Thanks to Mark Snyder of Tree Hill Collective for sharing this review with The Worship Community! We’re excited to feature and showcase fellow TWC member Kristen Gilles’ latest worship project: The Whole Big Story.
The Whole Big Story has the ambitious goal of telling the story of God’s love for his people from Creation through our heavenly destiny, in only 4 songs. They chose a modern hymn style with each hymn text centering on a particular theme. Their musical direction, though, is much more adventurous than you might expect.
The EP begins with my favorite – You Grew the Tree. This song offers us the striking image of our creator who, among all His works, also created the very tree that would be used to make the cross. Lyrically, it deftly deals with presenting themes that touch on the mystery of the Trinity while staying accessible and lyrically poignant, bringing a high biblical concept right home to our doorstep:
You gave the sun and rain
To grow the fated wood.
You could have ripped it from the ground;
Year after year it stood.
And then rebellious men
Made of it a cross,
Planning bloody wickedness
In place of nature’s loss.
You knew what to expect,
The untold misery.
I’m face-down at the thought
That after all–
You grew the tree. You grew the tree.
You knew what we’d do, but still You grew the tree.
This song also features a hooky chorus with a great rapid rhyme scheme that sticks with you. It is a great congregational song.
Bold Before the Throne gives us a great image of our new position in Christ as a result of the torn veil, and features a soulful saxophone solo.
Rising Tide is a driving country song that chronicles the churches journey from the advent through the second coming. Its fast country vibe goes well with its message of a church prosecuting God’s kingdom on earth.
The EP concludes with My Song in the Night, a soulful piece with a great bass riff and lead guitar goodness throughout, conjuring the image of a hostile night but melodically brighter in a way that suits the hopeful lyrics.
Overall, the musicianship is excellent, and Kristen’s bold vocals are up to the task of fronting these ambitious arrangements. Lyrically, these songs are theologically grounded, well thought out, and biblically unambigious. All of these songs would be great choices in the right congregation.
The Whole Big Story is definitely not your average worship album – musically it is much more adventurous and creative. Listen through a time or two, and let the craft of this album grow on you – you will be rewarded. Lyrically it betrays a great songwriting craft and attention to detail that brings us what so many say they want: fresh, creative songwriting that is not trite and that tells The Whole Big Story of who God is, who we are before Him and in Him, and where we are headed.
Mark Snyder is a longtime worship leader, software engineer, and lead songwriter for the Tree Hill Collective (www.treehillcollective.com). functioning as a resource to provide songs for the church from new songwriters, focusing on the art of the worship song as it applies to the worshiping church of all ages. Mark has a wife and two grown sons and resides in Glendale, AZ, with his wife of 27 years Roseanne.
The Worship Community says:
We’re so proud of Bobby and Kristen for continually raising the bar in the area of songwriting for the Church. They are regular participants in our Sunday Setlists and we are so honored to have them as members of our community. Thank you so much for all the hard work and attention to lyrical detail that goes into your songs. This is a wonderful EP and EVERYONE should get it and support what Bobby and Kristen are doing!
From the Gilles’ website:
Taken together, these songs tell God’s story from creation to the Second Coming and Christ’s reign in the New Earth. We believe these hymns cover themes and Bible stories that aren’t conveyed in many songs for the Church (read the scriptures that inspired each of these songs here).
- These songs teach that Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t simply akin to throwing himself in front of a bullet for us (as brave and noble as that would be), but rather that He is the Lord of all Creation who willingly died on His own tree, having known and determined to do so before creation’s dawn.
- These songs teach a crucial, blessed difference between Old Testament worship and our reality — that we don’t have to wait once a year for an appointed priest to pray and offer sacrifice for our sins, but that we can boldly go before God’s throne all the time. Christ’s sacrifice has “torn the veil.”
- These songs teach that we have nothing to fear because God has adopted us as sons and daughters through the cross, and made us joint-heirs with Jesus.
- These songs show that Jesus cast Satan from the sky, tied him up and crushed his head. The Holy Spirit is sweeping through the earth, and Christ is adding to His Church as the demons helplessly roar, knowing how this story will end. Christ will come again, bringing His people back to set up a kingdom wherein “love will cover all the earth, in the kingdom without end.”
We strove to make the melodies memorable and compelling, yet easy to sing. All of them stay well within the range of the average person (1.5 octaves).