And it’s only fitting that one of America’s greatest churches raise up one of its finest choirs. Spirit & Truth, the debut offering from the New Birth Total Praise Choir—or NBTP, as they’ve become popularly known—is more than just an assembling of tremendous talents, anointed songs, and timeless Gospel truths. It is a collection of music from the church, and for the church.
Spirit & Truth is the brainchild, from conception to completion, of Grammy-Award winner Kevin Bond, one of modern Gospel’s most successful producers and songwriters (his million-dollar credits include work with a Gospel Who’s-Who that includes Kirk Franklin, Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Bishop T.D. Jakes, and many more), who is also New Birth’s Senior Director of Worship & Arts.
Unlike many Gospel choirs, which often draw and hand-pick members from numerous churches and affiliations, NBTP consists entirely of 250, “whosoever-will” members of the New Birth’s congregation. “We have a group of dedicated volunteers who truly want to serve the Lord through the choir,” says Kevin, “and I think that dedication shines brightly throughout this album.”
Spirit & Truth arose from an annual, church-wide conference at New Birth of the same name, which Kevin describes as “designed to edify and inspire the congregation to rise up and walk in the full potential and blessings of God,” and is the first of what he and the leadership of New Birth see as the beginning of an ongoing recording legacy for NBTP. And while the lion’s share of Kevin’s own work has been with solo, concert and performance-oriented Gospel artists, he sees a unique purpose and need for Spirit & Truth, and what he views as its contrasting place in contemporary Gospel music.
“There are a lot of great artists who are doing equally great music that’s written and arranged for concert settings,” he explains, “but there’s a great need for strong, new material that’s conceived and created expressly for the church and Sunday-morning worship. Spirit & Truth contains eleven songs which nearly any church choir, from the average to the elite, could do on any Sunday morning and truly bless the Body of Christ.”
Kevin, who also directs NBTP, wrote 90% of the album’s material. “There is such a lack of this type of music that I found myself, and several other songwriters I know and have worked with, simply writing songs ourselves that would suit our needs and desires. These songs were not birthed from a mindset of just writing some songs to cut an album. They were birthed out of a house…a church and a choir with a covering. My intent was to create music around the messages that Bishop Long preaches, that would bless both New Birth, and the Body at large, nationally and globally.”
The album covers a rich and varied terrain musically echoing sounds of Gospel from traditional to contemporary, with anthems as well as deeply moving songs of praise and worship.
The title cut, “Spirit & Truth,” is a stirring song of worship. “I sat down at the piano and the words `We worship You/We do/In spirit and in truth,’ and the music that went with it just came to me, and I built it from there,” Kevin recalls. “It’s a very memorable melody that stays with you, and a simple but powerful message of connecting with His Spirit to come into the truth of who He is, and then worshipping Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s become my favorite song on the album.”
The jubilant “Suddenly” conveys strong roots in traditional Gospel. “That’s a song about the `quick work’ God will do in our lives,” Kevin comments. “We always hear a lot about, `When I get to heaven…and when I this, and when I that,’ when the fact of the matter is that God does many things in very quick ways that we can oftentimes overlook, including our very salvation, and the blessings that He grants to us everyday.”
Quietly contemplative, “Thank You For Your Grace,” features an impassioned lead vocal from Ted Winn, of the hit Gospel duo, Ted & Shari. “I’ve heard ever since I was a kid in Sunday School about God’s grace,” says Kevin. “As believers, our lives have been totally enriched by God, but it’s not because we’ve earned anything. It’s all because of His grace.”
“He’s Been So Good” carries a strong urban/contemporary feel and features a smoking vocal by New Birth member and EMI/Gospel recording artist, Darwin Hobbs. “That started out as just a really fun groove kind of tune,” says Kevin. “Then I brought Darwin in and he put his own spin on it and just tore it up. We hear so much of all the crazy and terrible things that are going on in this world, it’s also nice to hear, and celebrate, all the good things of God.”
Even as New Birth continues to soar to ever greater heights in its role as a many-faceted institution not only of worship, but learning, community outreach and involvement, and charity and compassion for all, and as Kevin Bond’s career in the music industry grows in almost equally exponential leaps and bounds, Kevin is quick to sing the praises not only of his Lord, but of his pastor and his beloved choir.
“Sunday-to-Sunday the energy and excitement and conviction that NBTP brings forth, without exception, is truly amazing to me,” he says. “They bring a level of intensity to our worship experience that is hard to find words to describe, and unlike anything I’ve encountered before. Their enthusiasm, and their level of spirituality never fail to keep my spirits lifted.
“My highest hopes for Spirit & Truth is that it will bring modern, Sunday-morning church music to an altogether new and higher level, and also be readily accessible to choirs and worshippers anywhere and everywhere. I believe it’s time for our music to speak more of the risen Christ—the Third-Day Christ—and to celebrate all His resurrection brought us.
“Bishop Long is—among many things—one of the world’s great preachers,” Kevin concludes, “and I know that music is the universal language. I aspire to wrap the music God gives me around the Bishop’s powerful messages. I wrote and produced this album to bring hope and encouragement, and peace and love for God’s people, but in the here-and-now—and abundance of all these things in the life we are now living—and for all His people, saved and unsaved, churched and unchurched. I could hope for nothing greater than to take that message, which Bishop Long has already launched so powerfully over all these years, to the entire world through our music.”