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Real & Far Off Hymns Vol 1. —An Orein Arts Compilation

Courtney Hartman, Moira Smiley, Jefferson Hamer, Tim Eriksen and More Contribute Personal, Intimate Performances of Hymns & Spiritual Songs to Benefit Non-profit.

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Concise Version:

Real & Far Off Hymns Vol. 1 is the first installment in a series of benefit albums for Orein Arts, a not-for-profit arts organization with a mission to facilitate encounters between the artistic life and the spiritual life. The album is founded on artists helping artists: the proceeds will be donated directly to a scholarship fund that helps bring artists to the organization’s core program: a week-long creative arts residency at a monastery.

The hymn project began as a way to continue this mission remotely in pandemic conditions. Folk artists—such as Tim Eriksen, Moira Smiley, Jefferson Hamer, and Courtney Hartman—were invited to contribute a solo performance of a meaningful hymn from their tradition, broadly interpreted. The songs they gave in return were intimate, pared down and plaintive. Produced by Nick Maione with mixing and mastering by Jefferson Hamer, this album goes far beyond the benefit album framework. This collaboration demands attention as an unlikely and beautiful offering to the world that arose from Orein's mission. It builds community among all involved, and transcends cultural and musical categories by offering an unfiltered sincerity that is sure to find a home in the hearts of many after such a trying time.

Longer Version:

Orein Arts Presents: Real & Far Off Hymns Vol. 1 is the first installment in a series of benefit albums for Orein Arts, a not-for-profit arts organization. Orein Arts offers creative art residencies at a monastery in Upstate NY, facilitating encounters between the artistic life and the spiritual life. Real & Far Off Hymns began in response to the pandemic and subsequent closure of the monastery, where dozens of artists were planned to gather. Nick Maione, the organization’s founder, invited a group of artists, both eclectic and cohesive within the folk tradition, to contribute a solo performance of a meaningful spiritual song or hymn from their spiritual tradition. The resulting album serves both as a benefit to the organization’s scholarship program and also as an offering of its mission to the public.

With this album, Maione and these musicians have begun a multi-faceted creative work that has become greater than the sum of its parts. Not only does the album’s production stand as an example of pandemic-time musical collaboration (the artists recorded from quarantine and sent the tracks to Maione) but the content itself is replete with a quiet longing and a plaintive tenderness that is sure to find a home in the hearts of many, particularly after such a trying time. With this offering from these artists, Maione has curated an unlikely musical project that offers itself as one answer to the question it simultaneously proposes: what is the fruit of the encounter between deep creativity and spiritual tradition in our current cultural climate? This project does not fit squarely into any one category or community, but unites many, and is sure to interest musical fans of folk, country, hymns, spirituals, christian music, church choral, shape-note singing, and more.

Maione first reached out to musical artists he knew personally, and expanded the circle from there through artists recommendations. One of the main collaborators on the project was folk musician Jefferson Hamer, who handled the mixing and mastering of the album, as well as contributing a track himself. “I initially imagined a smaller scale project, maybe a few people would offer a single to put up on the Orein website,” says Maione. “But the tracks started coming in, I started to get chills as I realized, wow, something special is happening here. The hymns were coming together in a remarkable way. It was exciting and very humbling to see these artists donate such incredible, authentic, deep pieces to this project.”

Artists were able to choose hymns on their own, with Maione there to advise if needed. It was rarely necessary, finding that emphasizing the importance of a meaningful connection to the hymn was enough. In order to keep some sonic consistency in the home recording environment, the performances also had the stipulation to be pared-down, solo pieces, with only one or two tracks. “I wanted to strive for a certain simplicity and intimacy, like when Max or Jake would sing a song on guitar to one of the brother monks, sitting out on the lawn,” notes Maione. Max Wareham and Jake Klar are two artists on the album who are alums of the Orein Arts residency.

The title of the album comes from lyrics within the opening hymn by Hamer, a lively, personalized rendition of “How Can I Keep from Singing.” The album’s 10 tracks also include a tender “He Leadeth Me” on acoustic guitar by Courtney Hartman; Moira Smiley singing “Meeting Is Over” on banjo; two intense Sacred Harp hymns, “Wondrous Love” and “Distress”, the first done acapella by Ye Vagabonds, and the second accompanied with bajo sexto by Tim Eriksen. The album closes with a recognizable but unique and moving acappella “Amazing Grace” by Naiika Sings. 

Proceeds from the album will be donated back to Orein Arts scholarship program to help low-income/emerging artists come to the monastery arts residency. “Yes it is a benefit album, artists helping artists,” says Maione. “But regardless of the resources it directs back to the program, it will stand as a beautiful offering, arising from both the mission of Orein Arts and from these amazing artists who trusted me with their art; we are ready to send out into the world. We can’t wait to do it again.” Orein Arts Presents: Real & Far Off Hymns Vol. 1 is the first volume in a series of benefit albums Maione plans to release under the same name.

Track List

  1. Jefferson Hamer - How Can I Keep From Singing
  2. Courtney Hartman - He Leadeth Me
  3. Jonathan Seale - Bright Morning Stars
  4. Max Wareham - Abide With Me
  5. Justine Cefalu - Walkley (While Passing A Garden)
  6. Diarmuid & Brían Mac Gloinn - Wondrous Love
  7. Jake Klar - I Know Who Holds Tomorrow
  8. Moira Smiley - Meeting Is Over
  9. Tim Eriksen - Distress
  10. Naiika Sings - Amazing Grace

Album Details

Real & Far Off Hymns Vol. 1
Released Nov. 12, 2021.

Album cover:

Produced by Nick Maione.
Mixed & mastered by Jefferson Hamer.

All songs are in the public domain except:

“Walkley” traditional lyrics and melody, arranged by Neely Bruce.
“I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” written by Ira Stanphill.

Contact Orein Arts / Nick Maione for all inquiries: ︎

Track 3 “Bright Morning Stars" mixed by Jonathan Seale.
Track 7 “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” mixed by Jake Klar.
Track 8 "Meeting Is Over" mixed by Moira Smiley.

Album photograph by Nick Maione.

Orein Arts Info

Website: orien.org

Instagram: @orein_arts

Contact: Nick Maione ︎

Orien Arts is an arts non-profit with a mission to reunite the sistered vocations of the creative life and the spiritual life for a deeper encounter with beauty. Its core offering is an arts residency program at Mount Saviour Monastery in Upstate NY. Since its founding in 2018 by Nick Maione, the mission of Orein Arts has broadened to include other artistic initiatives outside the monastery walls.

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