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.

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Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 11:54 am | Edit
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A short (three-minute) video, just for fun.  Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale.  Enjoy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 9:12 am | Edit
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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)

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Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 8:38 am | Edit
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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.

alt(click to enlarge; photo credit Rick Pitts)

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.

Our first anthem was Praise Ye the Lord by Stan Cording.

(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.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 10:56 am | Edit
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Tomorrow is Pentecost, which means this is the last day of the Easter season.  Which means ... I'm giving Stephan's new Easter song one more play.  For the words and further details, see the original post.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 6:13 am | Edit
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One of our favorites, well worth repeating.

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To Love Our God (Mark Hayes, Hinshaw Music HMC1576)

 

 

We sang some good hymns, too, including "Praise the Lord through Every Nation" (Hymnal 1982 #484) which probably doesn't sound familiar to you.  It didn't to me, until I realized the tune was WACHET AUF, and so we enjoyed this gorgeous Bach harmony outside of Advent, which is when we usually sing the more familiar "Sleepers, Wake."

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 7:07 am | Edit
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The Episcopal Church doesn't give secular holidays prominence in the liturgy, hence we are never in danger of becoming, in the words of a friend lamenting practices in her own church, a place where "Mother's Day is a bigger deal than Easter."  Not that the day was entirely ignored:  women received flowers, and mothers, would-be mothers, and substitute mothers were all acknowledged during the announcements.  With sympathy for those for whom the holiday brings sorrow, I think we go too far in saying nothing of substance to anyone lest we should by any means offend some.  But I digress.  I think the most appropriate thing we did in church in honor of Mother's Day was to sing this anthem. :)

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Ave Maria (Giulio Caccini/Patrick Liebergen, Alfred, 20142)

 

 

As usual, this isn't us, but we did have the lovely flute accompaniment.

On the other hand, there was no discernable connection between Mother's Day and the fact that we sang a hymn that I probably shouldn't mock—an Internet search reveals that some people really like it—but, really.  Yes, it was that hymn.  The "loud boiling test tubes hymn."  Otherwise known as "Earth and All Stars."

Earth and all stars, loud rushing planets,
sing to the Lord a new song!
O victory, loud shouting army,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Hail, wind, and rain, loud blowing snowstorms,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Flowers and trees, loud rustling leaves,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Trumpet and pipes, loud clashing cymbals,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Harp, lute, and lyre, loud humming cellos,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Engines and steel, loud pounding hammers,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Limestone and beams, loud building workers,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Classrooms and labs, loud boiling test tubes,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Athlete and band, loud cheering people,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Knowledge and truth, loud sounding wisdom,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Daughter and son, loud praying members,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Children of God, dying and rising,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Heaven and earth, hosts everlasting,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

The Episcopal Hymnal (1982) omits the last verse, perhaps thinking that enough is enough, but I could have cried, "Enough!" a lot sooner.

What do I know?  But to me, the music isn't particularly musical and the poetry is even less poetical.  Most frustrating is the nonsense in the words.  "Loud rushing planets"?  What does that mean in the silent vacuum of space?  If you grant poetic license there, in a "music of the spheres" sense, what do I make of "loud boiling test tubes"?  Or "loud humming cellos"?  (Maybe for the latter the author was anticipating the 2CELLOS folks, but while they may be loud, I don't hear them humming.)  Is volume a reasonable attribute of wisdom?  Really?

I'll give the author credit for one thing, however:  the "athlete and band" line.  Has any other song ever put the band on equal footing with the sports team?

So for that, I'll happily publicize the hymn.  That, and in thanksgiving that we sing it very rarely.  I like that about our church:  we sing the greatest variety of music of any church we've yet been a part of.  That doesn't stop me, however, from wishing we had been out of town for this one instead of missing "Hail Thee, Festival Day." :(

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 15, 2015 at 6:30 am | Edit
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Make Me an Answer to Prayer (Dan Adler/Dan Goeller, Gladsong, 0-8006-7440-5)

 

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 4:43 pm | Edit
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Come Follow Me (Martin/Williams, Harold Flammer Music, A7933)

 

 

I included the above version because it is in English, but for joy of listening, the next is much better, especially since it lacks the really annoying metronome sound in the former.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 24, 2015 at 8:47 am | Edit
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For us, Easter started last night with an Easter Vigil service that was over two hours long, but wonderful.  Lighting of the New Fire, procession, candles, singing, and a large number of baptisms (adult and child), confirmations, and first communions.  The latter is why it was so long, but who would want fewer?  I love that our church has a means of doing infant baptism by immersion (parents' choice).  I also love that moment when the lights come on and we shout the first Alleluia of Easter—alleluias are banished from the service during Lent—with the whole congregation sounding bells and other happy noisemakers.  (There were a few unhappy noisemakers as well, as it was a long and late night for the above-mentioned children.)  I brought my tambourine, and Porter the ship's bell that Dad had given us so long ago.  The latter makes quite an impressive sound.

And this morning we got to celebrate again!  One of these years I expect we'll attend each and every service from Palm Sunday through Easter, one for each day of the week and two on Sunday, but not this time:  once again we skipped the sunrise service, as getting to church by 8:00 for the Easter brunch seemed early enough after our late night.  The youth choir sang at the sunrise service and had to be there at 6:15 to help with setup; the service is held down by the lake.  I know, it seems backwards:  we keep the little kids up late, and wake the teenagers early.  But it's a very special time, and sacrifice is part of the process.  The brunch was followed by an egg hunt for the children, but we skipped that, because (1) our grandchildren weren't here to enjoy it, and (2) the choir rehearsed during that time for the final service of the day at 10:00.

Of all the services, that one is the most traditional as modern-day Easter services go.  (The Easter Vigil is actually the oldest, dating back to the very early days of Christianity.)

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Prelude and Introit:  A Mighty Fortress (Martin Luther, setting by Joel Raney, Hope Publishing)  Judging by YouTube, the handbell version is more popular, but if you click on the link (not the image) you'll hear something more like what we had, with our brass, flute, organ, piano, and choir.  My only complaint is that because it is primarily an instrumental work, the choir sings only one verse of the hymn, and the first verse of Luther's great hymn is not a good place to stop.  But that was okay, because I doubt the congregation actually discerned the words over the glory of the brass and organ.

Next up, the processional hymn Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, then (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Edit
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I've said it before, and it's still true:  how blessed we are to be at a church ten minutes away from home (seven in good traffic).  We've been in that situation before—in Rochester (NY) our church was only a block from home, and in Norwood (MA) it was a fine walk in good weather—but much of our time has been in churches that required significant driving time.  Being so close makes it easy, or as easy as can be with busy schedules, to attend the mid-week (Monday - Saturday) Holy Week services, which are always so powerful.

For a more complete description of the general layout, see last year's Holy Week post.  This year is much the same, albeit with some changes in the music.  Here are the major ones:

Maundy Thursday anthem:

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When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (arr. Gilbert Martin, Theodore Presser Company, 312-40785)

 

 

Good Friday anthem:

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When Jesus Wept (William Billings, arr. A. F. Schultz, St. James Music Press

This is not the Parker/Shaw arrangement some of you know, which remains my favorite.  However, this is also a good one, and I'm sorry I can't include a link here.  All of my Internet sources have failed me this time.

We won't be singing as a choir for the Easter Vigil service tonight, but we'll be there with bells on.  (Almost literally—mine may be a tambourine.  Bells and other joyful noise makers are for the Great Alleluia of Easter.)

Then we get to celebrate all over again tomorrow, with a lot more music and joyful alleluias.  But that will be for another post.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Edit
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I'd planned to post this on Easter itself, but then I figured, why let it get lost among all the other Easter music I'll be posting?  It's a brand-new Easter song, and every choir singer knows it's best to learn new songs before the actual event.

Not that many of you will be learning the words, since they are in German.  I won't attempt a translation, but the text is based on the traditional Easter hymn, "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today."  But the music is exciting, and even if you don't know German, I almost guarantee that if you listen a few times, the chorus will stay with you.  As earworms go, it's a great one.

Here's the cool part:  This new Easter song was written (music and text) by none other than our own Stephan Stücklin.

Here's the question:  Can a German praise song go viral on YouTube?  :)

Congratulations, Stephan; I think it's great and hope it spreads like wildfire throughout German-speaking churches.  I'd happily sing it in our own church, but while the choir will occasionally sing in Latin (albeit reluctantly on the part of some), we've already drawn the line at French.  (Cantique de Jean Racine in English is better than not at all, but....).  I'm not too hopeful that German praise songs will become as popular here as English praise songs are in the German-speaking world.

 

I've copied the text below, in case anyone wants to attempt a translation.  (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 8:15 am | Edit
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Thus begins Holy Week.  It couldn't have been better weather:  sunny, dry, temperatures dancing around 60 (a nice break between episodes of 80's).  Of course we sang All Glory, Laud, and Honor while nearly everyone processed around the church grounds.  The end of the line got off from the beginning in the singing, but that's standard, too, and we all came together as we entered the church.  We waved palms and played instruments, and I even got to wail on my tambourine.

I really enjoyed our anthem, which I had not expected, as it's definitely not my style of music.  But it finally came together for me in the service.

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Hosanna (Paul Baloche, Brenton Brown/Robert Sterling, Word Music, 08089039270)

I apologize for the recording (click on the image), but bad as it is, it really is better than what I was able to find on YouTube, which is all electric guitars and flashing lights and pounding drumbeats (yes, more headache-inducing than in this recording).  Truth be known, I'm sure the YouTube versions are closer to the original, especially since some of them are by the author himself....  But I like our version better.

I won't mention all the service music, but it was beautiful, and I can't resist pointing out that we're on a Paul Gerhardt roll—an anthem two weeks ago and O Sacred Head today.

Our recessional was the solemn and awesome Vaughan Williams hymn, At the Name of Jesus.  I've loved that hymn for a long time, but today singing it was a bit surreal for me, as superimposed on it in my heart was a vision of the Christians being slaughtered by ISIS and other extremists for exactly that Name of Jesus.

At the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,
Every tongue confess Him King of glory now;
’Tis the Father’s pleasure we should call Him Lord,
Who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

At His voice creation sprang at once to sight,
All the angel faces, all the hosts of light,
Thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,
All the heavenly orders, in their great array.

Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners unto whom He came,
Faithfully He bore it, spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious when from death He passed.

Bore it up triumphant with its human light,
Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

Name Him, brothers, name Him, with love strong as death
But with awe and wonder, and with bated breath!
He is God the Savior, He is Christ the Lord,
Ever to be worshipped, trusted and adored.

In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue
All that is not holy, all that is not true;
Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour;
Let His will enfold you in its light and power.

Brothers, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
With His Father’s glory, with His angel train;
For all wreaths of empire meet upon His brow,
And our hearts confess Him King of glory now.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Edit
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Last Sunday it was our great pleasure to sing two beautiful anthems, both favorites of ours for a couple of decades.

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Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (Cox/Lindh, Sacred Music Press, S464)

Not the best recording, but good enough for this purpose.

 

 

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God So Loved the World (Stainer, G. Schirmer, 3798)

This is the third church choir with which we've had the privilege of singing God So Loved the World.  If we weren't quite good enough on Sunday to sing it completely a cappella, we will be next time.  :)

 

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 8:01 am | Edit
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I'm quite behind in logging our choir anthems, mostly because we've been gone a lot.  Rather than attempting to catch up, I'll just begin again with last Sunday.  Both were repeats:  Give to the Winds Your Fears, and The Lord's Prayer, and were in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of two of our church members.  What else do they have in common?  Cello parts.  A generous member of the congregation has made it possible for us to have a cellist play with us once a month, and Raphael is a favorite of us all.

He also provides good spiritual excercise for me, as he is very active with a local youth orchestra, the very existence of which is a burr under my skin because of a series of unfortunate and painful events that took place nearly 20 years ago.  Whenever he comes, I can't help remembering those times.  It's absolutely ridiculous that I should still allow it to upset me—not to mention that I'm commanded to forgive even my enemies, and if these folks made our lives difficult for a while they certainly didn't cut off anyone's heads.  So I listen to Raphael's beautiful cello music and forgive, again.  People who preach forgiveness sometimes forget to warn that it must often be renewed many times.  Or, as a friend puts it, "I placed my sacrifice on the altar, but it crawled off."

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Edit
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