Idol Contestant Puts New Twist on Hymns

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Call it traditional with a contemporary flare.

That's what composer-arranger Don Chapman creates for praise teams struggling to make the complex chord structure of hymns fit a more modern worship style.

Chapman found it hard to play a hymn out of a hymnal with guitar. So he rearranges the chord structure, but keeps the melody the same. "I just change all the guts of the song," he adds.

In hymns, chords change every beat and for a strumming guitarist, that can lead to what Don calls "worship wars."

He says the secret is smoothing out the chord structure, and then, giving it a little contemporary twist by mixing in other instruments.

The tech maestro does it all on his computer and a longtime friend adds another personal touch.

American Idol contestant Chris Sligh records the vocals on new arrangements as sort of a payback because it was Chapman who convinced him to try out for Idol and even paid for his audition.

And after a few hours at the computer and microphone, churches have a sample song to download.

Chapman's arranging of hymns is really taking off. People from all over the world are interested in this technology with over 120,000 subscribers.

Subscribers can also download the communion song which Don suggested Chris write for their church.

Sligh says the song talks about what it means to break of the body and what it means to dig down deep. And Chapman offers the song for free on his website. Sligh adds that even while he was on the Idol, Christians were finding the song and posting it all over the internet.

Don and Chris see the need to bridge the generation gap between traditional and contemporary.

"People really don't want to get rid of hymns, in fact people who've been away from church for years come back to church, and they might like a hymn more than a new praise song because it reminds them of growing up in church," says Chapman.

*Originally aired April 9, 2009

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Tracy Winborn

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Tracy Winborn produces for CBN News' Newswatch program - a daily 30-minute newscast seen throughout the U.S.   Tracy also travels with CBN to produce from the field - having worked on stories like the Lakeland Revival, American Idol, and the 2008 McCain election party.