RESTORING OUR HYMNS – (ANOTHER) NEW VERSION OF “IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL”
Like most artists, I tend to avoid trying to replicating something that’s already been done. I can’t stand the idea of being unoriginal. But I also believe the church has a certain responsibility to preserve our canon of hymns. Every few decades, we revise the language of the Bible. Our scholars take a fresh look at the meaning of the original texts, and translate the Scriptures for a modern context. I think we owe our hymns a similar recycling process.
I recently heard the story of the restoration process of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling contain arguably the most iconic art of the Christian tradition, but the plaster was chipping and the colors had faded drastically. So in the late 70’s, a team of professionals began the twenty year restoration process. They had a rigorous set of guidelines, and took almost five times as long to restore the paintings as it took to actually paint them.
Like the restorers of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, I’m just trying to bring the color out for a new generation. I can’t claim to have written anything nearly as beautiful as “It Is Well With My Soul”,” but I think it’s important to preserve. (And thankfully, this process was more like 20 hours, not 20 years!) I’ll admit part of me gets anxious when I spend precious recording hours refining something that’s already been done seventy-three thousand times by every Christian recording artist and their grandmother. But if the hours of “restoration” work give my community a chance to see these lyrics with fresh eyes, it will have been worth it.
A few notes about this particular “restoration”:
I have a well-documented obsession with the ukulele. When my wife suggested I record a new version of “It Is Well…” I thought the instrument was a natural fit. While I wouldn’t suggest worship leaders turn to the ukulele often, I think it works particularly well here. The beautiful chord progression is pretty simple on the uke, and you can download my chart for it here.
I updated a few notable phrases, in hopes that the lyrics would be more understandable to the average listener. I have a friend who hates when I take the “thee’s” and “thou’s” out of worship songs. But if a “thee” or a “thou” creates a barrier to the gospel, I say slash it and don’t think twice.
I only recorded two verses for this version. I feel like these two verses (if we’re in 1975, “…verses 1 and 3 in your hymnal”) maintain the main theme (verse 1) as well as the gospel-centrality (verse 3) of the hymn. I was actually pumped to find some beautiful “forgotten verses” of this song.
I’ll be anxious to hear your thoughts on which version of “It Is Well…” you prefer- this one or the full-band version I released a couple weeks ago. Feel free to post thoughts in the comments.
May the God of all real peace be with you, and may you recognize His presence.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
-the apostle Paul (Phillipians 4:4-7)