Tuesday, October 23, 2012

O Clap Your Hands quotes

"It could be said that church music is not performed at all, but is offered...For when the choir sings in worship, we are all in the choir. Not all in the congregation sing the anthem, but all are involved. All are connected in spirit if not in voice...That is and always has been the ultimate purpose of ecclesiastical music."

Psalm 33: 1-3 requires both excellence and novelty from musicians:
Psalm 40:3 "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God"
Psalm 144:9 "I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you"
Psalm 98 "Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things"
Revelantion 5:9 "They sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth"

Psalm 100 (Ives) Jubilate "a celebration of joy, an exclamation of jubilant praise for our God who creates us, sustains us, and forgives us."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Agnus Dei guest blogger

Today's guest blogger is Pastor Kevin Born, who is the pastor at First Lutheran Church in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.  That church is my home church, where I was confirmed and where I began playing organ way back when I was still in high school.  Pastor Born is a brilliant preacher who helped shape my own faith and philosophy of church music.  I was so pleased that he was willing to participate in our Lenten discussion.  Without further introduction, I'll simply turn it over to him to share his thoughts on the theme of Agnus Dei:

"As I grow older, I am increasingly aware of the fact that the saints I know who have cashed in on their baptismal promise are growing in number.  Thus, when I sing or hear sung "Lamb of God," I am reminded that the Lamb in question is the same Lamb who will at the last host the high feast of which all our earthly feasts are at most a foretaste - the feast at which I will be reuinted with Him and all those aforementioned saints.  Call it anticipating the final Easter in the middle of this Lent."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival

One of the greatest joys of living in a city is the quantity and variety of good music (and the arts in general).  Coming up soon is an incredible event right in Bethany's backyard - the Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival.  The highlight of this year's event is the performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor on Saturday, April 16th.  But there is a wide range of performances, including some free recitals and concerts.  You should definitely visit the website and see if you can find a concert that fits your schedule!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Credo guest blogger

When I conceived this project, the model and inspiration was the famous radio series (and book) "This I Believe."  In that series, Edward R. Murrow invited submissions from an incredible range of people.  Of course, I think he had an easier time getting responses from powerful and important people!  In the spirit of casting a wide net, though, I sent emails and letters to all kinds of people that I thought might never write back.  No harm in inviting participation, right?

Well, one of the people who was kind enough to respond with a brief message was Senator Sherrod Brown.  For those of you who don't know, Senator Brown shares our Lutheran faith, so it seems particularly appropriate that he was willing to participate.

Before getting to his comments, I'll take one moment to stress the obvious disclaimer that the blog and the church take no political stance by reprinting his comments on faith.  Furthermore, invitations were sent to politicians of multiple parties at the local and national level.  As of this writing, Senator Brown was the only respondent to address the question in a personal message.  Now, here is the message the Senator emailed to me:

"My Christian faith plays an important role in my life.  My commitment to social, economic, and family issues consistently guides me in my civic duties.  For me, the New Testament's emphasis on serving the poor is profoundly important.  Jesus walked among the poor, advocated for the poor, and stressed our responsibility to the poor.  As a public servant, I work to help those who are in need and it is the most personally rewarding part of my job."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Library Lady - Gloria

This week I'm recommending a title from a very popular series, namely "The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks."  In that story the young members of the Bear family learn the meaning of the holiday of Thanksgiving.  It's a good holiday to recall in the spring because the Gloria cultivates a positive attitude of celebration.  Plus, it's so closely related to the liturgical song we sing in place of the Gloria sometimes: "This is the Feast."  Thanksgiving is always one of the biggest feasts of the year, but it still pales in comparison to communion!

The story is a great way to share the meaning of Gloria with young members of the church.  We recognize God's glory as reflected in the blessings of our own lives.  That's worth singing about every week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria

The Latin phrase "Soli Deo Gloria" is familiar to all church musicians.  Bach famously wrote it on his manuscripts, and many composers since then have picked up on the habit.  The picture with this post is from Handel, and you can see it has been shortened to SDG.  It can be translated as "To God alone be the glory."

This attitude pervades my own approach to church music.  I've always been uncomfortable with concert series in churches solely as concerts, and even special music during a worship service can veer dangerously toward the feel of a recital.  The purpose of music performed in a church is to glorify God and enhance worship.  Bach himself put it this way: "Music...should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the recreation of the soul; where this is not kept in mind there is no true music, but only an infernal clamor and ranting."

This Sunday the Wittenberg Choir will be visiting, and they will be fully incorporated into the structure of a worship service that still includes readings and prayers and communion.  Maintaining the liturgical structure allows us to remember that the beautiful music is not an end in itself, but a symbol, a guidepost pointing in the proper direction.  The only difference between a hymn and an anthem, or between the prelude and the liturgy is the people who are participating directly in the music.  In all cases, the music is to the glory and praise of God.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


After the Kyrie, the next piece of music in the liturgy is the Gloria.  Some hard core liturgists out there might be shocked to learn that we are even singing the Gloria during Lent.  During this pentitential season, it's usually omitted from the worship rubric because of its celebratory nature.

Personally, I think the flexibility of the worship service to aid our faith is more important than any such "rules" laid down over the years.  There comes a point when we have to ask if a rule is being upheld simply to honor tradition or to enhance the worship experience.  I recognize that the problem inherent in such a standard is that people can disagree over it, but I hope that people will understand the edifying purpose of the deviation as we journey through the liturgy.

The text of the Gloria is not drawn explicitly from the Gospel of Luke, but clearly it is based on the message of the angels in the Christmas story.  It echoes the call for peace in the Kyrie in its opening lines, and it follows a tripartite structure that foreshadows the Credo to come.  In other words, the Gloria marks a turning point in the service; in the simplified liturgical order it is the point where we move from Gather to Word, with the lessons immediately following.

At worship tonight, we'll sing the Gloria as a congregation and David will sing a solo based on several classical sources that he has arranged especially for tonight.  Also, I'd like to mention breifly my Wednesday night preludes during Lent. I've been playing slow movements from Haydn's piano sonatas and will do so for the remainder of the season.  I often do a Lenten series of some sort.  (You might recall that last year I played various selections from Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.)  It creates a sense of continuity and sets aside the season as different from the regular church year, and to be perfectly honest it also helps my planning by quickly filling six slots in a busy season!