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‘Reclaimed Praise’ offers worship resources

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Many recording artists release albums with a single goal in mind: to sell CDs. But for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary student Andrew Pressley and his fellow musicians, the release of “Reclaimed Praise Project” is more spiritually inspired.

Pressley points specifically to the Apostle Paul’s encouraging words to the churches at Ephesus and Colosse.

“Paul encourages us to sing ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs,'” said Pressley, a Greenville, S.C., native, quoting Colossians 3:16.

Thus, the first Reclaimed Praise album focuses on the Psalms.

The project includes much more than just arranging songs and recording a CD. Pressley and company also offer a website filled with free resources. The site, www.reclaimedpraise.com, provides lead sheets, chord charts and other resources to help worship leaders share the songs with their congregations.

“The purpose of the website is to offer resources. The CD supplements those resources, rather than the resources supplementing the CD. The purpose is to get the songs out for people to use in worship rather than to sell CDs,” Pressley said.

Early on, Pressley wanted to record his own material. Instead, he opted to partner with other musicians, many of which have ties to New Orleans Seminary. The musicians on the tracks include Bill Nesbit, Jason Britt, Kimberly Merida, Courtney Veasey, Jason Wagner, Daniel Savage and Stephanie Screen.

Nesbit, a New Orleans native, adds a jazz feel to some of the tracks, Pressley said. Most perform as part of the worship team at the seminary’s chapel services.

“I opened it up to some others, and they stepped up to the plate and provided some really good stuff,” Pressley said. “There’s a big variety on the CD. If it was just my stuff, it probably would have been pretty similar throughout. Bringing other people’s take on the Psalms was a helpful thing.”

The Reclaimed Praise website notes the historically inconsistent treatment Christian groups have given the Psalms. Part of the purpose of the project is to reinvigorate Psalms for contemporary use in worship.

Reclaimed praise also seeks to strike a balance between contemporary worship and traditional hymns, Pressley said. That balance is meant to appeal to a diverse set of worshipers and reflect the diversity of creation.

“We hope that we found a pretty good balance,” he said. “Some of the songs can be done with just piano or piano and organ. Some of them really need a rhythm section and others don’t. We hope that eventually there will be a lot of different styles on the website that will communicate the diversity in God’s creation and in our expressions of worship.”

The recording process offered its own set of challenges. For ensemble recordings, all the musicians usually record together. In the case of Reclaimed Praise, individual musicians were recorded when they were available. Sessions were held anywhere from living rooms and the Sellers Music Building to Leavell Chapel. For the musicians, it was a learn-as-you-go process.

“The trick for us was just to have a general idea of how the songs were to go from the beginning. Really they developed as we recorded them,” Pressley said. “The whole point of this CD was to get the ball rolling on the Reclaimed Praise project and to have something in print so that we were committed to doing the project. Now that there is a little bit of interest in the project, we hope to be more polished the next time around.”

Reclaimed Praise’s next project will focus on instrumental versions of the great hymns of the Christian faith.
Paul F. South is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. To access resources of the Reclaimed Praise Project, visit www.reclaimedpraise.com.

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  • Paul F. South