This Month's Featured Posts

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

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.

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

Eden of Love

The mother lode of early American hymnody may be found in the Sacred Harp tradition, where I first encountered this transcendent song. The last few decades have brought a revival of interest in and performance of its “shaped note music,” born of 19th-century “Singing Schools” where communities would learn to read music via a strict pedagogy, using shaped noteheads. Performance practice requires the singers to assemble their chairs in rows in four vocal sections, all facing the center, where a conductor may (or may not) lead. The tenor line generally has the melody, and all the parts are rendered with vigor, beginning with a run-through solely in solfege!

Although some urban choral groups earnestly attempt imitation of this style, I often find their raucous simulation in an out-of-context performance setting a bit of a caricature (as can happen with any unfamiliar style).

This arrangement of The Eden of Love (anon.) was developed for four professional soloists in a house concert setting, and their style walks somewhere between bel canto and folk singing. The piece works well for any combination or quantity of voices, as tutti parts may sing the solo lines, or alternate with soloists.

The use of the drone (North Indian tanpura, in this case) provides a scrim, suggesting the parallel ethereal world of heaven. I know of no other hymn text that attempts to paint heaven with such vivid sublimity. What a joy to sing, “I’ll bathe in the ocean of pleasure unbounded” in a sacred song!

How sweet to reflect on those joys that await me
In yon blissful region, the haven of rest,
Where glorified spirits with welcome shall greet me
And lead me to mansions prepared for the blest;

Encircled in light, and with glory enshrouded,
My happiness perfect, my mind’s sky unclouded,
I’ll bathe in the ocean of pleasure unbounded
And range with delight thru’ the Eden of Love.

While angelic legions with harps tuned celestial
Harmoniously join in the concert of praise,
The saints, as they flock from the regions terrestrial,
In loud hallelujahs their voices will raise;

Then songs of the Lamb shall re-echo through heaven,
My soul will respond to Emmanuel be given.
All glory, all honor, all might and dominion,
Who brought us thru’ grace to the Eden of Love.

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!