A ministry of music at Pleasant Hill Pastor inspired by his own life, family on "Out of the Depths" album

July 15, 1992|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

The Pleasant Hill Chapel in Hunt Valley appears deserted and silent on a weekday afternoon, except for the sounds of music floating from the shaded sanctuary.

But this tune is a bit different from the standard church fare, combining the piano-like sounds of an electronic keyboard with the resonance of a synthesizer.

The Rev. Craig Marshall, pastor of worship and family ministry at Pleasant Hill, is composing another contemporary Christian piece.

"My love of the Lord led me to become a pastor," said the Hampstead resident, who released "Out of the Depths," a 10-song album of Christian music, in May. "The gifts I have work well with the ministry."

For example, Mr. Marshall, who graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1982 with a degree in piano performance, often arranges and composes pieces for the weekly church services. He also directs the choir, soloists and any other musical aspects of worship.

"We use piano, drums, a synthesizer," Mr. Marshall said, adding that his non-denominational church doesn't follow a very strict form of worship. "We run the whole possible gamut of sounds that people can hear.

"I'll arrange pieces that already exist or write new verses to old hymns. I want the worship to be relevant and meet the members where they are."

The album, which was recorded in February at Roar Productions in Columbia, consists of Psalms set to music, new arrangements of old hymns and some completely original pieces. Most of the work, which runs stylistically from light rock to contemporary pop, has been inspired by Mr. Marshall's life and family.

"When you have two little boys [Jason, 6, and Michael, 3] it's hard not to be amazed by things," he said, adding that often he will be reading a Biblical passage and then find himself singing it later.

One piece that is very personal for Mr. Marshall is "Psalm 42," which he composed while feeling rather frustrated and depressed one day for no obvious reason.

"That Psalm deals very well with that by asking, 'Why are you so down?' " he said. "I love my family and my home and recognize that God has blessed me incredibly, so that seemed to be a question I should be asking myself."

Although some of these pieces were composed as early as 1986, Mr. Marshall said the project wasn't feasible until recently when church members gave him some money to cover the original cost of recording.

"People here knew about a number of my original pieces and said, 'You really should make an album,' " he said.

In addition, modern technology has allowed him to reproduce the sounds of drum, piano, organ and other instruments by himself on a synthesizer and avoid having to hire musicians to play for the album. The only other performers on "Out of the Depths" are his wife, Jeanie, and fellow church member Debbie Ullrich of Reisterstown, who sings on the album.

"The technology is now such that you can do this without so many people that it becomes cost prohibitive," he said.

Copies of "Out of the Depths" are available at $15 per compact disc and $10 per cassette from Mr. Marshall.

Information: 785-2634.

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