Star-Bulletin Features

Saturday, February 9, 2002

Jan Brenner, Christian music recording artist, will be performing songs at her concerts Friday and next Saturday at the Hawaii Theatre.

Rocking souls for
the rock of Ages

Christian recording artists will
rock on at an uplifting song fest

By Mary Adamski

"Rock of Ages." "Rock My Soul." Just combining the titles of the solemn, anthemlike hymn and the modern praise song with a touch of rap seems to describe the differences in Christian worship today.

Not so fast, says singer and composer Jan Brenner, whose "Rock My Soul" is a favorite on Christian radio stations. It's from Brenner's CD "Trust Him," a collection of original songs by the pop singer and her writing partners Bryan Kessler and Steve Jones, which was released in October.

"I'm drawn to the early hymns," said Brenner, a former Waikiki lounge entertainer who has been the opening act for Tom Jones and Beach Boys concerts and, more recently, on the Praise and Worship Team at Word of Life Christian Center.

"The older hymns talk about the basics of our faith. I like to listen to them," said the vivacious redhead, who is probably most recognizable to islanders from her 18 years as local co-host of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.

Jan Brenner's CD.

"We need to relate to young people, yes. And we need to keep the strong, foundational message of our faith. Jesus is our rock.

"That's why multimedia presentation is important. It can compete with the messages young people are getting from the culture."

What she seeks to do with her songs is create "a message that will edify listeners, build them up."

Definitely don't expect the anthems Friday and next Saturday at Hawaii Theatre. Christian music will rock the rafters as Brenner is joined by some of the top contemporary Christian recording artists nationally in two concerts sponsored by Waikiki Beach Chaplaincy and KAIM Radio.

>> True Vibe's "Jump, Jump, Jump" was No. 1 on the Christian charts last year. The pop quartet was started by Jonathan Lippman, formerly of 98 Degrees.

>> Nikki Leonti has four hits. Her most recent CD is "Shelter Me," and her "Everlasting Place" also topped the charts.

>> Fifteen-year-old Stacie Orrico's CD "Genuine" is also a hit on the airwaves.

>> Also featured will be the Halau of New Hope Christian Fellowship. Its repertoire ranges from hula to hip-hop.

Brenner is backed by three contemporary dancers and Noreen Lau, the rapper in "Rock My Soul."

"God gives me these songs, choruses, bridges, all of it," said Brenner, who always carries a recorder and finds the words and music flowing after a service or a Bible study. "They're very word-based, scripturally based. They may be wrapped in hip-hop or Latin or rock. You think you are writing for other people. They are also doing their work inside of me."

Brenner, who came to Hawaii 25 years ago, said, "I came from five generations of heathens. I lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, late nights, alcohol, too much partying. I always had the outside thing going for me, but inside was sad, lonely, lots of pain."

She was introduced to church at Faith Fellowship, attended by several other Waikiki entertainers, and "accepted Christ as my savior in 1990. When I made that decision, I was so happy to find peace, love. ... It filled up a hole."

At the same time, her worldly experience is valuable in her new life. "I've written many, many songs. I know what engages people because I've been singing for 20 years."

Brenner said her husband of 11 years, Caterer to the Stars owner Steve Ozark, "is a strong prayer partner."

Brenner is excited about moving from the Word of Life stage to the glittery historic Hawaii Theatre. It's quite a change from her recent venues.

She did Christmastime concerts at the new federal prison and the state Women's Community Correctional Center in Waimanalo. She is regularly heard on the public address systems of island craft fairs, thanks to a friend and fair organizer Sherry Bentley. Since her album was released, she's made guest appearances at several island churches -- including some more familiar with "Rock of Ages" -- and women's groups.

"I'm comfortable in any of those places," she said. "The power of music is that it has to be out there."

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