After 15 years, 12 albums, and five record labels, classically-trained
pianist/singer-songwriter Fernando Ortega contuines to make beautiful,
inspirational music that follows his family's long tradition of artistic
talent. His ancestors were artisans and weavers and helped shape him
into the articulate and creative musician that he is today. This year,
Fernando Ortega is nominated for three Dove awards: Male Vocalist of
the Year, Inspirational Song of the Year, and Long Form Video of the
At the heart of his appeal is a complex combination rare
in contemporary Christian music-Ortega is a storyteller, worship leader,
artist and vocalist of unparalleled talent. As a vocalist, he has been
described by critics as gifted, unusually engaging, and refreshingly
original. As a worship leader, he has established himself as a champion
of the classic hymns of the church, insisting that our praise needs
to carefully balance experiential and theological reflection. And as
a story-teller, Fernando Ortega has written and recorded songs that
are both unnervingly intimate and universal in appeal, lifting listeners
both into and beyond themselves, moving them into stark personal reflection,
joyful adoration, and praise.
His most recent release, "Fernando Ortega," debuted on
August 10, 2004. This was his first release on Curb Records.
The results surprised Ortega almost from day one: "What
we ended up with is more stripped down, more punchy, than anything else
I've done. The vocals are a little more out; I sang more than I had
in the past."
Christianity Today has named Ortega's new album one of
the best Christian albums of 2004. The following is taken from an interview
of Ortega by Michael Herman of Christianity Today. It came out just
before the release of his lastest album:
Through all the years of writing and performing, how have
those processes evolved over time?
"I think my style has really evolved. It's a way softer
approach to singing, a gentler approach to singing than I used to have.
My first record was called In a Welcome Field, and it's pretty funny
because it's all these power ballads that have electric guitars and
choruses cranked up real big, and it has lots of background vocals and
larger stuff in the background. It's almost like Richard Marx or something
along those lines. It's really taken a lot more of a folk kind of turn
over the years."
Who were your early music influences?
"There are a few really key influences. One was a piano
teacher I had named Ralph Burkowitz. He taught me a lot about refinement,
a whole lot about subtlety and my approach to the piano, about building
phrases, and about lines in music and how interweaving lines run through
a song and how to sustain a line."
"Another was a fiddle player I played with, a woman named
Sharene Taylor. Now she's a principle second violin at the Metropolitan
Opera. You can learn a lot just by hearing a violin player play. You
learn a lot about the length of phrases and where things grow and where
things breathe and all that."
"Then John Schreiner is a friend of mine who produces
all my records. He's a frequent song collaborator. I'd say he's a really
big influence on the way I think about songwriting."
"There are two other huge influences-my neighbors, Peter
Morrison and Elaine Rubenstein. Aside from the fact that they taught
me a lot about the power of words, I also learned about how to write
songs where you're not trying to tell the listener how to feel, but
in some cases you're just making observations about what you see. It
requires skill. It requires thought. It's not just writing what you
see and what your experience of a situation is. There's a way of writing
that allows listeners to experience it for themselves. You have to say
things in a universal way. They helped me a lot with lyric writing on
that level, but also they turned me on to a whole lot of really good
music that I didn't know about back then. Their CD collection is immense.
A major turning point in Fernando Ortega's carrer was
in 1999 when he was able to tour for the first time with a band. Consequently,
he was away from home a lot that year. In 2000, he realeased "Home,"
on Myrr Records. At that time, it was said to be his most musically
diverse album of his career.
"I missed being home a lot this past year," says
Ortega. "And so several of the songs reflect that, along with the recognition
of God's goodness and kindness in giving me a place I can call 'home.'"
Fernando Ortega's albums:
In a Welcome Field, 1991 (Urgent)
Meditations of the Heart, 1993 (RPI)
Meditations Encore, 1994 (RPI)
Hyms and Meditations, 1994 (RPI)
Night of Your Return, 1995 (RPI)
This Bright Hour, 1997 (Myrrh)
The Breaking of the Dawn, 1998 (Myrrh)
Home, 2000 (Myrrh)
Camino Largo, 2001 (Word)
Storm, 2002 (Word)
Hymns of Worship, 2003 (Word)
Fernando Ortega, 2004 (Curb)
Radio Number Ones:
"Sing to Jesus"
"Light of Heaven"
"Beyond the Sky"
"No One Else"
"This Good Day"
"Jesus, King of Angels"
"Lord of Eternity"
AWARDS AND HONORS:
2003 - Billboard Latin Music Award for Storm - Dove Award
nomination for "Inspirational Album of the Year" (Storm).
2002 - Dove Award nomination for "Spanish Language Album
of the Year" (Camino Largo).
2001 - Dove Award for "Inspirational Album of the Year"
(Home) - Dove Award nomination for "Male Vocalist of the Year" - Dove
Award nominations as Artist and Songwriter for "Inspirational Recorded
Song Of The Year" (This Good Day").
2000 - #1 Inspirational Song of the Year, "This Good Day,"
Christian Research Report (CRR) - #4 Inspirational Song of the Year,
"No One Else," CRR - Dove Award nominations as Artist and Songwriter
for "Inspirational Song of the Year" for "Jesus, King of Angels" - Dove
Award nomination for "Male Vocalist of the Year" - Dove Award nomination
for "Songwriter of the Year" - Dove Award nomination for "Song of the
Year" for "Jesus, King of Angels".
1999 - #1 Inspirational Song of the Year, "Jesus, King
of Angels," CRR - #4 Inspirational Song of the Year, "Creation Song,"
CRR - Dove Award nomination for "Inspirational Album of the Year" (The
Breaking of the Dawn).
1998 - Dove Award for "Children of the Living God," (This
Bright Hour) - Dove Award nomination for "Inspirational Album of the
Year" (This Bright Hour).
Ortega's "Live in St. Paul" DVD was released October 12,
2004. The DVD includes performances of tracts from various records,
as well as four bonus tracts. There are also special features that include
a commentary from Fernando himself.
Fernando's song "Traveler" off his album Storm has been
included in a movie starring Dave Matthews. The movie "Where The Red
Fern Grows" is out on DVD now.
Fernando Ortega ALBUMS