National Lutheran News

Folk, rock and liturgical all fit this musician’s repertoire

Jonathan Rundman plays all the instruments himself

The two-disc set of musical CDs, “Sound Theology,” seems to be theologically sound. And that’s just what Minnea-polis-based folk-rock sing-er/songwriter Jonathan Rundman intended.
The collection, issued in 2002, includes 52 musical selections based on the 52-week liturgical calendar followed by Lutheran congregations. Though one review of his work characterized his style as that of a “bar-room balladeer,” that’s not the full picture of Rundman. He’s a devout Lutheran who prefers traditional church music as a counterbalance to his folk-rock interests.

“Sound Theology” was Rundman’s third CD effort and took nearly a year of songwriting and recording to complete. The full title (a real mouthful) is: “Sound Theology: Perspectives on faith and rock & roll from a Finnish-American Mid-western Generation X Luth-eran at the turn of the millennium.”

Some of the songs in that set carry titles like “Forgiveness Waltz,” “The Loneliness of Happiness,” “Dance of the Confirmands” and “Texas Kyrie.” On “Easter 2” he intones a romantic infatuation with the girl in the hand bell choir. The selection is titled “Carol of the Bells.” (Carol is the girl’s name, of course.) The lyrics go, “She rings G and she rings A…they don’t trust those notes with anyone else.”

Thrivent, the magazine of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, quoted Rundman as saying, “Unlike a lot of bands that are interdenominational, I’m interested in being a Lutheran. I’m more into exploring my Lutheran background, and the older I get, the more I appreciate my heritage.”

For his recording sessions he sometimes plays multiple instruments from piano to drums to accordion, recording various instruments on different tracks to, in effect, be his own band. While on solo tours of the country, he relies on his guitar.

His latest CD is titled “Jonathan Rundman: Public Library.” A recent review in City Pages, a Twin Cities entertainment newspaper, opined that Rundman is “a prolific original unto himself” and not readily compared to other new-wave musical stylists.

Rundman has played in a variety of settings, ranging from the 2000 Youth Gath-ering of the ELCA in St. Louis to synod assemblies to church college events.

A native of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Rundman was active in youth groups in the North-ern Great Lakes Synod. Later he worked in a synod camp, leading campfire singing, among other things.

Until 2002, Rundman and his wife, Dawn, lived in the Chicago area. Dawn has a Ph.D. degree in developmental psychology and was on the staff of Concordia University at River Forest, Illinois, for six years. She then had an opportunity to become children’s editor at Augsburg Fortress Publish-ers in Minneapolis. Jonathan observed, “She loves her job, and I can work anywhere.”

Right now, he’s a stay-at-home dad and showed up for his Metro Lutheran interview with his year-old son, Paavo. That name has a distinctively Finnish sound to it, though Jonathan’s surname sounds less Finnish. He says his family originated in the Swedish-speaking area of Finland and the name reflects that geographical heritage.

Jonathan formerly did up to 150 concert dates a year and was constantly on the road. Now, he and Paavo have lots of bonding time. But Jonathan does find time to pursue his musical interests, making and selling recordings and doing occasional live performances. In February of 2005 he’s on the program at the ELCA Youth Workers Convention in Los Angeles. Jonathan’s next local appearance is scheduled at Spirit Garage (ELCA) in Uptown Minneapolis Sunday, January 16, for both the 10 and 11:15 a.m. worship services (call 612-827-1074 for additional information).

His recordings sell under the Salt Lady Records label. That tag recognizes the importance in his life of an aunt who was always throwing salt on the slippery driveways and sidewalks in the harsh winters of the Michigan Upper Peninsula.

Turning a bit philosophical, he says, “Many times there’s a huge gap between the sacred and secular in music. For me, faith infiltrates all of my life as well as my music. My Lutheran background enables me to do that. Every day can be a sacred event.”

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For more information about Jonathan Rundman and Salt Lady Records, call 612-529-3492 or check the Web site: jonathanrundman.com/church.html.