Nineteen of the most well-known artists in the whole genre of Christian and Gospel music released their joint charity album to the world on Monday with the hope of engaging people everywhere to help end world poverty.
Though CompassionArt: Creating Freedom From Poverty won't be available in the United States until Jan. 27, 2009, the groundbreaking recording released Monday in Europe and Scandinavia through Fierce!/Kingsway; Asia, Africa and South America through Integrity; and Australia and New Zealand through Crossroads. Included with the 14-song album is a 50-minute DVD documentary on the CompassionArt movement as well as PDF downloads of song and chord charts for all of the tracks.
"We are a global community, an underground adventure, a map being drawn as we speak that connects wealth with poverty, art with hope, compassion with despair," said CompassionArt founder and Delirious? frontman Martin Smith in a released statement. "We have united ourselves as a community of artists and songwriters to give it all away. Please join us by purchasing the album, playing these songs and singing them in your church services."
CompassionArt is the result of a historic songwriter's retreat in Scotland earlier this year that gathered internationally recognized songwriters – including Israel Houghton, Matt Redman, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Darlene Zschech – to write 10-12 songs to raise money for those suffering in the poorest countries.
Through small break-up teams, the talented group ended up cumulatively producing 22 strong songs that mix together creativity, compassion, and activism.
"There is something so special and exciting about CompassionArt," commented songwriter Tim Hughes.
"Combining great creativity with a heart and passion for the poorest of the poor and issues of justice seems to be a powerful combination," he stated. "I really hope and pray this album will bless and inspire many people and will also raise money, resources and awareness to make a real impact in this world. This is God's heart."
All proceeds derived from the songs written for CompassionArt will go directly to charity. Half will go to the charity of the songwriters' choice and the other half will go toward four collective projects – Hand of Hope, Stop The Traffik, Ray of Hope, and Watoto.
"[W]e wanted to invest the other half of the proceeds in projects that would join the dots between art and compassion," explained Delirious? frontman Smith.
And more than a one-time live aid concert or a "We Are The World"-type song, the whole album of songs will forever benefit the poor. Songs can be heard, recorded, re-recorded and sung for generations, earning royalties for publishers when the songs are played and through a variety of other outlets over many years.
"The song 'Happy Birthday' generates an estimated $2 million a year for its publisher," CompassionArt promoters note. "That is the hope for these CompassionArt songs, except all the proceeds go to charity."
Before its release, CompassionArt was already recognized for its charity work, becoming the recipient of the inaugural "Gospel Angel Award" presented by the Gospel Music Channel during the network's telecast of this year's Dove Awards.
Several music festivals this past summer – including a couple of the largest festivals, Creation and Cornerstone – also ran a three-minute CompassionArt promotional video on their JumboTrons in support of this movement.
"From beginning to end, the CompassionArt project has felt like the heart of God expressed through music, friendship, and charity," commented Paul Baloche. "I pray that the church will get behind this as all the royalties will go to help the poorest of the poor."
WH Smith, the Barnes & Noble of England, has chosen CompassionArt to be a featured holiday release to promote in its 486 stores. In the United States, Covenant and Family Christian Stores have committed in advance to a full year of marketing and promotion around the album's U.S. release.
In addition to the album, the songwriters who gathered for the retreat earlier this year have united to produce a book, The Art of Compassion, to be published in January 2009. The twelve-chapter book unravels the trail of worship, hope and justice found in each of the writers' lives.
As with the album, all proceeds generated from the book will support the work of 16 initial charities.