Fanny J. Crosby was one of the most prolific American hymnists in history, writing over 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, with over one million copies printed, despite being blind from shortly after birth. Known as the "Queen of Gospel Songwriters," with most American hymnals containing her work, she has been represented by the largest number of hymns of any writer of the 20th century.
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound is on a mission to keep the songs of this great American icon alive and well, in presenting The Favorite Hymns of Fanny Crosby, with modern roots-styled arrangements. Take a trip down memory lane as Ernie, Devin, Dustin, and Paul wow you with their finesse and treatment of these timeless and treasured classics.
Q: Congratulations on the release of "The Favorite Hymns of Fanny Crosby." For the sake of some of our readers who are not familiar with Crosby, who is she? What is her contribution to the worship of the church?
A: Thank you very much! This was a labor of love for the songs and love for the lady who wrote them, Fanny J. Crosby. Everyone reading this should do a Google search of her. She was the most prolific American hymnist. She died in 1915 and left us with over 8,000 songs that still fill our churches with a script for praise and worship. She became blind at six weeks old. Her grandmother was her eyes, teaching her about nature, animals and the Bible. Her poems and writings were sought after by Presidents and Congressmen. She addressed the U.S. Congress, was a friend of many U.S. Presidents, was a champion for the blind and poor, and served in several missions throughout New York City where she lived most of her life.
Q: What do you personally appreciate about Crosby and her hymns?
A: I love the way she painted a picture with her words. Knowing that she was blind and never visibly saw these images leads me to think God showed her through Faith things that only Faith can see.
Q: Why did you choose to do an entire album of her hymns?
A: Personally, I have loved her songs since I was a kid. When there was a Spirit-filled, wonder-filled moment in our church growing up it always seemed we were singing Fanny Crosby songs. Even back as a little boy, I would always look in the hymnal we sang from to see WHO wrote this wonderful song? Most of the time, it was Mrs. Crosby. Plus, her life story is so compelling that I have it in mind to write a type of play/musical based on her life and music. We are also exploring the unpublished lyrics that are available to us via Integrity Music. There are over 2,400 unpublished lyrics that have recently been uncovered and, along with my producer Wayne Haun, I am looking to put new music to these and release these songs through the artists on our label, StowTown Records. The potential is unlimited!!! I really think there is something special here.
Q: You have approached this album with a rootsy style. Why did you choose this approach to your interpretation of these hymns?
A: Well, the "rootsy" style just seemed to organically work with the songs. While we (EHSS) are known for MAJOR productions, it was just a nice rest for our musical ears. Our fans seem to love this approach. And the rootsy style feels right to those who are listening to us because they feel comfortable enough to sing along. So for us, we feel like it's "mission accomplished." We were able to give new life to the music and not distract from the original melody that people know and love.
Q: Was it difficult to narrow down your choices considering that Fanny Crosby had written so many hymns?
A: Yes, it was! It was very hard. We actually have released a songbook to go along with this project. We put 20 of her most beloved hymns in the songbook. I hope to do a Volume Two CD one day and cover those songs we did not get to record this time around.
Q: Has there been a time in your life where there is a hymn of hers that have drawn you closer to God? If so, tell us more.
A: YES! "Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross" is that song. However, "Pass Me Not" and "Tell Me The Story Of Jesus" are neck-and-neck for the number two spot. My grandpa use to sing to me "Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross" and he would always tell me, "Buddy, stay near the cross and you will always be alright." So, these songs have been preaching the story of Jesus to me for my whole life, and my response has always been one of FAITH!
Q: Over the last few years you have recorded some very interesting albums, including a broadway album and now a hymns project. What's next?
A: Well, I have tons of ideas. And as long as the Lord gives me strength, I will try my best to present God's love through music. The Broadway project (The Inspiration Of Broadway), and the opportunity to be in various Performing Art Centers with this project, have taught me that God can use EVERYTHING to point to His great love and grace. I think music is one of the greatest tools we have to speak of how God is reaching, redeeming and calling His creation unto Himself. It is my job to connect and engage the mind of those who listen to all of our recordings to experience this invitation to join the great dance. My prayer is that as we plant and water, more and more people respond with Faith and say "Yes" to God's love through Jesus His Son.