2011 Breakout Artist of the Year The City Harmonic barreled its way from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada onto the music scene with Introducing The City Harmonic, an EP featuring "Manifesto," which soared to No. 5 on iTunes and captivated over a million viewers on YouTube. Top that with becoming the best selling new artist on Billboard's Top Current Digital Sales Chart (over 80,000 downloads), and it's enough, among life's crazy distractions, to get your attention.
But this band vocalist/songwriter and pianist Elias Dummer, bassist Eric Fusilier, guitarist Aaron Powell and drummer Josh Vanderlaan—isn't content to feed the machine or build a fan base so much as to build upon a dream. And not a dream as in a fairy tale. But THE Dream. These four guys grapple with the tension of this world, crafting it into anthems of longing, hope, and love—songs of light for 'seeing through a glass darkly.' The City Harmonic makes music that makes you reconsider what you really believe… about yourself, your world and your God.
Launching Oct 18th, The City Harmonic's Kingsway release, I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home), is one of the most anticipated full-length imports in decades. Co-produced by the band with Jared Fox, I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home) is a journey of imagination, cinematic in composition, and, as is signature for the band, a definitive reflection of The City Harmonic's organic, communal aesthetic. Intelligent, deeply spiritual and intrinsically 'real life,' it reveals the poetic art of The City Harmonic, a band bent on living today for the world to come.
"This project for us was like a journey through a lot of intertwining things," Elias Dummer says of the band's full-length debut. "At its heart is the overarching theme of brokenness and redemption, of light and dark, the unveiling of something bigger and better than ourselves."
The title track and first single, which was written even before the songs on the EP, has always been the lynchpin on which the full-length record would hinge. "The dream, like Martin Luther King's, is that there is another way," Elias explains, "that it can be what we say it is, the eventual truth that we will awaken, just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz awakened from her dream, to find ourselves home at last."
Like a roadmap with only one route, to sum up the journey of faith and mystery that is I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home) would seemingly deprive the listener of the essence of the experience. But from the opening notes, a deliberate quest unfolds.
Setting the stage for the project as a whole, with ties to John 17, the piano-pounding "Yours" flies in the face of our consumer-driven society, an anthem of surrender that points toward the tension of living in this world as a Christian, while "Spark" introduces the theme of light, hinting at its transforming power:
Could a spark of Your love light the whole Church on fire?
When we care for our neighbour more than we care for style?
"Being a Christian now is more difficult than it was 200 years ago," Elias says of the thematic trail. "We face tragedy at every turn because of the way our media and culture operates. The stories of this world have let us down. Politics have let us down. We try to cope with it by becoming apathetic or by hiding in the Christian bubble—some altered version of the American dream where living for Christ leads to personal comfort— even misguided Christian stories can let us down and this is the tension of the world we live in. Christianity isn't a tool to escape suffering, it's a lens by which we understand it and the means by which we live through it. Our culture is built on the notion that our spirituality can be compartmentalized but, simply put, the Christian story isn't. We can go from mountaintop to valley in the span of a day, and in the midst of that valley Christ calls us to love our neighbors, our enemies, just as if we were with them on the mountaintop. Apathy may be a natural result of today's broken world, but the Christian story is that Christ is redeeming his creation and we have a role to play as the body of Christ."
Inspired by the story of Transfiguration in Matthew 17 and by Martin Luther King's iconic speech, "Mountaintop" asserts the notion that as ambassadors here, citizens of a Kingdom to come, we are meant to live and love among the ruins. "Jesus talks about countercultural ways of living among the least of these," Elias continues. "It's not glamorous. It's hard work. If we boil it all down to what exists in church, ultimately, we make being a churchgoer a poor substitute for being Jesus in our communities or even engaging our communities at all."
"Some of the most powerful moments where I recognize God's presence in a real way have been completely outside the church worship context," adds Eric. "We've had to grow up out of the default cultural Christian mindset of worship, instead responding to wherever you sense God, which truthfully is everywhere."
I Have a Dream builds from "Mountaintop" with "Fell Apart," "Be Still O My Soul" and "Wake Me Up," pointing to the reality of God in our dark nights of the soul; the light of his presence when we ache for ‘something real in a world of fake.'
Layer by layer, I Have a Dream (It Feels Like Home) builds toward the title track, a soaring, melodic anthem that sings the hope of heaven imprinted on our hearts before the foundation of the world. From the romantic interlude "Le Reve," meaning 'the dream,' each song intertwines with another, painting an irresistible picture of grace at work through us. The City Harmonic's interpretation of I Corinthians 13, "Love" forms a bridge into "Holy (Wedding Day)," a beautiful ballad about the ultimate redemption, the glorious day to come when faith becomes sight. All that remains, besides the bonus version of "Manifesto," is the heartfelt "Benediction," which just might be the perfect farewell for any communal act of worship.
Live like you mean it
Sing like you're living for God
Whether in full-on pop explosion or in ethereal ballad, the songs of The City Harmonic connect to that missing piece in all of us and give us cause and permission to sing out. Which frankly is part of the band's DNA.
That much will never change for The City Harmonic, the curiously captivating sing-along nature of the music they make. It was, and is always, birthed with community expression in mind.
"Music engages us emotionally and intellectually," says Elias. "There are universal signs of God's presence in every part of it. … it's like a glimpse of something bigger than ourselves, some pervasive and yet otherworldly dream. And if we can somehow spark in people that dream, something they just can't shake, then I hope that will inspire them to sing like every word matters, to live like every day matters, and having tasted heaven, they'll get on with helping this world feel more like home."