I really, really, really like the music of Page CXVI (formerly The Autumn Film). This group of three is “re-imagining” classic hymns for new generations, and just by reworking the melody and tempo, they bring new meaning to old songs. My favorite is “Joy,” which I highlighted in a post about dealing with grief.
Maybe there’s a special place for their music in the lives of those facing cross-cultural transition and stress. Adam, who (like me) travelled with his family from the corn fields of the American Midwest to a “city of millions” overseas, sent an email to Page CXVI last year, and they posted it on their blog.
Adam writes about a “journey of faith” that took him, his wife, and their two-year-old son to “a place where hearts are ripe for harvest but the fields have many fences,” a place where they faced many trials:
Financial difficulties, spiritual conflict, and multiple miscarriages deepened my desire for God’s presence but also created questions for which I did not have answers. There were many nights that seemed very dark. Not the dark you see, but the dark you feel when you don’t have peace. In the midst of our many struggles, I would sit and watch the city lights and listen to Page CXVI.
Adam first heard the band before he went abroad when they led worship at a missions conference he attended. Then, when he flew to his new home, he carried with him some of the group’s music.
The slow movement of traffic and the colored lights did little to bring comfort when I would sit staring out my window, but the music, with its rich lyrics and calming arrangement, did something nothing else could. When the elements madly around me were raging, God used the music and through the music biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace.
Here are two videos of the group performing the hymns “How Deep the Father’s Love” and “Come Thou Fount.” In the third, they sing “Peace Like a River,” from their latest project, Lullabies.
In another video, Page CXVI – Explains the Deeper Meaning of Hymns, lead singer Tifah Phillips, née Al-Attas, smiles and says matter-of-factly, “I grew up in this all-Chinese church. . . .” I bet there’s an interesting story there. I’d like to hear more about her background, about how her cross-cultural experiences have affected her faith and creativity. Maybe her bandmates, Reid Phillips (her husband) and Dann Stockton have their own stories to tell.
Continuing on, Phillips talks about the depth of the hymn “Be Still, My Soul,” noting how the song deals with some important questions:
What does it really look like to trust God? What does it look like to trust God when you’re dealing with anxiety or fear or unrest . . . ? What does he offer us in return? Stillness and peace?
I think these are the kinds of questions that were on Adam’s mind when he looked out his apartment window. I think they are the kinds of questions that a lot of us have on our minds.
(Page CXVI’s web site explains that the group’s name refers to the 116th page of C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, where Aslan “begins to sing Narnia into creation out of a black void.”)