|Music From Vineyard Churches|
There are dozens of Vineyard albums, with many series names. Where to start? How does it all fit together? This article attempts to clarify where they all came from.by Donn Edwards
First there were small groups of believers who met in living rooms and worshipped God. Then came the songs that flowed from a desire to draw ever nearer to God. Under the leadership of John Wimber this fellowship of believers became known as the Vineyard and the songs became the genesis for Mercy Records and Vineyard Music Group. The first album series was called Songs of the Vineyard, now known as Vintage Vineyard.
Later, after they built their own studio, the Touching the Fathers Heart series started, with a much greater focus on live recordings. The next major series to be released was Winds of Worship, recorded entirely live at worship conferences, to capture the atmosphere and dynamic of passionate, corporate worship. More recent albums include the Acoustic Worship series, Vineyard Cafe, and Why We Worship.
There have been numerous compilations, including the Vineyard Collections, Best Loved Worship and Praise, Psalms, and Change My Heart Oh God. Both the Vintage Vineyard; and Fathers Heart Compilation; albums have attempted to take the best of a larger series of albums, by combining two CDs into one.
When Mercy Publishing brought out its first songbook in the early eighties, no one realised how the demand for Vineyard music would grow. Initially it was just a collection of songs that was published to help other Vineyard worship leaders. Later, they were recorded as LPs and cassettes as well, and John Wimber and others applied their talents and experience in the music industry to ensure that the recordings were of a professional standard. The early albums have a characteristic style of their own, which reflects the musical flavour of the day.
In many respects, the Vineyard recording engineers have had to pioneer their own techniques to capture a live music sound. Its bad enough trying to make a studio recording sound warm and intimate, instead of clunky and clinical, but to achieve the realism of a live worship setting is doubly difficult. So each album represents a technical milestone that in itself is significant. Yet no amount of technical excellence can add one extra factor: passion in worship. Some of the early albums were recorded using professional musicians, with a studio sound. At some point it was realised that in order to capture the heart of worship, professional playing ability should not take preference over people who could sing with passion and who exercise the supernatural gifts of worship that God sovereignly imparts.
So the first series appeared as individual cassettes in 1985 (Hosanna and You Are Here). In 1986 the album Just Like You Promised was released, along with a songbook for the album. They were recorded at various studios, including Asaph Studio, Anaheim, Whitefield Studios, Santa Ana, and West Oak Recorders, Westlake Village, CA. The first seven albums were produced by Randy Rigby, and the first five albums engineered by Chris Taylor. Each producer and each engineer has brought something new into the mix. In the early days one of the goals was to produce a slick sounding album. By the time that Chris Wimber took the helm it was to document what was going on in worship: the true, real, unaltered sound.
In order to save the costs and disruption of using external studios, the VMI studio was built, and used for the first album in 1987, Glory. It was the release of this album that saw them being issued as a series, and the songbook for Glory has an introduction written by John Wimber. He only ever sang on one song in the entire series: a song called I Will Live Forever which appeared in 1992 on the penultimate album Bring Your Kingdom. By then they had been eclipsed by the Touching the Fathers Heart series. The reason for Johns silence is explained by Carol Wimber in the cover notes for the commemorative album More Love, More Power, under the heading The Birth of Worship in the Vineyard:
John and I had been Christians only a few months. We were broke and Christmas was coming. John had laid down his musical career because Jesus asked him to. After refusing a lucrative offer to arrange a Christmas album, he quietly put down the phone. As I watched, John went to the cupboards, closets and the piano bench. He gathered a lifetime of work and talent and placed it in big cardboard boxes and we drove to the Yorba Linda dump. As he pushed the last box out of the station wagon and it sunk into the garbage, John 12:24 came to my mind: Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit. In my heart I know that was when worship was born in the Vineyard.In 1988/9 the first five albums were repackaged with new cover artwork by Kevin Short. Just As You Promised was renamed Come Holy Spirit, and Hes Worthy To Be Praised became Draw Me Closer. The packaging also changed in another respect: Mercy Records became just the Mercy logo, and in 1990 was renamed to Vineyard Music Group. All of the albums up to 1996 were copyrighted to Vineyard Ministries International, and most albums up to 1995 had John Wimber as the Executive Producer. This was characteristic of John Wimbers servant heart: he took full responsibility (and therefore criticism and blame) for what was done, freeing up others to get on with the task of getting the albums out.
Songs written by John Wimber before 1982 (Spirit Song, Isnt He, Praise Song) were administered by Maranatha! Music, but most of the songs were copyrighted by Mercy Publishing from 1982 onwards. This provided a depth of material for the albums released between 1985 and 1988. In 1985 Mercy Records was placed under the overall control of Vineyard Ministries International.
The new studio equipment and the growing demand worldwide for the albums and songbooks, led to the reorganisation of Mercy Music Group, and they began to do more live recordings in 1989 and 1990. By the end of 1990 they had released 4 albums in the new series, Touching the Fathers Heart. When King of Saints was released, the series had been repackaged, and Mercy Music Group became Vineyard Music Group. The following year the entire catalogue was renumbered, and Vineyard Music Group had been reorganised from being a part of Vineyard Ministries International to being a fully fledged music company. Tom Davis was involved in the production of the first 13 TFH albums, until 1992.
For the next four years (1990-1994) the focus of VMG was on the Touching the Fathers Heart series, producing four albums per year, compared to only one studio album each year in the Songs of the Vineyard series. This series was finally stopped in 1993, and was replaced the following year by the Winds of Worship series, which has also become extremely popular.
The success of Touching the Fathers Heart lies in the fact that most of the songs are recorded in a live worship setting, capturing the anointing that conregational worship can provide. These live tracks are sometimes supplemented in a studio environment, allowing for more consistent quality, and for much greater attention to the detail of each song. Joe Randeen explains: The only thing that we do in the studio is fix blatant mistakes such as wrong chords, or a wrong word sung. We might add a guitar part down or an organ because they were not available at the time of recording. We do very little fixing on the recordings. We only fix the most horrible mistakes: theres plenty of mistakes left in.
If you thought that some of the songs are just too complex or advanced for regular worship teams to emulate, take a look at the songbook. The TFH albums are to expose the church to new worship songs. No one is required to play those songs exactly as heard on the album. That is why we put simple, meat and potatoes, arrangements in our songbooks. Songs such as Light the Fire Again, which appear on TFH #18 with an amazing drum solo, have been re-recorded on the Acoustic Worship series with a much simpler arrangement. Its not the arrangement which makes a song effective or not: its the passion the song contains.
Another criticism has been the sheer volume of material: there have been four albums per year every year since 1990. Yet for every complaint, there are dozens of enquiries for even more material. A major achivement of the series is that they contain an abundance of new songs, they are professionally done and stand on their own as entertaining and listenable music. They balance the live sound with the technical standards of a studio recording, without losing the passion and heart of actual worship.
Touching the Fathers Heart has become the flagship series of Vineyard Music Group, being available on CD and cassette, as well as split tracks and songbooks. These albums are also available by subscription, through either the Worship Resource Centre, which provides the recording, the printed music, and the Worship Update newsletter. The other subscription is the Vineyard Music Club, which provides just the recording as each new album comes out. These subscriptions address two entirely different markets: the first is for worship teams who are looking for fresh, anointed songs that assist with regular, intimate worship. The second is for regular worshippers who are looking for a constant supply of new material to listen to and worship by.
When Chris Wimber, son of Vineyard movement founder John Wimber, sat down at the sound board at a Winds of Worship Conference in Anaheim, California and started to record what was happening, the worship leaders had no clue they were being recorded. What ended up on tape that night was an honest reflection of intimate worship to God. After being copied and sold at the Vineyard Church in Anaheim, Chris had the idea to make them available through Vineyard Music Group. The first two volumes of the Winds of Worship Series are these same tapes transferred to CD and Cassette. Today, what began as a personal tape for Chris Wimber and his friends has become one of Vineyard Music Groups most popular ongoing series.
In addition to the albums produced by VMG, there have been numerous solo albums and other worship projects, some published by VMG, and others published independently by Vineyard Fellowships or other labels. The list is long, and includes Brian Doeksens popular Fathers House, 4 albums by David Ruis, 4 albums by the Langley Vineyard, as well as albums from Ft. Wayne VCF, Fresno VCF and others. There are also over a dozen solo albums by various artists who have sung or played on the Fathers Heart and Winds of Worship albums. Kevin Prosch has recorded a live album Even So Come, in addition to the 4 albums released by 7th Time Music and a newer release by Vertical Music.
Because of a desire to provide music with a more personal feel, the Acoustic Worship series was started. These albums are recorded using a dozen voices, a piano and a guitar. The arrangements are simple and it sounds like the worship was recorded during a home group meeting. Yet the element of deep personal worship is unmistakable.
Another series with a similar sound is the newer Why We Worship series. There are a few more instruments on these albums, but the simplicity of the arrangements is still there. This series has a different focus: a greater understanding of the themes associated with worship. They arose out of the popular worship teaching conferences of the same name.
The Vineyard Cafe series takes a different look at worship, from the point of view of the younger generation. It is recorded live in a coffee bar, and has the unplugged sound, as well as a youthful attitude, and the dynamic of a live recording.
Copyright © 1998 Valley Vineyard. Thanks to Joe Randeen, Keith Giles, Jon Bogart, Costa Mitchell and others for their assistance with this article.
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