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Retreat Singers: A Folk Song of the Life of Christ

E&M EMLP-005 (1966)

This album comes from the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was done by the Episcopal Young Churchmen under the direction of the Rev. Edgar E. Shippey. As the name implies, the album’s inspiration came from their retreats in the Arkansas mountains, with musical arrangement assisted by James A. Pence, Jr.

Chronologically it comes between Gere and Williams’ Winds of God and the beginning of the epic God Unlimited albums under Tom Belt. That’s a nice place to put it too; it goes “beyond” some of the Episcopal formality of the first but doesn’t quite hit the folk “spark” of the early efforts of the second. It has some narration, which was de rigeur at the time (and would also appear in albums by Ian Mitchell and Sister Germaine) although some of them are readings set against the songs rather than explanatory material. It has some interesting selections. The song “Turn Around” is secular and had been featured on Kodak’s ads a few years before. “Were You There” was a staple for albums like this in part because it was one of the few spirituals Episcopalians were familiar with (it was in the 1940 Hymnal, #80). There are some other interesting songs and a couple of Hebrew ones as well.

It’s a nice album, well done, better technically and in muscianship than most of its Roman Catholic contemporaries, doubtless reflecting both a stronger musical training and better budget. The group went on to achieve some fame, performing at the National Cathedral in Washington after this album was produced. Things were starting to move very quickly in the world of Christian folk music, and this album was very much in the middle of that.

The songs and recitations (with performers):

  • Introduction (The Rev. Edgar E. Shippey)
  • Hana Ava Babanot (James A. Pence, Jr., and Craig Wells)
  • Reading (Jennifer Brewer)
  • Mary Had a One Son (Sylvia Hawley)
  • Turn Around (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Jennifer Brewer)
  • Reading (Paul Thornton)
  • The Battle Hymn (The Retreat Singers)
  • Readings (James A. Pence, Jr., and Paul Thornton)
  • Hallowed be Thy Name (Beth Saunders)
  • Jesus Loves Me (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Paul Thornton)
  • Reading (Craig Wells)
  • Look Ye Jerusalem (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Ida Vaughan)
  • In Remembrance of Me (The Retreat Singers)
  • Were You There (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (James A. Pence, Jr.)
  • O Lamb of God (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Paul Thornton)
  • My Master (Sylvia Hawley)
  • Song of the Resurrection (Sylvia Hawley)
  • Reading (Richard Boles)
  • Avodim Hoyinu (The Retreat Singers)

Produced by Earl Fox and John Hannon
Recorded at E&M Studios, Little Rock, Arkansas
Recording Engineer: John P. Hannon

For more music click here


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