Arranger, composer, record producer and vocalist who has contributed greatly to the Christian music repertoire as well as fashioning a nifty career for himself as a session singer.
Walter S. Harrah matriculated from USC with a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Music and received his Masters Degree at Fuller Seminary in the field of Divinity. His career has certainly been blessed. By 1967, he was already a featured vocalist in concert with the Peninsula Symphony and Schola Cantorum, in a rousing performance of Zoltan Kodaly’s Te Deum at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center and DeAnza College in California.
In 1979, he was hob-knobbing with Frank Sinatra on his boxed set, Trilogy. The following year, he helped the prog-rock band Triumvirat serve up Al la Carte, and appeared on the soundtrack of Fame. It was just the beginning of a sidelight career in the movies. In 1981, he teamed up with Gene Merlino, Vern Rowe, Robert Tebow and Al Vescovo for a whimsical (and period-accurate) rendition of “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” for the Steve Martin lip-synched musical Pennies from Heaven. He was also a member of the chorus for the animated musical, Heidi’s Song, released the following year.
Walt’s bread and butter seems to be in the area of Christian songwriting, however. In 1984, what could be considered an early karaoke CD was released of one of his myriad compositions, “No More Night”, featuring versions with and without background vocals for every vocal range. It would later appear in the 2001 songbook The Anchor Holds and as the title of an Easter musical in 2006, titled—what else—No More Night: An Easter Musical for Every Choir.
Walt would do much in between, however. In 1985, he penned “Be Ye Holy”, and continued to juggle his songwriting and singing careers, arranging and providing backing vocals for Carman’s 1986 release, A Long Time Ago in a Land Called Bethlehem.
It was back to pen and paper in 1987 with a pair of new compositions, “The Lord is My Light”, performed by The Maranatha! Singers, with whom Walt was very active, and “Think about His Love”, co-penned with Mary McDonald.
In 1989, Walter lent his tenor voice to Bash ‘n the Code’s More than Enough and Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out, and cranked out another spiritual entitled “In the Lord Alone”. He was also billed as an additional voice in the animated Disney musical, The Little Mermaid. Walt’s alliance with Petra continued with their 1990 release, Beyond Belief.
In 1991, Wendy Swanson recorded his and Claire Cloninger’s “We Need Each Other” on her album, Sole Desire. The following year, Walt collaborated with Praise & Worship on Acapella and All Hail the Power, in tandem with David Ritter. He celebrated the Yuletide with Harry Connick, Jr., in 1993, on When My Heart Finds Christmas.
Walt has also been active with a vocal group called the Haven Quartet, and wears many hats with them, arranging, composing, and producing, as well as singing with the group on albums such as 1997’s Come Let Us Adore Him.
Let Your Glory Fall, the brainchild of Walter’s frequent partner-in-crime Don Moen, was released the same year. In 1998, the two of them would join forces on Worship with Don Moen: God is Good, and Walt provided background vocals on Vince Gill’s gospel album, Breath of Heaven.
Stockings were stuffed with a pair of albums featuring Walt in 1999, Amy Grant’s A Christmas to Remember, and a compilation simply titled Christmas Classics. He served as vocal arranger on Sara Paulson’s 2000 release, Once and For All, then returned to two of his favourite pastimes, movies and Christmas, as part of the choir in the 2003 version of Peter Pan and Chris Isaak’s 2004 Christmas release, with the catchy title, Christmas.
In fact, 2004 was a busy year for Walter, who sang backup to a bunch of Disney characters on Mickey’s Twice upon a Christmas, was part of the Mennonite Men’s Chorus on Let Your Light Shine, a concert album directed by Bob Plett, and provided Hugh Jackman with some vocal ambience on the soundtrack of Van Helsing. He performed similar duties the following year as Naomi Watts tried to get out of the clutches of King Kong.
On 28th January 2006, Walt was one of several composers who helped the National Association of Church Musicians to launch their fifth annual Choral Taste at the Westwood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California.
In keeping with his eclectic schedule, he also appeared on The Greatest Songs of the Sixties with Barry Manilow, and in 2007, performed the music of Danny Elfman in Meet the Robinsons. Other soundtracks on which he appears are American Gangster, Amistad, Constantine, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, The Fantastic Four, I, Robot, and Night at the Museum.
Walter’s songwriting credits are too extensive to list in their entirety, but here are some highlights: “Day after Day” was co-written with John Schreiner and performed by Katrina Perkins; “He is Faithful” and “He is Holy” appear in Praise Chorus Book – 3rd Edition; “In the Lord Alone” and “The Lord is My Light” (written with Jeff Nelson and Oley Speaks) made the cut in the songbook, Praise Hymns and Choruses; So did “I Will Delight (in the Law of the Lord)”, another Harrah-Schreiner concoction, which was performed by guitarist Fernando Ortega; “The Lord is My Light” also appears in The First Book of Tenor Solos; “The Lord is Holy” was performed by The Maranatha! Singers.
“Think about His Love” seems to be one of Walter’s most beloved songs, having appeared in All the Best Songs of Praise & Worship, The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and Hymns for Worship, He is Our Song, The Original Praise and Worship Song Book, and Songs for Praise and Worship, and it can also be heard on the CD, True Lift: Songs of Worship; and “We Remember You” is included in the songbook, Sacred Vocal Duets III.
As a member of the Haven Quartet, Walt has been involved in various capacities with the albums A Cappella Hymns, Awesome God, Enter In, Reflections: A Treasury of Hymns from Heaven, So Many Ways to Praise, Something to Sing About, and With One Voice.
He has also written a Christmas musical, Dawn of Promise, and an opera entitled On the Rock.
Walter also teaches vocal workshops at Biola University’s Conservatory of Music and is the worship minister at the Grace Evangelical Free Church, both of which are located in La Mirada, California. His website is currently under construction.
Here he is with friends performing “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries”…