When I listen to the music of Charlene Lockwood, I smile. My happiness partially comes from the grace of listening to a song well-sung and beautifully arranged. But the feeling of contentment also comes from knowing the involvement of this talented artist’s husband, Edward Hoyt, in her music. As you’ll read below, their art is truly a team effort, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Edward, a trusted friend here at CatholicMom.com through his work with CRS, has a gift for expressing in lyrics those sentiments that lie deep within our hearts. And Charlene, most definitely, has a gift for glorifying God with her beautiful talents. I hope you enjoy my conversation with them today. We focus not only on their lovely songs, but also on how each of us can praise God with our own gifts! Be sure to visit CharleneLockwood.com for more inspiration. Lisa
Q: Thank you for sharing your beautiful talents for the glory of our Lord! Would you please briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Charlene: Thanks! So glad to be able to share our music with readers of your blog! I’m Music Director for the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington, DC. I’m also a film composer and music teacher.
Edward: You’re welcome! I’m a web producer for Catholic Relief Services. I’m also a longtime parishioner at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart parish. It’s a special place that’s a thriving home to refugees, whether political or spiritual. There I am a tenor in Charlene’s choir, play a little guitar, and I was coordinator of homeless outreach program for six years.
Q: Could you please describe your own faith journey?
Charlene: I was raised in the faith but, like many people, fell away from it when faced with some challenges (specifically, in my case, the death of a parent when I was 20). There was a period of estrangement and really a resentment and anger, where I felt God had failed my family and myself. In walking the earthly path, however, I realized that there really is no other answer for me: “Lord, to whom should we go?” The material sense of things is just so limiting and ultimately, depressing, that there has to be a higher answer. So, I picked up the pack and started the climb again—or, as we describe in a soon-to-be-released song—crossing the Desert.
Edward: I was an introvert with seemingly little going for me when I was young. I knew that I’d never be the funniest guy or the athletic champ, so I decided to be the most decent, and I clung close to the Church to learn how. To learn compassion.
I’m the grandchild of a classic American immigration story—the first generation are manual laborers, the second are civil servants (cops, firefighters, teachers), and the third are white collar workers. But many of my cousins and siblings have fallen away from the faith, even as I’ve grown closer, and I have come to see it as the guiding hand that behind this amazing story. My grandfather was a prisoner of war who came to this country as a refugee. My great grandfather on the other side came in speaking no English — possibly undocumented — and just walked onto a construction site, worked his tail off, avoided follow-up questions when asked who he was, and miraculously, there was pay envelope for him at the end of two weeks.
I never knew these men and women, but I see them in the faith of the refugees at my parish. And every now and then, this beautiful epiphany touches me: God is the friend and companion of the refugee, the stranger, the outcast. And we are all refugees—no matter how rich or poor—until we find our homes in him.
Q: How did you come to the decision to share your creative talents for spiritual purposes?
Charlene: Keeping faith seems to be an ongoing struggle, but the desire to share music and allow it to get out into the world does not seem to be a personal choice — more a persistent demand from God to allow his words and images and sounds to be heard. Restricting or limiting these ideas has started to seem as fruitless to me as planting a seed and then trying to squash it back into the ground when it starts to sprout. The music seems to be coming from a place of Divine impetus.
Edward: Our priests are Capuchins, and they tend to have a very theatrical bent. A mind like mine can get lost in the sameness of the sacred liturgy of the mass. But these priests, by doing one thing different, reframe the ritual is in its seeming sameness, and have helped me see the beautiful mystery of the liturgy more deeply. You engage enough from week to week and you have, again, epiphanies. I’ve found them in both these small differences and in the (seeming) sameness of the mass.
Epiphanies are achingly brief, and achingly personal. To make them last, and to share them with others, I would run home from church and write them down as prayers. Fortunately, my wife has the musical gift to turn these prayers into songs far more sublimely than I could. I initially tried to compose myself, but my songs… tend to sound the same. Charlene is a revelation. One of the first songs we wrote together was called “Be Born in Us.” That comes from the response to the prayers of the faithful during Advent. You do something a little different, I prick my ears up.
Our choir sang a song (“Do This in Memory of Me”) we wrote together for the Communion hymn at our wedding. The attendees congratulated us as much on the song as on our marriage. We knew then that these songs were what we had to give the world as a couple.
Charlene: These songs are coming from various places in an individual’s spiritual journey. We’ve been calling them “Outsider Gospel” songs because a lot of them are from the perspective of getting in tune with the search for the Infinite. Some of them are from the perspective of pain and starting that search for God (“My Heart is Tender”); some are on the journey—dropping the things of the world and following the path ahead (“Gonna Cross That River”); and some (mostly scriptural) are at the point of glad arrival (“Here on This Mountain”) and deep gratitude.
Edward: As much as I’ve been inspired to write liturgical music, “Outsider Gospel” is indeed what we have to offer — music for the one who is searching, but has not found themselves at home in a church. There’s the reputation of the Church—all churches really—as scandalous and judgmental places where the profound mercy and compassion of God is not realized. Obviously, this isn’t completely unfair. That’s a cross we have to bear. But there is another narrative. I see it every day in my work with Catholic Relief Services — the staggering effort of people moved by the Gospel to better the lives of God’s people. To see the Spirit at work is a daily joy.
Washington, DC is a very secular city, and our friends are, too frequently, lost, unhappy, disillusioned. But surrendering to a higher power is a challenge to their ideology. We want to give them music that tells them that somebody is still walking with them in their dark valleys, that the Church is open to them in whatever state of broken-ness they are in, that their maker still loves them and longs to commune with them in their pain.
Q: Who are some of your musical influences and your favorite musicians?
Charlene: We’re big fans of Daniel Lanois, a Canadian musician and producer who has worked with some of the greats—Bob Dylan, U2, Emmylou Harris. We’ve been very influenced by U2’s sound, as well as their spiritual search; also by some of the gospel recordings of Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris and Gilian Welch.
Edward: A long time ago we were driving late at night and a free-form DJ was interviewing — and introducing a new album by — a then-seemingly washed-up Emmylou Harris. When the song started, we fell silent, and almost had to pull over. The album was, of course, the eventual-Grammy-winning Wrecking Ball. Emmylou, in her career turmoil, took a chance and reached out to Daniel Lanois as her producer. Daniel had a way, as he had shown with U2 and Peter Gabriel, of making electronic and distorted sounds sound organic. Only now, working with a solo artist instead of a band, the two of them built the sound from the ground up. The album was full of songs about addiction and broken-ness, damnation and salvation, and in the tension of all those electronic currents and eddies was this vulnerable, quavering voice, a soul trying to swim it’s way home.
Another Lanois-produced album from the same era is Bob Dylan’s O Mercy. It has a lot of the same themes but because it’s Dylan, it’s far more steeped in metaphor. It’s the best thing he’s done in… ever, to my thinking. I don’t know where Lanois is on his faith journey — maybe he too is an outsider — but he comes from a Catholic background in Quebec and has long worked out of New Orleans and his music is steeped in Catholic themes.
Charlene: I’m a big believer in the idea that everyone is on a search for God—just a lot of the time “God” becomes confused with the world or materialistic picture. It’s getting past all that paraphernalia to reach the real core of what actually is “God” that a lot of these singers and writers have been talking about. “To see the giver in the gift,” as Augustine puts it.
Q: For those looking to tap into their own creative energies, what words of encouragement and advise would you offer?
Charlene: It’s not about you. I know that we have fallen into a lot of self-doubt and fear and concern about the reception of the music, etc. but again, it’s really about allowing that Divine voice to be heard and to share it with others. The ego is so full of limitations and fears—letting go of that (“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”) is the challenge. God wants to be heard. He wants to express himself individually. Each one is unique and has that unique voice from God—squelching it doesn’t honor God or the rest of his ideas. I think the main point would be try to move from thinking in terms of the small, egotistic “i” to the grander, wider viewpoint of the great “I”—the real doer and creator.
Edward: 1. Work. Have fun doing it, but get it down while it’s there. Write your goal in big letters and keep moving toward it.
2. Find people who inspire you, to collaborate or share with. The genius who is deeply productive despite working in solitude may not be a myth, but I haven’t met anybody like that. Plus, these can be such joyous friendships.
3. Read the Parable of the Talents. Again and again. Revealing your gift is terrifying, and we can use our faith as an excuse to hide—you don’t want to be proud or anything like that—but God needs the talents of every one of us, or this Kingdom is never going to be built. We have a mentally disabled woman in our choir. Besides singing she does paintings that people fall in love with before they ever meet her. Her technique may be that of a third-grader, but the faith and wonder and wisdom and compassion in them is that of a very deep and blessed soul. What would God do without her?!
Q: Thank you for sharing your inspiring talents! Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
Charlene: Thanks so much for your interest in us! We hope you love the music and will share it with your friends!
Edward: I’ve already gone on so long. Just in brief, working with Catholic Relief Services, and please know, as Christians and human persons, reaching out to the poor—next door or across the globe—will enrich your life beyond compare. It is frightening, but beyond that fear is a joy that will lighten your burden, improve your relationships, and (in my case) profoundly touch your art. There are things in this music that I cannot tell you where it came from, but I allowed myself to feel compassion in all its joy and pain, and this… astounding thing appeared in my lyrics. It came from me, but it is not of me.
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