Music with a mission

Lisa Fenstermacher

Marriage, war, Baltimore, friends for Lisa Fenstermacher, theres no way to separate them from her Christian faith.

The Columbia-based singer-songwriter and her band will headline the ninth annual Help Our Neighbors In Need fundraising concert tonight, sponsored by the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs.

I grew up listening to a lot of different music because my dad had a big record collection, Fenstermacher said. From jazz to Brazilian to musicals to pop, my little ears just took everything in.

Fenstermacher began playing guitar in high school, influenced by songwriters of the 70s, such as Joni Mitchell.

She didnt realize she could write songs until a friend of a friend asked her to put a poem to music while Fenstermacher was attending Chesapeake College near Easton (she later earned a bachelors degree in history from University of Maryland, Baltimore County). The poem was about finding grace and hope through Christ.

Songwriting sparked her interest and so she attended a seminar on it and then, in 1992, went to Nashville for her first time for a weeklong program at a music and ministry school called Doulos. It was a good time for Christian music, Fenstermacher said of the early 90s. Amy Grants rise to commercial success was pivotal in the Christian music community.

Soon after Nashville, Fenstermacher began to lead the worship music for Ephesians Family Night at Ashton United Methodist in Ashton.

Theres a great need to combine music with healing, she said. While her songs sometimes cross into the political realm, Christian themes and ideas run throughout.

I was trying to give voice to my faith as a Christian and also address the global kind of care that I feel Christ has for the world and for every soul.

Her song Still This Hollow Sound, from her third and most recent studio release, Pivot, was inspired by a picture Fenstermacher saw of Jesus looking down at Earth from space, with tears in his eyes.

Clothed for fashion, clothed for war, clothed to take more and more and more, she sings in the song. Crimson running off Gods canvas, down, down, down / music streaming, stone cold tomb, hope to be found / loves brilliant glimmer, gold to carry round / and its all I can do, all I can do, to still this hollow sound.

I can combine my faith ... with what Ive seen with people that have crossed my path, she said. Theyre hurting, suffering.

In Ever Wonder, the albums opening song, Fenstermacher reflects on getting older. Although a personal song, it has a faith-based message. It was inspired by Fenstermacher watching the lives of close friends being turned upside down at the time, leaving me to really wonder how life and faith intertwine and how one finds hope again. This is a big theme in my songs, especially on Pivot.

Her producer, Michael Sauri, co-wrote several of the songs on Pivot, including Still This Hollow Sound.

I keep a book of song ideas, Fenstermacher said. I present Michael with an idea ... and he always asks me questions, like, What is this song really about? Its too well said. What are you really trying to say?

And then she tells him a usually long story behind the idea, and those stories end up being the heart of the song.

Her song Peace, co-written with Sauri, won a Silver Award at the 25th annual Mid Atlantic Song Contest.

Sauri doubles as her lead and rhythm guitarist, and the remainder of her band is Carl Standifer on sax, Mike Shipley on drums, Kevin Kost on bass and Paul Fenstermacher (her husband, who also co-writes songs) on electric and acoustic guitar.

Fenstermacher, a semi-finalist at the Christian Artists Seminar, has performed in the region at various benefits and festivals. I am looking forward to the Coalition concert, she said. Their mission to help the hurting definitely resonates with my music.

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