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With the much anticipated film adaption of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe opening this week, everybody has wanted a piece of the Narnia marketing action. Nearly every product you can imagine—books, Bible covers, maps, action figures, replicas, buttons, keychains, even Happy Meal toys—is available.
The Christian music community jumped on the Narnia marketing bandwagon with a CD of songs "inspired by" the book. (It's silly to say they were inspired by the movie, because none of the artists had seen it yet.)
But 25 years ago—long before marketing machines and mass merchandising—there was the original Narnia soundtrack. The Roar of Love, released by 2nd Chapter of Acts in 1980, was a cutting-edge (read: synthesizers!) rock opera/concept album based on C. S. Lewis' beloved book. Fourteen songs totaling a little more than 35 minutes, Roar was—and still is—a brilliantly creative tribute to that magical world and its majestic Christ-figure, the great lion Aslan.
Annie Herring, the principal songwriter and the oldest of the three Ward siblings who made up the group (sister Nelly and brother Matthew were the others), has been busy with solo albums and various ministry opportunities since 2nd Chapter disbanded in 1988. She lives in Colorado with her husband Buck, who produced the group's albums.
Now, on the eve of the film's release, Herring was more than happy to talk to us about The Roar of Love—but not before reminiscing a bit about the good old days.
What was the best part about being in 2nd Chapter of Acts??
Annie Herring I would say that the best part was knowing that you were in obedience to the Lord and singing as one voice as he anointed. Being with my brother and sister and seeing how God gave hope to the hopeless, that was just a thrill to see year after year.
Do you keep up with Matthew and Nelly?
Herring Yeah. Matt and I have done a couple of things together. This year, we did four or five concerts where we did some of the old 2nd Chapter of Acts songs together.
Any chance of a reunion tour?
Herring I think that was as close as it will ever get.
Are you still writing songs?
Herring I'm always writing, always receiving beautiful piano pieces and songs. The Lord says that gifts are irrevocable, and that just kind of flows out. It's my joy.
You describe yourself not so much as a songwriter but as of a song receiver. Tell me about that.?
Herring When I was a little girl I always wanted to play piano, but we couldn't afford lessons, so it was just put on the shelf. After I gave my life to the Lord, I sat down and started to play, and he taught me how to play. It took about a year for me to play and sing at the same time, but I couldn't look at music and play. I just played what he taught me, and then I started to learn how to receive songs from him.
I am not a lyricist, but Buck is. I used to ask him to write words for me, but one day he said, "Just sing what's in your heart." I sat down the next day and out came a song called He Loves Me. It was the first song I received, and it was so freeing because I wasn't worrying or trying to write a song. It was just what was in me.
From that point on, whenever I go to the piano, I just start playing something. And then I go with the first words that come out of my mouth, because receiving songs for me is like prophecy. I've had to trust the gift that the Lord has placed in me.
Do the words actually pop into your head first, and then you sing it out loud?
Herring No. I just start singing, and it's like they just come out. It's very much a living process, and it feeds my soul. Sometimes I'll just be worshiping the Lord, and out will pop a song.
Let's talk about The Roar of Love. How would you describe that album?
Herring To me, it is such a wonderful expression of the heart of the kids involved in the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The whole thing was an adventure to me as I was receiving it from the Lord; the unlocking inside of me was unexpected. I never thought, I'm going to sit down and write some songs about this book. It was another one of those wonderful experiences where I sat down and hit a chord, and my heart was so longing to be with Jesus. And then out came "Are you goin' to Narnia? Take me along with you." And I thought, Oh, nobody's ever going to want to hear that because that's not a song about Jesus.
Boy, were you wrong!?
Herring Yeah. And then it took about five years of just getting a song now and then about it, not really knowing that it was going to become what it became.
Were you reading the book at the time, or had it been a while?
Herring It had been a while, but it had affected me so that it stuck with me. I didn't have to reread it to know what was in it. It stayed with me.
How old were you when you first read Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe?
Herring Twenty-six. But it's all the better to discover when you're older. And hopefully your heart will be childlike so that you can; I think that's what Jesus is talking about. There are so many things that all of us miss in our childhood. Then when we're adults, when we can see them in a different light, I think they become even wider and bigger. And that's probably why it never left me—all the connections of that book to Jesus, who's my Savior, my Lord, my Redeemer, my King, my Lion. It just came so alive because Jesus was so alive in me.
Matthew wrote on his website that this was the project he had the most fun recording. He said your house at the time was like a zoo, with cables running everywhere. You were laying down vocal tracks in one room and instrumentals in another. Can you visualize what it was like?
Herring I'll never forget it. Up to then, we had always done everything in a studio with windows so you could see into the control room. With this, you couldn't see into the control room—so Buck couldn't get upset over Matthew's antics because he couldn't see him. See, Matthew has the ability to be goofy right up to the minute that the button is pushed, and then he's right on. It used to drive Buck crazy.
There was just a lot of goofy laughter and just such a freedom for us. We had so much fun. The thing for me that put the frosting on the cake was when we got done singing our last note on the last song. Then we had to be really quiet. And all of a sudden, the cuckoo clock went off: cuckoo, cuckoo. If you crank it at the end, you will hear the cuckoo clock. It just delighted us. We said, "How perfect to have a cuckoo clock at the end."
Anything else memorable during those sessions?
Herring We did glasses—you know, when you put water in glasses and make it sing? We did that on "I've Heard the Stars Sing Before." Those were all glasses. We pitched them and Nelly and Matthew and I would go in there and play them. It was so fun.
How was the album received when it first came out?
Herring People liked it, but I think it caught on slowly. We got letters that said, "I got this for my little kid, thinking it was a little kids' album, and it starts off with this guitar and I hate it. I want my money back." Okay, fine. But there's always going to be people who misunderstand what you're doing. And I think the church was scared of it because it talked about witches.
When was the last time you listened to the album beginning to end?
Herring About two years ago. And I cried. But it was so good. I always cry when I hear Matthew and Nelly singing with me. There is something so amazingly healing and wonderful and so of God that it just breaks my heart … in a good way.
Do you think The Roar of Love has stood the test of time?
Herring I don't know. I would say because it is in a time capsule, it is what it is. It wasn't trying to be something that it wasn't, or to be cool or hip at the time—but it's even more valuable because of that. That's how I feel about The Roar of Love. It is a capsule of time without trying to be anything other than what it is.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Herring No. Do you?
Yes. "Turkish Delight."
Herring Oh, I love that one. I love the structure of that song. It just turned out so fun. I think that's what I like about The Roar of Love—it has beauty, it has odd things, it has a little rock, it has gentleness, it has delight, it has praise, it has sorrow. It has all of the elements that we live in life. It just kind of got captured in this one little thing. I like to think of it as the original music track for Narnia.
Kind of a concept album?
Herring What I call it is, it's Narnia: The original soundtrack for the imagination. Because you can go wherever you want to go with it.
Do you still sometimes pull out the book and read it?
Herring Yes. I've read all of them last year. I try to do that every so often. I've found that each time I read them, one of the books sticks out more. And I can't help but think it's just because of where I'm at, or how I'm feeling or how I perceive. It's kind of like the Word; you can read the same passage over and over, and then one day all of a sudden it just explodes upon your heart and you get it. You know? That's how I kind of feel about these books. There's hidden gems through the whole thing.
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