Music for times of trial: Local Catholics' song earns national recognition
ARLINGTON — Two longtime musical collaborators in the Diocese of Fort Worth used the travails of living through the COVID-19 pandemic as inspiration to compose a hymn that was awarded second place by the Association of Catholic Publishers in the Song of the Year category for the 2022 Excellence in Publishing Awards.
Kevin Keil and Kate Bluett received the honor for co-writing “Amid the Storm.” Keil wrote the music while Bluett was lyricist. Keil is director of liturgy and music at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Arlington and Bluett lives in The Colony.
The association announced winners for the best Catholic content in categories ranging from books to liturgical resources and music.
In the Song of the Year category, Kathleen Basi won for “Come, All You Thirsty,” and Ivan Diaz and Kairy Marquez took third for “Pan del Cielo.” Notably, the top three songs of the year winners are artists with Oregon Catholic Press.
The award is significant recognition for Keil and Bluett, who have been writing songs together for more than a decade, dating back to when they both attended Holy Cross Parish in The Colony.
“It started at Holy Cross Church in The Colony about 12 years ago, and it was shortly after I started playing and leading the choir that Kate came up to me and said that she had hymns,” and would he be willing to look at them, Keil said.
“And of course, you know, I’m kind of dying inside because this happens a lot. And usually, it’s just very pious stuff that’s well-intentioned but not really usable for a broad audience. But she presented me with 30 beautiful hymns.”
Keil was impressed.
“I was just blown away,” he said. “What I have done over the last 12 years is I have just gone through these different things that she has sent me and as I go through, I find things that speak to me and a melody and then an arrangement...”
Of all the lyrics she’d sent, Keil said “Amid the Storm” was one he’d originally passed on.
“The one that won the award, ironically, is one I passed on about 10 years ago,” Keil said. “I gave a couple starts to try to do something, but nothing was working. And then I looked at it again about a year ago or so. And suddenly I had a melody, and the words came off the page with the tune. I guess the rest is history.”
Subtitled “A Prayer for Difficult Times,” the song focuses on themes of trust, salvation, peace, petition conveyed by a gentle, rocking tune.
Bluett said their musical relationship grew from her volunteering to write lyrics for Keil’s compositions.
“About 10 years ago, he played a lot of his own pieces, his compositions at our liturgies. I offered if I could be of any assistance in writing lyrics, since I’ve had some poems published. That I’d be happy to help out,” Bluett said. “And, he said, ‘Well, you know, I’ll read a couple of things to see what you can do.”
So Bluett showed Keil the lyrics and he liked them. The partnership grew from there.
“He’d said, OCP is looking for Easter anthems. So go write something for Easter,” Bluett explained. “And he decided, let’s try and do an album of songs for the liturgical year. And so bit by bit, we worked up, I don’t know, 10 to 12 songs. And he went up to Portland and presented [the album] to OCP and they accepted it. So right off the bat we started getting published together.”
Oregon Catholic Press is a publisher of Catholic liturgical music based in Portland, Oregon.
What was it about “Amid the Storm” that inspired him musically?
“Well, at this point, we were still in the midst of the COVID thing,” Keil said “And just saying and then reading these words again, with the situation in mind, you get to that refrain. ‘Oh, save us, Lord rain down your grace and bid our fears to cease amid the storm, restore our faith and draw near and grant us peace.’ And what could be better for people to hear and sing during this difficult time?”
Current conditions in the world make the hymn relevant, still, he said.
“Of course, times have only gotten more difficult with the war in Ukraine and other wars throughout the world. It just spoke to me at that point,” Keil said. “These [situations] need to be solved.”