International Christian music singer/songwriter Steph Carse once again uses his God-given musical gift and incandescent charm to inspire others with his latest album, My Shining Hour, to rise above adversity and improve our world through kindness.
By: John Sotomayor
At times, it takes under five minutes to make a lasting impact on someone’s psyche. In the case of Steph Carse’s song and video, “The Lord’s Prayer,” it only took 3:56 minutes.
Elevate Magazine was struggling financially as a startup. As the publisher and founder, I sought answers everywhere. Local Chaplain Edwin Quintana told me I should view “The Lord’s Prayer” by Steph Carse for inspiration. He sent me a link, which remained in my email inbox for days. In a moment filled with doubt and despair, I allowed myself five minutes to view the video to see if it could offer a solution, or at least a distraction. My motivation was restored within the first 35 seconds.
The Lord’s Prayer was done to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting massacre in Orlando — the national tragedy at the time, which occurred in the city Carse called home.
It begins with a haunting melody over televised footage of President Kennedy’s assassination. A high-powered executive, played by Carse, is overwhelmed on a business call as more footage on his television screens covers other tragedies, like the World Trade Center collapse on 9/11. He slams the phone, falls back into his chair, then watches more footage, this time news coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting. At that moment, he finds a note, presumably from his wife, instructing him to read the passage she left for him. It is The Lord’s Prayer. He drops to his knees and sings the most striking rendition of The Lord’s Prayer I ever heard.
The video includes images of inspiration, such as a teacher educating her students about the importance of faith and patriotism, and a soldier preparing for deployment, leading up to the climax of an automobile accident driver, presumably a drunk driver, comforted by police — including a police chaplain performed by Quintana — as the lyrics say “Forgive us our debt, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The final scenes of the video show the crash victim in photos at the doctor’s office, his life presumably changed by sobriety. The doctor rests a card on the photo that says, “A Doctor’s Prayer.” In the closing shot, as Carse sings the final verse, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory — forever, amen,” the words appear: “And now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.”
I was moved. And immediately acted. I contacted Carse and asked for his permission to include his video “The Lord’s Prayer” in our crowdfunding campaign to raise funds. He graciously agreed. Funds were raised in 2017 that contributed to the premier of Elevate Magazine. The same year, Carse worked on his latest album, “My Shining Power.” Upon learning this, I knew instantly I had to invite him to be featured in our second issue, already selected as our music issue. The timing was perfect. On September 20, 2018, Carse was honored at the 2nd Annual Canadian International Faith & Family Film Festival with “Best Music Video” for his powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Without any hesitation, Carse graciously accepted.
Family Given, God Driven
Carse believes one does not become a musician, rather it is something they are meant to do. At least, that is true in his case, he says. Born in Montreal, Canada, Carse was raised in a diverse musical family. His father loved rock-and-roll — particularly Elvis Presley songs, and his mother was partial to country and gospel. Most influential musically, his grandmother was an opera singer.
“Since she was my official baby sitter as a kid, I would listen to Mario Lanza and other major opera singers,” Carse said. “She would tell me stories of her uncles — my great uncles — who were opera singers in Hollywood at the time when musicals were popular but actors could not sing, so my great uncles were hired to do voice-overs during the singing parts.”
From an early age, Carse developed his musical talent. The draw to Christian music specifically he says was divinely influenced. For instance, he worked on an album as part of a PBS special and at the time, only had the title “Reach Out,” along with the music. No lyrics. He was invited to sing the National Anthem at the American Red Cross-national meeting in Central Florida, as well as the title track for the album, Holiday Heroes he wrote specifically for the Special Olympics. After his performance, the mother of the CEO of the Red Cross approached him and suggested with his vocal talent, he do something musical for the Red Cross. When asked for direction on what she sought, she mentioned the Red Cross reaches out for those in need.
Upon hearing the phrase “reaches out,” Carse felt a divine connection to what he was already working on. That evening, he wrote the entire song, and shortly thereafter, gave it to the Red Cross. Three days later, Hurricane Katrina hit. Not long after, the Red Cross requested to use the song “Reach Out” as their official theme song to motivate donors to their relief fund. Carse immediately identified God as the conductor, who orchestrated the chain of events that led to that occurrence. He developed a clear vision of how to parlay his creativity to enact real change for those who face adversity.
Heart Driven, Confident Livin’
Carse is no stranger to adversity. As a child, he was bullied often. Since 1980, his home has served as a foster home for mentally challenged children.
“Kids could be cruel,” said Carse. “Once the word got out that our home served as a foster home for mentally challenged kids, the name-calling and bullying started at school.”
One night, Carse read a story on how bullying led to a suicide. He recognized this as an epidemic. He also recognized the level of bullying and taunting has grown worse. As a kid, Carse was bullied at school by two or three guys. Once he returned home, he felt safe and protected. It ended there. The difference today as he sees it, is that there are no safe places anymore. Taunts continue, even when the children are not face-to-face, through social media cyberbullying. Bullying follows them into their home.
“Bullying has become the highest cause of suicide for children under 14,” said Carse.
He knew he had to reach out and do something. He would implement change with music; that was a given. But this time he would do more. Carse founded a nonprofit organization to combat bullying by strengthening the resolve of those subject to it, called Y I Count (Why I Count).
The intent of Y I Count is to build the confidence and character of children affected by bullying so they have the resolve to deflect the effect. According to Carse, this is accomplished through a four-step program.
First, they are taught about the physiology of the human body — how unique they are.
“They are taught how awesome they are made,” said Carse. “This is God’s program based on Psalms 139:14, in which King David said, ‘I am awesomely made’ adding ‘this I know now.’ We need to remind them repeatedly.”
Second, participating kids are taught the power of words. According to Carse, the program is entirely based on scripture.
“Through Proverbs, we know the tongue has the power to build or destroy,” said Carse. “We teach them what we call ‘the Boomerang Effect’ which means what you say will come back to haunt you. We can demonstrate how these kids are affected by their own words.”
Third, the program resonates with kids through the inclusion of music. Music connects the brain to what they learn through both mental and emotional stimuli. Dance is added through what is called “The Awesome Challenge” that helps the kids find their “happy dance.”
Fourth, Y I Count helps kids develop character through empathy. To Carse, empathy means developing compassion toward others outside of the self, which is accomplished through acts of kindness. One nine-year-old participant collected 5,000 cans of goods for the Salvation Army, from his own initiative. Carse awarded the boy the Y I Count Award for his service.
Only a year and a half old, Y I Count now has an international outreach, with new centers being introduced in South Africa and Russia in 2019.
At The Crossroads
Work on his current album, My Shining Hour, started in 2013. After a four-month run in the Venetian in Las Vegas, performing Bocelli pop-opera, Carse decided he wanted to create something that more boldly defined his faith in Christ.
He recalls being at a church in Las Vegas called The Crossroads, when the pastor invited the congregation to write their prayers on the pillars of the foundation. Carse wrote, “I want to pursue a project where I can be bold about my faith and would be heard around the world.”
That prayer became his drive to fulfill the project now known as My Shining Hour. He initially thought it would take three to six months to produce the CD along with a TV special. Instead, it took three and a half years. What began as a small idea blossomed into a global project, taking Carse to Israel and Africa.
His prayer was answered.
“We received the green light from Daystar to begin the project, and now this year, we are on Uplift Television broadcast over 24 million homes in the United States,” said Carse. “It was a long journey … through this process, it taught me how to get out of my own way — and learning what it means to let go and let God.”
Honored at the 2nd Annual Canadian International Faith & Family Film Festival with “Best Music Video” for his powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace” in September 2018, Carse says his favorite moment of the film festival was being able to perform the song during the awards ceremony.
“Being a part of the CIFF was an incredible experience,” said Carse. “It was a highlight to share the moment [perform the song] with this impressive group of filmmakers.”
The award was well deserved. Not only did Carse arrange and perform the song, but he also directed and produced the video. Commencing with a hypnotic visual of a lit match revealing the first page of Genesis, followed by stunning landscapes, Carse crossed musical styles including Pop, Gaelic, African and Native American. His rendition is described as a “multicultural experience, merging voices, scenes, and landscapes from North America, Madagascar and the United States.”
“Music is a way to unite differences,” said Carse. “In the video [Amazing Grace], we go from Gaelic to African, then Native American, and by the end, everyone is united. In the Bible and throughout history, music has always been used as a form of celebration … a gift from God to uplift the spirit.”
Carse uses his music, videos, non-profit work and charisma to do just that.
Carse by The Numbers
- Sold over 500,000 CDs worldwide.
- His album, Holiday Heroes , dedicated to the Special Olympics in Canada, generated over $2 million in net profit for the Special Olympics.
- Won 5 awards from the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association, including Best Feature Film and Best Male Vocal for the one-hour TV Special he produced for PBS.
- Received a 5-star review for his 36-show run in Las Vegas from Jerry Fink of the Las Vegas Sun.
Did You Know?
- Carse co-wrote and performed the song, “Reach Out,” which is the Official Song for The American Red Cross.
- His song and performance of the “Holy Land Experience” in Orlando is currently airing on TBN in the TV commercial for the popular tourist destination.
- PBS filmed a documentary on his life and career called “A Portrait of Steph Carse.”
- Steph Carse is a Chaplain. He studied under Edwin Quintana, who appeared in “The Lord’s Prayer” video as a police chaplain.
- A resident of Orlando, Florida for the past 20 years, Carse first moved to the United States from Canada to Nashville, Tennessee in 1997 to pursue his music career.
- Carse’s latest single, “I Only Have Eyes For You,” was his wedding song, thus his tribute to the power of romance and marital unity.
1993 – Stef Carse
1994 – Un Dernier Slow
1999 – Holiday Heroes (Special Olympics)
2006 – Reach Out (Album and TV special on PBS)
2012 – Now
2017 – My Shining Hour (Album and TV special)
2018- Hallelujah (A True Story)
2018- I Only Have Eyes For You
New upcoming album 2019
Carse’s Charity, Y I Count
Founded by Steph Carse in 2016, Y I Count serves to empower young kids by building confidence and celebrating their differences, rather than feeling shame over being different. It is a four-step program:
- understanding the miracle of their bodies
- understanding the power of words
- developing positive identity through the Awesome Challenge
- building character through empathy, done through acts of kindness
Recognized by the United Nations, Y I Count has an international outreach. To learn more, visit www.YiCount,org.