Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Kristin Chenoweth

I've been listening to Kristin's CD, As I Am, again lately. It's so uplifing. Here are some comments from when I interviewed her.

I’d like to tell you about some great CDs that have been sent to me by friends or people I’ve interviewed. I’ll be telling you about recording by J. Mark McVey, Phil Hall and Michelle LeBlanc, but first, let’s start with Kristin Chenoweth’s “As I Am.”

I met Kristin several years ago when I interviewed her for my book “Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life through the Eyes of Actors.” In my one hour with her she shared with me enough wisdom to land her in six of the 10 chapters! Three years ago with “As I Am,” she put her faith and talent together in a whole new way and I had the pleasure of interviewing her again. She told me she was unsure how this CD of Christian songs would be received.

“My agents and managers said, ‘You’re going to take hits. You have to decide what you believe,’ and I said ‘I know what I believe.’ I’m an actress and a singer and I’m also a Christian. We’re not all crazy right-wingers. I just want to be like Jesus, forgiving and loving and nonjudgmental, accepting of everyone even if they don’t agree.”

The CD’s 12 selections offer a variety of arrangements, from country for “It Will Be Me,” pop/rock for “Word of God Speak,” blues for “Poor, Wayfaring Stranger” and classical for “Joyful, Joyful.” Her voice ranges from vulnerable in “Abide in Me” to electrifying in “Upon this Rock,” where it soars into the stratosphere, ending on a high E.

After I got this CD I went through a cancer scare and two surgeries. This recording was so comforting to me. I listened to it everyday at least once. I still listen often; when I drive to Baltimore for the day to visit my mother it always goes with me, and even though I take a huge stack of CDs, I usually end up listening to this one twice -- on the ride down and then again coming back.

One song that stands out with its energized rock setting is “Power.” It has the comforting effect on me that the very different “There is a Balm in Gilead” (not on this CD) has. In “Balm” the line “Sometimes I feel discouraged/And think my work’s in vain./But then the Holy Spirit/Revives my soul again” is so assuring, like the verse from Psalm 138: “The Lord will make good his purpose for me.” We all need that reminder from time to time.

In “Power,” the line is “trust in me/cuz you have power/of mine invested in you.” I was feeling really disappointed about the pace of my life and work one day when I was listening to that and it lifted me up and reenergized me. I realized that of course everything would be fine. God had invested a great deal of power in me and God hadn’t made that investment carelessly. I love the chorus too: “You have my power./You have my strength./You have my holiness within./Go out and share what I’ve given you./Don’t be afraid./Don’t be dismayed./I’ll light the way, my friend.”

Those are real commissioning words. In her CD notes, Kristin says she has memories of riding in her brother’s car with the windows down listening to this song. That would be fun. I know I really crank up the volume when I listen to it.

I don’t just listen to this CD when I’m down, but when I am, it lifts me every time.

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