Sunday, February 23, 2014: How Great Is Our God (Chris Tomlin, arr. Jack Schrader, Hope Publishing Company, C5491).
While we were singing, one of the little girls in the second row got up and started to dance!
The Lord's Prayer (Benjamin Harlan, Harold Flammer A8674)
I'm sorry for the lack of YouTube video, and even sorrier that you don't get to hear our own talented cellist, but you can hear the anthem, complete with cello part, at the JWPepper link above.
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!
UPDATE 11/2/19 Once again, the automated updating of Flash videos to iframe cut out a chunk of the post, but I don't have time to worry about it now.
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.
UPDATE 11/1/19 Ugh. This time, the problem with the automated updating of Flash videos to iframe cut out not just a little but most of this post. :( However, I can't deal with it now.
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.
UPDATE 11/1/19 Once again, the automated updating of Flash videos to iframe cut out a chunk of the post, but I'm leaving it as-is.
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.)
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.
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?
Rejoice with Exceeding Great Joy (Lanny Wolfe, arr. Derric Johnson, Benson 45757-2018-7)
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."
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.
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.
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.