September 22nd, 2010
11:05 PM ET

"Rock of Ages," other hymns get modern twist

Heather Payne left the group Point of Grace in 2008 to devote her time to being a mom of four

The next time you hear "Rock of Ages" on Christian radio you might not recognize it.

The 2010 version is definitely a lot different than the 1775 version.

Heather Payne's adaptation has a decidedly pop feel to it, with a driving drumbeat and electric guitar lead. She said she also tweaked the arrangement, making one of the verses into a chorus.

"I love how it turned out," she said by phone recently from her home in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Rock of Ages" is the initial single off Payne's first solo album "Sweet Exchange," which released Tuesday. The former Point of Grace singer said that she wanted to bring some of her favorite hymns into a new era and give them a "more modern feel."

She pointed out that she didn't change any lyrics to any of the songs because they are the "most important part."

"They are just so full of truth, of unashamed truth," she said. "The writers had a way of expressing theology and doctrine in a song that people just don't do any more."

The last time many Christian music fans heard from Payne was two years ago when she retired from Point of Grace after 17 years with the quartet. At the time Payne wrote a letter to the group's supporters, saying that she would sing again, but she was done touring. Payne said the other day that she is by no means ready to get on the bus again.

Her vehicle of choice these days is a Chevrolet Suburban, which has enough room for her, her husband and four children. She's a busy mom, planning birthday parties this month for her two oldest children, Ella and Nate, as well as ferrying everyone in the SUV to school, and to practices for soccer and baseball.

"It never ends," she said, adding that all of the children are musically inclined and Ella wants to take piano lessons.

But as much as Payne loves her family, she also loves making music, and producing music. In retirement Payne has done the occasional one-off performance, but just one a month, she said.

She missed being in a studio, being able to tailor a song to a new style. Payne said she and her husband, Bryan, had talked about teaching hymns to their children. It's becoming more rare to hear a hymn in church these days, she said, because so many fill their services with modern worship songs.

She also felt like God was calling her to use her amazing voice.

"To not use it would be a sin, really, because it is a gift that He gave me," she said.

Recording the solo album was a great experience because she got to do it in her home city, she said. On days when she recorded, her husband watched the kids until she came home. There were no weeks spent apart as there were when Point of Grace was making an album in Nashville.

She found a local producer and arranger to work with at a studio in a home in Louisville. She used former band mate Terry Jones (who left Point of Grace before her) as a backup singer on three songs and also used her sister on three others.

"Terry has a very unique voice and I know people miss hearing her sing," Payne said.

Payne was careful to have a sound different from Point of Grace. She intentionally kept most of the songs to two-part harmonies to make it distinctive. When there is a third voice, it is far back, she said.

"I didn't want to reinvent Point of Grace; I wanted to make it my own," Payne said.

Payne wouldn't completely rule out a one-show reunion with Point of Grace, which remained a trio after Payne left, but at the same time, she's content doing concerts with Sandi Patty and Wayne Watson and the occasional chance to lead worship at friends' churches.

And she's really busy with her full-time career, where the biggest dream now isn't winning a Dove Award or getting a gold record, it's getting the little one potty trained.

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Music

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  6. Sven

    I read the article and threw up in my mouth, just a little.

    September 25, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
  7. adam

    Haven't heard this new version, but I am completely enamored of Chris Rice's rendition of this song from his Peace Like a River album.

    September 24, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  8. Kate

    Ummmm, who?

    Just lost

    September 23, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  9. Reality

    All Christian songs are simply "mythatians" of those trapped in the bible box.

    September 23, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • JusWonderin

      And what reality are you trapped in.......one of your own making I'm sure. So is that reality, because you say so?

      September 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Reality

      Escaping the bible box: (for new members only)


      1/ New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a mamzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). Analyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.

      The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.

      For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".

      Current RCC problems:

      Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

      3. Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immaculate conceptions).

      Current problems:

      Adulterous preachers, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology, all male hierarchies and strange banking and funding.

      September 23, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  10. Monty

    This is awesome I love how the current day artist are taking some of the great hymns and praise songs and re invigarating them with new style and making them truely wonderful again.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • NL

      Nothing new about doing cover versions of old favorites. Generally, they're flash-in-the-pan and everyone returns to the original version as the definitive, authentic version. New artists trying to make a name for themselves do them all the time. Usually, when it's an established artist, it's a sign that the artist in question has lost their mojo for creating original music, or is pretty much washed up and is looking to make a safe dollar, though. Sorry if that bursts your bubble, buddy.

      September 23, 2010 at 8:38 am |
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