My first known exposure to Fernando Ortega was listening to Christian radio in high school. At one point, Ortega’s song “This Good Day” was in the top 40, and so of course, it received air-play. I remember that “This Good Day” caught both the ears of my Dad and my own. I contemplated stepping outside of my musical comfort-zone at that time and hunting down one of his records, but I was too immersed in classic rock and working on my electric guitar playing to swing the pendulum that far in the opposite direction.
Then, a few years later in college, I was flipping through the few channels that my rabbit-ear antennas could detect and came to a halting stop as I saw Fernando playing a song by himself on his piano on Greg Laurie’s tv show on a Christian network. With his eyes closed, head-tilted, and mouth barely opened, not only did Ortega have the entire audience hushed in awe and in worship, but also myself in my living room. I was stolen away by the sincerity and poetic ability that his entire performace demonstrated. The song he was playing was called, “Our Great God.” Originally, he had recorded this song for the second installment of the City on a Hill series. The song was co-written with Mac Powell, lead singer of Third Day. But, Ortega owned the song and without a doubt, no duet or full band was necessary for him to captivate hearts and lead them into an intimate time of worship of the Lord.
And so, after being carried away by Ortega in my living room, I ordered Storm. This was the album that had Ortega’s solo version of “Our Great God”. I recall listening to the record for the first-time all the way through. It was an amazing experience. It was like a breath of fresh air. The very first song, “Traveler”, is a song that every Christian pilgrim can identify with. It didn’t take me long to realize that “Our Great God” was not going to be the only reason why I would put this CD into the stereo player.
There are many highlights to this album. In my opinion, “Light of Heaven” and “Sing to Jesus” are the best tracks. These songs communicate the serenity and quietness that a heart experiences when it has been consumed by God. Yet, there are other instances on the record like the title track, “Storm” and “City of Sorrows” based off of Psalm 137 , that show the peace and assurance that we have in the Lord’s faithfulness, especially when he uses the ‘storms’ to teach us those attributes of the faith.
Ortega has two hymns that he rearranges especially for this record. The first is “Come ye Sinners, Poor and Needy”. It is a duet with Amy Grant and it has a nice touch. However, the closing song, “Jesus Paid it All” exemplifies the supreme reason behind why I bought the CD. It features simply Ortega on his piano on a rendition of this old hymn that makes my eyes water every time I hear it, no matter what mood I’m in.
Ortega’s musicianship and songwriting is at its height on this record. It most definitely is a landmark album in my Christian walk. Buying this CD came at a time when the Lord was in the process of maturing me in my faith, causing me to dig much deeper than what I had been settling for in terms of personal Bible study, books I was reading, my choice of music, and intimacy with the Lord.
I would encourage all of you to buy it. You can find used/like new copies fairly cheap nowadays. Let the Lord use Ortega’s gifts to help lead you through some of storms in your life. This record will help quiet your soul and allow you to focus more intently upon the Lord and meditate on the things of heaven. Enjoy!