Love Never Ends: An Interview with Adam Wright of The Corner Room

Last year I came across the album Psalm Songs, Vol. 1 by The Corner Room (the music ministry of Cahaba Park Church in Birmingham, AL, led by Adam Wright). I was struck by so many things about that album: the beautiful arrangements, the excellent way the text of Psalms was set to music word-for-word, and how effective it was at helping me not only memorize, but also sing the Psalms. I had that album on repeat for most of 2016.

Here’s the lyric video to the setting of Psalm 121 from that album:

Earlier this year, The Corner Room released a stunning new EP entitled “Love Never Ends”. No pun intended, but I love it. Their website describes it this way:

“Love Never Ends is a three movement suite of 1 Corinthians 13 verbatim from the ESV Bible.  Written for piano, strings and brass, the resulting cinematic landscape make this a truly breathtaking journey through one of the most familiar passages in Scripture. This project is designed to help anyone, from children to adults, know and treasure God’s Word.”

Here’s a quick video sample:

I asked Adam to share with us a bit of his story, and the heart behind The Corner Room and their recent album. Here’s a short interview:

Tell us about yourself. 
My name is Adam Wright and I have lived in Birmingham, AL my entire life.  It’s definitely home!  I have a beautiful wife of almost 11 years named Jessica and two adorable daughters: Nora, 3 and Jill, 1.  I love to read and listen to music constantly.  I also enjoy a deep, thought provoking movie from time to time – Christopher Nolan’s films have been some of my favorites (especially The Dark Knight Trilogy).  I also am a stickler for correct grammar and punctuation.  Did I mention I’m a nerd?  I must have forgotten that part, but you’ve probably gathered that by now…

How did God call you into worship leading?
Music has always been a natural part of life.  From childhood to young adult years, there were always opportunities to grow and serve at church – youth and adult choirs, handbells, contemporary worship services, youth group worship, solos, etc.  There were more opportunities in college – some at churches and some with college ministries on campus at the University of Montevallo.  After graduating college, I got a part time job playing piano for a church which had both a traditional and a contemporary service.  After three years serving that church “behind the scenes,” I began working at Cahaba Park, which has been a wonderful place to use and develop God’s good gifts.  Initially, my perception of my job was to choose and lead four songs in the service – easy enough, right?  Wrong!  As I grew in my understanding of worship leadership, I found that there was a spiritual component that transcends executing songs.  There is a pastoral role in what I am choosing and planning every week for our congregation and for me, the weekly process is devotional.  I have loved working at Cahaba Park and am thankful for the opportunity to serve such a great group of folks.

Tell us about your worship ministry and the heart behind some of your recent projects.
In 2016, I created The Corner Room, a music resource ministry of Cahaba Park Church.  While we do have an EP of hymns (What Great Mystery, 2016), our specific focus is setting Scripture verbatim from the ESV Bible (the translation that our church uses in worship) to music.  The Corner Room has released two “Scripture song” projects: Psalm Songs, Volume I, a collection of ten psalms set to original music; and Love Never Ends, a three movement suite of 1 Corinthians 13.  Our hope is that these songs would create opportunities for people to experience the Word of God in a fresh and unique way, and serve as a tool for Scripture meditation and memorization.  While these projects are not intended for congregational singing, I believe that singing the Word of God to those in our services as they follow along is a powerful tool in corporate worship.  We played Psalm 8 in worship this past week and as I looked into the congregation, I saw husbands and wives, parents and children, youth and singles, following along in their Bibles while the Scripture was sung.  I’d like to encourage more music leaders to do this occasionally (or often), as it provides a moment for people to be still and reflect on the words and truths of Scripture.

Tell us about your latest project: “Love Never Ends”
All of the Corner Room projects to date have originated from the books of the Bible preached in our services.  Seeking to thematically incorporate the sermon text into the service, I took the texts that were going to be preached and prepared musical arrangements for them – both for Psalms and for 1 Corinthians 13.  Recording these songs was a natural extension of what our church was learning and created more opportunity for our people to reflect upon the text.

1 Corinthians 13 is one of those passages that is almost too familiar and it’s a challenge to create a musical arrangement that evokes a fresh sense of wonder and awe.  It’s such a tender text, but it’s also extremely vibrant in it’s descriptions of love.  Any previous interpretation I’d heard was extremely “ballady” and I challenged myself to think beyond the natural tendency to approach it that way.  Previous Corner Room projects had a very “rootsy” focus – I’m definitely inclined to write in that vein.  As I began these arrangements, I decided to use the both delicate and percussive piano as the main instrument and invited Grammy-nominated arranger/composer Don Hart, to score the accompanying (and phenomenal!) strings and brass.

This project has moved me to consider more deeply the love Christ has demonstrated towards me and the love to which he calls me to exemplify to others.  I remember my initial listen of the first movement.  In tears, I had to stop halfway through, drop to my knees and thank the Lord for his grace in Christ, and for the opportunity and gifts to create something like this.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  It was a truly humbling moment.

What’s next for you?
I am currently at work on Psalm Songs, Volume II!  I hope to have it completed by winter of 2017-2018.  Stay tuned!

Any chance you have any freebies you could give away?
I will gladly give away some freebies!  How about 3 digital downloads?

Thanks, Adam, for your ministry, and for sharing your heart with us.

If you’d like to get one of those free digital downloads Adam is offering, please comment below. At 12:00pm tomorrow I’ll randomly pick three commenters, and will put Adam in touch with you.

You can follow The Corner Room on Twitter @cornerroommusic.

O God Of Perfect Holiness (New / Free Song)

A few weeks ago I wrote a song called “O God of Perfect Holiness”, and wanted to share the free chord chart, lead sheet/choir parts, and video below.

The song was written for one of our services where I wanted something that focused us upward on God’s attributes of holiness, faithfulness, righteousness, gentleness, tenderness, and loveliness, in contrast to our sinfulness. It’s a simple four-verse modern hymn.

The lyrics are:

Verse 1:
O God of perfect holiness
Seated high above
What ocean-depths of faithfulness
And sacrificial love
That all of our iniquities
Were placed on Jesus’ head
So we, who once were enemies
Are now his heirs instead

Verse 2:
Oh God of perfect righteousness
True in all your ways
What kindness in your promises
What all sufficient grace
That you would send your Son
To live and die upon the cross
That through his victory he would give
That victory to us

Verse 3:
O God of perfect tenderness
Who welcomes sinners home
What Father-hearted gentleness
In Jesus you have shown
And we will spend eternity
With angels and the saints
Who day and night forever sing
His never-ceasing praise

Verse 4:
Oh God of perfect loveliness
Who made us from the dust
Who saved us from our wretchedness
In you we place our trust
And now to him who sits upon
The throne and to the Lamb
Be blessing, honor, glory, power
Forevermore, Amen!

Jamie Brown. © 2017 Worthily Magnify Music. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Here’s a free chord chart, here’s the free lead sheet/choir parts (thanks to my colleague Andrew Cote for arranging this), and a video (sorry about the poor quality) is below.

Once in Royal David’s City

1One of the last big things I was able to do with my former church before I came to Truro Anglican in Fairfax was release an Advent EP called “For Our Salvation”. It was released a year ago in December 2013. It features four Advent carols (arranged by me and orchestrated by Joshua Spacht), one instrumental piece (again by Joshua), and one of my original songs called “Beautiful Baby Boy“. The songs are arranged for band, strings, and feature a children’s choir as well.

The first song on the EP is “Once in Royal David’s City”, an old carol written by Cecil Alexander and Henry Gauntlett. This is the carol that usually kicks off “Lessons and Carols” services, and it’s a beautiful retelling of the story of Jesus’ birth, culminating with that great longing of ours to one day see him again.

I did a few things with the text:

1. I left out the verse that talks about how little children should be as “mild, obedient, and good” as Jesus.
2. In its place, I wrote a verse that explains: “He was given to pay our ransom / By His blood we are set free / Suffered He for our transgressions / Lamb of God upon the tree / Then He rose up from the grave / Risen King with power to save”.
3. I chose the version of the last verse that ends “…Christ revealed to faithful eye / Set at God’s right hand on high”, as opposed to the other version which says “Where like stars His children crowned / All in white shall wait around”. For some reason that last version doesn’t exactly elicit an exciting view of heaven!

You can purchase the song on iTunes here.

Here’s a lyric video: 

And here is the free orchestration for strings (including a chord chart), by my good friend Joshua Spacht.

The whole EP is available at www.tfcamusic.org or on iTunes.

How Can It Be

1Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be” (1738) is one of the greatest hymns of all time. It’s a powerful proclamation of the good news of the Gospel, and full of amazing images of the freedom that Jesus purchased for us on the cross.

I’ve always loved this hymn, and as a worship leader I’ve been drawn to it simply because of the lyrical powerhouse that it is. It packs a punch and doesn’t need any musical help to get the message across. For years, I had been using Enfield‘s excellent arrangement, which preserves Thomas Campbell’s original tune (from 1825) but refreshes it in a very effective way.

Last year I wrote a new arrangement of this hymn with a new melody, different arrangement, and an added chorus. Messing with “And Can It Be” was risky since the original wording and tune are so familiar to most congregations. But I gave it a try, and the result was “How Can It Be”. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how it’s clicked with my congregation, and I wanted to offer it as a free download in the hopes that it serves your congregation too.

We included this song on our recent live worship album, “We Will Proclaim”. You can order the CD for $10.00 at http://www.tfcamusic.org, or also find the album on iTunes or Amazon.

Or click here to download it on iTunes..

And here’s a free chord chart.

Here’s the lyric video for the song: 

And finally, here’s me showing how I’d play this song on the acoustic guitar, especially if I was leading it by myself without a band: 

He Giveth More Grace: New Arrangement

1Several weeks ago, I saw that our September sermon series was going to focus on the generosity of God. As I was thinking what song of response would work one Sunday, the closing words of an old hymn came to my mind: “for out of his infinite riches in Jesus / He giveth, and giveth and giveth again”. I looked up the hymn, entitled “He Giveth More Grace” and was struck by the text:

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace

When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision
Our God ever yearns His resources to share
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto men
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again

This hymn was written by Annie Johnson Flint. She was orphaned by the age of 6, and became so crippled by arthritis that she couldn’t walk. Her arthritis prevented her from becoming a pianist like she had hoped, so she became a poet, and when she couldn’t open her hands to type, she would use her knuckles on the typewriter. An amazing story.

What I love about this hymn is the way it presents God’s generous grace. It can never be exhausted. It can never even begin to be exhausted. It is utterly and completely boundless. This is the kind of good news our congregations need to hear. This is like water in a barren desert.

I didn’t know the original tune for this hymn, so I took that as an opportunity to write a simple melody and arrangement. We sang it this past Sunday at my church and judging from all the questions and emails I got about it, it struck a nerve with people and was a blessing.

I’m sharing the rough demo with you, as well as a chord chart, since my guess is that if your congregation doesn’t know this hymn, they might be affected by the truth it proclaims just like mine was.

Demo: 

Chord chart

“Rest Easy” by Andrew Peterson

I’ve been a huge fan of Andrew Peterson ever since I heard his masterpiece of a CD called Behold the Lamb of God in 2005. He has a rare gift of being able to craft songs that are full of lyrical and theological depth, musical creativity, and a pastoral heart. Plus he really loves his wife and kids.

Andrew released a new CD in late August called Light for the Lost Boy. I wanted to highlight one of the songs off this CD called “Rest Easy”. You can listen to it here:

It’s not a congregational song (i.e. you wouldn’t expect your congregation to sing along). But if you’re looking for a song to sing over your congregation as a gospel-soaked blessing, this should be one you add to your repertoire as soon as possible. Here are the lyrics:

You are not alone
I will always be with you
Even to the end

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

So do not be afraid
Nothing, nothing in the world
Can come between us now

So you don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

You work so hard to wear yourself down
And you’re running like a rodeo clown
You’re smiling like you’re scared to death
You’re out of faith and all out of breath
You’re so afraid you’ve got nowhere left to go
Well, you are not alone
I will always be with you

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
You can rest easy

We sang this song this past Sunday at my church as the offering song just before communion. When it was over, all I said was “isn’t this good news?” The congregation responded “yes!” Then I said “this is why we can stand and sing ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow…'” and we sang the Doxology together.

I strongly recommend all of Andrew Peterson’s albums to you for your own listening and edification, and also to provide you with special songs throughout the year to sing in your services. This song is one of his best. It’s simple, to-the-point, and almost shocking in its statement of assurance of God’s love. And that’s why I like it so much!

Here’s Andrew sharing the story behind the song (it’s worth watching the whole thing:

And you can download the song for free at Desiring God’s website.

Another Free Song: God of All Power and Grace

One of the songs on my church’s new live worship CD that I wrote is called “God of All Power and Grace”. I wanted to share the story behind the song, the lyrics, and then a free recording and chord chart.

I wrote the bulk of this song several years ago in my church’s former main sanctuary. I had been on staff at that point for a couple of years and had been witnessing God making our worship more and more free on Sunday mornings. I was trying to find a song that helped articulate what we were experiencing in corporate worship, since this kind of freedom was new to a lot of people. We weren’t just singing words off a page or off a screen. We were actually encountering the glory of God together and experiencing his manifest presence  as we sang to him.

So I ended up writing this song to help us express three things: (1) praise to God, (2) reasons why we praise God, and (3) what happens when we praise God. God is the God of all power, but also the God of grace who calls us to himself and helps us to praise him. The lyrics evolved a bit over the years and we finally settled on these for the CD:

Verse 1: God draws near to us when we praise him

God of all power and grace
Be enthroned in the midst of our praise
As we lift or voice to bless You
God who inhabits our praise
We welcome You in this place
As we lift our song before You

Chorus: We gather to magnify the name of Jesus – and as we do that, God frees us even more

We lift You up, we glorify
You who are worthy, You who are mighty to save
Be lifted up, be glorified
Here in Your presence, You free us to offer You praise
God of all power and grace

Verse 2: Jesus is worthy of worship because he saved us and bought us with his blood

God of all power and grace
We who were lost have been saved
So we lift our voice to bless You
God, our Redeemer and Friend
We know mercy and love without end
So we lift our song before You

Verse 3Our worship here on earth is a foretaste of worship for all eternity

God of all power and grace
When we look upon Your holy face
We will lift our voice to bless You
God who all heaven adores
We will worship You forevermore
When we lift our song before You

You can purchase the whole live CD here.

You can download a free mp3 of this song here: God Of All Power And Grace MP3

You can download a free chord chart of the song here: God of All Power and Grace CHORD CHART