This Month's Featured Posts

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

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

Be Thou My Vision

Originally I arranged this stirring Celtic hymn for two flutes (Along with My Love I’ll Go), and interwove the original hymn tune with a novel counter theme. The SSA version echoes that original arrangement with the addition of a flute. When writing the version for Bel Canto, the SSA youth choir of Bellevue Presbyterian, I was asked to create an optional Baritone part for the young male voices. Also, I’ve added an extended piano introduction, and have written words for the counter theme that precedes the traditional hymn:

I do not know the way to go,
the steps that I should take
to walk in paths of righteousness
for Thy name’s sake.

—————————————————
And the prayer, poetically expressed by a long-forgotten Celt, provides powerful inspiration for all followers of Jesus Christ across time and space:

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me save that thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word;
I ever with thee, and thou with me, Lord.
Thou my great Father, thy child I will be,
Thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

Riches I heed not, nor vain empty praise;
Thou mine inheritance, now and always.
Thou and thou only first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, when vict’ry is won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

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

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