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Stephen Hurd

The Bio

Over the last decade, Stephen Hurd has distinguished himself as one of the leading voices in urban praise and worship music and his songs “Revelations 19:1,” “Undignified” and “Lead Me To The Rock” are sung at faith gatherings around the globe. As he prepares to release his sixth CD, O That Men Would Worship (Hurd The Word Music), he stands at a unique turning point in his career. He’s exited the record label that brought him to national prominence to launch his own Hurd The Word label and he has a new vision for his burgeoning musical ministry. He’s designed the new CD as a tool to inspire men to take on a greater leadership role in conducting worship as the faithful assemble and for that role to make a residual impact on their personal lives and community.

 

Why the emphasis on men? “My goal is to get men and especially men of color to realize that worship is not a feminine sport,” he says. “In this season, I feel we should come together and lift up a sound that has the power to change families and strengthen communities and help brothers to get a glimpse of what real worship is. I think when men see other men worship it gives them freedom to worship without feeling emasculated.”

Hurd’s recruited some of the most in demand male worship leaders today to help sound the trumpet about his new initiative. The set features performances from Pastor Jason Nelson, Christian pop artist Anthony Evans and Minister Deonte Gray who is a member of the 7 Sons of Soul vocal group. Hurd also created an all male sextet of singers to back certain songs and a coed group called Extol to back the CD as a whole. The fifteen track CD was recorded live in August 2010 at The First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, MD where Hurd is the minister of music. He produced it alongside up-and-coming producers Kenny Shelton and Anthony Brown as a “user friendly” tool for worship leaders to usher their congregations into an atmosphere of worship.

“In the Old Testament it was always men who led the worship,” Hurd offers. “I think wives trust the God in their husband more when they see that their husband really loves God and is not ashamed to worship him. I think sons respect and want to be like their father if they see that he’s a man loving God and regulating things in our house and creating a healthy environment. I think families will be stronger when men understand their place in the worship community and not follow the lead of their wives.”

“It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done,” Hurd says of the recording. “There was no drama. Everybody was excited to be there and came with the attitude of what can I do to make this impact?” The night of the concert, Hurd and the musical team prayed for each other and the people the CD will eventually touch, before hitting the stage. “God has always connected me with who I consider the best of the best,” Hurd says. “One thing I’m sure of is I’m a worship leader. I’m a live singer all day long, so we won’t be doing any in studio CDs because they don’t create the same experience you receive when an audience is responding as you minister. Studio work is like watching paint dry for me.”

Without a major label’s backing, Hurd dug deep into his own pockets to bankroll the project. “I almost decided to do a keyboard mix of strings instead of live strings,” he says. “I almost decided to do keyboard horn tracks but I just couldn’t do it. I just felt like I’d be compromising. Was it expensive? Absolutely, it was, but once you go into a particular  place

 

Andrae Crouch’s new single `The Promise’ and the strings on it and that’s when I said, there’s no way in the world that I can go backwards. This isn’t unsaturated fat or margarine. It’s butter.” Steve Ford, who’s collaborated with artists ranging from Phyllis Hyman to Richard Smallwood, made the string arrangements. Phil Lassiter (John P. Kee, Marvin Sapp) gave it its warm horn arrangements. He adds, “When my grandmother cooks food in the oven it tastes different than when I heat something in the microwave. I decided to slow cook this one.”

The Brandywine, MD-bred psalmist has been singing since childhood. His inspirations back then were R&B crooners Jeffrey Osborne and Peabo Bryson. “I love the rich tones of their voices,” he recalls. “I marveled at Larnelle Harris as a technique builder for me. Then, I heard Marvin Winans and was in amazement. I grew up with it all: R&B, gospel and then classical music.” He channeled that love of music as a student at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and continued to perfect it as music major at Howard University. He then taught music at various high schools in the Maryland area. On the weekends, he served as music director for the late Rev. Donald Vails’ DC Choral Kaleidoscope and also The Capital City Mass Youth Choir. He eventually left teaching and became a music minister with various Washington, D.C. area churches before settling in at First Baptist of Glenarden. Along the way, he also self-produced two well-received independent CDs before he came to the attention of Integrity Music.

Hurd wasn’t actively seeking a record deal but his Howard University classmate James Walker, who went on to become an entertainment attorney, passed one of his CDs on to Al Hobbs, who was chairman of the Gospel Music Workshop of America (GMWA). Hobbs then passed it to Jackie Patillo. “Several people told me about Stephen,” recalls Patillo who was A&R Director at Integrity Music at the time. “Al Hobbs was the first. Stephen has the heart and soul of a worshiper and it was a privilege to facilitate his music ministry.” She trekked up to Washington, D.C. to watch him lead Sunday morning praise and worship at First Baptist and was sold. Over the next six years, Hurd released the best-selling CDs A Call To Worship, My Destiny and Times of Refreshing.

In spite of his Integrity success, Hurd quietly pondered launching a label for a while as he watched various peers become successful as independent artists. “I was afraid to do it because I had never done it before,” he says. “I’m a creative mind, not a business mind.” However, Hurd’s developed a business mind and pulled all the pieces to this musical mission together and created a timeless project to stand the test of time and to transform a new generation of men into worshippers. “I never had a B plan,” says Hurd. “My A Plan was to do music or something arts related.” Fortunately, Plan A is working out just fine.

STEPHEN HURD
O THAT MEN WOULD WORSHIP: THE SONGS

LET'S CELEBRATE
After a robust introduction by First Baptist Church of District Heights, MD’s Pastor Bobby Manning, this joyous set opens with big festive, brassy horn lines and an upbeat Caribbean flavor that immediately gets the congregation on its feet, clapping in rhythm with the bouncy track. It was written by Randy Roberts of the Baltimore, MD-based Choir Boyz contemporary gospel quartet. In a hearty voice, Hurd delivers the invitation to rejoice with vigorous joy and expectancy for the evening.

BE STRONG
Hurd wrote this mid-tempo charmer that kicks off with his all male backing group singing the first two verses. A simple song of encouragement, Hurd’s soothing voice then steps in and carries the message before he surrenders the mic to Deonte Gray mid-way. After Extol harmonizes, “when I’m weak, He’s my strength,” Gray’s rolling vibrato bursts through the lyrics as the song crescendos and delivers a sturdy mandate for hope.

THE EYES OF FAITH
“The Lord gave me this right on the spot as Lady Trina [Jenkins, First Lady of First Baptist of Glenarden] was speaking,” Hurd says on the start of this almost classical song of praise that begins as a simple ballad and builds into an exhilarating anthem. As the song closes, Hurd testifies before a roaring congregation that is talking back to him with handclaps, waving hands and vocal outbursts. “You gotta activate your faith,” he implores them in his raspy preacher’s voice. “Some trust in horses and some trust in chariots but we who know the Lord, operate in faith! Faith is the substance of things hoped for. It’s the evidence. Anybody got any evidence?”

O THAT MEN WOULD WORSHIP
Stephen Hurd, Anthony Brown and Justin Savage wrote this future anthem. “We call it a modern day hymn,” Hurd says on the recording. The tender ballad launches with piano and strings as a celestial sounding praise ensemble sings the verses of the song as Hurd’s earthy voice speaks over the melody. It’s a call to worship for men to, “Cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus, heavy burdens to lay down.”

YOU ARE HOLY
This beautiful paean was composed by Anthony Brown who’s collaborated with Hurd in the past and also composed Maurette Brown Clark’s #1 smash, “It Ain’t Over (Till God Says It’s Over).” This song is the natural segue from “O That Men Would Worship.” Jason Nelson, Deonte Gray, Anthony Evans and Hurd harmonize as a quartet as the praise ensemble provides a cushiony rich tone under them before they each of the soloists deliver individual lines from this uplifting tune of thanksgiving to the Creator.

JESUS MEDLEY
Hurd and Brown arranged this majestic blend of the evergreen “Reign Jesus Reign” with Glen Woodard’s (from New York’s CLC Choir) “Jesus is a Praise and Worship Song.”

WHEN I WORSHIP (10,000 ANGELS)
A worship leader at National Community Church in the Washington, D.C. area, Kurtis Parks, wrote the acoustic guitar-driven sing-a-long that features Evans and Hurd sharing lead vocals on the contemporary Christian music track.

IT'S WORKING FOR YOUR GOOD
Another Stephen Hurd composition that he first recorded in 2001 for his In The Overflow Volume II CD with BET Sunday Best winner Y’Anna Crawley doing vocals. This time, Jason Nelson delivers the congregational ballad with a thunderous roar.

GRACE
Another stately ballad celebrating God’s forgiveness for man’s sins, Hurd wrote and leads this glorious tune with sweet, angelic backing from Extol.

SEAL IT WITH A PRAISE
Anthony Brown wrote this hand-clapper that opens with the audience cheering. The mid-tempo tune boasts a machine-gun bass line and a message of gratitude.

THE HEALING PRAYER
This is a spontaneous prayer that Hurd directed specifically to men the evening of the recording. “Some of you have been raped, molested. Some of you have been orphaned,” he says as men leave their seats and gather at the altar for the church leadership to pray over them. “You don’t know your dad. You have a bad outlook on life.” He prayed against suicidal thoughts, fear and said, “You have a responsibility to make a difference everywhere your feet go.” Citing Old Testament scripture, Hurd says, “Whenever there was a war and worship was lifted up, it was not lifted up by the sisters. It was lifted by a mighty man of valor and you have that same mighty anointing on you.”

HEALED BY THE POWER
The previous prayer serves an introduction to this song, also written by Hurd. It’s mostly sung by Extol as Hurd exorts the crowd to confess their healing from whatever ails them.

VICTORY
Arranged by Hurd and Brown, the live session closes with this triumphant track that boasts Washington, D.C.’s indigenous go go sound with its swing rhythm, call and response, blazing horns and funky congas and other percussion instruments. Hurd leads the primary song but Anthony Brown’s molasses thick voice pushes the reprise as the all male backing ensemble echoes the joy and excitement of this spiritual triumph. As they sing, “You can’t stop my praise! You might as well get up out my way. Everywhere I look I see…I believe it. More than a conqueror, greater is He in me than in the world. It’s my time…I’ve got it : the Victory. ”

 

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