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Inside Mormon Music: Mark Abernathy finds more of himself in music

Published: Friday, Dec. 17 2010 4:00 a.m. MST

Our passions help us find our true identity.

When Mark Abernathy was 4 years old, his father’s job as a Foreign Service officer took their family to Hong Kong. They lived there for 15 years.

Abernathy was in a completely different culture, and even as a young boy he was searching for his identity. Music helped him to reconnect with his roots and find his identity.

“British and American music was something the other kids in school (100 percent of them were Chinese) didn't listen to or have anything to do with, so it was something that made me feel connected to my roots. It gave me some pride," Abernathy said. "Sometimes music was just something to hold onto."

He also remembers his parents singing hymns and folk songs to him and his siblings when they were younger to help them sleep. Those songs have become a part of him.

“I remember my dad singing ‘I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go’ to us with his acoustic guitar when we were 3 or 4," Abernathy said. "The imagery and emotion of it really struck me.”

At age 12, Abernathy started to play the guitar. He later studied professional music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, with an emphasis on production and arranging.

Abernathy recently produced and released his first album, “Twixt Me and The Peaceful Rest.” The Americana folk instrumentation resounds of the connection with his roots he first found in Hong Kong.

Abernathy chose some hymns on the album that trace back to songs his parents sang.

“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” is the earliest hymn Abernathy remembers from growing up.

“I (have) a fond and proud memory of my parents singing ‘Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me’ as a duet in a church meeting when I was very young,” he said.

This hymn became even more meaningful at a trying time in Abernathy’s life.

“When I was living in L.A. and had my son (he was about a year old at the time), I was really struggling. I remember walking along the shoreline with my son on my shoulders, and it was getting dark out and I was starting to feel pretty dark about things,” he said. “My son was crying a bit and I found myself singing ‘Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me’ to (him). I only knew the first verse, but it was like a prayer.

“We tend to sing that a bit rushed, but I hear it as a song of longing,” Abernathy said.

Music helped Abernathy find more of his identity as a young boy in Hong Kong and as a new father in Los Angeles. With the moving arrangements of the hymns on his new album, he is giving that same gift to others — the chance to find more of themselves in the spirit and energy of these hymns.

For more information and to receive a free download of “All Is Well” off the new album, visit sabre-rattlers.com.

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