Christian music stars join forces on charity album

Sat Jan 24, 2009 4:55am GMT

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NASHVILLE (Billboard) - In an effort to use music to help alleviate poverty throughout the world, a dozen of Christian music's best-known singer-songwriters met in Scotland a year ago to create a special project.

"CompassionArt: Creating Freedom From Poverty" is the brainchild of Delirious frontman Martin Smith. It features Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Israel Houghton, Chris Tomlin, Paul Baloche, CeCe Winans, Darlene Zschech and other notable acts donating all proceeds to charity.

The album arrives January 27 in the United States distributed by EMI Christian Music Group (CMG), and will be accompanied by a 50-minute documentary. A book, "The Art of Compassion," is being released simultaneously.

"We went to an old house in Scotland, camped out for a week, and we came out with 20 songs," says Martin Smith, who spent more than a year organizing the January 2008 songwriter's retreat.

Tomlin was ill and missed the retreat, but was able to make the recording sessions a month later at London's famed Abbey Road Studios. He co-wrote a tune called "Come to the Water" that also features Kirk Franklin and Uganda's Watoto Children's Choir.

Martin Smith hatched the idea for CompassionArt after visiting India and seeing the deplorable conditions some children were living in. He and his wife, Anna, were particularly moved by the plight of a young girl named Farin, to whom "The Art of Compassion" is dedicated.

"I actually tried bringing her home to England, and that did not work out," says Smith, who founded an organization to help children in that region. "That is one of the projects that we are supporting -- getting those children back on their feet again. It has been a real joy and has really changed my life."

CompassionArt is supporting 16 charities, among them Ray of Hope, which aids communities in Brazil; Stop the Traffik, a global campaign with the United Nations aimed at stopping human trafficking; and a charity benefiting the Watoto community in Uganda.

The project's first single, "So Great," featuring Houghton, Michael W. Smith, Christy Nockels and the Lakewood Choir, was a top five Christian adult contemporary hit last year and was included on the "WOW Christian" hits compilation. Current single "King of Wonders" featuring Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and Joel Houston is currently climbing the charts.

All sales and publishing royalties go to charity. And because the songs are likely to be embraced by the church, they'll have a longer shelf life and provide a continual revenue stream -- "hopefully for 50, 60, 70 years, if we steward it right," Houghton says. "It's definitely a different type of residual income. If a song connects with the church worldwide, and if it's put in hymn books and becomes a classic, that could make a difference for several generations."

Reuters/Billboard

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