Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
July 2, 2001
Catholic artist reaches out
Kristoph Franz aims new CD beyond Christian audience
SPECIAL TO WCR
COCHRANE — When balladeer Kristoph Franz toured Western Canada during the mid-1990s performing primarily in Catholic circles, he reckoned that about 95 per cent of the people who heard his music were devout Christians.
What about all those other people who are not Christian? he wondered. How could he reach them with the spiritual themes that dominate his music?
In response to that persistent question, Franz, a former Edmonton musician who now lives near Cochrane, recently released a new CD, For Love of the Wind (Sandalsong), with part of the proceeds going to several charities.
A strong spiritual chord about love threads its way through the CD but it's devoid of any references to Christianity or Catholicism.
The CD, released on his own independent record label, Sandalsong, and distributed via his website www.sandal
song.com , is subtle and best listened to in layers, like a new friendship.
The target audience for the mellow, reflective CD is baby boomers who may have left their religious culture of birth and ventured elsewhere in search of truth.
The underlying essence of all life is love, he said in an interview at Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre where Franz and his wife, Mariette Dobrowolski, have been members of the retreat team since 1995.
"That love is profoundly spiritual," says Franz (pronounced Fraunz). "Love is the very thing that breathes life into all living things."
Of course, in a Christian context, God is love, he notes. "I try to avoid that language. I try to bridge the human experience that we all have of love to the spiritual."
Love does three things, he says. It gives meaning to life, allows people to accept themselves as they are created, and permits people to move beyond themselves in service to others.
By its nature, love cannot be hoarded. When it is, it wilts. "Love grows and is nurtured by its sharing," he says.
On the CD, Franz's songs deal with different expressions of love - romance, friendship, integrity, forgiveness, the ecology of creation.
The title song, For Love of the Wind, is a metaphor about how people pursue the ephemeral, abandoning their true love:
"For once in my life/I was touched by the hand of the heart/But the winds now have changed/And we find ourselves apart/for love of the wind,/for love of the wind I was gone./For love of the wind,/have I lost your loving heart."
Without action, however, love is incomplete, says Franz. Consequently, he's donating $1 to each of six arts, social service or international development organizations from the $20 CD.
A total of $6 will be donated to Amnesty International for human rights; Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (humanitarian support); Mercy Corps International (relief work); Servants Anonymous World Service (victims of prostitution); The Mustard Seed (homelessness); and Alberta public radio station CKUA (arts).
Born in Germany, Franz grew up in Edmonton. He began studying the violin at age five. At 13, he started playing the guitar. He went from a high school rock band to being a lone folk singer and balladeer as a young adult.
He calculates that he played 1,500 shows during the period 1988-95. "I was Mr. Nobody sitting in the corner of a pub singing away, refining his art," Franz laughs.
Along the way, he shared the stage with Livingston Taylor (James Taylor's brother), Arlo Guthrie, and Paul Hyde, as well as Christian performers Steve Bell and John Michael Talbot.
In fact, Franz, who describes For Love of the Wind as a singer/songwriter, acoustic pop-style recording, just returned from Talbot's Little Portion Hermitage community in Arkansas where they celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Franz lists Talbot among his major influences, along with Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen.
In the late 1980s, he had a profound spiritual experience while working in the German Alps that changed the direction of his life. He returned to Canada and entered the Franciscan order.
He tried giving up music but God made it clear that Franz wasn't to bury his treasure. He continued playing, subsequently married and became a secular Franciscan.
With a master of divinity degree, he's currently working on a doctorate in spirituality from Edmonton's St. Stephen's College.
With several recordings to his credit, Franz hopes to do a major folk festival tour during the summer of 2002 where he will propagate his spiritual themes among secular audiences.
In the meantime, Franz is working with his wife on a new CD, Lilies of the Field, for release before year's end. It's a contemplative Christian album with Scriptural overtones that will be produced with creative input from John Michael Talbot.
For Love of the Wind by Kristoph Franz (Sandalsong) is available via the independent record company's web site www.sandalsong.com or by calling a toll free number, 1-888-442-0285.
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