Last night I listened to Afghanis singing "Here I Am to Worship" in their Dari language. It was surreal, but I'd had similar experiences before. I have met the universal language, and it is American praise and worship songs.
I have sung them in church in Japan: American praise songs with Japanese words.
I have sung them in church in Switzerland: American praise songs with German words.
I have sung them in church in The Gambia: American praise songs with English words. (That makes more sense when you realize that English is the written language in the Gambia.)
I have no doubt that, as with McDonald's, I could encounter the same songs in China, India, New Zealand, Brazil, Kenya, Russia, and almost anywhere else in the world.
It does not make me especially happy to realize that the Church Universal is singing fast-food music. Just writing the above evokes images of Green Eggs and Ham: I will not sing them in a box, I will not sing them with a fox.
But I do, and I'll admit it is lovely to be able to worship fully with the local congregations. I'd rather be eating a more nourishing meal (singing hymns and/or local music), but I'll take fast food if that's what's served.
Everyone knows Makudonarudo.
Somebody (Grant Woolard) knows how to have fun! And I'm sure it was a ton of work, too. (Thanks, Dawn.)
The Sequel (I laughed out loud at 4:21, despite listening through headphones because I was the only one awake.)
The people of the nearby Congregation Beth Am invited our choir to join them for their Celebration of Liturgy a couple of Sundays ago. It was quite a fun afternoon. In additon to the Beth Am choir and our own from the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, participants were the Casa de Restauracion Misionera, a charismatic Hispanic church, and Fellowship Church, a non-denominational Christian Zionist congregation.
In other words, in ordinary life the chance that any one of us would step into a worship service of one of the other groups borders on infinitesimal.
I'd love to do it again. In fact, I'd like to see it expand to include more groups, because I've found that the three best ways of learning how much we have in common with people who differ from us are working together, eating together, and singing together—and this event covered two of them.
Interestingly, although at the most basic theological level we had more in common with the Christian groups, it was the Jewish choir I felt most comfortable with. I tend to be generally pro-Israel, but the strong, almost strident Zionist emphasis of Fellowship Church seemed to be more central to their nature than their Christian beliefs—though probably they were just seeking to honor our hosts. The Hispanic music of Restauracion was enthusiastic and heartfelt, and would not have been hard to participate in had the volume been 30-50 decibels lower, but as it was all my concentration had to be on saving my hearing. I had left my purse, with the earplugs I take nearly wherever I go, in the car. :(
But that's all okay. This gathering wasn't about being with people who are most like ourselves!
Perhaps most fun was the end, when we all sang a song together. I'd post it, but it's only available on Facebook, not YouTube. Not that there was anything special in the music, only that we were all singing it together.
Theological and musical differences aside, apparently everyone agrees on good food. We should eat together more often.
Recently we had the opportunity to participate in a diocesan youth choir festival at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando. I've been to children's choir festivals before, but not this one. One major difference was that some adult singers from participating churches were also included, so it was truly a multi-generational affair. My mistake was in thinking, "It's a children's choir festival, how hard can the music be?" Guess what? There's a big difference between a children's choir festival and a youth choir festival: this included not only young elementary school students but also those in high school—you know, the All-State-Chorus, make-superiors-at-Solo-and-Ensemble kind of high school student. There were some amazing voices there, and the music put my sight-reading confidence to the test for sure.
We had one long rehearsal on Saturday, then sang for the regular church service on Sunday. One of our younger choir members exclaimed, when he walked into the cathedral, "This is the biggest church in the world!" It's not, by a long shot, but it's still impressive. Another proclaimed the whole experience to be "epic."
And it was. I love our church and its service, but even in the Episcopal Church a service at the Cathedral is a cut above. I almost broke down during the processional, with the cross and candles and banners and incense and glorious music and so many people, young and old, in the procession. Glory, majesty, and awe are so often missing from church services, but this took my breath away.
Our own church is considered "high" because we sing much of the service, but at the Cathedral even more was sung instead of merely said. So much beautiful music, in a church with beautiful acoustics. Good acoustics encourage the congregation to sing, because you don't feel as if you are singing a solo, but are lifting your voice in song with everyone.
The service "belonged" to everyone, children and adults alike. Perhaps best of all, although the Festival choristers were welcomed and acknowledged, we didn't "perform" but were just a part of the regular worship service (albeit a bit fancier than usual). It was a glorious experience. Like our own church, but taken up a level.
Here's part of what we sang. As usual, the videos are not us, but something found on YouTube to bring the song list to life.
Praise (Dyson) We didn't join the choirs on this one. It's unison, for young, high voices.
Beautiful Savior by Robert Lee
Be Thou My Vision by Bob Chilcott
God Be in My Head by Philip Willby
This Little Light of Mine (William Bradley Roberts)
Three of our service music pieces, the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei, were by Carl MaultsBy, which is always a pleasure. He even stopped by briefly to encourage the kids.
The only part that made me a bit sad was knowing that none of our grandchildren have this kind of opportunity. On the other hand, how many children sing good music every day in their own homes, as part of their daily routine? And how many ten-year-olds get the chance to play in the same handbell choir as their mother, grandmother, and grandfather? We make, and rejoice in, what opportunities we can.
(My thanks to whichever Daley photographer took this video. Mine's still on the camera....)
I know a lot of hymns. We've sung in many denominations, and even in the Episcopal Church the congregation's favorites can vary significantly from church to church. But at our current church we feature not only the more common hymns, but also the ones in the Episcopal hymnal that are almost never sung. True, there's often a good reason why a particular hymn is unpopular, but most end up better than our choir expects when our director first introduces them.
And sometimes we discover hidden gold.
Last Sunday we sang Hymn 307 (Hymnal 1982), Lord Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor.
This is the best version I could find on YouTube, because the hymn tune, BRYN CALFARIA (not "California," which is how I first read it) is at least as important as the words, especially with the stirring harmony, which alas is hard to hear in the video. You can see both the text and the music, including the harmony with the alto line that was so much fun to sing, by clicking here. (When you get there, don't forget to click on the link to the next page, also. It's a two-page hymn.)
Along with much of the rest of the world, I mourn the unexpected loss of a wonderful musician.
About the musician born Prince Rogers Nelson I feel nothing more than normal sorrow due at the death of any human being. His heyday was after my time (I was too busy raising babies to care about the music scene) and I don't like his style of music anyway.
But nine days earlier the world lost another amazing musician: my own cousin Mike. He was two years younger than me, but the shock and sorrow of his death is far more than just a sharp reminder of my own mortality.
We were not particularly close as children, growing up as we did half a continent (and for two years, half a world) apart, in a day when communication and travel were far more difficult than they are now. But I was deeply moved when in later years he attended Janet's Eastman School recital, and—thanks to Facebook—we had recently begun to become reacquainted.
Mike was one of my favorite sorts of Facebook friends: an example of how people who differ markedly in political leanings, social attitudes, and lifestyle can still express their views freely while listening to one another and respecting each other's humanity. Much as I love having friends who agree with me, disagreeing with respect is such an important (and famously lacking) skill that in some ways I appreciate that even more. Except for the use of the term enemy (opponent would perhaps have served my purpose better), I'm reminded of a quote from C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle: "Has not one of the poets said that a noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best?"
But Mike and I did not have nearly enough time to enjoy and explore that relationship. We had barely begun. I had no time to appreciate properly his musicianship, much less his heart of compassion for the lonely, the weary, the down-and-out.
Truthfully, much of Mike's music is a bit too dark for me, and it's not the style I generally prefer to listen to—though far, far closer to my own taste than the music of Prince!—but that doesn't stop me from recognizing and appreciating his considerable talent and skill.
Here's one of his songs, the best of the recordings I could find on YouTube:
You can learn a lot more about Mike's music at http://www.mcubedmusic.com/ and http://michaelmclaughlinmusic.com/. At the first link you can hear songs from his album, Part of the Plan. The second features his newest album, just recently released: Spare Me Some Humanity. The latter makes me grieve all the more that his career was cut short, because I love the increasing influence of world music on his compositions. At this site you can hear more from Spare Me Some Humanity, but alas only brief excerpts of each piece.
Of course my cousin was much more than his music ... but his music is easier to write about.
Rest in peace, Mike.
Although our choir director might think me heretical, I'm not much of a fan of Broadway shows. It's not that I don't like musicals; I loved playing in the orchestra pit of the Rosemont Rollicks community theater back in the 70's, and have even enjoyed watching the occasional live performance or movie version. But I don't go out of my way to see them, and I can't imagine why people would pay outrageous prices to attend a show in New York City.
Maybe that's because whenever I've been in town, I've spent as much time as possible at the New York Public Library. It's the same with Boston, where I'd skip most of the other sights to have more time at the New England Historic Genealogical Society's library on Newbury Street. Crazy, I know.
Be that as it may, an Occasional CEO post about entrepreneurship has against all odds made me excited about a new Broadway show. I'll be happy to wait for a production that is less expensive and closer to home, or on video. But I want to see "Hamilton." Check out the opening number (NSFG - language).
Easter is in less than three weeks so it's time to bring back my favorite new Easter song from last year. I know it's still Lent, but the only way to learn a new song in time for Easter is to start practicing earlier. Enjoy!
Lullaby by Steph Shaw
Here's a shoutout to our very talented cousin-in-law. (If there's a word for "son-in-law's cousin" I don't know it.) Steph Shaw is a singer-songwriter and the mother of three adorable girls. "Lullaby" was written with the first, recorded with the second, and released with the third.
Naptime. It's what you make of it.
Enjoy! And don't forget to check out Steph's Facebook page.
I've neglected to keep track of our choir anthems lately, but here are some for the most recent weeks:
A Prayer for Peace (Henry Baker/Karissa Dennis, Shawnee Press, 35030316) With cello.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms (Eric Nelson, MorningStar Music Publishers, 50-8970) With cello and oboe.
Holy, Holy, Holy (Robert Clatterbuck, Hope Publishing Company, C 5470). No YouTube video, so the link takes you to the anthem on sheetmusicplus.
Look at the World (John Rutter, Hinshaw Music, NMC1527) Always lovely, always Rutter.
They Shall Soar Like Eagles (Laura Manzo, Fred Brock Music, BG2078)
Kum Ba Yah (John Rutter, Hinshaw Music, HMC2435) (No YouTube; the link takes you to the anthem on J.W. Pepper).
This is simple but not just your father's campfire song (or yours); this is Rutter. According to the notes in our bulletin,
When composer John Rutter heard the news that his close friend Nelson Mandela had died, he couldn't speak and walked to the piano and created the arrangement of Kum Ba Yah.
Rather cool, even if we do all have our mouths open. (Click to enlarge, or follow this link.)
I try to avoid clickbait—you know, the Internet equivalent of the TV news teaser, "World ends tonight, details at 11"—but this one on Facebook mentioned both "Basel, Switzerland" and "drum corps" in the subtitle, so I succumbed. I was glad I did. (Thanks, BJ.)
The Top Secret Drum Corps founded the now-famous Basel Tattoo in 2006. I enjoyed watching the parade in 2010, though we didn't attend the Tattoo itself, being fully entertained by newborn Joseph.
A short (three-minute) video, just for fun. Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale. Enjoy.
Pentecost is always a special occasion, but its coinciding with Memorial Day Weekend this year meant our choir numbers were reduced to the point where we sang no anthem, but just a simple praise song for the offertory. No matter; we sang a lot of great hymns, and what makes the event post-worthy is that, after whining two weeks ago that we'd missed Hail Thee, Festival Day the Sunday after Easter, I have to report that we were present for the Pentecost version. There's a version for Ascension, too, but just recently I discovered one I'd missed all these years. (H/T Molly)
On Saturday we had the privilege of singing for a special ordination service for deacons at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke. Choirs from the home churches of the ordinands were invited to join the Cathedral Choir, and since one of the four to-be-deacons was from our former church, and one from our present, we were able to do double duty. Alas, only one choir member from our former church was able to participate, so it was not quite the grand reunion we had hoped for, but it was great to sing with her again, anyway. And it was great to sing with the Cathedral Choir.
Although we have attended the Cathedral at times, and every once in a while considered making it our home church, to be part of their choir is not something we've aspired to. There are a number of reasons for that, some better than others. One of the not-so-good ones is that I've been terrified of auditions ever since my junior high chorus teacher attempted to figure out who was singing the wrong note by having each of us sing it individually, in front of the whole class. Junior high is not a time of high confidence for most people, certainly not for me, and not a sound would come from my throat, no matter how much she pushed me. That's still one of my strongest junior high school memories.
I managed to overcome my fear of auditions just once, when in high school I had the opportunity to audition for the Choralaires, the dream of a lifetime. Okay, it was a short lifetime at that point, but still, I had been admiring that group for as long as our family had been enjoying their concerts. (If you click on that link, you'll be able to read an article about the Choralaires, though you'll have cancel out of a print—without the print command the link takes you to where you can only access part of the article.) Anyway, I survived the audition, and when the list of those who had made the elite group was posted, there was my name! Still, such was my self-confidence that I have to this day been unable to shake the suspicion that somehow my parents had convinced the director to accept me, knowing that we were moving out of state that year and I wouldn't be able to accept the position. Crazy, I know—that's not the kind of thing my parents would have done—but how else to explain my success? My experience was not unlike that of children who become terrified of mathematics for life because of a bad school experience. Some teachers have a lot to answer for. Fortunately, there are also people later in our lives who can gently lead us out of our fears, and I've benefitted from some wonderful choir directors. But I still can't imagine joining a choir that requires auditions.
All that long digression aside, it was lovely to be in the great choir loft, singing with the Cathedral choir, under the direction of Ben Lane—even seated where I could watch him in action at the organ. Our choir was well-represented, and our own director had prepared us well. I don't think any of us felt well prepared, as the music was difficult, but as it turned out, it all went well.
(This is just the audio, no YouTube versions available.)
On his website, the composer says of this recording (by the Cathedral Choir at a previous occasion), "They really did a great job finding the music hiding in the notes!" That says a lot. There were, as Porter is fond of saying, "a lot of accidentals waiting to happen," and the notes never seemed to go where I expected them to. Nonetheless, the piece grew on me, a lot, to the point where it actually became an earworm. Amazing, what sufficient practice can do!
We also sang Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether by Harold Friedell, which was not new to those of us who had sung at the bishop's ordination three years ago. You can hear it (and see us) beginning at 48:55. Somehow there's a way to embed just part of a video, but whether it's due to LifeType limitations or to my own ignorance, I haven't been able to make it happen.