Friday, August 13, 2010

Hymnody Review: Koine Hymns

Koine. Koine. Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2005. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Koine. Gesangbuch. Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2006. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Koine. Church Bells. Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2008. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

Koine. Anno Domini. Milwaukee: Judas on Straight Street Records, 2009. Audio CD. $15.00. (H)

I like the idea. I love the hymn selections. I commend the creativity. I will also pray for this group and for their continued witness and musical growth.
Common language. Common people. Extraordinary message.

That's what Koiné was in the 4th and 5th century in then Macedonia, the common language of the people. It's a Greek term, and was the language the New Testament was written in.

Today, Koiné is again a voice for the common people, and again with extraordinary message. Koiné - the church band, is a Christian band, bringing a new vibrant sound and feel to traditional Lutheran and Christian songs.

Founded on the banks of the Milwaukee River on Milwaukee's near North Side, Koiné brings a new and needed voice to the arena of Christian music.

Thanks for stopping by. Check out the rest of the site, and we welcome you to our upcoming shows, to hear a common message for all people: Jesus Christ is Savior.

God Bless - Koiné
(From the band website)

Yet, I have some concerns.

First, their web shop has some unfortunate typos including misspelled words and unfortunate misnumberings compared to correct listings on their albums.

This is Koiné's first CD, featuring 10 songs. They have sold over 5000 copies of this to date, with favorites like "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Jerusalem My Happy Home," and "Crown Him with Many Crowns."

1.From All That Dwell Below the Skies
2.Cchief [Chief] Of Sinners Though I Be
3.What A Friend We Have In Jesus
4.Lord When Your Glory I Shall See
5.Crown Him With Many Crowns
6.My Hope Is Build [Built] On Nothing Less
7.Now the Light has Gone Away
8.I'm But A Stranger Here
9.Jerusalem My Happy Home
10.God's Word is Our Great Heratage [Heritage]
11.I'm Anchored In Jesus

This is Koiné's 2nd CD, featuring 16 new songs! If you enjoyed the first, you will love Volume II.

1.Jesus Priceless Treasure
2.Lord Teach Us How to Pray Alright
3.Jesus [Should be included with next line] 4.Savior Pilot Me
[4.] 5.This is My Will
[5.] 6.Lord Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word
[6.] 7.Abide With Me
[7.] 8.Christ Is Our Cornerstone
[8.] 9.Lord Of Glory You Have Brouught Us
[9.] 10.Be Still My Soul
[10.] 11.Brothers, Sisters, Let Us Gladly
[11.] 12.I Hear the Savior Calling
[12. Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire]
13.Behold a Host Arrayed In White
14.Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow
15.Build [Built] on the Rock
16.Jerusalem the Golden
Koiné releases its third album, Church Bells- a wonderful mix of seasonal favorites and time honored hymns.

1.Oh, that the Lord Would Guide My Ways
2.Fight the Good Fight
3.Comfort, Comfort All My People
4.Once in Royal David's City
5.My Song Is Love Unknown
6.Draw Us to Thee
7.He Stood before the Court
8.Glory Be to Jesus
9.This Joyful Eastertide
10.All Glory, Laud, and Honor
11.What Wondrous Love Is This
12.When God the Spirit Came
13.All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night
14.The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Koiné releases its fourth album, Anno Domini - a full length album of your favorite Christmas Songs!

1.1. O Savior, Rend The Heavens Wide [duplicate numbering]
2.From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
3.O Little Town of Bethlehem
4.Comfort, Comfort All My People
5.Mary, Did You Know?
6.O Holy Night
7.Hark the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes
8.Of the Father's Love Begotten
9.Once in Royal David's City
10.Behold, a Branch Is Growing
11.Joy to the World
12.Silent Night! Holy Night
I do not wish to be considered overly picky in this regard, but I do want this group to give their site visitors a positive impression on Christians, Lutherans, and musicians.
Second, the drum set makes me cringe. The over-use of percussion on these four recordings homogenizes the sound of nearly all the tracks. Sometimes, the drums overwhelm the melody and words. Occasionally, they fight against the melody and hymn texts. Several tracks just don't work due to rhythms imposed on the hymn. Percussion is not always necessary. Let the natural beauty of the melody sung by gifted vocalists shine through! I would encourage the group to experiment with other percussion instruments. I use hand drums with some of our new African hymnody like "Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia" and "Listen, God Is Calling." Timpani is powerfully used with liturgical canticles. Why not try the Biblically-mentioned tambourine?
Third, some arrangements may alienate some of the band's intended audience. The wild changes back and forth between traditional church accompaniments and more modern/rock versions was particularly jarring on II:1, "Jesus, Priceless Treasure." Could the electrified instruments back off to confess in practice the "reverence" confessed in the text of the hymns?
Now, three encouraging things:
First, I love the sound of Koine at its best, with Davidson and Fedke on vocals, minimal percussion, and acoustic instruments. They echo a Lutheran version of the band Caedmon's Call. Please emphasize this side of your sound!
Second, Koine is incredibly creative. Keep working, playing, arranging, and recording. Album four shows great development and more maturity than album one.
Third, build on the variety of instrumentation you have used before. I loved the flute. Why not add in some brass and woodwind guests? There's nothing like trumpet or trombone for Christmas and Easter.
And finally, some quick hymn suggestions for future albums: "Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me," "Thy Strong Word," and "The Tree of Life" (all as found in the LCMS hymnal, Lutheran Service Book). I'd also like to hear a Koine version of "In Christ Alone," "There Is a Higher Throne," "Speak, O Lord," and "May the Peace of God" from the new WELS Christian Worship: Supplement. 
I pray that these critiques are heard in the friendly and brotherly spirit in which they are offered. I appreciate that Koine has positioned themselves as a church band, playing the hymnic treasures of the Lutheran Church.
The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.