Speak to Me Now: A Journey
Reviews Artist: Mindy Hartman Album Title: Speak To Me Now: A Journey Mindy Hartman's spirit is full of passion for serving the Lord and His people. She founded Out of Sight Ministries in her home state of Pennsylvania during a time when she herself sought reconciliation with God. Almost ten years later, Hartman has uplifted and inspired countless people through her singing, narration, and educational teachings. The warmth and humility she brings to her debut album Speak to Me Now: A Journey is wonderful. Her upbeat personality perseveres through each song and one would never know that this talented young lady has been without sight since birth. Hartman has spent much of her life singing in church choirs throughout the Keystone State and elsewhere. She brings together a collection of her favorite hymns in Speak to Me Now: A Journey. Accomplished pianist Duncan Holmes of Texas accompanies Hartman throughout the majority of the album. He tastefully opts for a harpsichord keyboard patch on the very classical Sarah Doudney hymn 'The Master Has Come and He Calls Us.' On the old Irish tune 'Be Thou My Vision,' Holmes begins with the piano patch and as Hartman's dynamics grow, adds trumpet accents to the third verse. By the fourth verse he pulls out the stops, so to speak, by adding organ to the mix which makes for a moving coda as Hartman sings the last part of the refrain up an octave. Overall, Hartman's vocal range is more mezzo soprano and she occasionally goes off pitch in Luther Bridges' hymn 'He Keeps Me Singing.' The same pitfall occurs in the traditional 'O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.' Thankfully, Holmes does a nice job with the piano accompaniment to fill out the song. His running eighth notes in the third verse under the melody are rather Schubert-like. Hartman, however, has no trouble holding her own. She expertly performs John Henry Sammis's hymn 'Trust and Obey' as a two part accapella duet with herself. Hartman blends well and cuts off her phrases together ninety-nine percent of the time. She also harmonizes well as the lead vocalist in a quartet in John Rippon's 'How Firm A Foundation.' This all-female arrangement with Holmes' piano accompaniment is very well done. Rounding out Speak to Me Now: A Journey is Helen Lemmel's popular hymn 'Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.' Everyone from Amy Grant to Michael W. Smith to Alan Jackson has covered this tune. Hartman does not disappoint in this well-loved classic as Holmes adds underlying strings in the chorus and ends in a luscious clean sweep. The original songs on Speak to Me Now: A Journey penned by Holmes, carry the same encouraging Christian messages as the time-honored hymns. In 'Lord God, Why Did You Choose Me?,' Holmes plays a swanky, gospel-bluesy riff on the piano as Hartman enters singing many mortal questions. Holmes answers singing the plausible reply God would give His people. Admittedly, the dialogue is a bit schmaltzy. Holmes' flair for the dramatic continues in 'Introspection.' This disjunctive piece has the icy drippings of Jimmy Web's 'MacArthur Park,' flowing down with heavy string patches and Hartman's blunt, direct statement at the close, 'Lord, it's worth it.' A good balance is found in 'Lord Of,' which has a more contemporary feel. The accompaniment is full and Hartman sweetly sings the soft lilting melody. The reverent 'Amen' in the coda following an abrupt key change is also a nice touch. Speak to Me Now: A Journey is a well-produced album. It is obvious that a lot of time and love was put into it's creation. The mix is top-notch with the vocals always having precedence. Hartman's performance is grand with excellent diction and a voice that is confident yet personal. She is an inspiring child of God and her music is one of the many ways she showcases this to the world. Reviewers Name: Kelly O'Neil, Review You Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) The very best of gospel and sacred music is borne not merely of creative inspiration, but of personal experience in one's relationship to God. The realization of His existence, salvation and purpose for humanity, and individuals, serves as a point of origin for getting to know, love and serve Him. And so it is with Chambersburg, PA native Mindy Hartman. Having become a follower of Christ upon her conversion at the age of fourteen, she became involved in music ministry in her local church. During this time, she studied and trained under professional voice teachers to develop her gift and enable her to pursue her passion through music. In addition, Hartman participated in the glee club at her high school and also discovered an interest in reciting poetry and prose, even going on to compete in a national tournament in her senior year. In the fall of 1994, she joined Living Miracles, a young people's choir directed by Doris Ortman, and continued with the choir until it disbanded ten years later. Aside from singing, Hartman began to further explore opportunities to use her reading and recitation skills and thus became involved in narration and the recording of audio books. While this considerable background of learning, growth and experience are foundational, it only tells part of the story of how Speak to Me Now: A Journey, her debut recording, came to be. A fascinating and relevant point of consideration is that Hartman is blind from birth, and her blindness influences her perspective as a person, as a Christian, and as a singer. Further, it was tragedy that God used to guide and encourage her to use her talents and gifts to honor Him and bless others. Hartman's seventeen year old brother Aaron died in an automobile accident just months before the September 11, 2001 attacks. The fruits of her experiences, both good and bad, positively inform and influence the fifteen tracks that make up her faith-affirming debut. Primarily a collaborative effort between Hartman and keyboardist Duncan Holmes, Speak to Me Now: A Journey is characterized by genuine expressions of quiet devotion and reflection. The selections on the album are an effective combination of Holmes' compositions and traditional hymns, each chosen with apparent consideration for the general theme. Perhaps to complement the devotional and personal nature of the songs, Hartman's voice was recorded dry, with no apparent enhancements. For listeners, this may be slightly off-putting, but once the first few songs settle in, any distraction this may present, fades away. The Holmes original, 'In My Mother's Womb' seems to be influenced by a combination of English folk and Hebrew music, with what sounds like harpsichord and piano accompaniment. Her alto is pleasing on the ears, and the harmonies on the chorus offer nice emphasis, though she tends to cut her syllables short, giving the song a narrative quality. The title track, a simple and soothing prayer of yearning and commitment, while sincere in it's message expressed unto God, falls short in terms of musical originality. 'Speak to Me Now' has a predictable flow in term of chord changes, and may have benefited from different musical choices. Still, from a lyrical and vocal standpoint, it's serviceable and does display Hartman's warm and pure alto rather nicely. 'The Master Has Come,' with it's Welsh melody and challenging cadence, proves to be difficult for Hartman to squeeze in all of the words while having time to breathe. In all fairness, this is one of those hymns that is generally not easy to sing, but it might have been advantageous for Holmes to slow the tempo down a bit. The great Irish hymn, 'Be Thou My Vision,' similar in structure and it's sheer lyrical fullness, is more successful. Generally, Hartman handles the vocal phrasing quite well, but still, it's quite a pace to keep up with. Triumphant-sounding synthesizer chords and organ add to what begins with simply piano and vocals. Hartman, with a delivery combining singing and speaking, comes across with self-effacing honesty as she shares the struggles of walking the road of faith on 'Introspection.' Her mood moves from voicing complaints about these challenges, including dealing with her own weaknesses, to endeavoring to trust in the Lord and His sacrifice. Though the honesty and integrity of the message is not lost, Hartman's sing-speak style is a bit awkward. On 'Trust and Obey,' rendered in simple a cappella harmony, the vocals are straightforward, allowing the lyrics to shine through. 'Lord God, Why Did You Choose Me' brings a refreshing musical change with it's traditional gospel chord structure and tasteful and heartening accompaniment by Holmes on piano and string bass. In addition, Holmes, possessing an earthy baritone voice, adds interesting contrast to Hartman's alto. When on 'He Keeps Me Singing,' Hartman sings 'All my life was wrecked by sin and strife / Discord filled my heart with pain / Jesus swept across the broken strings / Stirred the slumbering chords again,' there is a sense of personal connection with suffering and God's redemption. The combination of Holmes' bouncy piano and Hartman's ebullient vocals, subtly shifting to reflect sorrow and joy, represents a highlight on the album. Likewise, the hymn 'O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go' is also a gem as it receives Holmes' reverent and inspired piano treatment, providing the ideal backing for Hartman's pledge to loyalty to the Lord. The slower tempo revealed here, seems to be ideally suited and allows the strength of the music and the meaningfulness of the lyrics to come through. 'He's My All In All' reflects Hartman's passion for narration and storytelling with it's biblical references to God's faithfulness. Effectively, she ties in these biblical accounts with her own life, thereby making the song personal, while also emphasizing the practical application of scripture. When Hartman sings 'He's a Father to the fatherless and I'll tell you right now / He's a husband for the woman that's alone / He's a comfort to the comfortless / He binds the broken heart / He's the kindest, truest friend I've ever known,' it is comforting. Considering Hartman's blindness, 'Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus' takes on deeper meaning as the encouraging lyrics point to the kind of seeing that is by faith and of the heart. Mindy Hartman is clearly a singer whose purpose is not to perform, but to minister, and that intent is unmistakable as evidenced by the choice of songs and the way in which they are presented. Though there are a few weak spots, Speak to Me Now: A Journey will certainly reward the listener in search of simple, sincere and uncluttered songs of faith, worship, loyalty and devotion. Review by Mike Roots, Review You Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5) The world of inspirational music is full of many different sounds. Some artists are more contemporary and others are more traditional. Mindy Hartman's music falls under the more traditional category, and her debut album Speak To Me Now (A Journey) is a collection of hymns from across the years. Mindy has a voice that would make her the star of any church choir. It is pure and sweet and uplifting to hear, but it falls short of being something that stands out in a wider audience. That's not to say that Speak To Me Now (A Journey) doesn't have an audience. Anyone who loves to listen to hymns will definitely find this album worth a listen. Mindy's voice gives listeners the feeling that they are sitting in a church pew on Sunday morning, especially on songs like 'The Master Has Come' and 'Beautiful Beckoning Hands.' These are the kind of songs that have the ability to make most any Christian listener feel closer to God. The simple accompaniment puts a spotlight on her vocals, which works both for and against her. 'Introspection' is a song that is sung like it should be part of a musical, but the piano accompaniment doesn't give the song the oomph that it needs. It doesn't help that Mindy sounds like she's acting out the song, rather than just singing. This happens again on 'Lord God, Why Did You Choose Me.' A more complex arrangement would infuse more life into these songs. The more theatrical she gets, the more it detracts. 'He Keeps Me Singing,' written by Luther Bridges, is a perky hymn, yet the arrangement here makes it sound like it was part of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. When Mindy returns to songs that have a more contemporary arrangement, she seems to find a comfort zone. 'Lord Of' seems to be sung lower than some of the other tracks, and it allows the listener to appreciate Mindy's voice and the spiritual message. She has an impressive range, but sounds much better when tackling the lower notes. The old Irish song 'Be Thou My Vision' is Mindy at her finest. Versions of this song have been done by the likes of Moya Brennan (Clannad) and Van Morrison. Mindy's version, though done without the elaborate arrangements or the help of such a notable band as The Chieftains, is just as stunning. The pureness of her voice is most prevalent here. Another hymn of old is 'Trust and Obey,' written in 1887 by John Sammis, a song that focuses on Psalm 84:11 and Isaiah 50:10. The melody is slow and almost mournful, though the message is one that should be uplifting. So many hymns are sung in this manner. 'My Faith Has Found A Resting Place' is sung in a similar fashion, and it makes the listener wonder if the writers of these songs forgot about 'making a joyful noise unto the Lord.' Speak To Me Now: A Journey is an eclectic collection of hymns that gives the listeners a sample of a voice that is very pleasing to the ear. Mindy has the voice of the girl next door, who is also a cantor at your church. Even though some of the arrangements seem lacking, Mindy's voice is a constant. She's definitely a singer to be watched on the Christian music scene. It will be interesting to see how she grows as a singer as the years go by. The promise she shows on this recording can only be heightened as she continues on, especially if she branches out into different areas of Christian music. Review by Andrea Guy, Review You Rating: 3 stars (out of 5) If there is one thing consistent about Mindy Hartman's 2010 album, Speak To Me Now, it's the unwavering devotion to her faith, God, and Jesus. Every track on the album sounds like a song that would be performed by a church group or ministry, both of which Hartman has been active in for years now. For the most part, the songs are recorded in a minimalist fashion. As opposed to hymns, which are generally sung by the congregation, these songs are more in the style of a solo performance done by one or two members of the church and accompanied by a pianist. Here, the member of the congregation is Hartman and her primary accompanist and songwriter is Duncan Holmes. Intermixed with Holmes' original compositions are a smattering of older songs from various sources and dates that have been similarly arranged for voice and keyboard with a couple exceptions. The first song, 'In My Mother's Womb,' is a good indication of the general sound of the album as a whole. Hartman's voice and delivery is very direct with little in terms of unnecessary vocalizing. The words, as written by Holmes, are a touching praise to God's presence in the lives of people from the creation in the womb, to death and beyond. The sound of the keyboards is modeled after the harpsichord, and gives a unique sound, much different than the standard piano or organ. On a song such as 'How Firm A Foundation' Hartman is joined by other vocalists and here, the harmonies are lovely and engaging. 'Lord God, Why Did You Choose Me' features a dialog between Hartman and Holmes with Holmes acting as the voice of God, answering the titular question that Hartman asks. The latter half of the album consists of some stronger songs like 'Lord Of' and 'He's My All In All,' the former being Holmes' strongest song from a writing and performance standpoint, and the latter though not by Holmes, is the most intense lyric on the album. As an album, Speak To Me Now carries it's spiritual theme from start to finish. Even though there are weaknesses to be had, either with the occasional vocal problems or the arrangements not quite fitting the songs, there's still an intense love and faith imbued to the album. Despite some musical missteps, the combination of Hartman and Holmes pays off on songs like 'Be Thou My Vision' and 'My Faith Has Found A Resting Place.' In terms of trying to deliver it's message, this is an album that doesn't need to sound perfect in order to be able to do so, but could use a little tuning in order to be all that it can. Review by Heath Andrews, Review You Rating: 3 stars (out of 5) Mindy Hartman, blind since birth, had accomplished much throughout her young years in Chambersburg, PA, but it took a tragedy for her to really spread her wings. At 17 her brother died in an auto accident, which was almost immediately followed by the September 11th terrorist attack on The World Trade Center. It was then that Mindy began to question what she was doing with her time and began anew. Out of Sight Ministries was born and features Mindy as a vocalist, narrator, blindness educator and natural health advocate. Speak To Me Now: A Journey is Hartman's debut album. It is mainly a sacred music release with some dashes of the Contemporary Christian genre. This work is an extremely personal account of her relationship with God. Album opener 'In My Mother's Womb,' written by Duncan Holmes, has a Jewish feel. As with much of Speak To Me Now, piano is the main instrument and is played with strength and flavor. Talking about her relationship with God, her vocals show the sincerity and honesty she feels for her maker. Holmes' songwriting again shines brightest on conversational songs, and 'Introspection' expresses Hartman's personal questions concerning her relationship with the Lord. 'Lord God, Why Did You Choose Me,' is an intimate talk with God about her worth to Him. There is some nice gospel piano and a curious show tune quality to the song. 'Lord Of,' with it's 'Morning Has Broken' and 'Piano Man' style intro, might be the best on the album from a songwriting stand point. Use of several types of keyboards, including a Arp string section makes for a fuller sound. Lyrically it is a prayer offering ending with an amen coda. 'My All In All' offers a nice break from this keyboard heavy presentation. This composition uses an acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and accordion along with some slight percussion. Her mid and low mid range vocals match up well with the harmonies on 'Trust and Obey,' and 'Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,' sung by Trena Oyler, and 'My Faith Has Found A Resting Place,' where the lead vocal is in lower range and Anna Lee Kopp adds the alto harmony. Hartman shows a great love and respect for the old hymns of the church. 'Be Thou My Vision,' with anthemic piano and mid song modulation, works well. But some of the traditional selections slip into a Sunday School-ish quality and are not as professional as the other selections here. There is an inner strength in this album. It is a presentation by someone with a very firm foundation in her faith. A person who has endured much, searched and asked many questions and has found her answer. Review by Bob Felberg, Review You Rating: 3 stars (out of 5) Hartman has a trained singing voice, which she uses to sing both familiar hymns and personal spiritual songs. In many cases, Hartman is only accompanied by acoustic piano and a harmony vocal. This is the sound of Hartman doing what she loves to do best, which is performing church favorites and earnest compositions. This album's title cut is a beautifully warm and moving meditation. It brings to mind the innocence found in Jesus Music from the late '60s to early '70s. 'Speak to Me Now' begins slowly and softly, and raises goose bumps when it gets to it's vocally harmonized chorus. The song's lyric, concerning a Christian's heartfelt desire to have God speak into their heart, will hit home with every believer. 'Lord Of' is also a sweetly honest praise song. The recording's shimmering piano part perfectly fits the song's lyric, which praises God's all-powerful nature. Dan MacIntosh, Review You You could spend an hour on Mindy Hartman's back story alone. Blind from birth and bearing the death of a seventeen-year old brother and the September 11th terrorists attack within months of each other, Hartman lives a life that might be considered inspirational to some. Hartman is a blindness educator, narrator, natural health advocate and music minister. This native of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania fell in love with singing at a young age and has performed as a soloist and in ensembles ever since. Hartman became involved in music ministry through her church and eventually spun off into her own imprint, Out Of Sight Ministries. In November of 2010, Hartman released her debut album, Speak To Me Now: A Journey. The album is a collection of inspirational songs ranging from traditional-style hymns to jazz/cabaret numbers full of spirit. Hartman opens with 'In My Mother's Womb,' a praise song that sounds like a blend of Broadway and baroque. The mix of piano, harpsichord, and minor keys makes for an intriguing sound. 'Speak To Me Now' is a solid, prayerful tune. 'The Master Has Come' is offered in a traditional, mixolydian sound. 'How Firm A Foundatíon' and 'Be Thou My Vision' are solid but unremarkable. 'Introspection' changes up the pace with a piano bar/cabaret vibe. 'My Faith Has Found A Resting Place' displays a two-part homophonic vocal harmony style not dissimilar to barbershop singing. The simple arrangement of the song offers a distinctive hymn-like feel. 'Trust And Obey' sticks to harmony vocals throughout and comes off solidly, if less than inspired. 'Lord God, Why Did You Choose Me?' blends gospel, blues and show-tune sounds in a pleasing arrangement. Hartman gets points for inspiration on this one, but the end product is hard to listen to. 'Lord Of' is a swaying, singsong musical prayer. Hartman manages to stay solidly in her vocal comfort zone and consequently minimizes issues of pitch and tone. When Hartman stays compact and close to home she has a sweet voice. The synth/strings over the piano and bass are a nice touch. 'Beautiful Beckoning Hands' has a monotonous cadence but offers solid vocal harmonies as something of a condolence. Hartman steps to the pulpit with 'He's My All In All,' a blend of sermon and testimony in song, and then closes with a classic refrain in 'Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,' a traditional hymn that's compact and perfectly fit for Hartman's voice. Review by Wildy Haskell, Review You Mindy Hartman is a dynamic individual with a variety of talents and a passion for serving the Lord. When her seventeen-year-old brother, Aaron Hartman, died in an auto accident in 2001 followed only a few months after by September 11th, she began to question what she was really doing with her life. As a result, Out of Sight Ministries was born. Under that umbrella, Mindy acts as a vocalist, narrator, blindness educator and natural health advocate. Mindy was born and raised in Chambersburg, PA and has been totally blind since birth. She attended public school and sang her first solo in second grade. She also began educating others about blindness at an early age, answering the questions of classmates and brailling their names for them. At the age of fourteen, Mindy accepted Christ as her personal Savior. At that time, she became involved in music ministry at Mount Pleasant United Brethren Church, where she met and became the student of Brien Mosior, her first voice teacher. Mindy has also studied with the late Margaret Weeks, and she is currently a student of Paula Hepfer at the Cumberland Valley School of Music. She began attending Central Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg in 2005 and sang in the choir there for a few years. As a student at the Chambersburg Area Senior High School, Mindy sang in the Glee Club and read prose and poetry in forensics competitions for three years. She became a member of the National Forensics League and went on to compete in the national tournament in Topeka, Kansas, during her senior year. Mindy also found plenty of activities to keep her busy outside of school. In the Fall of 1994, she became a member of Living Miracles, a choir of young people directed by Doris Ortman and affiliated with Camp Joy-El. She sang with that group until the end of the 2004 concert season when the group disbanded. She has also readily accepted solo engagements, including full-length programs, whenever the opportunity presented itself. In the Spring of 1996, Mindy was the winner of the Franklin County Sunday School Association's teen talent contest. It was also during this time that Mindy became a volunteer narrator, recording braille books on cassette for the free lending library of the Gospel Association for the Blind. She later became a narrator for the Lutheran Library for the Blind and commenced recording the Lutheran Woman's Quarterly in 2001 through 2005. Mindy attended classes at Shippensburg University and has also participated in Liberty University's External Degree Program. She is reaching out to others in her community by working as a helpline volunteer with Pregnancy Ministries since 2002, and she became a member of the Green Township Lions Club in 2010. She is also working to expand her music ministry and released her first CD, Speak To Me Now, in November of 2010. She is also looking for opportunities to help educate people of all ages about blindness as well the role that lifestyle choices and alternative medicine play in maintaining, and even regaining, health. 'I just want to make a difference,' Mindy says. Mindy would love to serve you! Make arrangements for her to come to your school or to a Lions Club or Scout troop meeting to educate and entertain you as she openly discusses her experiences with blindness. Ask her to read to children at a daycare center or public library, or request that she plan a program for nursing home residents. Invite her to share her testimony in song at your church, or call her when you need special music for banquets or weddings. Mindy looks forward to hearing from you! Her contact information is as follows: Mindy Hartman Phone: (717) 496-4354 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 'I highly recommend Mindy for your church or group. I have enjoyed working with her as her accompanist whenever I have visited the Chambersburg area, and also when we have performed together at other venues. Not only does she have a very fine voice, she also has the heart of one who is willing to serve the Lord in any way she can. Mindy's presentation is real and transparent, and you will be blessed and encouraged by what she has to share. Duncan Holmes, Professional Pianist, Fredericksburg, TX. 'I am delighted to share with you our gratefulness to Mindy for all the hard work and dedication in volunteering her beautiful voice. She has recorded on cassette many of the library's inspirational braille books. The feeling she puts into the words that she is reading is amazing and appreciated by our many readers.' George and Holly Montanus, President and Secretary for the Gospel Association for the Blind, Bunnell, Florida. 'Mindy has a lovely, soprano voice and a poignant delivery. She moves me every time I hear her sing. Paula B. Hepfer, Cumberland Valley School of Music Program Director, Chambersburg, PA. 'Once you hear Mindy's smooth, clear voice, you know she's a gifted musician. Once you hear Mindy's heart, you know she's a child of the King.' Floyd Moore, Minister of Music, Warren, Pa. 'Mindy knows and loves the Lord of whom she sings, and this is communicated in her music. Her enthusiasm and youthful spirit are appealing, and her desire to make a difference is exemplary.' Bob Rathbun, Pastor, Lowell, MA. I appreciate Mindy's ministry. She shared the Gospel in Word and in song with a sweet spirit and sensitivity to the needs of God's people. I wholeheartedly recommend her. Paul Dunb Bethany Evangelical Church, Carlisle, PA Mindy Hartman, herself blind, helped my class 'see' how a blind person can function in our world. She demonstrated reading, using her hands and a braille text, while she sang. My students loved interacting with her and watching her type their names in braille. Children and adults can be fearful of how to communicate with people different than themselves, but Mindy (demonstrating her faith in Jesus Christ) helped to bridge the gap that had previously separated us from enjoying a unique and special friendship. We want to have her back again! Mrs. Beverly Shaffer Fourth Grade Teacher Heritage Academy Hagerstown, MD.