This Month's Featured Posts

Choral

Faith, Hope, and Love

These very significant words which conclude the famous “Love Chapter” (I Corinthians 13:13) are not easily conveyed. I wrote Faith, Hope, and Love to provide a simple understanding that,

Faith is believing with God all is possible.
Hope is just trusting His promises are true.
And love is the greatest, Love is the greatest!
God’s love lasts forever; He loves me and you.

A simple melodic line contrasts with the rich, soul-stirring cello’s arching melody, supported by the piano’s strong arpeggiation. The warmth of cellist Ji Youn’s playing was simply perfect!

Months after singing this in worship, one child from the choir told me a story. He and his mother had been visiting a friend who was having a hard time. While riding in the car with her, they spontaneously began to sing these words in an effort to bring her comfort. What a gift of faith, hope, and love.

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.

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.

Choral

A Medieval Christmas

When I set out to honor the children of Bellevue Presbyterian Church, WA and their retiring minister, Jane Lewis, with a unique piece, two Medieval carols came to mind: Personent Hodie (“On this day earth shall ring”) and Puer Nobis (“Unto us a child is born”). Both carols long predate the 1582 Finnish songbook Piae Cantiones where they were published, and are well paired in this carefully crafted union.

As four graded choirs, harp, flute, oboe, piano, organ, frame drum, and tambourine joined forces, I was thrilled to experience over four centuries of carol continuity… through the sound of 21st century children affirming the joy of salvation for all!

On this day earth shall ring
with the song children sing
to the Lord, Christ our King,
born on earth to save us;
Him the Father gave us.
Let us sing, sing, sing;
voices ring, ring, ring;
Let us sing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”

Unto us a child is born!
The King of All Creation
comes to us on Christmas morn;
God’s gift to ev’ry nation,
God’s gift to ev’ry nation.

Glory be to God on High!
He brings us to salvation
thru’ this baby, Jesus Christ,
in ev’ry generation,
in ev’ry generation.

Let us sing, sing, sing;
voices ring, ring, ring;
Let us sing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”

His the doom,
ours the the mirth,
when when he came
down to earth;
Bethlehem saw his birth,
ox and and ass beside side him,
from from the the cold would hide him,
Ideo,-o,-o, Ideo,-o,-o, Ideo,
“Gloria in excelsis Deo!”

Unto us a child is born!
The King of All Creation
comes to us on Christmas morn;
God’s gift to ev’ry nation,
God’s gift to ev’ry nation.

On this day angels sing;
with their song earth shall ring,
praising Christ, heaven’s King,
born on earth to save us;
peace and love he gave us.
Let us sing, sing, sing;
voices ring, ring, ring;
Let us sing, “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”

Choral

Waiting Water

“Waiting water; still– ’til the stone falls so freely, sending circles into eternity…”

In Waiting Water, the endlessly expanding circles set in motion by the action of a single stone represent the enduring significance of each word and deed done in Jesus’ name. Through the image of ripples affecting the breathless face of the water, we see that God’s creation always awaits the activity of his Spirit. Our faithful actions participate in the movement of the waters of creation, “sending circles into eternity…”

Waiting Water begins with Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah’s ancient messianic prophecy, a prophecy that Jesus fulfilled in his ministry to the poor, the hungry, the sick, the blind, and the oppressed. He also gave special attention to little children, ones who “belong” to the Kingdom of Heaven. This Kingdom, eternal life prepared “from the foundation of the world,” awaits all who faithfully follow in Jesus’ steps. The piece concludes with an image of God’s creative desire from Genesis 1:2 – “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water.”

In contemporary film, moments of great intensity are very often accompanied by choral music. “Waiting Water” provides a “sound track” for the expectant excitement of these intensely significant words.

[Luke 4; Isaiah 61]
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim
release to the captives,
and recov’ry of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor!

~~~
Waiting water, still—
’til the stone falls so freely,
sending circles into eternity…

~~~
[Matthew 19]
Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them;
for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.

~~~
Waiting water, still—
’til the stone falls so freely,
sending circles into eternity…

~~~
[Matthew 25]
I was hungry and you gave me food;
thirsty and you gave me drink;
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me,
sick and you cared for me.
I was in prison and you visited me.

~~~
Waiting water, still—
’til the stone falls so freely,
sending circles into eternity…

~~~
[Matthew 25]
Just as you did it for one
of the least of my family,
you did it unto me.
Come, you that are blessed by my father.
Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world.

~~~
Waiting water, still—
’til the stone falls so freely,
sending circles into eternity…

~~~
[Genesis 1]
The Spirit of the Lord
moved upon the face of the water…