The dead are rising in Phoenix Arizona. No the Lord hasn’t returned yet and you haven’t missed the rapture but singer Kristina Bubar, her husband Joe and producer extraordinaire Billy Smiley (Whiteheart) have been doing their part to revive old hymns and sonically give them a contemporary feel.
Kristina Bubar is a world class opera star and former winner of an Arizoni, an award that parallels the Tony Awards only at the state level. “I had won it (the Arizoni) for the best actress in “Amahl and the Night Visitors” an operetta by Monetti.” The very petite and talented Bubar was cast in the role of Amahl, a 12 year old boy. She also is well known for her role as Cupid in a Connecticut opera production.
This however is not a story about Bubar’s opera career but instead the recounting of how this talented young lady made the decision to turn her attention to the Christian music scene with the same passion that has made her successful in opera and classical music.
Bubar who makes her home in Phoenix Arizona was first spotted by Smiley six years ago while she was leading worship at Scottsdale Bible Church where her husband serves as music pastor. Smiley quizzed her on her music endeavors and sowed the seeds for what would eventually become Bubar’s ambitious project of creating two CDs in her debut year tackling a different genre. “Bare My Soul” was released in December 2004 and “hymns The Old Made New” was released in January of this year.
In speaking about the adjustments to her music career Bubar says, “When you are in opera you are in character but when you are an artist you are yourself and you are in a much more vulnerable position. You are laying your soul out there and there is more intimacy with the music and the audience.” Bubar makes the point that even in the studio the artist is much more vulnerable. She says she particularly notices that vulnerability coming from the world of opera where she was always in character but now the focus is on her.
A lot of the credit for the success of this album goes to her producer says Bubar. She had to learn different vocal techniques. “What was really neat about it is he brought out a different voice I never knew I had. It’s cool to discover it and then hone it.” She says Smiley provided the kind of guidance and direction that she needed. “He spent a lot of time and energy in developing me as an artist.”
For the most part the CDs were recorded at the Bennett House and Steve Brewster’s studio. Joe Bubar did the programming and sequencing. As you listen to the CD Bare My Soul you are led into this very dreamy relaxing music that at times does indeed reflect Enya or Peter Gabriel. To put a label on Kristina Bubar’s music however would be limiting. Her music and these two projects are quite different than anything else you are likely to hear in 2005. In Christian music circles we have concentrated so heavily in the past decade on making sure our youth understand that Christian artists can rock, hip hop and rap with the best of them that we have for the most part abandoned the more refined genres of music. Kristina Bubar helps us rediscover the beauty of a well trained voice and instruments such as the pan flute and classical guitar.
Some including Bubar have compared her music as containing reflections of Enya, Michelle Tumes or even Peter Gabriel, however as I listen to her music I am reminded of another very talented opera singer who has also made her mark outside of that genre, Sarah Brightman.
Smiley believes that Bubar has just begun to tap her potential and some incredible musical moments still lay ahead. “When someone hears her sing they will say, ?that’s Kristina singing — the one that makes you stop and listen a little closer, the one with the fragile yet beautiful smile in her voice, a voice that draws you into her world and out of yours.”
Bubar has also discovered a ministry to women through her new musical direction. Several of the hymns that were modernized were originally penned by women. The incredible stories of faith of people like lyricist Anne Steele, Charlotte Elliot and Spirit Divine’s author, xxxx have inspired Bubar to share these women’s stories with her audiences.
The first time I spoke to Bubar she had recently heard a Mother’s Day sermon that in her words, “confirmed the value of motherhood and (reminded me) how it has been devalued.” She says, “I’m called to wifehood and motherhood but I also know that God has called me to music ministry because he has given me a gift and a talent.” Bubar says despite her love for music, “If all this came crashing down tomorrow as long as my family is intact that is all that matters to me. Her music is: “a calling that is secondary to the calling of my marriage and my children.”
The Bubars have established a lifestyle that weaves together their music ministries, everyday lives, children (2 ? and 1 ?) and spiritual growth. Whenever Kristina sings or practices the children are present. She and Joe hope as the children grow older they will come to understand that the four of them are a team.
On June 24th Kristina Bubar will be releasing her second single, “Come to Me”, to radio in the United States and Canada. Her first single “You Alone” received widespread radio play on the Fish and Salem Networks and charted in the top forty. When “Spirit Divine” is eventually released to radio it will be a chart stopper. Smiley describes it as an old hymn with a pop tune and at times reminiscent of Sade.
Samples of Kristina Bubar’s music can be heard at www.kristinamusic.com
Copyright © 2005 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague.
Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.
Photo by Ben Pearson.