Gungor, The Brilliance
Gungor / The Brilliance VIP experience at 6:00PM includes: early entry into the venue, an intimate acoustic performance, a group conversation with Lisa, Michael, David, & John.
The best things in life are often hard to describe. But because it is mankind’s natural instinct to
understand the world, there is an attempt to box things into categories. Even the most complex
feelings and emotions are neatly organized with made-up labels that over simplify the most
beautiful complexities of existence. Music is no different. Genre titles such as “Pop”, “Folk”
and “Alternative” are meant to give a listener an idea of what to expect and how to group
music together. But for the musical collective Gungor it is not that simple.
It’s not so much an attempt to directly defy the rules of modern music making as much as it’s
simply the honest musical response of the Denver based group that sees the world as a
beautifully complicated place. Multiple Grammy ® nominations, magazine covers and even a
few “Album of the Year” declarations for 2010’s Beautiful Things, proves that listeners are
longing for excellent and authentic music, whether it fits the norm or not.
For their third major release, Gungor has composed a concept album that celebrates the beauty
of life even in the midst of darkness and pain. Starting with a startling musical imagining of
the creation of the universe and traversing subjects like the “fall of man” and the imperfection
of our religious systems, this album leads the listener through a roller coaster of emotion that
eventually leads us back to wonder and thankfulness for this beautiful gift of life.
The title, Ghosts Upon The Earth was somewhat inspired by the allegory by C.S. Lewis titled
The Great Divorce, in which the “ghosts” of a grey town encounter a heaven that is
astonishingly, even painfully, real. “Sometimes it seems like the most real thing is what we can
see and experience with our senses around us- this life, the tangible,” explains Michael Gungor.
“Ideas like love, like God, these things sometimes feel more disconnected and ethereal, like
that’s the ghostly realm. But what if that’s wrong and God and love is actually what is most
real, and we are more like ghosts walking upon the earth, hoping to become more real?”
This is a group that believes listeners are intelligent enough to appreciate lyrical metaphor and
allegory along with intricate time signatures and somewhat uncommonly paired instruments in
pop or rock music. Ghosts Upon The Earth paints a hauntingly beautiful soundscape that
emotionally conveys both the intricacy and wonder of the universe that we live in, as well as
the tension and dissonance that we all experience. From sweeping string lines and soaring
falsetto vocal melodies to distorted flute riffs and five part dissonant harmonies, this album
explores quite a wide emotional and musical gamut.
And according to Michael Gungor, the namesake, producer, and leader of the collective, it’s all
very purposeful and full of subtle meaning. From fast violin arpeggios that represent vibrating
“strings” in a primordial universe, to the sacred sound of the first heartbeats that Michael and
his wife Lisa ever heard of their baby girl reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of
life, nothing is haphazard about this album.
Also featured more prominently on this record than the last one is Michael’s wife Lisa, a gifted
musician and songwriter in her own right. Most of the songs on the album are written by
Michael and Lisa together and there are several songs that feature her as the primary vocalist.
Her voice is used as an instrument in itself, in an album that includes credits for things like a
six-person string section, horns, glockenspiels, banjos and a boy’s choir.
Gungor’s work on this new album follows a season of touring that was far removed from a
typical concert or worship service. Composed into three movements, these “Beautiful Things
Events” explored the intersecting of ideas like art and spirituality, faith and doubt, hope and
social action, in ways that really resonated with concert goers, both in religious and
mainstream settings. “I purposefully didn’t talk much or try to get people to do anything along
with us,” Michael recalls. “But somehow in that lack of pressure, we started having these
deeply spiritual moments in the room together, and by the end of the night, people might be
crying or dancing or maybe just sitting there in silence, but there was something real
happening among us.”
To Michael, this new album is a step farther down that path. “I feel like we’re a bit more
comfortable with who we are at this point, and it’s been nice that there seems to be this little
niche that we’ve found where people are excited to explore these things with us. Music
doesn’t have to fit the mold to move people’s hearts, and at the end of the day, that’s really
what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make honest music that opens people’s hearts.”
In a world where hate is the language of the day, racial tension runs high, violence is a means to an end and shootings are a common occurrence, it’s easy to give in to despair. Yet, in the midst of New York City, one of the country’s most diverse and socially involved cities, lies a musical collective creating art that’s counter cultural. With their second full-length project in partnership with Integrity Music, David Gungor and John Arndt—otherwise known as The Brilliance—are suggesting that perhaps All Is Not Lost.
The two men have shared a brotherly bond since childhood when their fathers played in a wedding band together in the ’70s. Throughout college, they made music together in a variety of bands. When David began leading worship at Trinity Grace Church’s Tribeca Parish in New York City, he wanted to write original music for his congregation that followed the liturgical calendar, so he sent some ideas to Arndt, and a unique musical journey began as the two, along with an ensemble of musician friends, began recording under the moniker of The Brilliance. Inspired by neoclassical music, their sound is built on piano and string arrangements and rarely follows traditional pop form.
Their critically-acclaimed Integrity Music debut, Brother, was a peacemaking opus that introduced the duo’s eloquent use of minimalism in the vein of Sufjan Stevens and Philip Glass to an audience beyond their faithful legion of fans who followed them during their years as an independent band. The title track became an important anthem of unity, breaking down barriers between race, religion and socioeconomic status. Moreover, Worship Leader magazine named "Brother" their No. 1 album pick in 2015.
Now, with All Is Not Lost, The Brilliance hopes to continue the conversations they sparked with Brother, inviting listeners farther along on a journey toward peace.