album “Dive” in ’99, I was still writing 20 page e-mails to friends, trying to convince them of the evils of rock music and bring them over to the light. But soon, I was sneaking listens to “Dive,” particularly enjoying the orchestrations on the album, written by Carl Marsh and J.A.C. Redford.
The week “Declarations” came out, the mother of a classmate in the Bilingual program I was enrolled in came to visit, and she brought a copy of the CD. Since my CD player and CD’s had already been stolen by a fellow Bible college student, I borrowed another classmate’s CD player and headphones, borrowed the CD, and set out on a walk.
The school was next to a lake, with cow pastures stretching out as far as you could see behind the guys dorms. I started walking down the dirt road between two cow pastures, listening to “Declarations” with the volume as high as it would go. (About 3 songs in, I remember smelling something, looking to my left, and seeing a dead cow on its back, feet straight up in the air, about twenty feet from the road.)
The orchestrations on “Declarations” were even better than the ones on “Dive,” all written by Carl Marsh. I remember loving the french horns in “Magnificent Obsession,” and the big orchestral arrangement on “Savior,” accompanying Steven on acoustic guitar.
I already knew I wanted to be an arranger – I did, after all, have two orchestration books back in my room that I’d brought over from the States, tucked in between my Bible commentaries and Spanish language dictionary – and hearing Carl’s orchestrations provided both inspiration, and an example of the kind of thing I hoped to one day be a part of. Fast forward a couple years, after I had moved back to the States and then on to Nashville: after getting to know Carl, and starting to work with him on different projects, he dug out copies of the scores for all those orchestrations I had loved so I could study them, for which I was tremendously grateful.
Oh yeah, and the reason I was reminded of this story? I’ve been working this week with Carl, doing the music preparation for a couple songs on Steven’s new CD. Life is funny like that, sometimes.