Malcolm Gordon
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Malcolm Gordon

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"Malcolm Gordon – ‘One Voice’ – A Review"

‘People remember what they sing. Ultimately, they believe what they sing’. So believes Malcolm Gordon – a Presbyterian minister who writes songs, good songs, even songs ‘decently and in order’. In 2001, he toured with Y-One, and between 2002-2006 with the band Somebody’s Cousin, with whom he recorded two albums – ‘Brighter Day’ (2004) and ‘Here We Are (2006). Since then, this Kiwi has written and directed his first musical, and released his debut solo album, As I Am.

2008 witnessed the release of his latest album – One Voice – and the One Voice Project dedicated to ‘exploring contemporary expressions of Christian worship’ and to ‘rally song writers and lyricists to produce a resource of contextual and contemporary worship music every couple of years’. He writes that ‘the guiding principal throughout this has been to create music that is “Theologically authentic and culturally credible”. Too often music that is sung in churches tends to excel in one of those areas at the expense of the other’.

One Voice betrays the witness of a gifted artist with a theologically-astute nose, of one who believes that what we sing matters and whose heart joins those for whom ‘aching for the dawn’ defines the way of true being. The prayerful songs on this beautifully-produced album take up themes of hope, justice-making, and of identity – that ‘our stories might find their meaning’, rhyme and reason in God. Gordon recognises that however one chooses to express eschatological hope, the ultimate theological foundation remains a basic conviction concerning the faithfulness of the God whose relationship with this world is secured in one who – though one with God – did not consider equality with God something to be exploited, but who made himself nothing. Believers bear witness to this ground of hope every time we break bread and drink wine together – an act, of prolepsis as well as of obedience, undertaken by the Church in hope for a time when every tongue might taste the goodness of the Lord, when friends and enemies, victim and perpetrators, sit at the same table and find their healing in its host who has borne the pain, shame, isolation and fear of all. It is to this that the Church’s songs, including Gordon’s, bear witness. I recall words from one of Halden Doerge‘s sermons on ‘Holy Saturday‘:

In the face of hopelessness and death we [the church] are called to be conduits of hope that dare to speak and listen on the day of silence. We are to dare to continue to give of ourselves, even to the point of death even when all hope seems to have vanished. When foundations dissolve, when brothers betray and God seems silent, we are called to buy fields of hope, to stand between our betrayer and his noose and to break bread together in senseless hope that we serve a God who abounds in surprises that follow the day of silence. We are bound to remember Holy Saturday and to live in it in senseless, glorious hope. Let us be a church that lives in Holy Saturday, longing to see the surprises of the self-giving God who transforms fields of blood into fields of hope. We are called this day to continue in the form of the self-giving that is the very life of God. On this day, this cold and silent yet gloriously beautiful day, let us remember the brokenness and the senselessness that we face as followers of Christ. And then let us gather up our courage in the Spirit and continue to give ourselves away without ceasing. In the deathly quiet of Holy Saturday, let us interrupt it with songs of hope, bread broken and lives poured out.

malcolm-gordonThe invitation to such interruption is taken up by Gordon in his powerful song ‘Break the Bread’ (sample):

Let’s break the bread,
with the broken hearted.
Break the bread,
in broken homes and in broken lives.
Spill the wine, for all the tears they’ll cry
Spill the wine, wherever innocents die.

Let’s break the bread,
with the ragged stranger.
Break the bread,
with the friendless child.
Spill the wine, with those who spill our blood
Spill the wine, Lord, as we remember you.

I’m praying I’ll live to see the day
When the Table is open
I’m praying a time will come around
When Your hope isn’t wasted.

Let’s break the bread,
with the unclean before the Unseen.
Break the bread,
inside these cold prison walls.
Spill the wine; let it run rich and red across this land
Spill the wine, Lord, as we remember you.

I’m praying I’ll live to see the day
When peace is more than a ceasefire.

Let’s break the bread …

‘People remember what they sing. Ultimately, they believe what they sing’. - P e r · C r u c e m · a d · L u c e m


"Review "One voice""

When a room has been closed up a while, it’s a natural response to open a window and savour the feeling of freshness flowing in. That’s the sense I have listening to the album “ One Voice” by Malcolm Gordon.

The CD cover opens with the statement, “People remember what they sing” and goes on to describe the importance of the authenticity of the words of our songs. For many years people have lamented the lack of theological depth in some contemporary songs, and here is part of the answer. Some of the images that emerge from these songs have real strength and provide impressions to mull over long after you’ve heard them. They have a blend of justice, reflection, statements about God, and worship expressions we can sing from our heart. All could be used in a worship service context, some as congregational songs, some as items for music teams, and some simply by playing the CD and meditating on the words.

The title track “One Voice” helps us join God’s song for justice, reminding us that it’s “not about us,” but about us joining God in God’s mission. Other highlights include “Lead O Spirit, Lead”, which those at General Assembly 2008 will remember. The chorus is really strong, providing us with an anthem to crank out in song and a lyric that sums up our existence wonderfully - “What you sing we will echo.” I’m looking forward to playing “Break the Bread” as we share in Communion next time, and be reminded anew why we join Christ at his table.

I know it’s subjective, but for the record my favorites are “Who are You” and “Children of a Thousand Prayers”. The typically human question of who I am can only be answered as we explore the identity of our living God. Singing a song about Christ our high priest and intercessor inspires me. It reminds me of my humanity, and gives hope at the same time. “We stand tall ‘cause He kneels for us” is one of those wonderful lines that goes deep and gives a picture of security and identity. It’s a song that can be sung together as a congregation, or listened to as we pray. Malcolm’s wife of only a few months, Vanessa, co-wrote both of these songs so I would keep her on.

The album certainly has a Kiwi sound to it, and I am often reminded of the Finn brothers when listening to it. Malcolm has gathered some excellent musicians to record these songs, and Geoff Duncan has done a fantastic job behind the scenes of mixing and mastering (not to mention some superb colours added from his electric guitar – very professional). So too is the photography and design – both add to the Kiwi feel and freshness of an album that you won’t be disappointed with. - PCANZ - SPANZ


Discography

Releases.
Independent release - 'As I am' 2006 - acoustic album.
Full studio release - 'One Voice' 2008.
Currently working on new material. Two EP's due out in late 2010.

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Bio

I was in a pop/rock band for 5 years. It wound up in 2006. Since then I've been working out how to music on my own. I'm getting the hang of it. I love Coldplay, Keane, The Killers, Evermore, and Crowded House.
What sets me apart? I'm a worship artist who has studied how Christian's have worshipped over the last 2000 years. I know why we need to hang onto some of the stuff so many other people want to lose. My songs reflect a liturgical and theological awareness that goes so far beyond 'I want you Jesus' songs. God's people deserve the very best kind of songs to sing, and I try and write them.