Our anthem for Sunday, February 2, 2014.

God Watches Over You (Joel Raney, Hope Publishing C5581)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Edit
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Our anthem for Sunday, January 26, 2014.

Down to the River to Pray (arr. Sheldon Curry, Daybreak/Hal Leonard 08743261)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 27, 2014 at 10:46 am | Edit
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In one way or another, we covered a lot of bases with our church music last Sunday.  It was a wild ride.  But that's one thing I like about our church.  From Deck Thyself My Soul with Gladness to Shout to the Lord, from What Star is this with Beams so Bright to How Great Thou Art, from There's a Wideness in God's Mercy to a couple I'll highlight:

First, our choir anthem, Praise His Holy Name by Keith Hampton (earthsongs).

We arrived early at church, and having discovered that the processional hymn was a new one to us, I plunked it out on the piano several times before the director arrived.  It may sound easy, but it is decidedly not if you've never heard it before.  Mercifully, he took it down a whole third from what is written in our hymnal.

I would never have guessed that Lift Every Voice and Sing was an African-American song, much less the "Black National Anthem" as it is sometimes called.  Not knowing the tempo at which it is apparently usually sung (judging by the YouTube recordings I listened to), I took it at a faster clip, and would have guessed it to be a World War I era song, or maybe something from the Salvation Army.  If you listen to it and note that the middle part sounds like the more militant parts of Les Miserables, be assured that this was written in 1899/1900 by James Weldon Johnson and his brother John Rosamond Johnson.

The experience reminded my very much of singing with grandson Joseph, who chooses hymns not by name, but by number, providing an interesting tour through the more obscure parts of the hymnal.  Fun!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 6:17 am | Edit
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December 15 was the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday.  This day of rejoicing in the midst of the somber Advent season was fitting for our church's service of Lessons and Carols.  Christmas Eve would have been still more appropriate, but in a time when many choir members are out of town for Christmas—not to mention a time when pastors really, really don't want to give up their opportunity to preach to a packed church—compromises are made.  I love the Lessons and Carols service:  lots of Scripture readings, lots of music, no sermon.  Apologies to my pastor friends and relatives....

I know that the entire service was videotaped, but that's not available right now, so I once again resort to what I can find online.  Except for Christmastime, that is, which features our choir of two years ago—before we joined, so don't strain your eyes looking for us.  I'll modify this post if and when our own versions become available.  Hymn numbers are from the Episcopal Hymnal (1982).  We, personally, did not sing all of the works listed below; some were solos, some by youth and children's choirs.

Prelude:  Soli Deo Gloria (arr. Mark Hayes)  Our youth choir sang the non-Latin words in English, but this Russian version is cool.

How thankful we are to have been part of this service.


Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 11:01 am | Edit
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Three anthems, sung Sunday, November 24, 2013.  [Oops.  Forgot to hit "publish" before going out of town.]

Be Thou My Vision (arr. Jay Rouse, PraiseGathering Music A08367).  Our choir director cynically (though no doubt correctly) posits that arrangers always mess with the originals because that way they can make money on them.  But in this case I have to say that as much as I like the usual version, I also like this unusual arrangement.  The syncopation makes it feel more Irish—though only if you take it a bit faster, as we did.  I don't like this rendition, but the other one I could find online I liked even less.

For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliott S. Pierpoint, Conrad Kocher, setting by Joel Raney, Hope C5733)

No YouTube video that I could find, but you can hear it at the link above.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Edit
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Last year for Veterans Day I posted the honor roll of all those—thus far documented—in our direct lineage who have served in the military, from the Pequot War to World War II.  (We don't go any further than that directly, though I'll tip my hat as well to some current family who married in.) Today I invite you to remember your favorite veterans and enjoy some selections from our church service yesterday, November 10, 2013.  In the Episcopal Church, at least in my experience, no secular occasion (e.g Mothers Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day) is ever the focus of the service, but we do allow ourselves a little time to remember what the rest of the country is celebrating.  After having the veterans of various branches of the service stand, we sang the part everyone knows of God Bless America, which I don't need to include here.  Below are the anthems we sang.

A Prayer for Our Time (Joseph and Pamela Martin, Harold Flammer A7600).  It took me a while to warm up to this anthem, written in response to the events of September 11, 2001, because my favorite of that genre has always been our own Robert Kerr's Prayer for Peace.  But it has definitely grown on me, and singing it yesterday was spectacular.  It's been a long time since I've been in a choir where the singing gave me goose bumps!  It's not that our choir is so spectacular, but it's good enough that sometimes everything comes together just right.  (Again, remember, that the videos below are not us.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Edit
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Our choir anthem for Sunday, October 27, 2013:  When in Our Music God Is Glorified (arr. by Mark Hayes, Beckenhorst Press, BP1750). 

I couldn't find a YouTube video, but you can hear it at JWPepper.com:  When in Our Music God Is Glorified.  This was particularly fun because I thought it wasn't going to be.  That is, we only rehearsed it twice, once on Wednesday and once on Sunday, and like most of Mark Hayes' arrangements, it was non-trivial.  Still, as happens unbelieveably often, it all came together in the service.  Not perfect, but I'm learning to tame my inner perfectionist and be pleased with GEIBTP (Good Enough Is Better Than Perfect) in many areas of life.  I don't like feeling unprepared, but when you surf the big wave and succeed, it's thrilling.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Edit
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It's not the most profound of Christmas anthems, nor the most beautiful, nor at the top of the list of anthems I'd most like to sing.  It's not a Christmas anthem at all, but one for Epiphany.  And I'm pretty sure we'll actually be singing it during Advent, which is when we'll have our Christmas Lessons and Carols service.  Be all that as it may, the fun quotient for this anthem is over the top, and I'm thrilled to be singing it.  Any former Candlelight singers want to join us?  Smile

Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy (Lanny Wolfe, arr. Derric Johnson, Benson 45757-2018-7)

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, October 25, 2013 at 9:10 am | Edit
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Our choir anthem for Sunday, October 13, 2013:  When I Think of You (Michael W. Smith, arr. by Gary Rhodes, Word Music, 0 80689 28127 3). 

Since our Cherub Choir was featured, I was hoping to have a video of them to show here, but it hasn't appeared on Facebook yet, so instead you can hear it at JWPepper.com:  When I Think of You.  If you picture a bunch of African kids singing (and dancing), the music makes a lot more sense.

Sunday was also St. Francis Day, with the annual Blessing of the Animals.  This is when I get to brag that we go to a snake-handling church.  Dogs outnumbered every other pet by far, however.  Now picture an outdoor service, with animals everywhere, including two very excitable dogs in the choir, and a bunch of very excitable, very young Cherubs ... no wonder the priest said, as he greeted the newcomers, "It's not like this every Sunday."

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 7:43 am | Edit
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Last night the youth choir at our church gave a concert.  The theme was the history of Contemporary Christian Music, a genre rather low on my list of music that I can stomach appreciate.  But with increasing familiarity—and (I cannot say this too often) the fact that I'm now in a church where we sing it at a volume that does not cause me to think more about the pain in my ears than anything else—I'm beginning to like more than a few of these songs. Besides, these are our kids, and deserve support.  I'm continually amazed not only at how good their voices are, but at how many of them have the guts to stand up and sing solos.  Our music director is amazing—the more I see, the less I can buy his argument that he just has great kids to work with.

Be that as it may, I can't say I enjoyed the selection of songs, even though a number were familiar, some from a long way back.  A couple hit home, however.  Blessed Be Your Name always does.  And then there was Heaven Is in My Heart.  My immediate reaction was that I'd never heard of it.  Then again, it sounded so familiar.  Just not quite right.  Finally, it hit me:  Der Himmel Erfüllt Mein Herz.  I had sung it not much more than a month ago, but as far as I was concerned it was a German praise song.  I had no idea there was an English version.  My mind knows how interconnected the world now is; my heart does, too, since we have intimate connections across the ocean.  But my gut is having trouble catching up, apparently:  running unexpectedly into something from another part of my world always astonishes me.

It's funny how the language challenge adds a complexity that makes praise songs far more interesting, at least when you're singing them.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 6:33 am | Edit
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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Christopher Wilkins, conductor
Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Ron Nelson:  Savannah River Holiday
Mozart:  Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor
Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben

This is the first time in my memory that Maestro Wilkins hasn't opened the season with a big choral work—a neat device that brings in friends and relatives of the choristers as well as others who don't normally attend orchestral concerts.  Even so, there was a good house for this concert.

It was a good concert, too.  The Orlando Philharmonic has grown a good deal as an orchestra since its early days, and is a pleasure to listen to.  The only reason I'm disappointed is that the "big event" of the evening, the Strauss, left me unexcited.  Oh, it's exciting enough to have so many musicians on the stage—just one short of 100, according to Wilkins—but Ein Heldenleben isn't my favorite of Richard Strauss's works.

Jon Kimura Parker did wonderfully with the Mozart, however, and even granted us a short encore:  Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G major.

The Mozart may have been the best, but my favorite piece was Ron Nelson's Savannah River Holiday.  Nelson wrote the piece in 1953, while he was still an undergraduate at Eastman.  Well, that's what the program notes say; his biography says he received his bachelor's degree in 1952.  I'm still impressed.  Here's a quote from his webpage:  "In 1993, his Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H) made history by winning the "triple crown" of major wind band composition prizes."  I include that because I'm pretty sure at least one of our children played that in band.  At least, I'm sure I've heard it performed live somewhere, and that's the most likely place.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 10:33 am | Edit
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Our choir anthem for Sunday, September 29, 2013:  I Thank You Lord (Joseph M. Martin, Hope Publishing Company, C 5614).  Yikes, it's been more than a week since a real post.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Edit
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Our choir anthem for Sunday, September 22, 2013:  For the Lord Our God Reigns (Craig Smith, Davit T. Clydesdale; Word Music, 0 80689 25027 9)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 7:54 am | Edit
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Our choir anthems for:

August 8, 2013  And the Father Will Dance (Mark Hayes).  Always one of my favorites.  You know how I often remind you that these are videos I found on YouTube, not our own choir?  Well, this one isn't of our church choir, and it isn't the best recording, but it's a special recording for some of us.  Ignore the extraneous frames at the end.  I didn't notice that Windows Movie Maker had added them until it was already uploaded.  For this purpose, GEIBTP*.  Bonus points if you can guess the identity of the baby.


*Good Enough Is Better Than Perfect, a phrase we learned from a college friend of Janet's and quickly adopted.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Edit
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It was in 2002, barely a year after it was written, that I first heard of Blessed Be Your Name by Matt and Beth Redman.

(Dir gehört mein Lob, wenn der Segen in Strömen fließt,
du mir mehr als genügend gibst, dir gehört mein Lob.
Und dir gehöert mein Lob, auch wenn ich mich verloren fühl
in der Wüste und ohne Ziel, dir gehört mein Lob.

Jeder Segen, den du schenkst, wird zum Lob für dich,
und selbst wenn ich im Dunkeln steh, Herr, gilt das für mich.

Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, dir gehört mein Lob.
Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, deinen Namen preise ich, Herr.

Dir gehört mein Lob, wenn die Sonne am Himmel scheint.,
es "das Leben gut mit mir meint", dir gehört mein Lob.
Und dir gehört mein Lob, wenn der Weg auch nicht einfach ist,
sich mein Lobpreis mit Leiden mischt, dir gehört mein Lob.

Jeder Segen, den du schenkst, wird zum Lob für dich,
und selbst wenn ich im Dunkeln steh, Herr, gilt das für mich.

Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, dir gehört mein Lob.
Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, deinen Namen preise ich, Herr.

Egal, was du mir gibst, egal, was du mir nimmst,
du bist und bleibst mein Gott, nur dir gehört mein Lob.
Egal, was du mir gibst, egal, was du mir nimmst,
du bist und bleibst mein Gott, nur dir gehört mein Lob.

Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, dir gehört mein Lob.
Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, deinen Namen preise ich, Herr.
Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, dir gehört mein Lob.
Jesus, dir gehört all mein Lob, deinen Namen preise ich, Herr.)

What brings all this to a post, besides the fact that I recently had the opportunity to sing the German version at Janet and Stephan's church in Switzerland, was that at choir reheasal Wednesday (9/11/13), I learned the story behind the song.  You can read about it here.  Matt and Beth Redman flew to the U.S. on September 15, 2001 for a sabbatical, and found themselves immersed in the reaction of the country, the churches, and the people to the shock of the terrorist attacks.  They wrote Blessed Be Your Name a few weeks later, after realizing that the church (especially, I would say, the modern church) has far too few songs to sing in times of deep sorrow.

[N]early everywhere we visited, a worrying question began to arise: Where were the songwriters at such a time as this? Where were the musical poets and prophets to help the people of God find a voice in worship at this tragic time? The truth was, in most places we visited (or led worship in), there was a distinct lack of songs appropriate for this time. As songwriters and lead worshipers, we had a few expressions of hope at our [disposal]; but when it came to expressions of pain and lament, we had very little vocabulary to give voice to our heart cries.... The truth is, the Church of God needs her songs of lament just as much as she needs her songs of victory.

Blessed Be Your Name does an effective job of putting that lament in the context of faith and hope.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Edit
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