The Lower Lights: Music and the Common Ground of Faith
Other members of The Lower Lights also brought their own musical interests into play when the group got together. For instance, Debra Fotheringham introduced the group to the old Catholic Celtic hymn, "Be Thou My Vision." Jacobsen recalled the first time he heard it: "It was instant [connection]. The message is as beautiful as the melody. The only question anybody asked was ‘Why have I never heard this incredible song before?' And we get the same response at our shows."
The Lower Lights have performed at Mormon venues, Protestant churches, and non-denominational functions, always getting a positive response. It was one of the group's goals from the outset to transcend denominational differences. Jacobsen says, "I always hoped we wouldn't be pigeonholed as a Mormon group . . . any more than the Blind Boys of Alabama or The Staples Singers . . . would be called a ‘specific denomination' group. That's heady company to put ourselves in and I don't intend to say they're our peers, as they are just incredible . . . I just talk about them as a reference point of gospel music good enough to not worry about . . . labels or borders . . . If it's Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Hank Williams, Gillian Welch, Louvin Brothers . . . we love a good melody with a good lyric that resonates. And I think we have tried our best to see these songs as borderless and inclusive and [part of] the common ground of faith."
The Christmas album of mostly Christ-centered songs arose because fans asked for it. The Lower Lights happily complied; performing and recording hymns has become a true spiritual labor of love for them. Jacobsen's personal connection to the music at this time in his life is especially deep. He says, "I have found comfort and courage and faith and hope in these songs, both in public performance and in private. With two young children, my experience at church -- [my] ability to really pay attention with the fantastic squirming and pseudo-whispering and not-sitting-still of those awesome two [kids] -- has drastically changed and I have leaned on my time with The Lower Lights to fill me up."
Regarding his hopes for the Christmas album, Jacobsen adds, "Christmas is an amazing and crazy time for a lot of people, and it can also be a sad time for other people. I hope this enriches the season, comforts, and -- to quote the old song -- lets their hearts be light. That sounds a little corny, but oh well."
In my opinion, The Lower Lights are anything but corny. Their songs are a sincere reflection of their love for God and His gift of music. That's something all faiths should appreciate.
Tony Rossi serves as host/producer of "Christopher Closeup," the radio show and podcast of. The Christophers, a Catholic non-profit that uses media to encourage people of all faiths to live gospel values.