I’ve been following The Choir since I first heard them in about 1986, when they were the warm-up band at a Steve Taylor concert at SMU’s McFarlin Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. They’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since.
For those readers who have never heard of them, The Choir is a Christian alternative-rock band that has been together since 1984. The band is composed of Derri Daugherty on guitar and vocals, Steve Hindalong on drums, along with Tim Chandler on bass guitar, Dan Michaels on saxophone and lyricon and Marc Byrd on guitar.
The Choir is not a typical contemporary Christian band. The lyrics, primarily written by Steve Hindalong, are not the cookie-cutter praise and worship or evangelistic lyrics common to the vast majority of CCM artists; rather, they are known for their poetry, vulnerability, and honesty, particularly about the challenges typical in relationships and the simple joys of life – lyrics that ask questions and make a person think, rather than just giving the answers. The instrumentals range from alternative rock to mournful to ambient; Derri’s guitar work is effect-laden and ranges from hard-driving rock to soulful ambience.
I had been disappointed by The Choir’s last release, “Burning Like the Midnight Sun.” A few of the songs, especially “The Word Inside the Word” and “It Should Have Been Obvious,” contained some lyrics that promoted theopolitical positions that I found Biblically indefensible. So, it was with a bit of fear and trepidation that I popped the CD into my player and began to listen, while perusing the lyrics on the album sleeve.
I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.
The album’s title, “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard,” is a reference to the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, an event referenced in the song “I’m Learning to Fly.”.
The first song, “Strange Girl,” could be an anthem to my fifteen-year-old daughter Stacey:
She’s such a strange girl
In such good ways
A strange girl
She’s so strange
In such good ways.
Stacey particularly likes the line: “She doesn’t care about sparkling jewels / Got a sparkle in her eye.” She also loves Dan Michaels’ saxophone work on the song.
“I’m Learning to Fly” deals with the problem of pain and suffering in the world:
I’m learning to love in a dying world
I’m learning to fly
The song recognizes the difficulty of reconciling the pain we all experience with the mercy of a loving God, but rather than trying to give an answer to this paradox, the song focuses on rising above and loving, despite the suffering.
“Cross that River” is about overcoming fear. As Christians, God calls us to step out in faith and take chances, knowing that He is there when we stumble:
But you’re not gonna make it if you don’t take a chance
And there’s somebody on the shore holding out a branch.
Probably my favorite song on the album is “The Forest.” The song is about the cycles in our lives; we all go through good times and bad, mountaintop experiences and valleys. We must learn to trust God in all circumstances:
I believe the sun will shine on you and me, my friend
I have learned to trust the turning of the seasons
Even now the sun is breaking through the clouds again
But I still don’t know the causes or the reasons
And I still can’t see the forest for the trees
When we go through difficult times, the key is to remain focused on Jesus Christ. Even though we can’t understand why things happen as they do, He does understand.
Another highlight of the album is the song “After All,” which features Leigh Nash on vocals. When I first heard the song, I recognized the same music as on Derri’s ambient instrumental solo piece, “My Imaginary Friend.” This version, however has fantastic vocal harmonies between Derri and Leigh.
Another pleasant surprise was the song “A World Away.” It has an almost oriental sound, mixed with Derri’s ambience and Steve’s poetic lyrics. The song acknowledges humanity’s inability to completely understand the mysteries of God.
Overall, this album is another strong work by Steve, Derri, and the rest of the band. I love Dan Michaels’ sax / lyricon work throughout, and Derri’s somber guitar work. One thing missing is the usual off-the-wall song about something random, like falling off a stage, a misspelled name on a boarding pass, or a rifle-toting television icon. But, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard.” If you’re looking for the typical CCM or gospel lyrics focusing explicitly on Jesus Christ, or typical praise-and-worship music, you probably won’t appreciate this album. But, if you like music that’s honest about life’s struggles and asks more questions than it answers, give “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard” a listen.
You can purchase “The Loudest Sound Ever Heard” at The Choir’s website: http://www.thechoir.net/