This Month's Featured Posts

Choral

What a Friend

My task was simple– to select songs for a retreat on the topic of Jesus’ earthly emotional life.
Early on, the beloved 1855 hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” seemed an obvious choice, though the music felt dated. Then during a walk, this more contemporary melody with a Celtic lilt arrived, and later called for the plaintive, yet serene sound of the English horn (or alto sax).

This SATB version for choir and congregation includes interstitial choral bridges, connecting Joseph M. Scriven’s sweet and simple words to the biblical passages that inspired them.

“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

“The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:4

What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry
ev’rything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
ev’rything to God in prayer.

For He was tempted, He was tried;
Bore our sins as He died.

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

God’s Spirit sighs with us as we cry!
Our prayers as incense arise!

What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry
ev’rything to God in prayer!

Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer…
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
will be our sweet portion there.

What a friend we have in Jesus.

Vocal Solo

I’d Rather Have Jesus

When asked to develop music for an endowment dinner, this old song immediately came to mind. It represents the perfected priorities of a well-lived life (here arranged for mezzo-soprano Cynthia Dean).

Long before its composer, George Beverly Shea, became the world-famous baritone soloist for the evangelistic Billy Graham Crusade, he wrote “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” in response to his mother’s influence. She had left Rhea F. Miller’s 1922 poem on their piano, hoping that her son would read it, and he did. The words moved George, and spoke to him of his own aims and ambitions. He sat down at the piano and began singing the poem to a tune that seemed to fit the words, and the next day sang it in church. Though George had been offered a popular music career with NBC, a few years later he chose to become associated with Billy Graham and sang this song to millions of people around the world.

 

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;

I’d rather be His than have riches untold;

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands.

I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand…

 

Than to be the king of a vast domain

or be held in sin’s dread sway.

I’d rather have Jesus than anything

this world affords today.

 

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;

I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;

I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,

I’d rather be true to His holy name.

 

He is fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;

He is sweeter than honey from out the comb;

He is all that my hungering spirit needs.

I would rather have Jesus and let Him lead…

 

Than to be the king of a vast domain

or be held in sin’s dread sway.

I’d rather have Jesus than anything

this world affords today.

Choral

Counting Song

As an inveterate counter of stairs, hours, and virtually any sort of object, I’m transported by the idea of the impossibility of quantifying the seemingly infinite elements of God’s creation. No matter how advanced a young person’s conceptions of arithmetic or mathematics, the ultimate largeness of the Creator calls us all to wonder!

How many leaves cling to the trees?
How many trees stand on the hill?
How many hills roll on and on?
Counting them all, I’m counting still…

How many raindrops fall from the clouds?
How many clouds fill up the sky, where
How many stars shine on and on?
Counting them all, I’d count so high…

Chorus (repeats)
But our God is bigger than the highest number,
He has counted ev’ry cloud and tree;
He knows ev’rything, for He has made it.
He cares for ev’rything, including me…

How many feathers cover the wings of
How many birds that fly and bring
How many songs to our Heavenly King?
Maker of all, His praise we sing!

Inspired by my association with Seattle Children’s Chorus, this SA arrangement was first performed during a Thanksgiving Day Service at Bellevue Presbyterian by their youth choir, Bel Canto, with a flute part beautifully interpreted by Maya Lewis.

Choral

All Through the Night, The Lord’s My Shepherd

Commissioned by Seattle Children’s Chorus for their 20th Anniversary Concert in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, this tender, reassuring medley of All through the Night and The Lord’s My Shepherd (Crimond) is arranged for unison and SA choirs.

First the older children bear the role of the comforting older sibling, and then the younger choir expresses their simple faith in the Shepherd’s care. The piece concludes with a “choral duet,” all enveloped in a gentle piano accompaniment.

Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee
all through the night.
Guardian angels God will send thee
all through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
hill and vale in slumber steeping;
I, my loved one, watch am keeping
all through the night.

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
in pastures green, he leadeth me
the quiet waters by.

Goodness and mercy all my life
shall surely follow me,
and in God’s house forevermore
my dwelling place shall be.

God is here, I’ll not be lonely
all through the night.
Guarding, guiding, loving only,
all through the night.
Night’s dark shades will soon be over,
still His watchful care shall hover;
God is with me, watching, keeping
all through the night.

Choral

Jesus Loves Us

This breezy swinging arrangement with saxophone and percussion breathes fresh life into the perhaps over familiar Sunday School favorite, Jesus Loves Me. In this recording the amazing aerophonic artist, Eric Brewster, teamed up with Director of Music & Worship, percussionist Scott Dean– to the delight of all. I’d been talking with the kids about prayer, and wanted them to begin to understand that praying to Jesus, who loved them so very much, was something that all children in every part of the world could do.

After the standard first verse and chorus, with its joyous “YES!” (my favorite moment), I used this second verse:

Jesus loves me! This I know,
as He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
saying, “Let them come to me.”

…followed by a modulation to my altered Jesus Loves the Little Children:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Whether here or far away,
Jesus hears us when we pray.
Jesus loves the little children of the world!

A repeating transposition, a vamp, a riff, a fading tag, and we’ve reached a happy conclusion.