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.
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.
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. :)
Ave Maria (Giulio Caccini/Patrick Liebergen, Alfred, 20142)
As usual, this isn't us, but we did have the lovely flute accompaniment.
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.)
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
Gloria in Excelsis (Vivaldi-Martens, Walton Music HL08500628 W2043), for the Gloria, of course.
Happy Easter, everyone!
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:
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (arr. Gilbert Martin, Theodore Presser Company, 312-40785)
Good Friday anthem:
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.
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. Google Translate gets the chorus perfectly:
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!
But in some places their translation is downright peculiar, e.g.
Let us seek drum of the heart
After our main and Savior
Stephan, would you care to elucidate?
Jesus ist erstanden!
(Text by Stephan Stücklin, based on Charles Wesley's "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today")
Jesus ist erstanden!
Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!
Christen, lasst die Kehlen klingen!
Stimmt mit Engelschören ein
Unserm Gott ein Lob zu singen
Freudenfest soll heute sein, denn (chorus)
Tod, dein Stachel ist gezogen
Unser König Jesus lebt!
Deine Macht ist nun verflogen
Und kein Christ mehr vor dir bebt, denn (chorus)
Liebe hat ihr Werk vollendet
Grab, gesprengt ist dein Verlies!
Christus hat das Blatt gewendet
Uns gehört das Paradies, denn (chorus)
Wir sind sein, durch Kreuz und Leben
Nun droht uns kein Ungemach!
Lasst uns drum von Herzen streben
Unserm Haupt und Heiland nach, denn (chorus)
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.
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.
Last Sunday it was our great pleasure to sing two beautiful anthems, both favorites of ours for a couple of decades.
Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove (Cox/Lindh, Sacred Music Press, S464)
Not the best recording, but good enough for this purpose.
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."
How do you get kids to practice their instruments?
That's the question of all parents who can't help having occasional misgivings about the large outflow of cash going toward music lessons. As far as I can tell, the only honest answer is, "I don't know. It's different from child to child, anyway." Nonetheless, I have made a couple of observations while visiting Heather and family and will set them down for what they're worth.
- Every child here over the age of three takes formal piano lessons. The just-turned-four-year-old is eagerly awaiting informal lessons in the summer, and the start of the "real thing" in the fall. They all enjoy their lessons, partly because their teacher is one of the best-loved in the area, and partly because she's also known to them as Grammy.
- Everyone over the age of six walks or bikes to Grammy's house for his lesson. Not only is this convenient for their parents, but I believe it helps them "take ownership" of the lessons. It also means that if they forget their music books, they're the ones who have to turn around and go back, so responsibility is naturally encouraged.
- Even with these advantages, practice time was hit-or-miss, until a simple change was made. All the kids have morning and afternoon chores, which they are (mostly) in the habit of completing with minimal fuss, "Practice piano" was simply added to the list, and voilà, regular practicing.
- Best of all, the piano is located in the middle of everything. You can hardly go from one place to another without passing the piano. It gets played a lot, because it's there.
- Here's something I'd never have thought of: practicing is a whole lot more fun because the piano is not just a piano. It's a "real piano" rather than just a keyboard, but it is actually an electric keyboard built into a piece of furniture. Thus it comes with all the extras of a keyboard: the ability to record one's playing, multiple timbres, the ability to split the keyboard (have different instruments in the bass and the treble), and more. Yes, this leads to a lot of fooling around, but how many times do you think the kids would practice a particular piece or passage on a mere piano, compared with playing it with the piano sound, then the bagpipes, then organ, then flute, then with various sound effects? Multiple repetitions, painlessly.
I still don't know the secret to getting kids to practice. But I can recognize good tools for a parent's toolbox when I see them.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Give to the Winds Your Fears (words by Paul Gerhardt, translated by John Wesley; music by Joseph M. Martin; Shawnee Press 35029616)
Porter graciously waited in the airport so I could sing this one with the choir. It was a special day because we had a guest cellist to play with us. (You can hear the cello part with the anthem, though not our performance, at the link above). The anthem itself was notable for a couple of reasons. First, the words (albeit in translation) are by Paul Gerhardt, a German hymn writer I've come to appreciate thanks to Stephan's efforts. Second, although I'd never heard of this hymn before, I encountered it again in a Christianity Today article on the temperance movement. (I've included the link, but you'll only just be able to start reading this one unless you're a subscriber.)
Many temperance advocates also promoted voting rights for women. After all, women were more likely than men to vote to shutter the saloons that were destroying their homes. Carrie Nation and her hatchet may be the most famous image, but the 1873-74 Woman's Crusade—which led to the founding of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)—is a more accurate representation, with its crowds of nonviolent protesters linked arm-in-arm before saloon doors. A later WCTU historian described the crusade in Ohio:
Walking two by two, the smaller ones in the front and the taller coming after, they sang more or less confidently, "Give to the Winds Thy Fears," that heartening reassurance of Divine protection now known to every WCTU member as the Crusade Hymn. Every day they visited the saloons and the drug stores where liquor was sold. They prayed on sawdust floors or, being denied entrance, knelt on snowy pavements before the doorways, until almost all the sellers capitulated.
Here's something else I learned from the article:
There are a number of misconceptions about the 19th-century temperance movement. The first, which was shared by temperance activists themselves, is that it didn't work. In fact, it did. American drinking dropped dramatically after the temperance movement took off in the 1830s. Americans in 1830 were drinking 7.1 gallons of absolute alcohol per year per person. ... By 1835, they were down to 5.0 gallons; by 1840, 3.1. By 1910, shortly before Prohibition, this had dropped to 2.6 gallons; post-Prohibition, it was down to 1.2.... Even after every moral loosening the 20th century wrought, from flappers to the counter-culture movement, by the year 2000, the average American drank less than a gallon of absolute alcohol. That's more than six gallons less a year than their ancestors had about 200 years before.