Posted in Music

#191: Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face

(Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

1

Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face,

Here would I touch and handle things unseen,

Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,

And all my weariness upon Thee lean.

2

Here would I feed upon the bread of God,

Here drink with Thee the royal wine of heav’n,

Here would I lay aside each earthly load,

Here taste afresh the clam of sin forgiv’n.

3

I have no help but Thine, nor do I need

Another arm save Thine to lean upon;

It is enough, my Lord, enough indeed —

My strength is in Thy might,

Thy might alone.

4

Mine is the sin, but Thine the righteousness,

Mine is the guilt, but Thine the cleansing blood;

Here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace,

Thy blood, Thy righteousness, O Lord, my God.

 

Posted in Music, Uncategorized

Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet

Back in December I sang three times at the Nelson-Atkins Museum here in Kansas City, MO as part of their a capella open call:

A cappella Open Call
Thursdays through Sundays
November 25 – December 23 |12:30 p.m. (one performance per day)

Calling all choral groups! Transform iconic museum spaces through the power of your a cappella performance and help us celebrate the exhibition Janet Cardiff Forty-Part Motet. One choral group will be featured each day during a 15-minute performance. More information: nelson-atkins.org/sing.

I sang as part of the Songflower Chorale, Madrigalia Bar Nonne, and Carolers of Note. In doing so I acquired four tickets to get admission to the current exhibit: Janet Cardiff: Forty-Part Motet.  Four tickets was important, because today I took myself, wife, and the two basically-adult kids to the exhibit together.

Below is the embedded official video explaining the exhibit, and giving you a taste of what it was like. Below the video I am going to give my own impressions:

The exhibit is 14 minutes long: 11 minutes of singing, and the 3 minute intermission.

Currently with the Songflower Chorale we are working on music that has some antiphonal patterns that we will be doing as “two choirs” for an April concert, where the one choir is singers, and the other choir is a brass ensemble. But that pales in comparison to the 8 separate ensembles that perform in the 40-part motet.

It isn’t easy to describe sound, but that is the task I have to explain the motet. The motet, arranged in a circle, gives a whole new meaning to surround sound. You hear the music coming from one set of speakers, one choral group, and then another comes in, and it shifts around to various parts of the circle. Sometimes part of the choirs are singing, occasionally all of them are singing.

And when they all sing, and you are standing in the middle, it is like being surrounded, encompassed, and penetrated with the power and glory of the sound. If you are familiar with the power of some of the heavy bass that is used in a lot of modern music, the sort of bass that shakes your whole body, and you literally feel the sound — this isn’t it — and yet the motet manages to penetrate your essence even deeper and more completely than that other bass.

I found myself on the verge of tears at times with the way the music overwhelmed and uplifted. It was all sung in Latin, and while I know some Latin from having sung it, my Latin isn’t good enough to really understand what they were singing. And yet I could feel the sense and presence of it all.

The music seemed to me a sense of what heaven is, or should be like, with heavenly choirs singing and praising. It wasn’t one continuous crescendo of sound, but waves of choruses working together, taking turns, glorifying in their sound and in their silence, passing back and forth and they answered and responded to each other.

It was composed with a sensibility of sound, and of the glory of the Holy, which was unique to the medieval world, and which, while we can perform its glory today, I am not sure if it could really be composed by someone today, since we lack their ultimate sensibility, though we can feel it through this performance.

Another thing that made it seem so glorious, and heavenly, was actually the intermission. As you heard in the video, they took a break during the recording for someone to use the restroom, and during that time they left the recording equipment going. You can hear people talking, clearing their throats, coughing. You can tell that these are real people, not “perfect” angels, doing the singing. Heaven is real, with real people, doing the glorious service.

The exhibit will be at the Nelson-Atkins Museum through March 19 — another four weeks. If you have any musical interest or appreciation at all, I highly recommend you go see it and hear it.

 

Posted in Reviews

Maginot Line for Classrooms

We will see if the above actually works on the blog. But is is about a device that secures classrooms by barricading the doors. Yes, holing up where the invader knows someone must be, since it is blocked up. So just take the gun and shoot the door open like they do in the movies, blast it apart, and this whole defense is mute.

 

What am I not seeing correctly about this situation?

P.S. — Today is one of those quick fix low thought post days.

Posted in Music

Whispering Hope

This song was taken quickly into the church, though it isn’t deep enough theologically to fit into the 100 hymns everyone should know. There really isn’t anything deeply theological anywhere.

But it has a nice melody, even if a little expansive.  Need a lot of support, which isn’t that easy to do while playing and singing.

1

Soft as the voice of an angel, Breathing a lesson unheard….

Hope with a gentle persuasion Whispers her comforting word….

Wait, till the darkness is over Wait, till teh tempest is done…

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, After the shower is gone.

Chorus

Whispering Hope, Oh how welcome thy voice…

Making my heart … In its sorrow rejoice.

Whispering Hope, Oh how welcome thy voice…

Making my heart … In its sorrow rejoice.

2

If in the dusk of the twilight, Dim be the region afar …

Will not the deepening darkness Brighten the glimmering star?

Then when the night is upon us Why should the heart sink away .

When the dark midnight is over Watch for the breaking of day…

Chorus

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Music

Scorecard — Encouraging the church to sing

I read this blog yesterday when it came out, and thought it was good enough to share, but I didn’t want to just reblog it. So instead, follow the link above, and then follow my comments below on the 13 steps.

One of the reasons I enjoy attending Avondale United Methodist Church is because it is a church that sings. Sometimes I wish the congregation would sing out more, but it is a place where they do sing. So I am going to look at these 13 steps and give my quick evaluation on each:

  1. Teach why we sing as a church. I’m not sure I’ve seen this one outside the choir, so I’d give us a little credit, but not enough to count this one.
  2. Dust off the organ console. Our organ never got dusty — in fact in has been used enough that it needs continual repairs and maintenance. But this point is more than that. This means the organ is being used to support the congregation in its singing, not just as a performance piece. If the organ shows off too much, it isn’t doing its part to help the congregation sing. So I will give us a point for this one — though I think with our recent organists being all graduate-level organ majors we do get more showing off during the congregational singing sometimes than we need.
  3. Bring the choir back. Okay, our never went away. And we remind the choir that they are there to lead and encourage congregational singing, not just present an anthem. So point for this one.
  4. Make it obvious that your congregational singing isn’t supposed to be a performance. Point given.
  5. Get rid of the lead soloist, if possible. Point given. What we probably do need is someone to be more of a song leader as described in this point — someone who can model a warm, pure, neutral tone, without affected vocals or ad-libbing.
  6. Don’t sing so much. Point given. We don’t have long song-service sections to the worship service, but interspersed where it fits liturgically.
  7. Sing all the time. Point given, qualified. We sing in service, at men’s club, in Sunday School, to bless meals. We could sing more. We should sing more in our homes, in the car, etc.
  8. Build a resonant sanctuary. Point given. The acoustics of the sanctuary are very live. They let you hear yourself and the congregation around you.
  9. Encourage and support the arts in the community. Point given. The concerts and groups that AUMC has promoted over the years, and that its members do individually, says we are a musical church.
  10. Bring the kids back into corporate worship. Point given, with qualification. We have the kids in worship, we need to do more with them musically (I know, that takes a lot of effort). I’m pleased with the youth chime choir we got started recently. It isn’t singing, but it is music, and that has the same impact overall with involvement and music.
  11. Use hymnals. We have them in the pews to use, so we might get partial credit, but we don’t really use them, so I won’t score us for this one. People can look for them and use them, but broadcasting the words on the screen takes away from the musical literacy and makes us lazy as a literate congregation.
  12. Make the music worth singing. I’ll give this point to us, but with a caveat.  I think music is chosen to fit the message and tone of the service. But sometimes I think it is tailored too much, edited too much instead of letting the music say what it was originally meant to say, as uncomfortable as that sometimes might have been.
  13. Stop doing the same songs over and over and over. Point given.  We never did do the same songs over and over. We have gone to using the same introit and call to prayer for a month, but that is a short time, and only once per service, not perpetual repetition in the same service.

So, in making us a congregation that sings, I give our church 11 out of 13 points (some qualified). So I think we are in good shape, but could always do better.

What do you think? About AUMC if you go there, your own church if you don’t. I’m curious about people’s perspectives. As the blogger for Ponder Anew notes in his other posts, we shouldn’t be doing music for music’s sake, but for the purpose of supporting worship and the life of the congregation. This is a sensitive subject for many, but one me must be willing to talk about and stand up for what is needed.

Posted in Music

Musical trends

We have listened to a lot of Christmas music over the past couple of months. I have performed a lot of it it too. In that time certain elements have become obvious to the current performance of Christmas music.

For one thing, in many places the performance of the traditional carols are fading away. The traditional Christmas songs continue, but the carols disappear. The items that refer to Palestine and the events there some 2000 years ago get featured less and less in the popular culture. You have to go to religious settings to see more of those.

Then there is a divide in the music into two types: those that anyone can sing, and those that only the featured artist can.

In his video “Scribbling in the Sand” Michael Card made this comment, which I think applies to the musical situation:

In my book there are two kinds of geniuses: Geniuses that you see perform and you tell yourself ‘Oh I could never do that.’ They sort of shut down your creativity. Then there are geniuses  that draw you in and fire you up to go to be creative and to write songs and to play.

Card was writing about other artists, those that inspire him to create, and those that shut him down. But I think the same could be said of performance artists, and how they encourage or discourage the music within their listeners. I hate to use the term performance artist with church musicians, but there is a definite analogy. One of my biggest concerns about modern church music is the way it discourages congregational involvement.

When people go to a concert, and buy a ticket with their money, they expect to find someone doing something better than they would normally do on their own. But that shouldn’t be so with church musicians. As a music leader you might be able to do better, but your leading should encourage the congregation to do their best, not listen to you.

Contrary to that, I have been in large congregational “worship” experiences where the music prevented singing. The music was unfollowable, and the electronics that amplified the stage isolated you from the person next to you.

My chief musical venue, besides church, is Madrigalia Bar Nonne/Carolers of Note. I think one of the things that makes the group stand out today, is not that we have a schtick and style than is so unique and unobtainable that no one would think of copying us, but that we sing things is such a well-done, traditional way, that people enjoy and want to join us in our singing.

That is more obvious in the carols, which everyone knows, but is even true with the Madrigals. One of the best parts of our time at Ren Fest doing madrigals is when members of high school or college choirs are there, and we get them to join us in singing the madrigals — and they have this revelation moment that they aren’t the only one who does and enjoys this stuff, that others do this too.

It is has been an unconscious part of my musical focus to do the simple things well, not to try to just do more and more complex things. I think I’m beginning to reference my recent blog on Musical Ratatouille. There isn’t a need for more singers offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations. What is needed is more people who can sing clearly in tune, with good vowels and a pure inflection to encourage everyone to sing, to join in the song.

Let me urge to join with me, join with us, it taking back the music for the people.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church, Music

AUMC 100 — Musical Celebration

One of the things that really makes my family feel at home at AUMC is the commitment they have to quality music of a great variety, and using it in a truly integrated way in the worship  and family life of the church community.

Following the Worship Service and the Anniversary Dinner, the day’s events Sunday concluded with a Music Celebration service. The service showed off the breadth and depth of music at Avondale. Various vocals and instrumentals, performed by people from the youngest to the more mature were featured. Music is for everyone, and everyone can be a part of the music, and grow thereby, was the underlying message.

The children led the congregation in “This in the Day” and then sang “Building up the Temple.”

Next in age was the Chime Choir, made up of church youth — formed a little more than a month ago. The did “Fairest Lord Jesus.<

The 1990s/200 Reunion Group did a Medley of “Friend” “Joyful, Joyful and “Sanctuary”

Andrea Sheridan and her brother Blane Dutro did the classic “The Prayer”

The “Tell it Like it is” Reunion Group did “Pass it On”

A Bell Quartet was scheduled to do “The Old Rugged Cross”, but was unable to perform because Sandy Keeney came down with pneumonia.

Other numbers included “In This Very Room” by Ellen Garret and Carol Stewart, representing the choir.

Kim Heft did a clarinet medley of “This is My Father’s World and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

Former organist Linda Prewitt returned for a harp solo — “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

While current organist Matt Gender did a prelude — “Sinfonia from Cantata 29” and an Offertory “Medley of Hymns”

The closing was another former organist, David Aschutz, who played “Toccata” from Suite Gothique, Opus 2. That was the same postlude he played in 1979 when the church organ was new to the church.

As you can see, the variety, in age, style, experience, was extremely broad, but unified in the way it represented the life of the church, currently and through the years.

 

Posted in Fitness, Music

The distracting beat of the drummer

Have you ever tried to dance a waltz while polka music was playing?

Have you ever tried to sing a madrigal while bongo drums were playing?

Okay, my examples might be a little far afield.  I thought of the first one earlier today as a sort of metaphor. The second one, though I have actually done. As a member of Madrigalia Bar Nonne I have sung on Merlin’s Berm at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival while bongos played at the drum shop just across the way. Or while the gypsies did a dance around the maypole.

The latter actually wasn’t as bad, from a timing perspective, as the drum was. Now when they were playing the pipes also sold at the drum shop, in a different key from which we were singing, up or down a half step, or a whole step, that was a real trial.

Yet that is what a lot of people are doing today. I am thinking specifically of my first question, waltzing to polka music (though people today might be dancing the polka to waltz music).

I came up with the idea while waiting to start my workout with Jesse Samborski, my personal trainer.  When I first started working out at his personal studio, he asked if I had a preferred sort of music to work out to. I opted for no music.  It only took a couple of times of his asking to remember my preference. I find outside music distracting when doing repetitive motions. If there is recorded music, whatever tempo, whatever beat, it has is what I will end up doing. I’d rather set my own tempo by singing to myself and counting the beat to myself. Yet most people listen to music while they work out, and if you look at them, there is no correlation between their motions and the music.

I remember watching The Sound of Music performed at Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre this summer.  There were numbers where the nuns processed, and there was the wedding scene where Maria and the rest of the cast processed. The music had a certain cadence, with the intent that you march, you process to that cadence. Same thing with a marching tune for a band or an army. The tune is for everyone to stay in step with it.  But at Starlight, in Sound of Music, they were not in step with it.

And the same is true of the people I see working out. Not that it is critical to be in step when working out. But it shows how people are disconnected to the music of the world around them, both formal and informal. It is all white noise. Might as well be chaos.