The Most Important Music Ever Made
By Roger Hoffman
One of the great things about making music is that I get to work with wonderful people. Early in my career, I expanded my arranging facility to include a recording studio so I could work with people, recording their music. As we go through the process, they hone their gifts and walk out of my studio with a means of sharing them.
Lately, I have begun to wonder what my client-friends have experienced with their music since we worked together. As I gathered their stories, I was overwhelmed by the power of what they are doing in the world and felt that I needed to write this article. Here is a condensation of a few of the stories I received.
Sheila and Suzanna Banister came to me with a desire to make a CD for their family for Christmas, which surprised me because I had served with Sheila in a campus ward and didn’t even know she sang. They selected several lovely, well-known songs of faith. Sheila writes of her experience:
“We originally made 100 copies of our CD which went out to about 50 family members and many friends. The majority of the recipients were not LDS. The reception was very positive, as many people told us that they had made copies of the CD for other friends and family of theirs. I have been able to share the CD with many of my coworkers in Florida as well.
“Initially we sent the CD to close family and friends for Christmas. The original idea was to make it for my parents, especially my Dad. He loved to hear us sing and we thought we would surprise them. Then we started thinking about how we could share it with our entire family and include our testimonies of Jesus Christ in the cover. Before recording the CD Suzanna and I both prayed that the Spirit would be with us and that the listeners of the CD would feel the love of Our Savior. Our entire family was touched by the gift.
“Sharing the CD with so many nonmembers has given us the chance to share the gospel. I have had countless conversations about the gospel and the organization of the church with so many people. I have been able to change misperceptions about Mormons and clarify points of doctrine. It has been great for me to learn how to talk about the gospel and listen to the spirit for promptings about what I should say and share.
“My Dad loved the CD. He loved it so much that he made everyone who came to visit him listen to it. A little over a year after we sent him the CD, he passed away. Suzanna and I sang his favorite song on the CD, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" at his funeral. My Dad's childhood friend brought his copy of the CD and placed it with my Dad in the coffin. He said that my Dad loved it and would have wanted it buried with him.”
For Marion Banister, the most important music ever made was produced by his daughters.
Raelene Card wrote a cantata entitled, “He Will Come,” a beautiful work about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth, and asked me to make arrangements of her work for choir and piano. Many of these arrangements caused me to stretch in order to capture the majesty of their power! “He Will Come” was published on the internet and has been downloaded and performed all over the world.
“A Stake Choir first performed the Cantata ‘He Will Come’ in April 1997. The response was incredible. I was approached by Dave Kenison, who developed ldsgems.com, to build a website for worldwide distribution. I felt I should let people download the music for free. “In January of 2000 ‘He Will Come’ was published on a website by the same name. We advertised it three times throughout that year on ldsgems.com (now owned by the LDS church) The website received thousands of hits and the music was downloaded in over 36 countries all over the world. I received personal e-mails from the people in many of these countries, thanking me for the beautiful music. Many of these people were also from different religions. I heard from Baptist ministers, Seventh Day Adventists, Church of Christ, Church of England, Presbyterians and even a Cantabal choir from Barbados. I personally responded to every person that downloaded and I heard back from many of these people.”
Raelene writes, “I know the life that this music has touched the most is my own. When the Lord began to let me hear these heavenly sounds, I had no idea that they were all connected together and that these songs would connect me with incredible brothers and sisters throughout the world. It has been one of the great gifts and miracles in my life. I will forever be thankful to be a part of ’He Will Come’. I know HE WILL COME!”
And so do many all over the world who have sung and heard those words in Raelene’s beautiful cantata.
Darla Luna is a high-school student who had written a song about her beautiful relationship with her Heavenly Father, likening herself (and all young women) to flowers blossoming in his garden. We worked together to produce the recording. She has shared it with many of her friends and family, all of whom have expressed their amazement and appreciation for what she has done. Here are her comments:
“Since I wrote ‘In His Garden,’ I have been blessed with the opportunity of speaking to various Young Women groups for New Beginnings and Firesides. I truly don't know how many have heard this music, my rough guess would be over 1,000. I found that it also touched young men. I had a mother come to me one night in tears; her son had heard the song and afterward, broke all of his cd's that were offensive, he also stopped swearing. Every time I'd open my mouth to speak at these firesides, words would just flow. I never was nervous because I had such an overwhelming feeling of love for those I was speaking to. It was as if I had known them forever, and I was just speaking to my big family!
“’In His Garden’ isn't my song, it is the Lord's. I know it is His message. I have grown so much through this. I have lived more worthily because I know I have a responsibility to be an example. I must live those words, and by doing so I have felt the Lord's hand in mine. Look up and live! For we are all Roses in His Garden.”
Laura Jones has a lovely voice and a vibrant testimony. She expressed a desire to share her convictions with others through music and selected several well-known songs from LDS writers for her project. She also gave our song “Savior,” its premiere performance on her CD. After making her CD “He Is the Light,” Laura created a fireside program about the Savior which includes the songs from the CD with videos set to the songs. Her best guess as to how many people have heard her music is between 5-10 thousand. Her songs have also been played on local radio stations.
A friend of Laura’s, who was helping find actors for her fireside video, was trying to convince her sister to be in the video. She asked her to listen to “Let Him Heal Your Heart” from the CD. As her sister listened, she began to cry. She had recently had a miscarriage and the power of the song gave her great comfort. She took the CD home so she could keep listening.
Another young woman told her she was on the internet at LDSMusicians.com and downloaded the Song ‘Savior.’ As she listened to the song it brought tears to her eyes. She and her extended family have fallen in love with the song. They requested sheet music for it and have sung it a number of times in church.
Laura recently received an e-mail from California which said, ‘I love your voice. I listen to 'Savior' on repeat for hours on end. I love falling asleep to it. It's like a sweet lullaby. It is so pure and wonderful. All the gals in our RS love it! Thank you on behalf of the sisters in my ward.’”
I asked her how the CD had affected her, to which she replied, “I think “He Is the Light” has totally changed my life. It has helped my testimony of the Savior grow. It has given me the desire and many opportunities to share my testimony with a lot of people. I think “He Is the Light” has helped me to center my life more on the Savior and doing his work. It makes me so excited and happy when I hear how it has touched others or helped people in some way.”
Pam Mahler’s father gave her the gift of making a Christmas CD. Here are Pam’s words:
“When you agreed to help me with my CD, I was thrilled. I was an inexperienced young singer that had constantly been urged by teachers and professors in college to develop my gift for music. I felt like I was finally on track when I started creating my own CD with your help.
*“I guess I had hopes and dreams of selling thousands of CDs across the globe
someday. But I did not have those expectations with this first “Christmas”
CD. I recorded my songs for my family. I wanted to capture
Christmas memories and feelings that my family and I could share in the years to come. Never in my dreams did I think that my music would have such a positive impact on the people around me. I never expected that by sharing my music my own heart would be changed.
“Once, I was asked to perform for an energetic youth group. I could see the boredom in their faces when they introduced me as the final hour of their “spiritual retreat.” I can’t tell you how relieved I felt as that boredom melted away when the music filled the air and the Spirit filled their hearts. After the program, a young woman told me that she had been baptized just two months ago. She said that she knew the Gospel was true in her head, but that she had never felt that burning confirmation of the Spirit in her heart until that night. She gave me a huge hug and thanked me for helping her to feel the Spirit so deeply that she, “knew that Jesus was her Savior and that he loved her.” I was instantly humbled. I think it was then that I realized what my musical talents were really for.
“My talent had nothing to do with being recognized publicly for my achievements. My voice, instead, was valued by God and given to me to inspire, uplift and share with those around me for the purpose of spreading good will.
“Through the years, I have sold hundreds of CDs. I have heard from people in Norway, Italy and Japan who (some not even Christians) have felt inspired or at peace when listening to these beautiful Christmas songs. Nothing compares to the knowledge that my music has brought someone closer to God.
“I thank God daily for the gift of music in my life.”
--Pamela Huntsman Mahler
Gina Stone - A Caring Grandmother Shares Her Love
Here is Gina’s experience in her own words:
“A year ago while I was undergoing chemotherapy and Radiation for breast cancer, my daughter Katie told me that if I left this earth without recording the songs I sang to my children when they were young, she would be very angry with me. When I recovered enough to begin recording a CD I did not know what an incredible journey lay ahead. From the moment I stepped into the Hoffman's recording studio until now I can say it has been one of the sweetest experiences of my life. How could I know how much this would mean to me and to those who have received my CD as a gift?
“It began with 14 Lullabies that I sang to my children as I tucked them in at night and ended with eight more songs of great meaning to me. The recording sessions were creative, encouraging, and even very spiritual. I came away refreshed and happy. I thought it would be harder than it was. What I did not know was the effect it would have on those friends and loved ones that received the CD as a Christmas present.
“Christmas Day my children opened their copies together. They were astounded at what they saw and heard. My husband played a few of the songs. Tears flowed openly. Words cannot describe our feelings.
“I made seventy five copies and gave them all away to my family, friends, and relatives. I had to order more. Every day I receive either a phone call or a thank you note expressing appreciation and the effect it has on the recipient. One dear friend said that her Christmas was hectic and she didn't feel the spirit until she opened the CD and began listening while she was preparing a huge Christmas dinner. She tearfully related what happened to her. The music began to soothe her soul and all the tension left her and peace came into her heart. She listened to it over and over again. It made her Christmas. I was overwhelmed to think that it had that effect on her. Another couple that my husband and I lived close to about ten years ago called and left a message on my answering machine. His wife had surgery the day that the CD arrived and they listened to it until midnight. They were so touched by the songs.
“My niece, a member of another faith, who lives in Charleston S.C., said it was the best Christmas present she has ever received. She said she plays it at work and her coworkers love to hear it. She loves the song "Savior." My husband's classmate got her copy and wrote the sweetest thank you letter. She lost her son last year and the songs on the CD were very meaningful to her.
“One of the greatest calls of gratitude came from my dear friend Floyd who came from Mesa into the recording studio to play three songs for me. We had performed together in days gone by. He is one of the greatest musicians that I know. He told me that the song "They Could Not" made him weep. He told me over and over what an inspirational CD it was. I had no idea that it would touch so many people.
“I have received such an outpouring of love it has overwhelmed me. Today I got a long distance call from friends that we have not seen for many years. It was so wonderful to hear how they were affected by the music. Another thank you note came in the mail today. The notes come almost daily. One sweet friend asked for fifteen copies so that she could give them to her family and friends. I do not know where this will end. I hope it will be an inspiration to many. This has been a remarkable, unparalleled experience that amazed me. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had. I count it as one of my greatest blessings.”
Hal Wing - Sings to Make People Feel Better and Do Better
Hal Wing is 95% deaf. As a young father, struggling to provide for his family, he worked long hours through the night fabricating the aluminum ladders that would later become known as the Little Giant Ladder System, the world’s best-selling ladder, not realizing that the noise generated by the manufacture of his ladders was stealing his hearing. Now, by the aid of miraculous advances in hearing-aid technology, Hal has had much of his hearing restored to him. He enjoys music, and in particular, the art of yodeling, which he learned while in Europe and from his friend, Kerry Christensen, a well-known professional yodeler. Hal told me that his hearing loss made it difficult for him to sing on pitch and wondered if there was anything I could do to help him. I told him about some amazing software I was using that enables me to correct singers’ pitch.
We made the recordings of his singing, after which I delved into the depths of Auto-Tune, discovering deep secrets of how to change a singer’s pitch without distorting his natural vibrato. (Part of vibrato is fluctuation in pitch, which makes correcting tuning a bit tricky.) When we were finished producing the CD, Hal was delighted!
Hal, in addition to being CEO of a fast-growing, multimillion dollar manufacturing company, enjoys singing for schoolchildren and for residents of convalescent centers. He tells the following experience:
“One day I was standing before an audience at a nursing home, when a man was wheeled up to me tied into a wheelchair. His head was hanging down and his eyes were empty. I decided to perform directly to this man. I tried to get his attention with every song I sang. At the end of the performance, I played the harmonica for them and as I was doing so, a faint little old voice from the rear started singing with me Come, Come Ye Saints... All is well. All is well. I noticed the man in the wheelchair was following me with his eyes. His wife noticed, too and told me how thankful she was for what I was doing for him, because, as she said, ‘Today is George’s birthday.’ I said, ‘Let’s sing Happy Birthday to him.’ We sang and I gave him a copy of my CD. He reached up his hand for it and said ‘Thank you.’ The whole place erupted into a pandemonium of cheers. The nurse near me said, ‘That’s the first time George has spoken in 5 years.’ When I left, George was conversing with his wife. The next time I came back, George was right back where he was before, listless and dull-eyed, but I am so thankful to have helped give him and his wife that one special day. When I go back to these nursing homes to perform again, the ladies that were in dressing gowns have put on nice dresses like they’re going to a theater.
“As bad as I am at singing, people give me standing ovations. At school assemblies, I have a yodeling contest, where I pick the shy ones and ask them to give it a try. Everyone is having so much fun that the kids will try it, and the whole audience claps for them.
“I have been blessed to help people become the best they can be, whether I’m in lederhosen performing or at work with my employees. I’m grateful I made my CD. Now that I have it, it’s a standard to measure my performance and help me sing better, and it’s a beautiful way to spread my work of helping people do and feel better.” After all, J.S.. Bach, the great German composer said: “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
To wheelchair-bound George and his wife on his birthday, Hal Wing’s music was freedom from the chains of mental and physical paralysis. For the young mother recovering from a miscarriage, Laura Jones’ song was healing to a broken heart. For a new convert at her fireside, Pam Mahler’s music was vital to a newfound testimony. To the young man at Darla Luna’s fireside, her music was the cause of a mighty change of heart. To the many around the world who heard or sang Raelene Card’s music, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is a more vivid reality. To Gina Stone’s grateful family there is no voice so wonderful as hers, singing the songs they grew up with.
When I consider the power of what these people are doing I am convinced, now more than ever, that those whom God has gifted should let their voices be heard. In the circles of their influence, the people whose stories I have shared here move forward a mighty work. To those whose lives have been changed by listening to them, there is no more important music in the world.