Richard J. Clark | Light Upon the World

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Holiday: Easy Listening Classical: Art songs Moods: Mood: Christmas
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Light Upon the World

by Richard J. Clark

Richard J. Clark is an eclectic musician who defies category. Living in many musical words at once, his music has been called “transcendent."
Genre: Holiday: Easy Listening
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Light Upon the World
4:35 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Light Upon the World has so far had a rich life all of its own. Certain people along have deeply nurtured and participated in its creation. In fact, these individuals were entirely necessary. Under the title, there are four dates. Each of the four dates relates to a different version, a different incarnation.

The first version of Light Upon the World came about when I was 19 years old. While a student at New York University, I was also studio musician for a small independent record label in Massapequa, Long Island. In January of 1989, the producer of this label mentioned that I should feel free to show him any material he could possibly use for a Christmas record he planned to release in 1990. Whether he was sincere about his offer or not, I treated the suggestion seriously. Within a week, the writing and arrangement of Light Upon the World was complete. With this version, I wanted to write a Christmas song with a pop-ballad arrangement that could very well have been a love song if given different words. I then teamed up with producer, songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, Paul Umbach (a close childhood friend and now a producer with Jive Records having since worked with Brittany Spears, *N Synch, Aaron Carter, as well as rock artists, etc.) to record the song. Paul woke me up at one o’clock in the afternoon (such are musicians’ hours…) while I was living at the NYU dorm to tell me “This song is a #1 hit!” We finished a radio-ready demo with Paul producing, recording, and singing the lead vocal. We presented the recording to the producer of the record label in Long Island; the song was met with surreal ideas: he hoped to add deafening drums to the beginning of this sweet ballad, as well as “doo-wop” background vocal harmonies toward the end. Discreetly eyeing each other in disbelief, Paul and I knew this to be--shall we say--quite inadvisable. We left the studio—actually, we ran from the studio—figuring we needed to continue handling the song on our own. In 1990, our recording was featured on a prominent New York rock radio station, WBAB, which included interviews with Paul and me about the song and about being up and coming “home-grown” rock talent. Soon after, this pop ballad version was released on my 1991 recording, “World Piece.”

In1997, I finally experimented with the idea of writing an alternate text. I had written the piece with this possibility in mind. The “Light Upon the World” was first representative of God. In addition, God is Love; romantic love and otherwise, must therefore be explored and recognized as The Light. “Have you seen this”—alternated with “your Light Upon the World?” is a most pertinent question we must ask ourselves. Can you recognize your own power of Love? Not only God, but it is this love—your love--which is the Light upon the World.

This 1997 text is nearly identical to this current text. At the time I recorded a simple demo and put the text on the shelf for nearly five years.

In 1998, Paul Umbach was producing a Christmas CD to help raise money for the Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Foundation. The 1989 arrangement was quite dated although appropriate for pop/rock radio at the time. Paul and I further experimented with the arrangement. We recorded a talented female country singer, singing a duet version with me. This recording was abandoned. What Paul really wanted was to explore the mystery, awe, and wonderment of the song. He knew it was hidden in there, but he desperately wanted to find a way to get me to dig it out. He suggested I rewrite the introduction. I did. Two days later he then suggested I rewrite the other interludes. I did. Still it wasn’t quite right or quite enough. Many ideas were tossed around by many people. At the moment we had an Elton John song crossed with Bela Bartok. This wasn’t working so well. Paul mentioned something about Gregorian chant. We still were stuck. I thought of quoting the Gregorian Chant, Puer natus and added this to the arrangement. Then finally, Paul succinctly said, “Why don’t you just use the organ?” At that point, I felt an ease and calm in that it all made sense to me, and the remainder of the new arrangement flowed very quickly, if not easily. The organ parts were eventually recorded at St. Cecilia Church. By August of 1998, Timothy Smith had only finished 1/3 of the new organ he was building there—yet the unfinished organ still sounded spectacular on the recording. It was Tim’s work on the St. Cecilia organ that made this arrangement powerful and profound. This time, the piece was in a much lower key, and I sang the lead vocal. The 1998 arrangement has nearly the same instrumentation you are hearing tonight, as it included flute, piano, cello, percussion, and organ.

In February of this year, Tim asked me to write a choral arrangement of the 1998 version. Some weeks later, Tim then added. “Oh by the way, since we’re performing this in May, would you think of writing an alternate text that isn’t about Christmas?” I thought about it for two more days. I dusted off the never performed 1997 text and made a few minor revisions. Once again, it became time to truly explore Love as The Light.

Throughout the years, I have also performed a piano and vocal ballad version, based on the 1989 version. It is still performed in this manner on Christmas Eve every year at St. Cecilia Church.

Through all these versions the melody has always remained the same. The opening words of verse one, “A starry night…” have never changed. The question, “Have you seen this Light Upon the World?” has never changed. There is no version that takes precedence over another. No version ever replaces another. There is only more Light and more Love to enrich the experience.



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