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LifeWay taps Bellevue history in producing music collection

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–One church. Twenty-eight thousand members. Four hundred singers. One minister of music. One hundred years.

“So many memories came back on that Sunday; I really appreciated it,” said Edith Malone, a member of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn. “I thought it was very inspirational as well as emotional.”

Malone was talking about “To the Glory of God,” a collection of music commemorating Bellevue’s 100-year anniversary. Bellevue Baptist Church minister of music Jim Whitmire and LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist convention paired up to develop the program in 2001, and Bellevue’s choir performed the work May 4.

Every song in the program, both old and new, has a link to Bellevue’s history in one way or another, but Randy Smith, editor in chief in music, publishing and recording at LifeWay, said the music is appropriate for any church to perform. Genevox, the music publishing section of LifeWay, produced a compact disc and choral book of the program so other churches can perform the selections, which include new arrangements of old favorites and contemporary praise choruses, as well as new songs.

“Of course, it was geared to Bellevue’s past, but I think it could be applied to any church,” said Malone, a member of Bellevue since 1929. “I had company from out of town with me the day of the program at Bellevue, and they really enjoyed the music.”

A blend of old and new, “To the Glory of God” is an example of what Whitmire calls a wedding between traditional and contemporary worship. “I think it speaks the name it was given — ‘To the Glory of God,'” Whitmire said. “The thing I like about it is that it’s Christ-centered. It speaks to the heart of worship.”

The program has three songs that were written specifically for the project. One of the songs, “The Changeless Christ” by Mike Harland, an exclusive writer for LifeWay, and arranged by Don Hart, uses a recorded excerpt from a sermon of Ramsey Pollard, pastor of Bellevue from 1960-72.

Another of the songs written for “To the Glory of God” uses an old favorite of Bellevue’s as inspiration; “Let Mount Zion Rejoice.” Whitmire told Smith about the old choral number, and songwriters Travis Cottrell and David Moffett used one measure of the original song to create a new song. The song reminded Malone of “Payday Someday,” a famous sermon of R.G. Lee, who pastored the church from 1927-60. Malone said the church sang the song every time Lee preached “Payday Someday.”

Daryl K. Williams wrote “The Lily of My Valley,” based on Psalm 126:6, which says, “though one goes along weeping, … He will surely come back with shouts of joy.”

Smith said the other songs in the program are varied and balanced festival arrangements.

Whitmire contacted Genevox in 2001 to inquire about using the Bellevue choir to record a project.

“I just felt at home with them,” Whitmire said. “I knew them better than I knew any other publishing house.”

Whitmire previously teamed up with Genevox to publish “Crown Him Lord of All” and said he felt like it was time to produce another. “I wanted it to cross the bridge between people my age and young people,” he said. “I wanted it to be as fresh as possible.

“I was really amazed by the way it turned out. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

“To the Glory of God” will be available to churches and music ministries in July.

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  • Leslie Ann Shoemake