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The Story of
The Power and the Glory
by Larry Blakely
Camarata hired me in 1966 as a recording engineer at his Sunset Sound recording studio in Hollywood, California. During this time he was the music director for Walt Disney Records and he was responsible for the production of all of the recordings in the Disney catalog. At this time, I had been a member of the church for less than one year.
Camarata is a quiet, kind and gentle man. He has had so many accomplishments, but will hardly ever talk about them. It has taken me 30 years to know what I now know about his career and he rarely talks about himself and his accomplishments.
While I was working for him in the late 1960's, he was also a classical artist on London Records. I had an opportunity to hear one of his albums with orchestrations of excerpts from Puccini operas. I remember how touched I was with the beauty of his orchestrations, in addition to the feeling, sensitivity and emotion they contained. I remember at that time thinking, if he could orchestrate popular LDS hymns with the same feeling, sensitivity and beauty that he captured in the Puccini recording, it would be magnificent.
Nearly thirty years passed as we each went our own way. However, we managed to stay in touch with each other over that span of time. During my career, I had written articles for industry trade magazines on the careers of famous people in the recording industry, such as Les Paul, Ray Dolby, etc. Since Camarata's accomplishments were so little known, I had discussed with him a number of times doing a story on his life and career. Finally, in January of 1992, he agreed to meet with me in Hollywood to start working on his story.
At lunch, he said that he wanted to go back to England and do another orchestral recording, but that he didn't know what music to do. He stated that he had already recorded works of most of the great masters; Puccini, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Bach, etc. I then looked up and told him of my 30 year old idea of him scoring popular LDS hymns. He was very excited about the idea. He stated, "I would be very interested in doing that". We spent the rest of the day talking about this recording idea in great detail, and discussed no more about writing his personal story for industry publications.
I came back to Mississippi, where my friend Fred McInnis and I prayed and carefully considered what hymns should be on the album. The list was completed and mailed to Camarata. In addition, I photocopied pages from the LDS hymnal of the hymns we wanted him to score along with a history on each hymn, along with other meaningful or spiritual information regarding the hymns.
A few weeks after he started working on the music, we talked on the telephone. He said, "This music is interesting. Once you hear these hymns, you can't get the melodies out of your mind. They just stick with you. I have been working with music all of my life, and have never seen anything like it.
Prior to scoring, I asked him to read the text of each hymn carefully and to paint musical pictures of what the text implied. Some time later, he stated that the LDS hymns were beautiful and that these hymns had "substance". This is a comment he continued to make over the next several years.
After Camarata scored each hymn, he made a demo tape of the orchestration using a music synthesizer which allowed me to hear the score (in a representative form). I told him that I wanted this album to be his finest work, and that it would live and bless the lives of people for generations to come; i.e. long after we were both gone.
The project took four years to complete. I told him that I wanted to spare no expense for this project, that this album had to be the very best in every respect. Hence, we used the best studio musicians, in addition to using large orchestras and choirs, in addition to the finest in recording equipment and technology. He repeatedly stated, "I take this project very seriously and I will do the very best that I can do."
The first hymn he scored was Come, Come, ye Saints. I had supplied him materials on the saint's journey to the Salt Lake Valley, in addition to a history on the hymn. We discussed many times on the telephone, what needed to be accomplished in his overall approach to the orchestrations. After several such conversations, he told me; "I know what you want, you want this music to be a spiritual experience".
I expressed my desire to start Come, Come, ye Saints with wagon sounds and have a harmonica play the melody. Also in the part where the text says "and should I die before the journeys through" I wanted to use a portion of "I Need Thee Every Hour". He called a few days later, and with great excitement said, "I came up with an idea to end the hymn with a triumphal march as the saints entered the Salt Lake Valley. He said, "when we record the finale of this hymn, with all that brass and orchestra, it will take the top right off the building. After returning to the United States, we were in a recording session in Hollywood that had approximately 30 members of the church. Camarata asked if they would like to hear Come, Come, ye Saints. As it played, tears ran from the eyes of most who heard. Later, Camarata said to me, "I can't believe it, everyone was crying. I have never seen anything like this!"
In scoring "I Believe in Christ" he had great difficulty. I had supplied him similar information for this hymn, in addition to Bruce McConkie's testimony of the Savior given in his last general conference address. Camarata was moved by this testimony. He said at one point, "you know, I have been haunted by this hymn for nearly four months, and I just can't figure out what to do with it". He said further, "The title signifies something very serious, i.e. "I Believe in Christ." Then one morning, he awoke at 4am, sat up in bed and the musical idea was there. He said that he got up and went to his study to write it out. A second melody had come to him (which is interleaved with the original melody in the Camarata score). He thought that he had heard this melody before, but couldn't place it. So he looked and listened to music for days trying to identify where it came from, but he never was able to identify it.
All that I had ever heard from the Camarata scores were the synthesizer demo tapes that he supplied to me. When we arrived in London to make the recordings, it was thrilling to hear this music unfold with the beauty of the full orchestra and choirs. Each hymn was played a few times as Camarata rehearsed the orchestra and then we recorded them.
I will never forget the day we recorded "I Believe in Christ". As I heard this music unfold, I was so touched, it brought tears to my eyes as it contained such beauty, sensitivity and power. I immediately went to the podium and told Camarata, "What you did with this hymn, is incredible. Do you remember the testimony of Christ that I sent to you by Bruce McConkie? That was his testimony of Christ. The beauty that you have created here is your testimony of Christ."
When I returned from London to my office in Mississippi, I was anxious to play some of the music we had recorded for my secretary (who is not a member of the church). I decided to play for her, "I Believe in Christ". Keep in mind that she did not know this hymn, nor had she ever read the words. As "I Believe in Christ" played tears ran from her eyes and she stated "That is the most beautiful music I have ever heard". There are many such experiences with non-members in Mississippi who have heard this hymn with similar results.
I went to the London temple before we started recording. While in the celestial room, I prayed to the Lord and thanked him for preparing the way for this enormous undertaking. He had seen to our every need, including the funding from my family (who are not even members). I dedicated this work to Him, and asked that if it be possible, He would place His spirit into this music. I knew that the people who were to conduct and play were not members and did not understand the true meaning of this project. It was my desire that with the Lord's spirit in this music, that this recording could go throughout the world and touch the lives of member and non-member alike. So any place that this music is played (where the spirit can dwell) it can touch the hearts of those who listen. I believe that the Lord has so blessed us.
At dinner one night, after a day of recording in London, Camarata said; "You know, when I am out there conducting this music, I feel like the Lord is standing right by my side. This is the most important album that I have ever done."
Camarata has since turned down other commissions, including one from Time-Life to do digital recordings of his opera scores that would have paid him a great deal more. He said, "Dorene and I have discussed it, and we feel that this music is what I should be doing at this point in my life." To date, he has scored a second album of LDS hymns and it is planned to complete a total of four or five such albums of LDS hymns.
There are many, many, more faith promoting stories about the creation of this album. In the near future, more will be added to this portion of the site. You will rejoice when you read them.