An extended review of this full-length 2023 music recording
Strongheart Inc., 2023. $15 (MP3 $12). BevFoster.com
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This is the third solo album of original music chronicling the faith journey of Ontario musician and educator Bev Foster.
After not being able to write for several years, she found a spiritual director who walked with her for eight months through the Ignatian exercises. This collection of songs was born in that context. The isolation of the pandemic brought with it a fruitful burst of inspired songwriting for Foster, yielding 40 finished songs, 14 of which were selected for the project. Reaching into her own experiences of loss and grief, she was able to find deep comfort in the promise of God’s faithfulness.
She explains, “In the face of a pandemic, war, economic uncertainties and personal tragedies, assurances have been tested for all of us. We may identify with ancient words from the prophet Isaiah, ‘What’s left is a field of stumps.’ Devastating loss is often accompanied by sorrow beyond words. The kind that shakes the foundations of hope and leaves us with lots of questions…. I find help in Isaiah’s next words: ‘BUT there’s holy seed in those stumps.’ Holy seed. Potential for new life and growth coming from the stumps themselves, somehow sacred and certainly unexpected. This is where hope lives…. Each of the songs on this album I received with grace and gratitude. Each one holds a seed of truth that has helped me recover daily hope and find beauty again as I’ve stood in my field of stumps.”
Hope Seeds was masterfully arranged and produced by award-winning producer Philip Janz at his Abbotsford, B.C., studio, Hi Tyme. Foster credits Janz with taking on the project “wholeheartedly with spiritual imagination, musical genius and technical expertise.”
One listen confirms her sentiment. Musically, this is a pristine studio recording. Each song is given thoughtful attention to detail resulting in lush, colourful productions featuring many of Canada’s top-shelf musicians. Many of the tracks build into huge, stately productions driven by polished orchestration and glorious instrumentation. Others are tender reflections that gently speak to the heart.
The opening track “Set our Hearts on Hope” is a beautiful worship ballad which prayerfully sets the tone for the album and features a shimmering string section.
Some of the songs are laments infused with sparks of hope. “Carry Me” expresses how we have comfort in uncertainty. “In a land I’ve never known / in a place that’s far from home / isolated and alone / Come carry me… Shepherd of my soul.”
“In the Fullness of Time” reminds us, “In the fullness of time, wrongs will be right / In the fullness of time, faith will be sight / You came to this earth to bring us light / to give us some hope for the world.”
“Heart Conditions,” an up-tempo, pop-infused song encourages us to “Keep a firm grip on faith / suffering doesn’t last forever / Grateful for it all, in the sunny and the stormy weather.”
“Healing Words” speaks to the importance of being intentional with the use of gentle, authentic communication. “More than echoes of morality / More than saccharin platitudes / gentle streams of calming presence / Let them flow.”
B.C. singer-songwriter Carolyn Arends is a friend and inspiration to Bev Foster and joins her in the warm, folksy duet, “Stand with You.”
One of the standout tracks is a powerful duet with producer Philip Janz. “What Comes After Grief” aches with heartfelt honesty. “Sorrow friend, come and walk with me / Sorrow friend, come and talk with me / Grace disguised, give me wider eyes.”
A stunning instrumental offering, “Dance of Love” showcases Foster’s stellar piano playing along with her talented daughter Aimee on oboe and English horn.
“In Between” sums up the overall thread of this album. “Not afraid of the in between / Don’t want to give up believing / Cause in those hidden in betweens / Love grows deep in me.”
Apart from her three solo albums, Foster has made four family albums of original songs. She is passionate about the healing power of music and is the founder of the Room 217 Foundation, a Canadian health arts social enterprise. She has successfully innovated the music care approach which includes products, education, training, and certification to effectively integrate music into the care experience. In her work with Room 217, she has produced four collections (24 music albums) for palliative and end-of-life care.
Hope Seeds is a wonderful album, rich in spiritual insight and truth. These 14 songs feel like love letters to a weary people in a dark and broken world.
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