By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published May 23, 2013
DUNWOODY—Playing to a lively crowd gathered in Studio ONE, a film studio at All Saints Church used for XLT and Life Teen events throughout the year, Catholic musician Matt Maher sang many crowd favorites as well as a few tunes from his new album, “All The People Said Amen.”
The April 23 album release concert featured a diverse crowd of hundreds of people of all ages, including teens, young families and other supporters of the Catholic musician, and gave fans the chance to purchase the new album for the first time.
Featuring 13 tracks, the album mostly consists of live versions of previously released songs with four new studio cuts, including the title track “All The People Said Amen.” Live voices were recorded during tour stops in 2012 at the University of Notre Dame and in Detroit, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Baltimore.
Maher said praise and worship music is best experienced in a group setting and he wanted to capture that on the latest album.
“There’s something powerful about the sound of the assembly, people singing together,” said Maher. “When you talk about music in church, the biggest instrument is the voice.”
“For me, when it comes to writing this type of music, that desire to hear the people singing on top of the music comes out of my formation as a Catholic,” he continued. “I want to hear that primary instrument.”
Maher said he learned to lead praise and worship sessions by listening to live worship albums. When you hear people singing, it helps you as a worship leader and as a songwriter, he said.
“There’s something permanent about it. It is what is it,” said Maher of playing live, as opposed to recording in a studio where mistakes can be fixed or sound can be tweaked after the fact.
Joined by three other musicians at the concert, Maher and company definitely heard the voices of the people as the congregation enthusiastically sang along to the songs they knew so well. Many felt inspired to dance or close their eyes in reflection as the energetic sounds of Maher and his band filled Studio ONE.
Maher said that Catholic artists are instructed by the church to use their gifts to share the beauty of God and his creation. It is not just a suggestion, he said, but rather that the role and purpose of the artist is to help people find spiritual truth through various forms of art, music being one of the most powerful.
“Artists have a vocation to beauty, to revealing beauty,” said Maher, referring to Pope John Paul II’s letter to artists written in 1999. “Artists are not creators, we are craftsmen. We are taking existing materials and crafting them into songs, sculptures, paintings, architecture.”
“The process of doing that … reveals the Creator aspect of God,” he said, adding that all art has that capability. Music is especially powerful because it brings emotion, thought and sound to the soul, said Maher.
“Sound is a wave. It moves,” he said. “Music is meant to move you.”
The album cover for “All The People Said Amen” is a collage that Maher built of pictures, concert posters, set lists, lyrics and other items he has collected during the past several years as a recording and touring musician. The album itself is a collage, he said, representing the different periods of his life and career, which are all held together by the message of the Gospel. Born in Canada, Maher came to Phoeniz, Ariz., as a young man and became part of Christian and Catholic music there. A Grammy-nominated musician, he is now married and living in Nashville, Tenn.
“It became a teaching lesson for me,” said Maher. “A collage is a collection of different items placed over an overlapping foundation. … That’s really the church in a way. It’s a collection of people who are over a foundation, which is Christ and the church that he established.”
Maher said the album is a call to Christians, and especially Catholics, to focus on having a Christocentric faith and to answer the call to be missionary in the practice of their faith.
“We live in a very pluralistic age, where everybody right now tends to think that Jesus is just another prophet,” he said. “But he’s not. And that is hugely important. That’s what makes Christianity distinct.”
Maher hopes the album encourages its listeners to be missionary by engaging Christians and energizing them to share Christ’s love with their family, friends and the poor.
“To be missional is to have an outward focus,” he said. “Every day God is sending you somewhere.”
For more information on Matt Maher and to purchase the new album, “All The People Said Amen,” visit www.mattmahermusic.com.