On Wednesday, November 30th at 7:30 p.m, St. Luke will be welcoming Page CXVI to kick off the Advent season with a Hymn Sing. It will be a night of stories and singing around the themes of longing and hope with Latifah Phillips from Page CXVI on piano, along with cello, and violin. Page CXVI is a creative project started to revive and present hymns to a new generation. Hymns are rich with heritage, faith, liturgy and life. Latifah Phillips tells us more about the purpose and scope of CXVI and her vision for making hymns more accessible.
LW: Can you tell us a little bit about your background in music and what drew you to reworking hymns?
LP: My mom taught me to play piano by ear when I was 2 and then I started cello at 3 years of age, so I was interested in music from the beginning! We first attended an all Chinese Charismatic church where the worship was fun, lively, loud, and very free. When I was 12 we switched to a five point Calvinist Pres. Church that only sang hymns. I remember not feeling inspired by the music but combing through the hymnal and reading it like poetry…which it was! That was when the seed was planted for me and re-tuning hymns.
LW: How has incorporating hymns into your worship life impacted your faith walk?
LP: I have loved having these songs and language resonate in my mind and heart. Songs are so much easier for me to recall than anything else. So in moments where I am grieving, celebrating, etc. these songs come to mind and comfort my spirit.
LW: How does your family celebrate Advent?
LP: The last few years we have lit the Advent wreath at home, although this year I will be gone so that is not happening. When we have done that in the past we read and pray together as we light the candle.
LW: In recent years it seems young people are searching for deeper meaning and less cultural relevancy in church.
What role do hymns serve in reviving the modern church?
LP: It is special to sing songs that generations before you have sung, to stand on the shoulders of our brothers and sisters in faith and continue to pursue worshiping and understanding our Creator. They have also provided a deeper well of meaning, language, and theology in song that many current songs are missing. Although, there are great current writers out there too!
LW: How do you engage a new generation in ancient liturgy in a way they find accessible?
LP: I think the practice of liturgy is helpful because it provides spiritual rhythms in our life. Explaining and educating each other about the liturgy is also helpful! To understand the meaning behind it is so much more powerful than just showing up and participating!
LW: What would you say to those that feel hymnody leaves out a generation raised on a more contemporary style such as Tomlin and Hillsong? How might we encourage the modern church to once again embrace hymns as worship?
LP: There are many great writers and song leaders who are interested in hymns. I think re-tuning them so they can feel more accessible is one of the ways we can start to bridge the gap, also taking time to explain or re-write some of the language that we no longer use can also be helpful.
LW: What is your favorite hymn that you will be sharing with us?
LP: O Holy Night and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus are two of my all time favorites!
To learn more about Latifah Phillips and Page CXVI, you can listen to this great Hymnistry podcast, check out their website or follow them on facebook.Page CXVI will be performing at St. Luke at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 30th.