Night time, for me, is when my creative juices start to ooze. What I refer to as "the gift" was quite literally placed in my lap on a random night while in bed January 10, 2011. I sat pondering on what to do next in my musical life and I scribbled down my thoughts as I always do. Looking at the scribbles in my lap I noticed the random, seemingly highlighted, words: hymns, vocal jazz, acappella. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, "What if I were to approach my favorite vocal arrangers (those that have shaped my musical life), and invited them to write an acappella arrangement of my favorite hymns?!?!? My mind became flooded with so many ideas and reasons why this would be such a great and unique undertaking. It would be a musical collision of so many of my favorite worlds.
The idea consumed me so much that I went to work sending out invitations to arrangers the next day. I had no real personal experiences with any of the arrangers previous to sending my invitations. I only knew them from their musical work that found a home within my soul. I had run into a couple of them at workshop or concert, but they didn't know me. Basically, this was a "cold call" to each arranger. I had no idea what the responses were going to be. I didn't know if I would even receive a response or if I even had the correct contact information. Hope was my guide.
To my joyful surprise almost everyone responded! The invitations were received with openness to the project and were responded to with excitement. After the first couple affirmations I shared my excitement with my family and a couple of good friends, one of which was Andrew Cummins.
After a few weeks Andy contacted me and said "I've been thinking about your project and I think it's a great idea. I want to help". Together we formed Hamptones Music. Andy headed up the business and financial side of things while I sat on the artistic side.
With arrangers in place, I started to send out hymns to each arranger. A few hymns were assigned; I knew exactly to whom a hymn would go. I knew that Mark Kibble had to be the arranger for “I Stand All Amazed” and that I needed to give Paul Langford my favorite hymn “Our Savior’s Love”. I also knew that Jonathan Rathbone was the only one for “I Believe in Christ”. This was also the case for Michele Weir, and Matthew Selby. For Cedric Dent, Britt Quentin, Anders Edenroth, Darmon Meader I sent 2 or 3 options from which they chose. Both Don Hart and Phil Mattson asked me if they could arrange one they already knew! Phil Mattson was originally sent a different hymn from “Love at Home”. I was planning to keep “Love at Home” for myself, but Phil had expressed interest and a special connection with “Love at Home” so when he asked me to do that one I graciously agreed.
After awhile the arrangements came piling in. The first was from Britt. Poor Britt! He was my Guinea Pig. In my excitement to have the first chart in my hands I really poured over his piece making edits and additions. I sent it back for his approval. His gentle response was basically, “um…those changes are nice, but it doesn’t sound like me anymore”. Right then I saw that what I was doing was interfering with the plan of “the gift”. While I kept one or two changes I quickly put it back into Britt’s “voice” and I learned not to mess with brilliant inspiration.
(Side note to Britt: Thank you for your patience with me and trust. I’m so sorry to have acted in such an ambitious way. I love you. Please forgive me!)
Every arrangement that came was thrilling and before I knew it we had all the arrangements in hand and it was time to set up a recording plan. I went to Kyle Bowen, he helped set up all the tracks for recording and helped me create a recording plan.
I called Bill Hare, because why would you go to anyone else? He is the one responsible for the recorded sound that is contemporary acappella today. I knew he knew the voice. I knew he knew the style of these arrangers. I knew he was the man to engineer and mix this project. He, like the arrangers, graciously accepted and “the gift” kept gifting.
Here I was now surrounded by the biggest names in vocal jazz and acappella and I was going to do a hymns album! I couldn’t believe it!
We set the time for the first 2 weeks in February to go up to Bill’s studio and record the album. The singers were assigned a day to record their parts. Both of our women singers, Jammie and Rachel, were pregnant at the time. Now go listen again to the album and imagine singing like that with a bowling ball for a tummy except with a child inside cutting off all your air support! Talk about angel voices and miracles!
The 7 recording days were pretty exhausting, but everyone stayed true to their scheduled time frame and we made it through. In the following 3 days Bill worked his mixing magic. A few times Bill moved me to tears as I listened to the tracks coming to life and felt of the significance of what was being created before my eyes in just a matter of days.
Immediately after we left the studio Bill made contact with the largest LDS book and music seller and told them that they needed to take a look at this project. They did, and both Andy and I scheduled a meeting with the company. They seemed to love the album, but were not quite sure what to do with it. They suggested that we go find some well-known LDS artists and add them in as soloists.
At this point we had already surpassed our recording budget by over one and a half times. We had no more funding to pay more singers or for more recording time. Thus, we fell off the radar with the company and our hope that they would pick it up.
It’s very difficult to keep positive and keep progressing in a project when there is no funding to keep it going.
And so it sat for several months until when in May 11, 2012 our son, James, who was still in his mother’s womb while she recorded this project, decided he was ready to be born. Sadly, unbeknownst to us, he was born with a heart defect. He had transposition of the great vessels (his pulmonary artery and pulmonary vein were reversed). James at one day old went under major heart surgery. Surgery went longer than expected and while surgery seemed to be successful it was too much for his little body and on the 13th, Mother’s Day, he passed away in my arms.
Among the many feelings that this experience brought I found a renewed determination to release this album and its beautiful music and message.
I went in search of friends and family that could help with funding but with no success. I was still in the same frustrating spot as I had been since we left Bill’s studio. How could such a gift be given that until that point went so amazingly smooth and the way clearly prepared by heaven itself? On the other hand, what good thing doesn’t come without trials?
In the late winter of 2014, I helped to bring The Real Group to California for a couple of concerts. This stirred in me a confidence that I could release this project on my own. So, I went to work, surrounded myself with supportive people, and now the time has come to make this available to you!
This project has given me a way to share my testimony and love for great music, supportive and talented friends and family, the message of the gospel, and of the Savior. I know He lives and that because of Him we can find eternal happiness and everlasting life. I hope that all those who listen to this album may be touched whether in the power of music or message by "the gift" that was delivered to me.