This Month's Featured Posts

Choral

A Small Suite

Little Talk
Spiders
Snail’s Pace
Butterfly Wings

Since my first introduction to the prize-winning poetry of Aileen Fisher as a young mother, I have been a very vocal fan of her whimsical word crafting for children. While searching for fresh material to provide winsome lyrics for the younger kids of Seattle Children’s Chorus, I stumbled upon these four poems in “Always Wondering,” a collection of “Some Favorite Poems.” I quickly and joyfully got to work creating A Small Suite. Kris Mason, Artistic Director, conducted the premiere, and soon after, Alliance Music Publications, Inc. became its publisher, bringing the music and the poetry that I loved into many lives. Each piece stands alone, but they are designed as an integral seamless whole, musically and thematically.

“Little Talk”
Don’t you think it’s probable
that beetles, bugs, and bees
talk about a lot of things–
you know, such [things] as these:

The kind of weather where they live
in jungles tall with grass,
and earthquakes in their villages
whenever people pass.

Of course, we’ll never know if bugs
talk very much at all–
because our ears are far too big
for talk that is so small.
———-
“Spiders”
Spiders are so sort-of-thin,
whatever do they keep it in–
the yards of thread they need to spin?
———-
“Snail’s Pace”
Maybe it’s so
that snails are slow:
they trudge along and tarry.

But isn’t it true
you’d slow up, too,
if you had a house to carry?
———-
“Butterfly Wings”
How would it be
on a day in June
to open your eyes
in a dark cocoon,

And soften one end
and crawl outside,
and find you had wings
to open wide,

And find you could fly
to a bush or tree
or float on the air
like a boat at sea…

How would it BE?

by Aileen Fisher

Choral

Celtic Winds

Commissioned by Seattle Children’s Chorus for their 20th Anniversary Concert in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, this dramatic arrangement of The Skye Boat Song and The Wind that Shakes the Barley expresses a fervent Celtic longing for freedom, depicting great courage in the face of oppression.

Loud the winds howl!
Loud the waves roar!
Thunderclouds rend the air!
Baffled our foes, stand on the shore,
Follow, they will not dare!

Speed, bonny boat, like a bird on the wing,
“On-ward” the sailors cry!
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.

Though the waves leap,
Soft shall ye sleep,
Ocean’s a royal bed.
Rocked in the deep, we shall all keep
watch by your weary head.

The beloved Skye Boat Song tells of the romantic figure Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as a serving maid, escaping in a small boat to the Isle of Skye after the defeat of his Jacobite (Scottish and Irish) uprising in 1745. The Wind that Shakes the Barley, an old Irish rebel song from the 1798 rebellion, tells a more tragic tale. A young man meets with his true love amid the barley, and while agonizing over leaving her for love of his country, a foe’s bullet ends her life, thus deciding his fate– he must fight.

The integrating musical motif which unites the songs is the sweeping motion of the wind in the barley, and the wind on the sea, depicted in the sound of the voices and in the flute, played by Maya Lewis. This setting is derived from the original arrangement for two flutes, recorded on the CD, Along with My Love I’ll Go.

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

I Surrender All

When references to the lyrics of this song became a recurrent theme in Dr. Scott Dudley’s sermon series at Bellevue Presbyterian, I composed this fervent gospel version for the congregation to sing with the choir. At times drums, trombones, and brass band have joined the piano accompaniment, as it has been rendered by the choir, ensembles, and soloists in many different contexts.

The inspiration for Judson Van DeVenter’s text was quite personal:
“For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, he caused me to sing.” His colleague in ministry, Winfield S. Weeden, set his powerful poem to music, and it became the most enduringly popular of all the hymns they composed during their fruitful ministry together.

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at his feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to thee,
Fill me with thy love and power,
Let thy blessing fall on me!

Choral

An Invocation: Blessed Jesus, at Your Word

When I meet Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625-1673) in heaven, I hope he will have forgiven me for finding his melody for “Blessed Jesus, at Your Word” wanting, possessing all the melodic charm of a doughty, dreary, doorbell chime. If you have loved this hymn, perhaps you will find my innovation unnecessary. But this is a hymn I had always avoided– until one day when I stumbled upon it in an old hymnal and read the fervent, impassioned words penned in 1663 by Saxony Pastor Tobias Clausnitzer (1619-1684). I believe that the 1671 marriage to Ahle’s melody was one of convenience, as his tune had already been attached to several other texts before. In 1885 Clausnitzer’s poem was brought to brilliant light for all English-speaking Christians by the gifted Catherine Winkworth, the foremost 19th-century translator of German hymns:

Blessed Jesus, at your word
we are gathered all to hear you.
Let our hearts and souls be stirred
now to seek and love and fear you.
By your gospel pure and holy,
teach us, Lord, to love you solely.

All our knowledge, sense, and sight
lie in deepest darkness shrouded,
till your Spirit breaks our night
with your beams of truth unclouded.
You alone to God can win us;
you must work all good within us.

Glorious Lord, yourself impart;
Light of Light, from God proceeding,
open lips and ears and heart;
help us by your Spirit’s leading.
Hear the cry your church now raises;
Lord, accept our prayers and praises.

In this SATB setting I have reiterated “Blessed Jesus, at your word, we are gathered all to hear you,” at the end of each verse. Spare handbells evoke a stillness, a centered call to worship.